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



Peninsular Horned Tree Lizard

Fig 1

Fig 2

Fig 3

Species : Acanthosaura armata
Size (snout to vent) : males 14.4 cm, females 13.8 cm
Size (total length) : up to 22 cm

The Peninsular Horned Tree Lizard inhabits forested hills up to around 800 metres elevation, as well as lowland peatswamp forest. It is less common in disturbed habitats, but may survive in forest edge settings.

The species reportedly feeds on forest floor invertebrates, including earthworms, though sightings of these lizards on the ground are uncommon. Typically adults are encountered clinging to sturdy tree trunks.

The species exhibits the typical body form and spiny appearance which define agamid lizards. The body is thick and robust, the head short and angular, and the limbs moderately thick. There is a long curved spine behind each eye socket, and a row of spines of diminishing length along the back, starting at the neck and ending around the base of the tail. There is an expandable throat pouch which can be inflated when displaying (perhaps for courtship or territorial purposes).

Patterning typical comprises scattered oval or elongate lighter markings on a darker background. Colouration can be highly variable, ranging from reddish to brown to buff to various shades of green. Darkening of colour may occur when the lizard is stressed. The tail is banded.

According to Grismer (2011) this species occurs in southern Thailand, Peninsular Malaysia (including islands lying off the west and east coasts), Sumatra and Pulau Siantan (one of the Anambas Islands in the southern South China Sea). In Singapore, Baker & Lim (2008) categorise the species as 'doubtful', meaning that historical records of the species may be inaccurate, and there have been no recent, verifiable records.

Fig 1 : Specimen from Pulau Pinang, Penang, at the base of Penang Hill at an elevation of 50 metres. It was found resting on a tree trunk 2.5 metres from the forest floor, in a humid stream gully.

Fig 2 : The same specimen in habitat context -  an area of primary forest on a steep slope.

Fig 3 : The typical posture of this lizard is for the front legs to be raised, thus elevating the belly from the tree trunk. The head always points upwards.

References : H11