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Agama (lizard)
Red-headed rock agama (Agama agama) male.jpg
Agama agama
Scientific classification e
Unrecognized taxon (fix): Agama
Type species
Lacerta agama
Linnaeus, 1758

See text

Agama atra male IMG 4855
Agama atra male, showing the tympanum. Compare coloration with the picture of a female below
Agama atra gravid female IMG 4866
Agama atra gravid female, note how coloration differs from male.

Agama (from Sranan Tongo meaning "lizard") is a genus of small-to-moderate-sized, long-tailed, insectivorous Old World lizards. The genus Agama includes at least 37 species in Africa, especially sub-Saharan Africa, where most regions are home to at least one species. Eurasian agamids are largely assigned to genus Laudakia.


In the 10th edition of Systema Naturae of 1758, Linnaeus used the name Agama (pg. 288) as the species Lacerta Agama.

The word "agama" has been traced to West African Gbe languages as a name for the chameleon. The word was brought to Dutch Guiana (modern Suriname) by imported West African slaves and was then used in local creole languages for types of local lizards. Linnaeus may have taken the name "agama" from some unidentified source in the mistaken belief that the reptiles came from the Americas as indicated by Seba.

The name "agama" has no connection to either Greek agamos "unmarried" (as a supposed Latin feminine agama) or to Greek agamai "wonder" as sometimes suggested.


The various species differ in size, ranging from about 12 to 30 centimetres (5 to 12 in) in length, when fully grown.

Their colour also differs between species, between genders, and according to mood; for example, a dominant male in display mode is far brighter than when it has been caught, beaten by another male, or otherwise alarmed. Females tend to be less colourful than the males of the species.

Agamids' hind legs generally are long and powerful; and the lizards can run and leap swiftly when alarmed.


According to species, agamas live in forest, in bush, among rocks and on crags, but where their habitat has been cleared, or simply occupied by humans, some species also adapt to life in villages and compounds, for example inside the thatch of huts and other sheltering crevices.


Agamas are diurnal, active during the day. They can tolerate higher temperatures than most reptiles, but when temperatures approach 38 °C (100 °F) they generally shelter in the shade. Males frequently threaten each other by nodding, weaving, and displaying their brightest colours to establish dominance. If that is insufficient, they lash their tails and threaten each other with open jaws. The jaws are very powerful, and older males commonly have damaged tails as souvenirs of past combat. Females may sometimes chase and fight one another, and hatchlings mimic the adults' behaviour.


Agamas are mainly insectivorous, hunting prey by sight and snatching it opportunistically. Their incisor-like front teeth and powerful jaws are adapted to dealing with quite large, hard prey. They also may eat eggs of other lizards, and sometimes feed on vegetable matter, such as suitable grass, berries, and seeds.

Reproduction and lifespan

Though not formally polygamous, dominant males commonly accommodate several females at a time in their territory. During courtship, and also when asserting his territory, the male bobs his head in display; this gives rise to some of the common names, such as Afrikaans koggelmander (literally, "little mocking man"). Females occasionally initiate courtship by offering their hindquarters to the male and provoking him to catch her. Typically the breeding season is timed for eggs to be laid during the season after the rains. Eggs are laid in clutches of up to 12, depending on species and the size of the female.

The lifespan of an agama lizard varies depending on whether it is in the wild or in captivity. In the wild, agama lizards have an average lifespan of approximately 8 to 12 years. However, in captivity, they can live longer, up to 20 to 25 years. The lifespan of an agama lizard can also depend on the species. For example, the spiny-tailed agama has an average life expectancy of 10-30 years.


Listed alphabetically.

