You are here » home advanced search Phrynocephalus arabicus

Phrynocephalus arabicus ANDERSON, 1894

IUCN Red List - Phrynocephalus arabicus - Least Concern, LC

Can you confirm these amateur observations of Phrynocephalus arabicus?

Add your own observation of
Phrynocephalus arabicus »

Find more photos by Google images search: Google images

Higher TaxaAgamidae (Agaminae), Sauria, Iguania, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Arabian Toadhead Agama 
SynonymPhrynocephalus arabicus ANDERSON 1894: 377
Phrynocephalus arabicus — HAAS 1957: 67
Phrynocephalus nejdensis HAAS 1957: 68
Phrynocephalus nejdensis macropeltis HAAS 1957: 69
Phrynocephalus arabicus — WERMUTH 1967: 76
Phrynocephalus arabicus — BISCHOFF & SCHMIDTLER 1981
Phrynocephalus arabicus — BARTS & WILMS 2003
Phrynocephalus (Phrynocephalus) arabicus — BARABAOV & ANANJEVA 2007
Phrynocephalus arabicus — SINDACO & JEREMČENKO 2008
Phrynocephalus nejdensis — MELNIKOV et al. 2014
Phrynocephalus arabicus — MELNIKOV et al. 2014
Phrynocephalus macropeltis — MELNIKOV et al. 2014
Phrynocephalus ahvazicus — KAMALI 2020
Phrynocephalus nejdensis — ALOUFI et al. 2021
Phrynocephalus ahvazicus — SOLOVYEVA et al. 2023
Phrynocephalus nejdensis — SOLOVYEVA et al. 2023
Phrynocephalus arabicus — SOLOVYEVA et al. 2023 
DistributionSE Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Iran, S Iraq ?, Jordan

Type locality: Plateau of Hadramut, SE Arabia.

ahvazicus: Iran (Khuzestan); Type locality: Ahvaz, Khuzestan province, Iran.

nejdensis: Type locality: "Nafud, near Qana, North Nejd, WNW of Hail, Saudi Arabia".

macropeltis: CE Saudi Arabia; Type locality: "Dhahran [Az Zahrãn], Saudi Arabia" [approximately 26º17' N, 50º12' E].  
Reproductionoviparous (not imputed, fide Zimin et al. 2022) 
TypesSyntypes: BMNH 1946.8.28.33 (formerly BMNH and BMNH 1946.8.28.34 (formerly BMNH
Holotype: ZISP 27131 (formerly R-12713G2), adult male (Fig. 7). Paratypes. ZISP 25019 – 25023, ZISP 27088, ICSTZM6H 1291, 1292 (formerly ZISP 26645, 26646) and ZMMU R-12713G1, R-12713G3 – 12713G6 with the same data as Holotype [ahvazicus]
Holotype: CAS 84619 [macropeltis]
Holotype: HUJ 2711 [nejdensis] 
DiagnosisPhrynocephalus arabicus sensu stricto is characterized well by the very contrasting coloration of the upper side of the body (Figs. 3e and 4d ). Background is bluish gray with bright dark orange-red pattern on the head, two bright orange stripes on the neck, two longitudinal rows of six bright orange (salmon) patches on the back, and dark orange-red on the sides of the body, joined to form a transverse bright pattern with clear middorsal line, similar smaller patches are on the tail, forming transverse pattern (Fig. 3e). This pattern was mentioned in the J. Arnold original description, but due to preservation is not present in the type specimens now (Fig. 2a). But the main character of Ph. arabicus sensu stricto is the unique tail coloration, as this species has white coloration of the undertail and only the tail tip (last quarter) has very small black bands. In the type specimens two and three small bands on the tail tip are present (Fig. 2a) and in the specimens from Oman only two small black bands (Figs. 4c and 5c). Probably in alerted animals the whole last quarter of the tail becomes totally black. This species is characterized also by pointed snout and relatively long tail (Table 1). [MELNIKOV et al. 2014]

