Shield-tailed agama (Хеnаgаmа taylori)
The Shield-tailed agama (Хеnаgаmа taylori), Parker, 1935) inhabits desert areas in Somalia and Ethiopia.
This species is at present known to inhabit just four localities. Originally discovered in the 1930s on the border between Ethiopia and northern Somalia, where it was found in dry open woodland with a sparse ground-cover of grass and low herbage, it has recently been observed at the adjacent sides of Dargah Bur and Aware in Ethiopia. Here it lives in a flat, semi-desert country, being active by day and occupying burrows in the sandy soil, into which it retreats head first when disturbed. Presumably, its broad and extraordinarily spiny tail serves as a very effective deterrent to any predator that might be tempted to follow this lizard into its lair.
These agamas reach 10 cm, including the tail. The tail resembles small «shield», which gives the lizard an English name – «shield-tailed agama». They are pretty hardy in captivity in case their needs are properly met. Shield-tailed agamas (Хеnаgаmа taylori) possess a unique behavior – at night they block with their shield-like tails the entrance of short holes they dig as their shelter. This is their original way of protection against predators.
We have been keeping and breeding shield-tailed agamas in BION Terrarium Center since 2003. As of February 2020, we have 5 adult males and 15 adult females as the current breeding stock.
Keeping in captivity:
Terrarium: For adults – 90х60х60 cm. Substrate: loam mixed with clay (depth 10-12 cm). See the pictures.
Babies and juveniles are kept in open plastic boxes of 60x40x30 cm. Substrate: paper towels.
Decoration: Potsherds as hiding places. For babies, we use egg trays.
Lighting: a full spectrum Zoo Med lamp “Reptisun UV.10”; up to 14 hours in the summer and 5-6 hours in the winter.
Heating: a 60 watt spot lamp; up to 14 hours in the summer and 5-6 hours in the winter.
UV: Full spectrum Zoo Med lamp “Reptisun UV.10”; up to 14 hours in the summer and 5-6 hours in the winter.
Temperature: day time – 28°C (basking place – 40-45°C), night time – 22-24°C.
Humidity: 50-60%. It should be sufficiently dry in the terrarium. But it is necessary to keep moist down the substrate level as these lizards are good diggers.
Diet: For adults: crickets, roaches, zophobas, mealworms, sometimes butterflies of the Pyralidae family. The size of the insects is 0.8-1 cm. Food is provided every other day by 3-5 insects per head. Also, we offer salad on a daily basis. Summer version: dandelion, nettle, hemp, clover, plantain, leaves of cultivated grapes. Winter version: Chinese cabbage, different kinds of green salads, parsley, celery, carrot.
For babies: crickets, roaches, zophobas, mealworms, sometimes butterflies of the Pyralidae family. The size of the insects is 0.3-0.5 cm. Food is provided every day by 3-5 insects per head. Salad is given in small quantities on a daily basis.
Mineral supplements: At each feeding, we sprinkle insects with calcium (especially it’s important for babies and pregnant females). We use Reptical + D3.
Mineral all from Repashi for babies and adults – 1 time a week.
We provide Reptivit with D3 to all babies starting from 2 months of age.
Males and females of shield-tailed agamas reach their sexual maturity at 15-18 months. Females achieve their best reproduction level at the age of 2 years. Sexual dimorphism is evident at the age of 5-7 months. Males differ from females by a slightly smaller size, more intensive turquoise color of the chin and neck while stressing as well as the presence of distinct femoral pores above the hole, covered with waxy yellow grease.
We keep adult lizards in groups of 1:2, but it also possible to keep them in groups of 1:3.
To stimulate reproduction, we provide hibernation (soft conditions). We arrange hibernation from the beginning of November till the beginning of February. We arrange hibernation in the same terrariums where the lizards are kept. The temperature at that time is 22-24°C, the day length of 5-6 hours. Fresh water is available all the time, humidity is low, of 50-60% (just moisting the soil at the basking place).
Mating (we didn’t observe), presumably, occurs after hibernation, subject to a gradual increase in the day length to 14 hours.
As a matter of fact, we incubated eggs of shield-tailed agamas (Хеnаgаmа taylori) in two ways:
1. In the terrarium (in the place where the clutch is laid). We just slightly moisten the soil in this place on a regular basis. The temperature is the same as in the terrarium - 24°C (with nocturnal fluctuations up to 22-24°C).
2. In the incubator with a constant temperature of 28°C.
In both cases, the incubation finished gives similar hatching results.
- In 2013, we got 9 babies (3 clutches of 17 eggs in total).
- In 2014, we got 4 babies (1 clutch of 6 eggs in total).
We recommend keeping shield-tailed agamas’ babies according to their sizes. We keep newborn lizards in groups of 2-3 heads in open plastic boxes of 60x40x30cm till their 5-6 months age.
We spray the box with newborn babies moderately only in the morning during the first 2 months.
Very important: provide UV, vitamins and mineral supplements on a regular basis.
After the sexual dimorphism determination (approximately at the age of 6 months), we keep all agamas the same way as adult lizards.
If the soil is too wet, fungus can appear on the animals’ skin. For treating, you need to bathe lizards in a solution of Betadine® every other day (a few drops of medicine per 1 liter of warm water, which should be light yellow).
In case of other lizards bites, you need to treat the bitten place with hydrogen peroxide, and then apply veterinary ointment Mastijet® Forte to the wound. Use the ointment every other day until the wound get crusted.
There must be a lot of hiding places (1-2 per head) in the terrarium to avoid aggression and bites.
1.. *Malcolm largen and stephen spawls. 2010. The Amphibians and Reptiles of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Edition chimaira. Hardcover. 693 pp. ISBN 9783899734669.
2.. Randall L. Gray. 2003. Desert Lizards: Captive Husbandry and Propagation. Krieger Publishing Company. Malabar. Florida.