English Name :Common Garden Lizard
Scientific Name :Calotes versicolor
Tamil Name: Nattu onan
Description: A medium sized arboreal lizard with oval head and laterally compressed body. Animals from the peninsula are larger than those from the Indo Chinese region (Assam and eastwards). Females are considerably smaller. In the male cheeks are muscular. It’s female and young with two distinct lateral stripes with patterns in between. New and young feebly iridescent golden yellow with brown pattern.
Distribution and status:. Widely distributed throughout the Indian subcontinent. It is the commonest agamid lizard in India.
Habitat: It occupies all biotopes from dry deserts to thick forests. It is a lizard of gardens, hedges, scrubland and forest.
Habits: An arboreal, diurnal lizard. Usually slides to the back of the bole or branch when noticed. It has been observed bathing in a seepage pool in summer. At the commencement of the breeding season, the males become conspicuous by the pursuit of the female and their brilliant coloration when excited. The head, shoulder and part of the forelegs turn bright scarlet or crimson (hence the name Blood sucker) with black patches on the sides of the throat. Each male maintains a territory and displays from an elevated site within it, usually an elevated trunk of a tree from where it can see the surroundings and can itself be seen.
Food : Primarily insects, ants forming a large portion of its food. Small birds, nestlings, frogs and other small animals are also taken occasionally. Plant materials are also sometimes taken.
Life cycle. Breeding season is from April to September. The display in the form of press ups with the bobbing of head up and down is done as a courtship display as well a s a threat display to other approaching males. Display by rival males often end in a fight with the forelegs on each other with the biting and wrestling of each other and finally the aggressor is cased out of the territory by the victor. Eggs are ovoid with a soft leathery texture and are formed by the end of May. There is variation in size due to the water absorption by the developing egg. The female deposits the eggs in a soft soil area. The clutch size varies from 11 to 23. Incubation varies from 37 to 47 days depending on the temperature. Hatchlings attain maturity in a period of one year. It was once the common laboratory animal for vivisection.
Role in the environment: Though common everywhere where it is found it could be considered as predator keeping check in the arthropod population.
Photo source: Dr. J. Subramanean