Thai National Parks

Reptiles of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Oriental garden lizard

Thai: กิ้งก่าคอแดง

Binomial name: Calotes versicolor, François Marie Daudin, 1802

The oriental garden lizard, eastern garden lizard or changeable lizard (Calotes versicolor) is an agamid lizard found widely distributed in Asia. It has also been introduced in many other parts of the world.

Description

It is an insectivore and the male gets a bright red throat in the breeding season.

It measures over 10 cm (3.9 in) in length snout-to-vent. Total length including the tail is up to 37 cm (14.5 in).

Two small groups of spines, perfectly separated from each other, above each tympanum. Dorsal crest moderately elevated on the neck and anterior part of the trunk, extending on to the root of the tail in large individuals, and gradually disappearing on the middle of the trunk in younger ones. No fold in front of the shoulder, but the scales behind the lower jaw are much smaller than the others; gular sac not developed. From thirty-nine to forty-three series of scales round the middle of the trunk. The hind foot (measured from the heel to the extremity of the fourth toe) is not much longer than the head in the adult, whilst it is considerably longer in the young. The coloration is very variable, sometimes uniform brownish or greyish-olive or yellowish. Generally broad brown bands across the back, interrupted by a yellowish lateral band. Black streaks radiate from the eye, and some of them are continued over the throat, running obliquely backwards, belly frequently with greyish longitudinal stripes, one along the median line being the most distinct; young and half-grown specimens have a dark, black-edged band across the inter-orbital region.

The ground-colour is generally a light brownish olive, but the lizard can change it to bright red, to black, and to a mixture of both. This change is sometimes confined to the head, at other times diffused over the whole body and tail. A common state in which it may be seen (as stated by Mr. Jerdon) is, seated on a hedge or bush, with the tail and limbs black, head and neck yellow picked out with red, and the rest of the body red. Jerdon and Blyth agree that these bright, changeable colours are peculiar to the male during the breeding-season, which falls in the months of May and June.

Mouhot has collected in Siam one of those fine variations of colours, which, however, appear to be infinite. It has the usual cross streaks between the eyes and the radiating lines continent of India to China; it is very common in Ceylon, not extending into the temperate zone of the Himalayas. Ceylonese specimens are generally somewhat larger; one of them measured 16 inches, the tail taking 11 inches. It is found in hedges and trees; it is known in Ceylon under the name of "Bloodsucker", a designation the origin of which cannot be satisfactorily traced; in the opinion of Kelaart, the name was given to it from the occasional reddish hue of the throat and neck. The female lays from five to sixteen soft oval eggs, about 5/8 of an inch long, in hollows of trees, or in holes in the soil which they have burrowed, afterward covering them up. The young appear in about eight or nine weeks. In a hot sunny day a solitary Bloodsucker may be seen on a twig or on a wall, basking in the sun, with mouth wide open. After a shower of rain numbers of them arc seen to come down on the ground and pick up the larva and small insects which fall from the trees during the showers.

During the breeding season, the male's head and shoulders turns bright orange to crimson and his throat black. Males also turn red-headed after a successful battle with rivals. Both males and females have a crest from the head to nearly the tail, hence their other common name "Crested Tree Lizard".

Changeable Lizards are related to iguanas (which are found only in the New World). Unlike other lizards, they do not drop their tails (autotomy), and their tails can be very long, stiff and pointy. Like other reptiles, they shed their skins. Like chameleons, Changeable Lizards can move each of their eyes in different directions.

Distribution

The native range of the species includes SE Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China (South) (Yunnan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hong Kong, Hainan Island), India (including the Andaman Islands), Indonesia (Sumatra), Malaysia (Western), Maldives, Mauritius (Reunion, Rodrigues), Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Thailand, Vietnam (including Pulo Condore Island). It has been introduced to Brunei, Celebes, Oman, Seychelles, Singapore and United States. The lizards were introduced to Singapore from Malaysia and Thailand in the 1980s. In Singapore, they are a threat to the native Green-Crested Lizard.

The Changeable Lizard is relatively common and found in a wide range of habitats. They appear to adapt well to humans and are thus not endangered. They are commonly found among the undergrowth in open habitats including highly urban areas.

Diet

Changeable Lizards eat mainly insects and small vertebrates, including rodents and other lizards. Although they have teeth, these are designed for gripping prey and not tearing it up. So prey is swallowed whole, after it is stunned by shaking it about. Sometimes, young inexperienced Changeable Lizards may choke on prey which are too large. Occasionally changeable lizards also consume vegetable matter.

