Quick—when you think of an agitated anole, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Perhaps a quick color change, maybe even some squeaking and biting and, of course, a couple flashes of the dewlap all may have been high on the list. Well, not to be outdone by its cousins from the new world, the Middle-eastern yellow-spotted Agama (Trapelus flavimaculatus) has come up with a spectacular display that involves all three behaviors listed above.
Now while its true that when it comes to agamid dewlaps, this species is not as well endowed as a few others (Hypsilurus and Draco come to mind), no other agamid (to my knowledge, that is) displays quite like it. First off, the lizard changes from its usual drab brown coloration (essential for a desert dwelling lizard) to a light cobalt blue while its ordinarily pale yellow tail glows neon orange. Next, the lizard opens its mouth and displays the bright orange inside of its jaws while making a hissing noise.
The final act to this performance comes when the lizard extends its deep cobalt blue dewlap at the attacker. As soon as the threat is gone, the display is over and the lizard resumes its usual coloration. These lizards also use this display as a means of attracting/advertising their presence to females, so that’s another thing they might have in common with Anolis (I’m not exactly sure if the Anolis dewlap actually helps attract females). I thing it’s interesting that while anoles turn darker to convey agitation, these lizards actually become brighter. I think this has something to do with the fact that these are desert lizards and the blue color is really more in contrast to the desert environment.
On a related note, how many other lizards out there have the ability to change color based on their mood?