Image Scientific name Common name Distribution
Ground Agama (Agama aculeata) (6536937287).jpg Agama aculeata
Merrem, 1820
ground agama Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Republic of South Africa, Mozambique, S Angola, Tanzania, Zambia, Eswatini
Agama africana (Cameroon) 02.jpg Agama africana
(Hallowell, 1844)
West African rainbow Lizard Liberia, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone ?, Guinea
Red-headed rock agama (Agama agama) male.jpg Agama agama
(Linnaeus, 1758)
red-headed rock agama, common agama, rainbow agama Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde Islands, Chad, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and Madagascar
Lizard, Southern Namibia.jpg Agama anchietae
Bocage, 1896
western rock agama, Anchieta's agama S Congo (Brazzaville), Angola, Namibia, Republic of South Africa (NW Cape), Botswana
Agama armata.jpg Agama armata
W. Peters, 1855
tropical spiny agama South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Swaziland, southern Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), southwestern Kenya, and central Tanzania
Southern Rock Agama (Agama atra) male (32195027153).jpg Agama atra
Daudin, 1802
southern rock agama Southern Africa
Agama impalearis.jpg Agama bibronii
Boettger, 1874
Bibron's agama Morocco but it extends south to Western Sahara and east into eastern Algeria
Agama bocourti
Rochebrune, 1884
Bocourt's agama Senegal, Gambia
Agama boensis
Monard, 1940
Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mali, Senegal
Agama bottegi 1897.jpg Agama bottegi
Boulenger, 1897
Somali agama Mali; Mauritania; Niger; Senegal
Agama boueti
Chabanaud, 1917
Mali agama Mali; Mauritania; Niger; Senegal
Agama boulengeri
Lataste, 1886
Boulenger's agama Mali, Mauritania
Agama caudospinosa
Meek, 1910
Elmenteita rock agama Kenya
Agama cristata
Mocquard, 1905
insular agama Guinea (Conakry), Mali
Agama dodomae
Loveridge, 1923
Agama doriae
Boulenger, 1885
Nigeria agama Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Central African Republic to Eritrea and Ethiopia, N Cameroon, Sudan
Agama etoshae
McLachlan, 1981
Etosha agama Namibia
Agama finchi
Böhme, Wagner, Malonza, Lötters & Köhler, 2005
Finch's agama, Malaba rock agama W Kenya, Ethiopia
Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology - Agama gracilimembris.jpg Agama gracilimembris
Chabanaud, 1918
Benin agama Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, probably in Chad (L. Chirio, pers. comm.), Mali, Guinea (Conakry), Burkina Faso
Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology - Agama hartmanni.jpg Agama hartmanni
W. Peters, 1869
Hartmann's agama
Image from page 131 of The Century dictionary and cyclopedia (1897) (14782792024).jpg Agama hispida
(Linnaeus, 1758)
common spiny agama, southern spiny agama, spiny ground agama Republic of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, S Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Malawi
Agama insularis
Chabanaud, 1918
insular agama Rooma Island, Guinea
Agama kaimosae
Loveridge, 1935
Kakamega agama Kenya
Agama kirkii.jpeg Agama kirkii
Boulenger, 1885
Kirk's rock agama Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, E Botswana, SW Tanzania
Agama knobeli
Boulenger & Power, 1921
southern rock agama Namibia
Agama lanzai
Wagner, Leaché, Mazuch & Böhme, 2013
Agama lebretoni 2013 2.jpg Agama lebretoni
Wagner, Barej & Schmitz, 2009
Lebreton's agama Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Fernando Poo (Bioko Island), Nigeria
Red-headed Rock Agama.jpg Agama lionotus
Boulenger, 1896
Kenyan rock agama Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia
Agama lucyae
Wagner & Bauer, 2011
N Ethiopia
Agama montana
Barbour & Loveridge, 1928
montane rock agama Tanzania
Agama mossambica
W. Peters, 1854
Mozambique agama Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, E Zimbabwe
Agama mucosoensis
Hellmich, 1957
Mucoso agama Angola (Mucoso, Dondo, and Libolo/Luati)
AgamaLizard.jpg Agama mwanzae
Loveridge, 1923
Mwanza flat-headed rock agama Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya
Agama parafricana
S. Trape, Mediannikov & J. Trape, 2012
Benin; Ghana; Togo
Agama paragama
Grandison, 1968
false agama N Nigeria, N Cameroon, Mali, Central African Republic, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, probably in W Chad (L. Chirio, pers. comm.), Niger
Agama persimilis
Parker, 1942
painted agama, similar agama Somalia, Ethiopia, E/NE Kenya
Bonn zoological bulletin - Agama picticauda.jpg Agama picticauda
(W. Peters, 1877)
Peter’s rock agama Gabon
Namibian Rock Agama (Agama planiceps) (8603173387).jpg Agama planiceps
W. Peters, 1862
Namib rock agama Namibia (Damaraland, Kaokoveld)
Agama robecchii
Boulenger, 1892
Robecchi's agama N Somalia, E Ethiopia
Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology - Agama rueppelli.jpg Agama rueppelli
Vaillant, 1882
Rüppell's agama, arboreal agama Somalia, E Ethiopia, Kenya, S Sudan
Agama sankaranica.jpg Agama sankaranica
Chabanaud, 1918
Senegal agama Guinea (Conakry), Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo, Mali, Cameroon (?), Senegal, Niger
Agama somalica
Wagner, Leaché, Mazuch & Böhme, 2013
NE Somalia
Agama spinosa
Gray, 1831
Gray’s agama, spiny agama Egypt, Sudan, N Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, N Somalia
Agama tassiliensis.jpg Agama tassiliensis
Geniez, Padial & Crochet, 2011
Mali (Adrar des Ifoghas), Niger (Aïr Mountains), Algeria (Ahaggar Mountains), Libya (Tassili n’Ajjer)
Agama turuensis
Loveridge, 1932
Agama wachirai
Malonza, Spawls, Finch & Bauer, 2021
Marsabit rock agama Kenya
Harvard University Museum of Comparative Zoology - Agama weidholzi.jpg Agama weidholzi
Wettstein, 1932
Gambia agama Senegal, Gambia, W Mali, Guinea-Bissau

Nota bene: A binomial authority in parentheses indicates that the species was originally described in a genus other than Agama.

See also

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