Agama atra

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Southern rock agama
Study of Agama atra doing territorial display
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Agamidae
Subfamily: Agaminae
Genus: Agama
Species: A. atra
Binomial name
Agama atra
Peters, 1855

The southern rock agama (Agama atra) is a species of lizard from the Agamidae family, that occurs in South Africa. It lives in small colonies on rocky outcrops, and the males are very conspicuous for their bright blue heads.[1]


This rather sociable agama is normally found in small groups or colonies. It grows up to about 25 cm and has a thin dorsal crest that runs the length of its body. It typically has a short, plump body and a thin tail, with a triangular head. During the breeding season, the heads of the males become bright blue. The males also take to sitting on top of prominent rocks and are therefore a common sight in mountainous areas of South Africa. The females and young are a more uniform greyish-brown and are much more shy.

A female Agama atra

These active, diurnal lizards normally hunt small insects such as ants and termites. They sometimes adjust to living near urban areas and can even live in rocky gardens. However, the increasingly dense populations of domestic cats being kept as pets in suburban areas have unfortunately led to a decline in population, as these introduced predators tend to kill all the agamas in the immediate area. Agama atras natural predators in the wild include the fiscal shrike and various snakes.

A. atra has some ability to change colour, although not to the same extent as chameleons, of which the Agamidae are a sister group. When a male agama in breeding colouration is approached by a potential predator, it will lie flat against a rock and lose the intense breeding colours in favour of more cryptic colouration.

The natural range of this species is almost entirely confined to the borders of South Africa and Lesotho.[2]


  1. ^ Agama atra at the Reptile Database
  2. ^ Spawls, S., Howell, K.M. & Drewes, R.C., Reptiles and Amphibians of East Africa, Princeton:Princeton University Press, 2006.