What a colourful surprise!

24 August 2019, Saturday

I just started as a guide at Nambiti Plains Private Game Lodge – I remember as we drove back from an early morning game drive a smaller creature helped create one of many lasting memories. Out of the blue (pun intended) basking in the sun on our access road, welcoming my guests and I, was Mr. Blue Headed Tree Agama. He was posing ever so nicely for a couple of good photographs. Generally, shy creatures, this little guy was quite content having his picture taken – as you can see…

His colorful pose was one of my first memories of Nambiti Plains and inspired me to share just a bit more about these interesting reptiles.

Blue Headed Tree Agama’s roam in most of the forest and savannah areas in Central Africa, down into South Africa, and include places like Kenya, Namibia, Congo, Angola and Ethiopia. It is possible to find up to 12 different species of agamas in South Africa, especially the North of the Country.

They are ectothermic animals – they cannot regulate their own body temperature but rather gain heat externally such as basking in sunlight or through a heated rock surface.

Tree Agamas feed mainly on insects “invertebrates” – winged animals like grasshoppers, ants and termites.

The males are bigger than the females with a large blue head. Their main colour over the body being grey/brown. The common thought use to be that the Tree Agamas changed their colour through hormonal changes – but it is much more colourful than that! Although hormones are believed to play a part, Three Agamas have nanocrystals in between two layers of their skin that enable them to change their colour through reflection.  When the two layers of skin are pulled tight it keeps the crystals close – reflecting blue light – higher density. If the skin is relaxed, the crystals are spaced more and then it reflects yellow light – giving the normal brown colour.

Blue Headed Tree Agams display their bright blue head during breeding season, when feeding, and at the hottest parts of the day. Males displaying their colours will normally be in the vicinity of females.  Tree Agamas live in colonies with one dominant male, a group of females and other subordinate males.

I really enjoy having a good look and to see these lovely animals on my game drives.

So thank you Agama, you brought colour into my life!

Berenice Fouche

Tree Agama

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