Added 16 January 2005

A look at the Family Agamidae


Lyre-Headed Agama


This is a striking looking lizard that bears some resemblance to the Gonocephalus species, but unlike the latter lacks a visible tympanum. Although very attractive and unusual, the Lyre-Heads have a reputation for being difficult to maintain in captivity, let alone breed, and therefore should be left to specialists and those experienced with agamids, especially Asian arboreal species. See Manthey and Schuster for husbandry suggestions.

The following is only a brief account, and we hope to add further details in due course.

Species Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
L. scutatus  Lyre-Headed Agama  Sri Lanka  24-34cm TL, 12-17cm SVL  Fairly unmistakeable in profile, both common and specific names deriving from the shape of the head. The bulbous appendage on the snout is composed of spongy tissue and covered by large smooth scales. There is a pronounced bony arch above the eye which curves down and ends in a sharp point. A visible tympanum is absent. In addition to the dorsal crest, males have dewlaps and a large fold of skin on the back of the neck. The species is restricted to the mountain forests of Sri Lanka, where Grzimek (in the 1970s) reckoned it to be common in some places. Diet consists of insects, young buds and shoots: Manthey and Schuster claim that the species is also particularly fond of earthworms. Scalation: scales on snout protuberance large, about 20; head scales variable in size; irregular larger scale series outlines inner dorsal part of orbit, separated from opposite series 5 scales rows; 3-4 enlarged supraoculars; crests bordered by enlarged compressed scales, of which the terminal is the largest; rostral and 2 adjoining labials form part of the snout protuberance; 16 supralabials; 18 or so infralabials, posterior scales not well differentiated; tympanum lacking; transverse row of 4 compressed spines on occiput, behind which are a pair of highly compressed soft spines; nostril directed outward and slightly downward; row of 26 suborbital scales from nostril, of which the 3 posterior are the largest, terminating in the temporal region; Dorsal scalation: keeled scales run at regular intervals along the back and tail. Coloration: overall lime green, but possesses strong colour-changing ability [Zoffer]. Reproduction: Grzimek thought this might not be seasonal. Females lay clutches of 3-9 eggs.


Not as comprehensive or detailed as the above, but gives some interesting details, including on L. scutatus. However, with no disrespect to the author, my own inclination would be to go along with Manthey and Schuster's recommendations. Provides details of the general appearance of Lyriocephalus.


Sri Lanka: Wild Life, Fauna and Flora has a page on the kabaragoyas [the monitor lizard, V. salvator] and thalagoyas [Lyre-Headed Agamas].

The Virtual Museum of Natural History has some nice pictures of L. scutatus. It takes rather a long time to load over a 56k modem.

Reptiles of Sri Lanka (a Sri Lankan site) has a couple of enlargeable images of L. scutatus.