Phrynocephalus nejdensis is also characterized by special coloration of the dorsal side of the body and undertail. This species does not have bright color marks on the dorsal side. General coloration is in one color tone, with contrasting yellow-brown or yellow-reddish-orange with dark-brownish transverse bands (Fig. 3c, d and 4a–c). Upper side of the head has the same pattern and color as body. White dots on the middorsal line can be distinguished, with some individuals appearing as a longitudinal row along the vertebrae. This species is also well characterized by many black transverse tail bands (up to seven), that cover about half of the undertail in the calm condition of the animal (Fig. 4c). These bands sometimes are not well distinguished in alerted individuals, especially in males, as whole distal half of the tail became black and bands became just slightly visible, but the additional bands in the proximal half of the tail appear (Fig. 5b ). The black tail coloration of the alerted animal is recognizable even on the upper side of the tail, while in calm condition it is whitish. In the Holotype there are two additional bands on the proximal half of the tail and a totally black distal half (Fig. 2b ). This is the biggest and most short-tailed species — the tail almost the same length as body even in males (Table 1). [MELNIKOV et al. 2014]

Phrynocephalus macropeltis is characterized by intermediate morphological characters between Ph. arabicus sensu stricto and Ph. nejdensis, which needs further investigation, due to probable hybridization between these species. The diagnostic characters proposed by G. Haas (1957) for this subspecies were similar to those of Ph. arabicus sensu stricto. For Ph. nejdensis he stated that it differs from Ph. arabicus in: small size of gular scales, smaller ventrals and proximal subcaudals, higher number of upper and lower labials, and flatness of the dorsal head scales. But Ph. nejdensis macropeltis differs from Ph. nejdensis nejdensis in some opposite characters: larger ventral scales, head scales more bulging, and some of the pectoral scales keeled (Haas, 1957). In other words, G. Haas mixed the difference between his species Ph. nejdensis and Ph. arabicus by describing the subspecies Ph. n. macropeltis which differs from Ph. nejdensis in opposite characters which distinguish Ph. nejdensis from Ph. arabicus. Probably because of that, Leviton and Anderson (1967) showed that differences of Ph. nejdensis and Ph. n. macropeltis from Ph. arabicus was “illusory,” and that all meristic characters are overlapping in the populations they studied. As for diagnostic characters proposed by us, Haas (1957) mentioned for Ph. nejdensis — “posterior half of the tail blackish, with faint darker cross-bands” (Holotype also have additional bands in the proximal half of the tail (Fig. 2b )), but for Ph. n. macropeltis — “last third of the tail is black below” (Fig. 2c). All studied specimens from the coastal eastern Arabia (eastern Saudi Arabia and UAE) are characterized by black last third of the tail and no additional cross bands on the rest of the undertail and this is useful taxonomic character for them. To access the living dorsal coloration of Ph. n. macropeltis more material is needed, but it seems similar to those of Ph. nejdensis (Fig. 3g ). Body and tail proportions also similar to Ph. nejdensis (Table 1). [MELNIKOV et al. 2014]

Diagnosis (ahvazicus). A small and slender Phrynocephalus species with tail longer than body in both sexes, ground dorsal coloration uniform, almost without pattern; with dark red patches on body sides; head coloration same as body, without any patches; with white undertail coloration without bands and without black tail tip (undisturbed animal) and black distal half and no bands in white proximal half (alerted). [MELNIKOV et al. 2014]

