Have you seen those big lizards with the red heads in Florida? You know, the ones that climb up buildings and trees and are 3-4 times the size of brown Cuban anoles. Those lizards are known as Peters’s rock agama. Specifically, you’ve probably noticed mature males. Males agama are often more boldly colored than females, at least during the breeding season. Please help by reporting your sighting using Eddmaps or Ivegot1 (there is an app).
Peters’s rock agama (Agama picticauda) are native to East Africa (The Reptile Database, 2020). They are often called red-headed agama or rainbow agama (Agama agama africana) but genetic analysis by UF graduate Leroy Nuñez has shown they are actually a different species (Nuñez et al. 2016). This is the problem with using common names. Scientific names are much more accurate. If someone sees an agama in Florida, but calls it a red-headed agama or rainbow agama, while technically wrong common names, they are probably seeing Agama picticauda (Peters’s rock agama). Peters’s rock agama were first introduced to Florida in 1976 via the pet trade (Wilson & Porras 1983; Nuñez et al., 2016). Research showed that the same reptile dealer is responsible for releasing the species in Homestead and Palm City and their range has been expanding ever since.
You can help by reporting a sighting of Peters’s rock agama using Eddmaps or the Ivegot1 app. You will be prompted to get a user id and password to report your sighting. If you see an agama, snap a photo of it and upload it to either of these reporting systems.
To learn more about Peters’s rock agama, view the video on the blog below: