Spotted toad-headed agama (Phrynocephalus maculatus)

Close up of a spotted toad-headed agama
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Spotted toad-headed agama fact file

Spotted toad-headed agama description

GenusPhrynocephalus (1)

The spotted toad-headed agama is a member of the Agamidae family, also known as the chameleons of the Old World due to their striking ability to change their body colour (2). As such, the body colour of this lizard is highly variable, but typically has distinct brown bars across the body and tail. It also tends to match the colour of its background and lizards found on pale coastal sands tend to be paler and less patterned than those on red, inland sands (3). The agamid lizards are also known as the chisel-teeth lizards due to the compressed, fused teeth being firmly attached to the upper jaw, unlike most other lizards which have loosely attached teeth (4). The head is short and broad, with a deep forehead and snub nose, and the flattened body is wide and strong and covered in rough skin with overlapping scales (4) (5). The long, flattened tail is rounded at the base and has a black tip on the underside which, when raised, is used in visual signals (4).

Also known as
blacktail toadhead agama.

Spotted toad-headed agama biology

Scurrying across the sand, seeking out its insect prey, the spotted toad-headed agama is active in all but the hottest hours of the day. During the hottest periods, it will stand high on extended legs to limit contact with the sand, balancing on fingertips and heels while using the tail as a prop. It may remain dormant during cold winter days (3). The spotted toad-headed agama is able to sink rapidly into the sand by vibrating the body in a process called ‘shimmy burial’, and it uses this behaviour to escape from predators or create a nocturnal shelter (2) (3). Most agamid lizards are egg layers, producing a clutch of one to seven eggs which are incubated for around six to eight weeks in a burrow (4) (5).


Spotted toad-headed agama range

The spotted toad-headed agama is known from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan Turkmenistan, Syria, Oman, northern Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (6).


Spotted toad-headed agama habitat

The spotted toad-headed agama inhabits desert regions, preferring harder sandy surfaces. In the United Arab Emirates it is also known from salt flats known as ‘sabkhas’ (3).


Spotted toad-headed agama status

This species has yet to be assessed by the IUCN.


Spotted toad-headed agama threats

Like many other species of reptile in the Middle East, the spotted toad-headed agama is a fairly understudied species. As such, it is currently unclear if there are many major threats to the species (7).


Spotted toad-headed agama conservation

The spotted toad-headed agama has not been the target of any known specific conservation measures.

Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi is a principal sponsor of ARKive. EAD is working to protect and conserve the environment as well as promoting sustainable development in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.

Find out more

To find out more about the conservation of reptiles, see:

For further information on conservation in the United Arab Emirates, see:



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To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.


  1. ITIS (September, 2010)
  2. Firouz, E. (2005) The Complete Fauna of Iran. I. B. Tauris Publishers, London.
  3. Hellyer, P. and Aspinall, S. (2005) The Emirates: A Natural History. Trident Press Limited, London.
  4. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  5. Ananjeva, N.B., Orlov, N.L., Khalikov, R.G., Darevsky, I.S. and Barabanov, A. (2006) The Reptiles of Northern Eurasia: Taxonomic Diversity, Distribution, Conservation Status. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, Bulgaria.
  6. The Reptile Database (September, 2010)
  7. Alsharhan, A. et al. (2008) Terrestrial Environment of Abu Dhabi Emirate. Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

Image credit

Close up of a spotted toad-headed agama  
Close up of a spotted toad-headed agama

© Omid Mozaffari

Omid Mozaffari


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