Butterfly agama

Leiolepis belliana

SUBFAMILY

Leiolepidinae

TAXONOMY

Leiolepis belliana Gray, 1827, Penang. Two subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is a dorsoventrally flattened, medium-size lizard with a round tail that is about twice as long as the snout-vent length. There are three yellow, dark-bordered dorsal stripes with yellowish ocelli scattered across the back and orange-red and black splotches along the sides. The long hind legs have light yellow speckling on the upper surface. The scientific name Leiolepis means "smooth scaled." The bodies of these lizards are covered with small, smooth body scales, although the scales on their tails are keeled.

DISTRIBUTION

The species occurs on the Malaysian peninsula and in Southeast Asia (Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, Burma [Myanmar], Sumatra, and Bangka Island) east to southern China (Hainan Island).

HABITAT

Butterfly agamas inhabit open coastal tropical areas with sandy soils.

BEHAVIOR

These handsome, agile, active lizards dig deep burrows. They are reputed to live in colonies. They are active during midday at high temperatures. Their elongated ribs allow them to flatten their bodies; they are even reputed to be able to parachute and make gliding jumps, although this behavior requires confirmation. It may be related to the origin of their common name, butterfly agama.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Butterfly agamas feed on insects and small crabs in nature. They also eat some plant foods.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Little is known about their reproductive biology, but they do lay eggs.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

These lizards thrive in captivity in large terraria. In Bangkok, Thailand, the species is sold regularly as food for humans. ♦

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