Lizard unfurls its face like a flower as a way to scare off predators

The toad-headed agama can unfold colourful skin flaps at the corners of its mouth to produce a vibrant display, but a study suggests this behaviour hasn’t evolved to impress mates – it may actually help to startle predators

Life 14 June 2022

Agama lizard

A toad-headed agama lizard (Phrynocephalus mystaceus)

toha90/Shutterstock

Most of the time, the toad-headed agama looks like any other desert lizard. Tan and fleet-footed, the reptile calls the arid regions of Central Asia and north-west China home. But in an instant, it can unfold special skin flaps bracketing the corners of its wide mouth, creating a pair of bright pink, spiny shields.

New research suggests the impressive display is used to startle predators.

Scientists have long been aware of toad-headed agamas (Phrynocephalus mystaceus) and their colourful cheek flaps, but the precise purpose …

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