Added 1 August 2014.

A look at the

Genus Oplurus – Malagasy Swifts


Genus Oplurus – Malagasy Iguanas

This is one of the two iguanid genera found on Madagascar, their presence being something of an anomaly in the Old World. The two genera can be told apart as follows: Oplurus lacks a dorsal crest and has a tail consisting of large segmented spiny scales, whereas Chalarodon has a distinct dorsal crest, particularly in males, and has a tail covered with small, equal, keeled scales.

Characteristics of the species are as follows: tympanum distinct; body depressed; dorsal crest present; dorsal scales small, upper head scalation slightly enlarged, occipital large; tranverse gular fold present; long, round tail; digits denticulated laterally, with sharply keeled lamellae inferiorly; no femoral pores; lateral teeth tricuspid; pterygoid teeth; no sternal fontanelle; abdominal ribs.

Glaw and Vences (2007) suggested that molecular data might suggest future definition of a second species from the southeast near Esomony, but so far (2014) this has not occurred.

For husbandry details for all species except O. saxicola see Henkel and Schmidt (2000). Bosch and Werning give very few details. [NB 30/8/14 lengths and distributions correct for all except size of O. saxicola]


O. cuvieri, Cuvier's Malagasy Swift

O. cyclurus, Merrem's Malagasy Swift

O. fierinensis, Anzamala Malagasy Swift

O. grandidieri, Grandidier's Malagasy Swift

O. quadrimaculatus, Dumeril's Malagasy Swift

O. saxicola, Marked Malagasy Swift

Scientific Name

Common Name





O. cuvieri

Cuvier's Malagasy Swift

W and C Madagascar

Max TL 38cm/ 16¼"; avg SVL 15cm/6" Henkel & Schmidt (2000]

?? [Details here for Chalarodon!] Scalation details: canthus rostralis and superciliary edge angular; nostril pierced above the canthus rostralis, near to end of snout than to orbit; 8-9 supralabials; occipital large and round; series of large interorbitals; scales on body small, imbricate, keeled, largest on belly, smallest on flanks. Dorsal scalation: upper head-scales uni- or tricarinate, smaller on supraocular region; series of enlarged scales, indicative of dorsal crest, along neck and back. Other: digits long and slender; head moderately large, short, rounded; tympanum vertically oval, as large as the eye-opening; gular fold strong; parietal eye noticeable. Tail: long and round, not quite twice SVL, covered with small, equal, keeled scales. Coloration: dorsally yellow-reddish brown; darker angular transverse bands/patches often present on the back, separated by round whitish spots; large black spot on occipital; dark crossbands on limbs; white, black-edged band on posterior side of thigh; yellow spots sometimes present on flank; lower surfaces whitish. Reproduction: males become brightly coloured in the mating season and defend territories by either ritual or fight; copulation time very short; clutches observed December-March, normally consisting of two eggs placed in damp sand beneath rocks or pieces of wood; sexual maturity probably reached after one year. [Boulenger, Glaw & Vences, Henkel & Schmidt]

O. c. cuvieri

NW Madagascar

Slightly depressed. Dorsal scales notably larger than ventrals, imbricated and strongly keeled. Sur la queue, (les veiticilles d'écaillés grandes, carénées et fortement épineuses, alternant avec d'autres verticilles composés d'écaillés beaucoup plus petites. Small nuchal crest [SOURCE: Mocquard]

O. c. comorensis

Grand Comore Island

O. cyclurus

Merrem's Malagasy Swift

SW Madagascar

Max TL 25cm/ 10"; avg SVL 16cm/6¼" Henkel & Schmidt (2000]

Slightly depressed. Dorsal scales slightly larger than ventrals, smooth and slightly imbricated. Verticilles caudaux formés d'écaillés égales, l'orteiuent carénées et épineuses [SOURCE: Mocquard]

O. fierinensis

Anzamala Malagasy Swift

SW Madagascar

Max TL 28cm/ 11¼"; avg SVL 10cm/4" Henkel & Schmidt (2000]

Very depressed. Écailles dorsales at least as large as the les dorsales. Internasals not carinated; les caudales médiocres, égales, slightly spiny on the sides. Dorsally dirty uniform green. [SOURCE: Mocquard]

O. grandidieri

Grandidier's Malagasy Swift

SE Magascar

Max TL 35cm/ 16¼"; avg SVL 15cm/6" Henkel & Schmidt (2000]

Very depressed. Dorsal scales very fine, much smaller than the dorsales. Caudals equal, slightly spiny on the sides. Temporals very enlarged, the lower ones conical or polyhedral, multicarinated and striated. Dorsally olive green, dotted with small black dots, with a paler vertebral area. [SOURCE: Mocquard]

O. quadrimaculatus

Dumeril's Malagasy Swift

S & W Madagascar

Max TL >40cm

Tronc et base de la queue assez grossièremînt granuleuses; celles de la moitié postérieure de la face supérieure des cuisses plus grandes que les ventrales. Écailles caudales médiocres, égales. 4 séries longitudinales de grandes taches noires plus ou moins distincles, disjiosées en séries transversales [SOURCE: Mocquard]

O. saxicola

Marked Malagasy Swift

S Madagascar

plus large que longue, très grande. Écailles caudales assez fortement épineuses sur les côtés; les temporales très agrandies, polyédriques et légèrement striées. Les granulations de la face postéro-supérieure des cuisses un peu plus petites que les dorsales. Face dorsale avec un réseau de lignes brun fauve pâle encadrant de petites taches plus claires [SOURCE: Mocquard]



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