The African Redhead Agama, 09 June 2017

Agama picticauda, the African redhead agama;
Martin county, Florida (09 June 2017).

The African redhead agama (Agama picticauda, arguably) is, as its common name might suggest, a non-native lizard species now scratching out a living along the Atlantic coast of southern Florida. The furthest north I’ve personally observed them is in the Stuart area (Martin county), though I’ve heard reports of agama showing up here and there as far north of Brevard county. It’s a species I wouldn’t be surprised to find in Volusia county in the next decade or two.

In my experiences, agamas are very fast, agile, large, and durable lizards. Catching them isn’t easy — whether your intention is to kill them or photograph them. Of course, I lean towards the latter: catch, photograph, and release.

Some folks will argue that non-native species must be dispatched upon sight, but when it comes to our lizards, it seems we’ve already missed the window of that making much of any difference. Simply put, our successful non-native lizards are successful for a reason. They’re quick, wary, and tend to reproduce faster than people can kill them. At this point, it’s up to native wildlife to compete and adapt against the ecological pressure exerted by our non-native lizards. Short of some disease or climatological disaster, it’s unlikely the agamas are going to go away.

NOTE: There’s a bit of continued debate about exactly which species of agamas have been introduced into Florida. On top of that, there’s also persistent debate by some regarding the general taxonomy of agamas across the world. In other words, though I’m calling these Agama picticauda, others may disagree. I’ll leave that actual debate to those more in the know when it comes to genetics and cladistics.

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