I think there should be one variety of every animal that is rainbow-coloured. Just think of how fun the world would be with rainbow rhinos, rainbow bears, and rainbow alligators. On the other hand, the survival of those species rate might not be very high, since rainbows don’t blend in too well. Still, there are some animals that make a good attempt at being rainbow-coloured, and today’s animal is one of those.

What agamas look like during most of the year. Image by Michael Gäbler, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The common agama is found in sub-Saharan Africa, from Gabon in the south to Mauritania in the north and west, and Chad in the east. These lizards can live in a number of different habitats, including urban, suburban and wild areas. As long as these guys have some kind of vegetative cover and insects to feed on, they are quite happy.

Agamas grow to be a maximum of 25 cm in length, with males being larger than females. They are brown on most of their bodies, with lighter underbellies and greenish heads. Agamas also have a stripe running down their tails, and some fun spots covering their bodies.

They sound pretty boring, don’t they? Well they are, for most of the year. But when the breeding season rolls around and things get steamy, male rainbow agamas start to strut their stuff. Their heads and necks turn a vibrant orange, and their bodies become a radiant blue. It’s no wonder female agamas are attracted to them, because in their breeding colours, male agamas are beautiful.

A male agama in full breeding regalia. Image by Chris_huh, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

They are also quite possessive. Agamas live in groups, with a dominant male lording over the rest of the lizards. Only he is allowed to mate, and if any other rapscallion tries to get familiar with one of the females, the dominant male will challenge the unlucky upstart. Fighting consists of males posturing at one another, and then trying to hit each other with their tails.

Females lay five to seven eggs in a shallow hole in the ground. These hatch after eight to ten weeks, and sex is temperature dependent, with males hatching at 29 degrees Celsius, and females hatching at 26-27 degrees. Young agamas stay by themselves for the first few months of their lives, and then live in groups, joining those ruled by mature, dominant males.

So even these lizards, who are named after their rainbow colouring, are only bright and beautiful for part of the year. Still, at least they give it a good try. I give rainbow agamas an A for effort.

Cover image by Charles James Sharp, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons