Steppe Agama (Trapelus sanguinolentus) distributed in eastern Ciscaucasia, southern Kazakhstan, Central Asia, northern and northeastern Iran, northern Afghanistan, northwestern China. In the river valleys, these reptiles penetrate the foothills of the Tien Shan and Pamir-Alai, meeting in the vicinity of some cities in Kyrgyzstan and southwestern Tajikistan. The steppe agama lives in sandy, clay and rocky deserts and semi-deserts, preferring places with shrubby or semi-woody vegetation. It is also found on gentle rocky slopes in the foothills, on the outskirts of loosely fixed sands, along river banks and in tugai forests, often in the immediate vicinity of water, near settlements and along roadsides. In the Asian part of the range, the steppe agama is one of the most common lizards of the steppes and deserts, its average number is about 10 individuals / ha, in spring in gerbil colonies it is up to 60. In the Eastern Ciscaucasia, the range of this species is very small and constantly decreasing, the number is low, which is due to with rather severe climatic conditions for the steppe agamas and intense anthropogenic impact.
Body length steppe agama does not exceed 12-14 cm, and the tail is 1.3-2 times longer than the body. The weight of this lizard ranges from 40 to 60 g. Adult males are noticeably longer than females. She has a well-defined small external ear opening, in the depth of which the eardrum is located. The color of young agamas is light gray on top with a series of light gray more or less oval spots extending along the ridge extending to the base of the tail, and two rows of the same elongated spots along the sides of the body. Between the spots of adjacent rows are larger dark brown or dark gray spots. On the upper side of the legs and on the tail there are unsharp darker transverse stripes. With the onset of puberty, the color changes, and adult lizards become gray or yellowish-gray. In males, dark spots almost completely disappear, and light gray darkens, in females, the juvenile color is generally preserved.
With increasing temperature, as well as in an excited state, the color of adult agamas changes and becomes very bright. In males, the throat, belly, sides, and limbs become dark or even black-blue, cobalt-blue spots appear on the back, and the tail acquires a bright yellow or orange-yellow color. Females become bluish or greenish-yellow, dark spots on the back are orange or rusty-orange, and legs and tail acquire the same color as males, but less bright colors.
Lifestyle and wintering
After wintering, steppe agamas appear in mid-February - early April, depending on the area of distribution, males leave winter shelters earlier than females. These lizards leave for wintering in late October. In spring and autumn, lizards are active in the middle of the day, in summer in the morning and evening. Cleverly climbing trunks and branches, agamas often climb branches of shrubs, protecting themselves from overheating on the hot sand in the hot time of the day and fleeing from enemies, the males survey their site, protecting it from the invasion of other males. In eastern Karakum they sometimes even spend the night on bushes. Agamas are able to jump from branch to branch to a distance of 80 cm. They run very fast on the ground, keeping their body raised on their extended legs and not touching the ground with their tail. In villages, they can be seen running along the vertical surfaces of adobe and stone fences and the walls of buildings. Steppe agamas use burrows of gerbils, jerboas, ground squirrels, hedgehogs, turtles, cavities under stones, and cracks in the ground as shelters. Less commonly, they dig their own holes located between the roots or at the base of the stones. Each adult lizard has a relatively small habitat, beyond which it rarely extends.
Eats steppe agama mostly various insects, mainly bugs and ants, as well as spiders, millipedes, woodlice and juicy parts of plants, in particular flowers, leaves and stems. Insects lizards cleverly capture the sticky tongue.
These lizards reach puberty in the second year of life with a body length of 6.5-8 cm. During the breeding season, sexually mature males climb the upper branches of the bushes, from where their territorial area is clearly visible. When an opponent appears, the owner quickly descends to meet him and chases the alien. During this period, males and females usually stay in pairs, one, less often two or three females live on the male site. Mating usually occurs in April. In late April - early June, a female, 3-5 cm deep in a cone-shaped hole dug in loose soil or in a hole, lays eggs. The volume of masonry depends on the age of the female. Possible 1-2 re-laying per season. During the season, the female lays from 4 to 18 eggs in three to four servings. The incubation period lasts 50-60 days, young lizards 29-40 mm long and weighing up to 2 g appear from the second half of June until late autumn.
The steppe agama has an extensive range, consisting of two unequal parts. Smaller, European, is located in the Ciscaucasia, in the semi-desert regions of Dagestan, Chechnya and the Stavropol Territory. Large, Asian, covers South Kazakhstan, Central Asia, the northern parts of Iran and Afghanistan, as well as north-west of China. Scientists believe that a range break of more than 600 km in this and some other species of reptiles occurred during the Khvalynsk transgression of the Caspian Sea, which ended about 7 thousand years ago. Then the sea (formerly called Khvalynsky) spilled and flooded vast territories north of its modern borders. However, it remains unclear why subsequently some species managed to successfully populate the Caspian lowland and restore a single range, while others did not.
HIGHLY LOOKING, FAR AWAY
The steppe agama is the only species of lowland agam that lives in Russia and Kazakhstan. Like all representatives of this genus, this is a medium-sized bisexual oviparous lizard, active in the daytime. She has a body round in cross section, covered with uniform ribbed scales, a high head and a rather short muzzle. It does not have occipital and dorsal-caudal ridges, like all lowland agamas. The neck usually has a throat sac, especially well developed in males. This lizard lives in sandy, clay and rocky deserts and semi-deserts, preferring areas with shrubbery. You can also meet it on gentle rocky slopes in the foothills, along the outskirts of loosely fixed sands, along river banks, on the outskirts of settlements and irrigated fields. In the mountains, the lizard rises to a height of 1200 m above sea level (Kopetdag, Turkmenistan).
As shelters of the agama, burrows of rodents, hedgehogs and turtles, cavities under stones and cracks in the soil are used. These reptiles lead a land and semi-wood lifestyle. In the heat of the day, lizards either sit in shelters or climb onto branches of shrubs, protecting themselves from overheating on sun-heated soil. They are able to jump from branch to branch at a distance of up to 50 cm. Agamas are territorial. Males, sitting on a hill, survey their individual site and protect it from the invasion of competitors. In the possessions of the male lives one, less often two or three females.
Beetles, butterflies, ants and many other insects, as well as arachnids, form the basis of agam nutrition.
Their lizards are caught both on the surface of the soil and on the branches of shrubs. However, in addition to this, they willingly eat plant foods: leaves, stems and flowers of some plants. Their share can be from 20 to 40% of the total diet.
In turn, in nature, agamas often become prey for snakes, monitor lizards, birds of prey and animals, such as an eared hedgehog, corsac or fox. Ornithologists have repeatedly watched the Buzzards grab lizards sitting on the tops of the bushes. Being a widespread and numerous species of reptiles, the steppe agama occupies an important place in the food chain.
2-3 weeks after leaving the wintering camp, which lasts from October to March, the males acquire a bright mating color and show it by inflating their throats, rising on their forepaws and nodding their heads. Females confirm their readiness for mating snuggling to the ground. After 35-45 days, they lay 4 to 18 eggs, tearing a cone-shaped hole in the sand. Having completed the laying, the female crawls out of the hole and falls asleep the outer passage. After another 50-60 days, calves hatch from the eggs, which begin to actively eat immediately after assimilation of the yolk reserve. During the season, the female usually does 2-3 masonry. Young agamas reach puberty in the second year of life.