Tree Dragons and Mountain Dragons
Gonocephalus and Acanthosaura
©1995 Melissa Kaplan
The tree dragon, a member of the agamidae, is starting to hit the pet stores in the U.S., in increasing numbers. Poorly and variably named, some stores are calling them mountain dragons, blue agamas, toad-headed agamas (which are in fact Phyrnocephalus) and, of course, giving out little to no care information. Within a period of one week, I received several calls on such lizards and so devised this rather sparse caresheet, sparse because there is yet little information to be obtained from the various reptile books. The care for both the tree dragon and mountain dragon is similar to the so-called helmeted iguana, AKA forest chameleon (Corytophanes)...as is their nature, especially the mountain dragon.
Where care is the same, one entry will be provided. Where they are different, the information for the mountain dragon will be preceded with an M: and for the tree dragon with a T:.
Note: These lizards are all wild caught, and should be assumed to be highly stressed and heavily parasitized. Get the lizard and a fecal sample to the reptile vet as soon as possible, to be tested for parasites, evaluated for dehydration, etc.
M: Southern China, Southeastern Asia, Sumatra, Malaya
T: Southeastern Asia, Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia
M: 10-12" STL
T: 10-24" STL (Obst: to 36+")
A. armata: 12" STL, ground color ranges from olive to bright green with dark spots on sides; throat is orange in male, sometimes with lilac streaks.
A. crucigera is 12" STL, generally gray-brown with dark spotting on sides; dewlap is black; belly dirty white.
A. lepidogaster ("Brown Pricklenape") is 10" STL, gray-green with some dark spotting; throat is light gray to black; belly white; requires slightly lower temperatures than the A. capra.
A. capra ("Green Pricklenape"): 12" STL, mostly green.
G. abbotti: green with fine black lines, white belly.
G. boydi: brownish-green, dirty white belly, rusty eyelids and dirty white face.
G. grandis: vivid blue ground and stripes under dark green.
Wild and Captive Habitats
M: Densely foliaged mountain jungles. Usually found on the ground or only a short distance above the ground in low bushes. Fairly secretive. Rarely bask. Require a cool dense rainforest setup with access to water.
T: Live high in the trees in the dense tropical and montane rainforests. Occasionally found on the ground in the undergrowth but prefer height. Bask occasionally. Require a slightly warmer, dense arboreal rainforest setup with access to water.
M: 70-82 F (22-28 C) days; drop to 68-70 F (20 C) at night
T: 77-88 F (Wynne: to 90F) days; drop to 70-80 at night
M: Worms, grubs, crickets, beetles, grasshoppers. May prefer to feed at night.
T: Insects, spiders, small vertebrates (such as pink mice); some worms may be taken.
M: Spraying regularly sufficient for drinking.
T: Must have water for drinking.
M: lays under rotting wood, bark; young 2-3".
T: lays amongst tree roots; young 3-6". Incubation 4 months. Lowland species breed year round.
TIGR Reptile Database: Agamidae
Obst, F. J., et al. Illustrated Atlas of Reptiles and Amphibians for the Terrarium. 1988. TFH.
Wynne, R. H. Lizards in Captivity. 1981. TFH.
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