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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Chameleon Anglehead Lizard

Family : Agamidae
Species : Gonocephalus chamaeleontinus
Size (snout to vent) : up to 16 cm
Size (total length) : up to ~ 40 cm

The Chameleon Anglehead Lizard is one of the most striking examples of the genus Gonocephalus. It inhabits tall, mainly primary forest and is diurnal and arboreal.

Typically this lizard is found motionless, clinging tightly to vertical tree trunks with their heads pointing upwards. When disturbed they may simply move around to the side of the tree trunk furthest from the observer, hoping not to remain undetected.

Their colour may vary from overall green to overall tan. A closer look at the body scales of greenish individuals reveals a complex arrangement of different coloured scales, which may be white, yellow, turquoise or green: the yellow scales form rounded, yellow blotches. Brownish individuals bear white, grey, yellow-brown or brown scales.

The most striking feature of this lizard is the vertebral crest of sharply-pointed spines, which are longest above the neck. Males possess a throat pouch which may be bluish or brownish. The tail is banded throughout its length. The eyes are relatively small, and the iris is brown to yellow: as with all Gonocephalus, this species lacks spines immediately above the eye.

In Indonesia this species occurs on the islands of Java, Sumatra and nearby smaller islands, and the island of Natuna Besar in the South China Sea. In Peninsular Malaysia the species is only known from the island of Tioman, in the state of Pahang, which lies 450 km west of Natuna Besar.

Fig 1 : Greenish specimen from the island of Tioman, Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia.

Fig 2 : Two more examples from Tioman, which exhibit strong greenish colour: both possess tails which are strongly banded with brown and white.

Photos thanks to Serin Subaraj.

Fig 3 : Tall, primary forest dominates a high ridge on the island of Tioman: this is the preferred habitat of the Chameleon Anglehead Lizard.

References : H11


Fig 1
ゥ Serin Subaraj
Fig 2
ゥ Serin Subaraj

Fig 3