Agama lizard: Wizard of Table Mountain
Table Mountain, the iconic backdrop to the Mother City, is known for its picturesque, panoramic views and the legendary cable car ascent (and descent!). However, complementing this is a plethora of lesser-known fauna that call this idyllic expanse home. The southern rock agama lizard is one such example. Not only do we have a walk named after it on top of the mountain (the Agama Walk), but this native inhabitant of southwestern Africa exhibits numerous physical traits, specifically, a varying palette of vibrant hues, according to the Survey of Cederberg Amphibians & Reptiles for Conservation & Ecotourism (SCARCE).
There are 37 species of agama in the Western Cape alone; each species differs due to particular climate and soil conditions. As the name suggests, rugged terrain is the preferred dwelling place, according to an article in the Journal of Biogeography.
Agamas practise a polygamous system of reproduction. During the mating season, the male will unveil his masterpiece by performing certain characteristic gestures – in this case, a pushup (reminiscent of the “jocks” in the gym) in order to attract the females! They, in turn, may expose their hindquarters and entice the male to chase them. No matter what the species, it seems there is always a game being played when it comes to courtship!
The male’s most notable display is its head turning a bright blue in order to distinguish itself from the rocky, monotone setting. After displaying their prowess, they will ward off any other males who dare to intrude on their prize(s).
Both sexes form colonies, but the males’ is the most dominant. Once the female is part of the group, she will mate with any agama that gains contact. It is most likely that the most extravagant male will be the first to mate – Darwin would be proud; aesthetic qualities win in this species.
Their diet is considerably dull when compared to the flamboyant mating ritual. They primarily feast on ants and termites. Yet, invertebrates still need to beware of an aggressive agama.
Once mating has taken place, two clutches of eggs, usually between seven and 18, are produced at particular seasons during the year – October to November and January to February.
Contrary to popular belief, there are no poisonous lizards in South Africa. So, if an agama perches on a rock near you, take it as a compliment and just laugh off the vanity.