Comparisons (ahvazicus). Ph. ahvazicus sp. nov. is distinguished from the other representatives of the Ph. arabicus complex by the following characters: smallest body size; longest tail both in males and in females; uniform coloration of dorsal parts without patches on head and dorsum; coloration of the undertail white in calm condition, and distal half black and proximal half is white without pattern in alerted animals.
The new species differs from Ph. arabicus sensu stricto in undertail coloration — distal half is totally black in alerted Ph. ahvazicus sp. nov. vs. distal quarter totally black or two-three small black cross bars in distal quarter in Ph. arabicus sensu stricto.
The new species differs from Ph. nejdensis in undertail coloration — distal half is uniformly black and proximal is white without cross bands in alerted Ph. ahvazicus sp. nov. vs. more than half of the tail is blackish in alerted Ph. nejdensis with black cross bands both in distal (blackish) and proximal (white) parts.
The new species differs from Ph. macropeltis in undertail coloration — distal half is black in alerted Ph. ahvazicus sp. nov. vs. distal third is black or with two-three cross bands in alerted Ph. macropeltis. [MELNIKOV et al. 2014] 
CommentSynonymy: partly after LEVITON & ANDERSON 1967. Note that Melnikov et al. 2014 split P. arabicus into 4 species: arabicus, nejdensis, macropeltis, and ahvazicus. The description of Melnivkov is rather confusing, so their conclusions are sometimes murky. For instance, Figs 4a,b and Fig 5a say “Phrynocephalus sp. nov.” but it doesn’t say which species. Also, the map says “tissue samples” but doesn’t say of what. Ebrahimipour et al. 2021 found that P. ahvazicus is closely related to P. arabicus, hence they consider both as synonyms.

Distribution: See map in SMID et al. 2014 for distribution in Iran and map in Burriel-Carranza et al. 2019 for map in UAE. For localities see also map in Melnikov et al. 2014: Fig. 1 (although that shows only numbers, so it’s a pain to figure out what each number is, but 3 and 11 are macropeltis).

