Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor)

It’s rare to see a lizard basking in its full glory here. Most are quite shy- I’ve seen more tails flickering frantically into the bushes than a lizard in its glorious entirety, on the electrical box beside the bus stop. I’m frankly more than a little jealous that it was just sitting there enjoying the sun and didn’t have to go to work.

changeable lizard

Look how long its little toes are! Pardon the bad photo quality, had to zoom pretty far on my point-and-shoot camera

There aren’t that many comprehensive resources on lizards in Singapore, so I had a bit of a hard time trying to identify it, but I believe this is a changeable lizard (Calotes versicolor). Unique characteristics of this species are the moderately elevated dorsal crest (raised bit on the back of the lizard), the lack of a shoulder fold, and the presence of spines just above the tympanum (lizard eardrum). Some have black lines radiating from the eyes and occasionally over the throat as well, like in this particular one. The changeable lizard belongs to the Agamid family, also commonly known as the dragon lizards- given the crest of spines along their backs, you can see why. Changeable lizards have long legs and tails, short heads, and rough scales. During the breeding season, five to sixteen oval-shaped eggs are buried in the ground or hidden in tree hollows, where young lizards hatch after seven to nine weeks. They eat mainly insects and small vertebrates, including other smaller lizards, which they stun by shaking around before swallowing whole. Not quite the most humane way of consuming prey, but then again, who are we to judge? During the breeding season, males develop bright red throats and become highly territorial. They court females by repeatedly bending their forelegs, as if doing push-ups, and bobbing their heads. Males tend to have larger cheeks, so I do believe that this slim one is a female.

Changeable lizards have a wide native range, from Iran to China, India, and Southeast Asia. They were introduced into Singapore in the 1980s, and have since spread everywhere, finding homes in parks and gardens. In fact, they’re so highly adaptable that they’re threatening to out-compete the native species, the green-crested lizard. Cute (subjectively) as they are, these guys have got to learn to share.



One thought on “Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor)

  1. Pingback: Green Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella) | Herbal Ramble

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