Acanthocercus atricollis

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Black-necked agama
Southern Tree Agama (Acanthocercus atricollis) male (33506684056).jpg
Male in the Kruger National
, South Africa
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Agamidae
Genus: Acanthocercus
A. atricollis
Binomial name
Acanthocercus atricollis
(Smith, 1849)
Acanthocercus atricollis distribution.png
  • Agama atricollis Smith, 1849
  • Laudakia atricollis (Smith, 1849)
  • Stellio atricollis (Smith, 1849)[2]

The black-necked agama (Acanthocercus atricollis) is a species of tree agama that is native to East, Central and southern Africa. Its largest continuous range is in southeastern Africa, and it occurs at high densities in the Kruger National Park.[2]


Black neck scales on an adult male

The sexes have a comparable snout-to-vent length (SVL) and have similar tail lengths. Mature males have somewhat larger heads than females, which is deemed to be an adaptation for intraspecific competition for territory. Females reach sexual maturity when about 96 mm long (SVL) and males from about 82 mm (SVL).[3]


They form structured colonies with a dominant male, several females and juveniles. The males defend territories and engage in combat. Although mostly diurnal, they sometimes exhibit nocturnal activity.[4][3] It adapts readily to the vicinity of human habitation. They are classic ambush foragers which spend only some 4% of their time moving.[3] This involves an average of less than one movement in two minutes. When stationary, the adults position themselves on lateral branches (42% of the time), on tree trunks (35%), or occasionally on the ground (23%).[3]


They subsist on an insect diet, which consists mainly of orthopterans, beetles and ants.[4] Their full diet encompasses various orders (10 recorded) of arthropods. They also eat millipedes, which other lizard taxa tend to avoid. Gut contents reveal many ants (92% of items) and some beetles (4%).[3] A large volume of orthopterans is consumed (27%), followed by beetles (26%) and ants (18%). Juvenile diet (by volume) is dominated by ants, though beetles and orthopterans are also taken. Prey diversity and volumes fluctuate seasonally.[3]


Reproduction is seasonal. Testicular volume of males reaches a maximum during August to September (austral spring), and follicles of females become enlarged during August to December.[3] Females lay a single clutch per annum, about 11 eggs on average, and larger females produce larger clutches than smaller females.[3]


It is found in Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, D.R.C., Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Eswatini.[4]


Two races are usually accepted. Four more have been described however, which are not very distinct.[2][4]

  • A. a. atricollis (Smith, 1849) – Southern tree agama, of southern Africa
  • A. a. loveridgei (Klausewitz, 1957) – Tanzania



  1. ^ Spawls, S. (2020). "Acanthocercus atricollis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2020: e.T110132395A20519412. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2020-3.RLTS.T110132395A20519412.en. Retrieved 11 November 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Spawls, S. "Acanthocercus atricollis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Reaney, Leeann T.; Whiting, Martin J. (August 2002). "Life on a limb: ecology of the tree agama (Acanthocercus a. atricollis) in southern Africa". Journal of Zoology. 257 (4): 439–448. CiteSeerX doi:10.1017/S0952836902001048.
  4. ^ a b c d Uetz, Peter; Hallermann, Jakob. "Acanthocercus atricollis (SMITH, 1849)". The Reptile Database. Retrieved 22 July 2015.