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The Mwanza Flat-headed Rock Agama - The Spider-Man Lookalike Lizard

Sunday, 15 April 2012

The lizard that looks an awful lot like a certain superhero is in huge demand in pet shops. Take a look and find out why.

Fans of Peter Parker’s erstwhile alter ego Spider-Man who also happen to be animal lovers have discovered their ideal pet.

Looking strangely like the comic and movie hero, step forward the Mwanza flat-headed rock agama. Yet if you suddenly want to run out and buy one, you need to consider the facts first of all.

Spider Man’s outfit is composed primarily of two colors – a vivid blue and a blood red. One would probably assume that this color combination, while possibly being recreated among spiders themselves would perhaps be rare among other languages. The truth be told they are an unusual mix and it is the closeness of the colors that has taken people by surprise. Although this particular species of Agama has been kept as a pet for many years it has only been the last two years that the general population (of humans that is) has cottoned on and the result has been an incredible rise in inquiries in pet shops globally.

The word uncanny springs immediately to mind when faced with this creature. It is almost as if someone has very carefully spray painted the reptile so that it mimics the look of old Spidey. However, this is no uber fan gone nuts situation. The colors have evolved over the millennia to what they are today for specific reasons. People have also discovered that they make good pets as – when handled regularly, agamas will become very docile. When kept in colder climes, however, they will need fairly expensive specialist equipment in order to keep them alive as they need a specific temperature in which to thrive.

They look fairly small in these pictures but they can grow up to a foot in length. You have to be prepared to feed them a diet which may not be for the faint of heart – they like to eat waxworms, locusts, crickets and mealworm. They have very sharp front teeth which can quickly cut up their food, which they will then chew before swallowing (a polite kind of lizard, then). They will also eat seed and berries and the occasional raw egg.

They come originally from Kenya – and their similarity to Spider Man does not end with their coloring. They can run on only their hind legs when necessary and can, if the situation calls for it, scale walls that to our eyes are effectively vertical. The Mwanza is not the only variety of agama – far from it. There are almost forty recorded species that vary in size from five to twelve inches.

In Kenya their natural habitat has been slowly eroded by human incursion but unlike many species the agama has managed to adapt. They have adopted the thatch of huts (and any other small spaces where they can secrete themselves safely) as their homes and seem to have become accustomed to living side by side with humans. They only come out of their adopted homes to eat – and when caught out in the open this is when they will opt for the two legged speedy ‘spidey’ escape.

The coloring we see here is among the dominant males of the species. Subordinate males are a dull or dark brown color. In fact, even dominant males when they have had a scare will revert to the brownish colors of their weaker counterparts – and at night you would not be able to show them off either as their bright colors are only on display during daylight hours.

Unsurprisingly considering their country of origin, the Mwanza can tolerate fiercely high temperatures but when the sun is at its peak they will hide in shaded areas until later. They are fairly gregarious creatures but the males of the species do not get along together at all, so there is no way that two could be kept within the same environment if you were to buy them. They attack with their tails and silently hiss at each other – jaws wide, which is no doubt quite a scary size even though they are not particularly large. A lot of older males have no tails as they have lost them in the wars over the years.

If you are considering buying one of these lizards then you must realize that they live up to fifteen years and require a lot of care and attention. They have much more specialist and complex needs than traditional pets and this must be taken in to account before purchase. So, even if you are the biggest Spider-Man fan on the planet, consider the welfare of the animal before you make up your mind and make a dash for the pet shop.


Amung Feedjit