Sailfin lizard

Hydrosaurus amboinensis

SUBFAMILY

Agaminae

TAXONOMY

Hydrosaurus amboinensis Schlosser, 1768.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Soa soa.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

These are large, semiaquatic lizards with a pronounced crest on the neck and an enlarged sailfin down the back to the base of the tail. Both sexes have a black and dark green reticulated pattern.

DISTRIBUTION

The sailfin lizard occurs in Southeast Asian islands (Celebes, Moluccas, and New Guinea). Another population occurs in the Philippines.

HABITAT

This species is found in trees in the vicinity of water. BEHAVIOR

These lizards are expert swimmers and take refuge in the water. Using their fringed toes, juveniles can run across the surface of water. They spend most of their time in branches overhanging water.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

These herbivorous lizards harbor intestinal endosymbiotic microbes that produce cellulases that aid in digestion of plant foods.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Crests and sailfins of males are larger than those of females and may be used in courtship displays or in fighting with other males. Females lay three to nine eggs. Hatchlings are about 8 in (20 cm) long, about two-thirds of which is tail.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN. Owing to habitat loss and hunting, however, these lizards are now uncommon and could be threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

These large lizards are considered a delicacy. ♦

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