NCBI taxonID: 1788406 [ahvazicus] 
EtymologyNamed after the type locality. 
  • Al-Quran, S. 2009. The Herpetofauna of the Southern Jordan. American-Eurasian J. Agric. & Environ. Sci., 6 (4): 385-391 [this journal has a dubious record, see]
  • Al-Shammari, Ahmed M. 2012. Additional Records of Lizards in Ha'il Province, Saudi Arabia. Russ. J. Herpetol. 19 (4): 287-291 - get paper here
  • Aloufi, A., Amr, Z., & Baker, M. A. 2022. Reptiles from'Uruq Bani Ma'arid and Harat al Harrah protected areas in Saudi Arabia: Reptiles from two protected areas in Saudi Arabia. Herpetology Notes 15: 483-491
  • Aloufi, Abdulhadi A.; Zuhair S. Amr, Mohammad A. Abu Baker 2021. Reptiles and Amphibians of Al Madinah Al Munawwarah Province, Saudi Arabia. Russian Journal of Herpetology 28 (3): 1 - get paper here
  • Anderson, J. 1894. On two new species of agamoid lizards from the Hardramut, South-Eastern Arabia. Ann. Mag. nat. Hist. (6) 14: 377 - get paper here
  • Anderson, Steven C 1999. The lizards of Iran. Contributions to Herpetology Volume 15, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, Saint Louis, Missouri: i-vii, 1-442 [review in Copeia 2000 (4): 1144] - get paper here
  • BARABANOV, A.V. & N.B. ANANJEVA 2007. Catalogue of the available scientific species-group names for lizards of the genus Phrynocephalus Kaup, 1825 (Reptilia, Sauria, Agamidae). Zootaxa 1399: 1-56 - get paper here
  • Barts, M. & Wilms, T. 2003. Die Agamen der Welt. Draco 4 (14): 4-23 - get paper here
  • Bischoff, W. & Schmidtler, J.F. 1981. Bemerkungen zur Herpetofauna der Vereinigten Arabischen Emirate, insbesondere zur Omaneidechse (Lacerta jayakari). Herpetofauna 3 (11): 12-16 - get paper here
  • Burriel-Carranza B, Pedro Tarroso, Johannes Els, Andrew Gardner, Pritpal Soorae, Ahmed Ali Mohammed, Sai Ravi Krishna Tubati, Mohamed Mustafa Eltayeb, Junid Nazeer Shah, Héctor Tejero-Cicuéndez, Marc Simó-Riudalbas, Juan Manuel Pleguezuelos, Daniel F 2019. An integrative assessment of the diversity, phylogeny, distribution, and conservation of the terrestrial reptiles (Sauropsida, Squamata) of the United Arab Emirates. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0216273 - get paper here
  • Carranza S, Xipell M, Tarroso P, Gardner A, Arnold EN, Robinson MD, et al. 2018. Diversity, distribution and conservation of the terrestrial reptiles of Oman (Sauropsida, Squamata). PLoS One 13 (2): e0190389 - get paper here
  • Carranza, Salvador; Johannes Els; Bernat Burriel-Carranza 2021. A field guide to the reptiles of Oman. Madrid : Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 223 pp. [review in HR 53 (3): 531] - get paper here
  • Cogălniceanu, Dan; Aurora Castilla, Aitor Valdeon, Alberto Gosa, Noora Al Jaidah, Ali Alkuwary, Essam Saifelnasr, Paloma Mas, Renee Richer, Ahmad Amer Al Hemaidi 2014. A preliminary report on the distribution of lizards in Qatar. ZooKeys 373 (2014): 67-91<br />doi: 10.3897/zookeys.373.5994 - get paper here
  • Disi, A.M.; Modry, D.; Necas, P. & Rifai, L. 2001. Amphibians and reptiles of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt, 408 pp.
  • Ebrahimipour, F., Rastegar-Pouyani, N., Rastegar-Pouyani, E., Hosseinian Yousefkhani, S. S., & Kamali, K. 2021. Molecular phylogenetic relationships within the Phrynocephalus maculatus-arabicus species complex (Sauria: Agamidae) in Iran. Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, 59, 1583–1588
  • Gardner, A.S. 2013. The amphibians and reptiles of Oman and the UAE. Edition Chimaira, 480 pp.
  • Grossmann, Wolfgang; Thomas Kowalski & Hans-Jürgen Zilger 2012. Überraschendes Arabien 2.0. Teil 2. Terraria-Elaphe 2012 (2): 50-57 - get paper here
  • Haas, Georg 1957. Some amphibians and reptiles from Arabia. Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. 29 (3): 47-86 - get paper here
  • Jongbloed, M. 2000. Field Guide to the reptiles and amphibians of the UAE - Wild about reptiles. Barkers Trident Communications, 116 pp.
