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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Species Fact Profile: Shield-Tailed Agama (Xenagama taylori)

Shield-Tailed Agama
Xenagama taylori

Range: Northeastern Africa
Habitat: Scrubland, Desert
Diet: Insects, Fruits
Social Grouping: Small Groups (One Male, Several Females)
Reproduction: Females lay eggs after rainfall, 5-8 small white eggs buried in short tunnel.  Eggs incubated for 45-50 days.  Capable of having multiple clutches per year.  Sexually mature by the end of their first year.
Lifespan: 5 Years
Conservation Status: Not Evaluated

  • Body length 10 centimeters, weight 20 grams; males smaller than females
  • Coloration varies from tan to red, often with some black speckling; juveniles may have white speckling, but this tends to fade with age
  • Breeding adult males display bright blue color on their chin when exciting; sometimes present in females too, to a lesser degree
  • The small, flat tail of the agama is used to block up the entrances of the burrows that it uses at night to shelter from predators
Zookeeper's Journal: It's always struck me as amazing, over the years, which animals are the one's that really stick with you.  When I first started working with reptiles, of course I was the most excited about the crocs, the Komodos, the big constrictors... and with an eye towards working with venomous snakes in future.  Years later, the reptiles that I remember the most fondly, however, were the little lizards that I'd never even heard of before I found myself working with them.  The shield-tails (sometimes given the adorable nickname "turnip tails") are one of my absolute favorites.  They were so low maintenance, and yet I could lose lengthy stretches of time watching them scurrying around, popping in and out of crevices (I loved to rearrange their rock pile every week), displaying to one another, and then zipping around again, maybe in pursuit of a cricket.  So many visitors bustled through our reptile house focusing on the big, spectacular (and often immobile) animals.  So much excitement, action, and (occasionally) drama was there waiting for them, if only they'd looked at the smaller displays!

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