a field guide to the planet - by Damon Ramsey
The reptiles of the jungles of tropical Asia...
I didn't realise until I started sorting out and putting my photos on this webpage, how many species of agamids there are in Asian rainforest...
There are some 28 species in this genus. They are only found in tropical Asia.
Calotes versicolour, 'Oriental Garden Lizard', 'Changeable Lizard'. So called 'Changeable' as the colours can indeed change colour quickly! This was within a minute or two. A common lizard throughout south-east Asia (Angkor Wat, Cambodia).
Calotes calotes, 'Common Green Forest Lizard', (Kithugala, Sri Lanaka). Despite the unenthusiastic common names, this can be a stunningly coloured dragon.
Calotes emma, 'Emma Gray's Forest/Crested Lizard', (Pala-U waterfall, Thailand). Variable lizard, appearing in many colours and forms, but best distinguished by single separate spine above eye, and two smaller ones above typanum. Widespread across tropical Asian mainland from India to southern China and south to peninsula Malaysia.
Calotes nigrilabris, 'Black-lipped Lizard'. Endemic to Sri Lanka, where it usually found at high altitude above 100o metres (Horton Plains, Sri Lanka).
Found in Sri Lanka.
Ceratophora stoddartii, 'Rhino Horned Lizard'. Endemic to Sri Lanka, where it usually found on moss-laden branches of shrubs in high altitude cloud forest (Horton Plains, Sri Lanka).
Bronchocela cristatella, 'Green Crested Lizard'. (Khao Sok National Park, Thailand).
Distinctive feature are the spines that are found on the middle of the back of the neck. Found in forest south-east Asia. Popular in the pet trade.
Acanthosaura 'Mountain Horned Lizard', (Khao Sok National Park, Thailand).
These amazing lizards are common, but often difficult to see at first. They are usually noticed clinging upright on tree trunks. The males will often display a bright flap of skin from their neck, the gular flag. They get their common name from the fact that they can glide long distances using their wing-like, patagia; stretched skin supported by elongated thoracic ribs.
possibly Draco indochinensis 'Indo-Chinese Flying Lizard' (Jahoo Camp, Cambodia).
Geckos in Asia are mostly nocturnal. They are one of the few reptiles that make sounds that we humans can hear. The region includes two notable species; the 'original' Tokay Gecko for which the sound is named (image above is from Baan Maka, Thailand), and the 'South-east Asian House Gecko' that has spread around many homes around the tropical world.
Gekko gecko, 'Tokay Gecko' (Nuts Huts, Philippines). This is the 'orginal gecko'. The name 'gecko', 'tokay' and all the other similar common names throughout Asia come from the loud call of this species. It is a large lizard, up to 30 cm long. It often has bright orange spots. This species is mostly found on trees in tropical rainforest across tropical Asia and into some Pacific islands, but also around human habitation within that range.
Tokay Gecko and young (Subic Bay, Philippines).
Dasia vittata, 'Borneo Striped Skink' (Sepilok, Malaysian Borneo). Endemic to the forests of Borneo.
(Kithugala, Sri Lanka).
(Pala-U Waterfall, Thailand).
(Nuts Huts, Bohol, Philippines).
Varanus salvator, 'Asian Water Monitor' (Singapore). The most common and the largest monitor lizard in tropical Asia.
As with other monitors that have evolved to swim regularly in water, it's tail is laterally compressed, like a paddle. The Asian water monitor is found in a variety of habitats, including urban gardens and canals. It is distributed from India, across all over south-east Asia, north to southern China, and down to Sulawesi.
Calloselasma rhodostoma, 'Malayan Pit Viper'. A small specimen with lighter for scale (Jahoo Camp, Cambodia).
Probably Oligodon sp. 'Kukri Snake' (Sinharaja, Sri Lanka).
Tomistoma schlegelii, 'Malayan/False Gharial', (Sekonyer River, Kalimantan, Indonesia). Very long snout, but not quite as uniformly slim as the gavial. The slim snout suggested fish was the main diet, but they have also been reported to eat other animals up to the size of Proboscis monkeys. They are generally considered harmless to humans, but locals claimed they have eaten people. Found in freshwater, especially peat swamps, in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Thinking of travelling again after everything settles down? The first expedition I am booked to work on after the virus is New Guinea & Indonesia in 2021 with Silversea.