  • Kamali, Kamran 2020. A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Iran. Edition Chimaira, Frankfurt am Main, Germany ( 574 pp.
  • Leviton,A.E. & Anderson,S.C. 1967. Survey of the reptiles of the Sheikdom of Abu Dhabi, Arabian Peninsula. Part II. Systematic account of the collction of reptiles made in the Sheikdom of Abu Daby by John Gasperetti. Proc. Cal. Acad. Sci. (4) 35: 157-192 - get paper here
  • Leviton,A.E.; Anderson,S.C.; Adler, K.; Minton,S.A. 1992. Handbook to Middle East Amphibians and Reptiles. SSAR, Oxford, Ohio (Contr. to Herpetol. No. 8), 1-252
  • Londei, Tiziano 2015. Arabian sand boa Eryx jayakari (Squamata: Boidae) preying on Arabian toad-headed agama Phrynocephalus arabicus (Squamata: Agamidae): a nocturnal-to-diurnal species interaction. Herpetology Notes 8: 155-156 - get paper here
  • Melnikov, Daniel; Ekaterina Melnikova, Roman Nazarov, Mahdi Rajabizadeh,, Awadh Al-Johany, Zuhair S. Amr, and Natalia B. Ananjeva 2014. TAXONOMIC REVISION OF Phrynocephalus arabicus ANDERSON, 1984 COMPLEX WITH DESCRIPTION OF A NEW SPECIES FROM AHVAZ, SOUTH-WESTERN IRAN. Russ. J. Herpetol. 21 (2): 149-159
  • Pola, L., Hejduk, V., Winkelhöfer, T., Zíka, A., Baker, M. A. A., & Amr, Z. S. 2020. Recent Observations on Amphibians and Reptiles in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Jordan Journal of Natural History, 7: 11-29 - get paper here
  • RASTEGAR-POUYANI, NASRULLAH; HAJI GHOLI KAMI, MEHDI RAJABZADEH, SOHEILA SHAFIEI AND STEVEN CLEMENT ANDERSON 2008. Annotated Checklist of Amphibians and Reptiles of Iran. Iranian Journal of Animal Biosystematics 4 (1): 7-30
  • Rösler, Herbert and Wolfgang Wranik 2017. Untersuchungen und Beobachtungen zur Herpetofauna des Jemen. Jemen-Report Jg. 48 (1/2)
  • Ross, W. 1995. Tail signalling in Phrynocephalus arabicus Anderson, 1894 (Rep tilia: Agamidae). Zoology in the Middle East 11: 63 - get paper here
  • Schmidt, K. E, & INGER, R. F. 1957. Living Reptiles of the World. Doubleday & Co., 287 pp. - get paper here
  • Schmidt,K.P. 1939. Reptiles and amphibians from Southwestern Asia. Publ. Field Mus. nat. Hist., zool. Ser., 24: 49-92 - get paper here
  • Sindaco, R. & Jeremcenko, V.K. 2008. The reptiles of the Western Palearctic. Edizioni Belvedere, Latina (Italy), 579 pp. - get paper here
  • Sindaco, Roberto; Riccardo Nincheri, Benedetto Lanza 2014. Catalogue of Arabian reptiles in the collections of the “La Specola” Museum, Florence. Scripta Herpetologica. Studies on Amphibians and Reptiles in honour of Benedetto Lanza: pp. 137-164 - get paper here
  • ŠMÍD, JIŘÍ; JIŘÍ MORAVEC, PETR KODYM, LUKÁŠ KRATOCHVÍL, SEYYED SAEED HOSSEINIAN YOUSEFKHANI, ESKANDAR RASTEGAR-POUYANI & DANIEL FRYNTA 2014. Annotated checklist and distribution of the lizards of Iran. Zootaxa 3855 (1): 001–097 - get paper here
  • Solovyeva, E. N., Dunayev, E. A., Nazarov, R. A., Bondarenko, D. A., & Poyarkov, N. A. 2023. COI-Barcoding and Species Delimitation Assessment of Toad-Headed Agamas of the Genus Phrynocephalus (Agamidae, Squamata) Reveal Unrecognized Diversity in Central Eurasia. Diversity 2023, 15, x - get paper here
  • van der Kooij, Jeroen 2001. The herpetofauna of the Sultanate of Oman: Part 1: The amphibians, worm lizards, agamas and chameleons. Podarcis 1 (3): 71-83 - get paper here
  • Wittenberg, J. 1992. First records of Arabian Toad-head Agamid (Phrynocephalus arabicus) (Sauria: Agamidae) in Jordan. Zoology in the Middle East 7: 59 - get paper here
  • Zimin, A., Zimin, S. V., Shine, R., Avila, L., Bauer, A., Böhm, M., Brown, R., Barki, G., de Oliveira Caetano, G. H., Castro Herrera, F., Chapple, D. G., Chirio, L., Colli, G. R., Doan, T. M., Glaw, F., Grismer, L. L., Itescu, Y., Kraus, F., LeBreton 2022. A global analysis of viviparity in squamates highlights its prevalence in cold climates. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 00, 1–16 - get paper here
External links  
Is it interesting? Share with others:

Please submit feedback about this entry to the curator