Agamid Lizards of Pulau Tioman


Pulau Tioman (Bahasa Malayu for Tioman island) is an Island found 32km East off the Malaysian coast settlement of Mersing. The island covers around 133.6km sq, and is well known for it’s diversity of natural habitats & it’s biodiversity, ecological traits now rare to Peninsular Malaysia due to it’s increased urban development and oil palm industry resulting in the deforestation of large areas of rainforest.

Despite being known for its assorted reef & diving hotspots, Tioman hosts a rich diversity of terrestrial fauna considering its size. The herpetofauna in particular currently stands at 97 known species, 34 being lizard species (Grismer et al., 2004). If we compare the diversity of Tioman to that of an island of similar size which I was previously more acquainted  with, the Isle of Man, U.K, we see that the tropical environment, untouched habitats & island benefits found on Tioman allows for high biodiversity in herpetofauna, in comparison to the Isle of Man’s 1 lizard in it’s temperate environment.

The various settlements found on Tioman


There are over 300 species of agamid (Taxon, Family: Agamidae) also known as ‘Dragons’ (not including the infamous Komodo Dragon, a species of Monitor lizard native to Komodo Island, Indonesia). Agamids are the sister group of Iguanids and subsequently hold similar niches in their environments to each other. Agamids can be found throughout Africa, Asia, S. Europe & Australasia whereas Iguanids radiated throughout the New World (Honda et al., 2000).

Generally day-time dwelling, most agamids are adapted to climbing rock faces and trees.In fact many secondary sexual characteristics can be found within agamid species, noticeably some of Tioman’s which will later be described.

Tioman plays host to 9 species of Agamid, of which 4 are common to the Genus Draco. Draco, or ‘flying dragons’ are exquisite lizards who have evolved the ability to glide from tree to tree via the use of extended skin which protrudes between extended rib bones. A study by Klingel (1965) found that Draco individuals could glide up to 60m from 10m poles. Each species of Draco also own their own characteristic ‘gular flag/pouch’, another brightly coloured flap of skin, more predominantly found on males, which is extended from the neck as a source of communication used in courtship displays & to other individuals.

Tioman hosts to the following 4 Draco species: D. haematopogon (Red Barbed Flying Dragon); D. melanopogon (Black Bearded); D. fimbriatus (Fringed); D. sumatranus (Common Gliding).

Earless Agamid (Image Courtesy of I. Kiehlmann)

Tioman also plays host to 5 other species, Aphaniotis fusca (Earless agamid) is very similar in shape and morphology to Draco albeit without gliding adaptations; Gonocephalus chamaelontinus (Chameleon Anglehead), much larger species originally mistaken for a chameleon; Gonocephalus grandis (Great Anglehead), one of the more common large species; Arcanthosaura armata (Armoured Pricklenape) a spiny & devilish looking species; Bronchocela cristatella (Green Crested Lizard). a vibrant and elegantly coloured lizard, whose populations have lowered on Peninsular Malaysia due to the more adaptable Oriental Garden Lizard.

If you require specific references or would like to know anything else about Tioman or these species ecology then don’t hesitate to ask, these lizards formed the basis of my undergraduate research, so this is an area of expertise that I’m more than happy to engage about.

Fooled By Nature – Draco Lizard

Although I’m not one for Animal Planet, or American commentary on wildlife videos, this is about one of the only available pieces of info attached with a video to be found on youtube.


One response to “Agamid Lizards of Pulau Tioman

  1. Apologies I was unaware that it was from your Flickr stream, with your permission I would like to continue displaying the image and of course I will credit yourself. The reason for the use of the image is because it is the best displayed image found that actually shows that specific species, which is essential for the blog post.

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