Reproduction

Males become highly territorial during breeding season. They discourage intruding males by brightening their red heads and doing "push-ups". Each tries to attract a female by inflating his throat and drawing attention to his handsomely colored head. Oviparous; about 10—20 eggs are laid, buried in moist soil. The eggs are long, spindle-shaped and covered with a leathery skin. They hatch in about 6–7 weeks. They are able to breed at about 1 year old.

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Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Suborder
Lacertilia
Family
Agamidae
Genus
Calotes
Species
Calotes versicolor

Common names

  • German: Verschiedenfarbige Schönechse
  • English:
    • Oriental garden lizard
    • Eastern garden lizard
    • Indian garden lizard
    • Common garden lizard
    • Bloodsucker
    • Changeable lizard
  • Thai:
    • กิ้งก่าคอแดง
    • กิ้งก่าหัวแดง
    • กิ้งก่าสวน

Subspecies

  • Calotes versicolor farooqi, Walter Auffenberg & H. Rehmann, 1995

  • Calotes versicolor versicolor, François Marie Daudin, 1802

Synonyms

  • Calotes versicolor farooqi, Masroor (2011)
  • Calotes cf. versicolor, Stephen Mahony et al. (2009)
  • Calotes versicolor nigrigularis, Nguyen Van Sang et al. (2009)
  • Calotes versicolor farooqi, Nguyen Van Sang et al. (2009)
  • Calotes versicolor versicolor, Ulrich Manthey (2008)
  • Calotes versicolor, Ulrich Manthey & Norbert Schuster (1999)
  • Calotes versicolor, Merel J. Cox et al. (1998)
  • Calotes versicolor, Ulrich Manthey & Wolfgang Grossmann (1997)
  • Calotes versicolor farooqi, Walter Auffenberg & H. Rehmann (1995)
  • Calotes versicolor nigrigularis, Walter Auffenberg & H. Rehmann (1993)
  • Calotes versicolor, Edward Harrison Taylor (1963)
  • Calotes versicolor, Malcolm Arthur Smith (1935)
  • Calotes versicolor major, Nelson Annandale (1921)
  • Calotes versicolor, Nelly de Rooij (1915)
  • Calotes versicolor, George Albert Boulenger (1885)
  • Calotes gigas, Edward Blyth (1853)
  • Calotes viridis, John Edward Gray (1846)
  • Calotes cristatus, Victor Vincelas Jacquemont (1844)
  • Calotes versicolor, André Marie Constant Duméril & Gabriel Bibron (1837)
  • Agama indica, John Edward Gray (1827)
  • Calotes versicolor, Leopold Fitzinger (1826)
  • Agama vultuosa, HARLAN (1825)
  • Agama tiedemanni, Heinrich Kuhl (1820)
  • Agama versicolor, François Marie Daudin (1802)
Distribution map of Oriental garden lizard, Calotes versicolor in Thailand
  • Ban Lat District, Phetchaburi
  • Bangkok Province
  • Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park
  • Doi Phu Kha National Park
  • Erawan National Park
  • Hala-Bala Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Hua Hin District, Prachuap Khiri Khan
  • Huai Kha Khaeng Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Huai Krachao District, Kanchanaburi
  • Kaeng Krachan District, Phetchaburi
  • Kham Thale So District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Khao Khitchakut District, Chanthaburi
  • Khao Kradong Forest Park
  • Khao Nam Khang National Park
  • Khao Yai National Park
  • Khura Buri District, Phang Nga
  • Ko Chang District, Trat
  • Ko Samui District, Surat Thani
  • Kui Buri National Park
  • Lao Khwan District, Kanchanaburi
  • Mu Ko Lanta National Park
  • Mu Ko Samet National Park
  • Mueang Kanchanaburi District, Kanchanaburi
  • Mueang Krabi District, Krabi
  • Mueang Loei District, Loei
  • Mueang Nakhon Sawan District, Nakhon Sawan
  • Mueang Phetchaburi District, Phetchaburi
  • Mueang Rayong District, Rayong
  • Mueang Udon Thani District, Udon Thani
  • Nong Phai District, Phetchabun
  • Op Luang National Park
  • Pak Thong Chai District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Phop Phra District, Tak
  • Phra Pradaeng District, Samut Prakan
  • Phu Khiao Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Phu Suan Sai National Park
  • Sai Yok District, Kanchanaburi
  • Sai Yok National Park
  • Sawi District, Chumphon
  • Sikhio District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Sung Noen District, Nakhon Ratchasima
  • Tha Mai District, Chanthaburi
  • Tha Tako District, Nakhon Sawan
  • Tha Yang District, Phetchaburi
  • Thalang District, Phuket
  • Thale Ban National Park
  • Thap Sakae District, Prachuap Khiri Khan
  • U Thong District, Suphan Buri
  • Watthana Nakhon District, Sa Kaeo

Range map of Calotes versicolor in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

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