Secret Toadhead Agama, What Surprise Are They Hiding?

What secret does the Secret Toadhead Agama have in store for its attackers, or any other perceived threat? I’ll tell you in a minute.

This little guy, otherwise known as Phrynocephalus mystaceus, is a species of  lizard found in Iran, North Afghanistan, Eastern Caucasus, Kazakhstan, and possibly in south of Astrakhan Oblast. This species can grow in length to approximately 9 inches (24 centimeters).

So, what’s the big secret?

At first, the Secret Toadhead Agama looks pretty much like any other lizard.  It cleverly disguises itself by looking like the sand it lives in, with its sandy-colored scales.  Its unique appearance comes from its wide mouth and an interesting, pig-like nose.

The “secret” is its bright red oral display frill.  When frightened or surprised, the Secret Toadhead Agama presents its frilly skin flaps, alongside the mouth, to make it appear larger and more fierce.  It hisses and bares its teeth as well to give it that extra fright-factor.  I can imagine it’s quite effective actually.  It works for me.

Another fascinating feature of the Secret Toadhead Agama is its ability to burrow itself into the sand with a simple shimmy.  It only takes a few seconds and then you’d never know it’s there.  Take a look at this video.  Check out his profile too.  He’s pretty unique, huh?

Right?  I love this little thing.  It’s cute and compact, seems quite able to take care of itself, and has a lot of tricks under his, uh, sleeve.  Or, skin flaps, I guess.  He’s fast too.  Super fast.  I tried to find a good video to show you his speed, but I couldn’t find a very good one.

These can be had through the exotic pet industry but I don’t know too much about that. (I’ll stick to my Bearded Dragons for now.) I’m pretty sure, however, they wouldn’t be a good choice of pet if you’re looking for something cuddly.  I doubt they like to cuddle, and would get away from your grip in a heartbeat.

I’ve heard these referred to as “frillies” as well.  If you have one, or know someone who has one (or more), drop me a message.  I’d love to hear your experiences with them.  Maybe you’d care to write a guest post?


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Jeanne Melanson
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17 thoughts on “Secret Toadhead Agama, What Surprise Are They Hiding?”

  1. That’s a great critter! I love this article. We have lots of lizards in our backyard. None of them are quite this interesting. I know we have alligator lizards, but the rest of them I have no idea what kind they are. Thanks for this cool read!

    • Isn’t it awesome, Debi? You have a lot of lizards in your backyard? Cool. Right? Or are they a nuisance. I wonder where you live. We don’t see them in the wild here in Michigan, that I know of anyway. Just salamanders. Thanks for visiting my blog! Please come again. 🙂

  2. Yes, Francene! I love how they bury themselves, and so quickly too! Animals are so fascinating to me. I love sharing their oddities with people. It’s fun. Thanks for taking the time to have a look at my post. Peace

  3. I loved seeing the lizard in action but if I ran across him in the wild, I would be petrified. That frill really does the job. The complexity of nature continues to amaze me.

    • I would feel the same way if I saw this little guy in the wild, Alana. I’d definitely give him a lot of space. Nature truly is amazing and just does what it has to do to survive. Thanks for reading my blog. Take care!

  4. What an informative posting. I would not want to roll over and see that little guy staring at me one morning in the desert. Though you are right about him seemingly being able to take care of himself.
    Thanks for teaching me something once again,

    • You’re quite welcome, Snarky Momma. I’m glad you enjoyed my post and learning something new today. Haha. Can you imagine waking up beside him? Whoa! You’d sure get up in a hurry! Come visit us again now.

  5. Woah! This thing is crazy cool. I’ve never heard of it before, and I definitely wouldn’t feel prepared to have something like this as a pet. While his shimmying is probably very important for protecting himself from predators, it’s pretty darned cute 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    • I think it’s pretty darn cute too, Jacqueline, in a crazy cool kind of way. 🙂 I could probably have it as a pet. I’m drawn to ‘out of the norm’ critters. Thanks for stopping by my blog! It’s always great to have new people come by. I hope you’ll visit us again soon. Take care.


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