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The Changeable Lizard

by Vanessa Ting

The Changeable Lizard (Calotes versicolor) is easily seen and photographed because it loves basking in the sun. It has adapted to the urban environment, and feels at home in open spaces such as gardens and roadsides - a rarity for wildlife that co-exist with humans.

Part of the Changeable Lizard's survival strategy is its ability to change colour to match its surroundings, a trait shared with chameleons, although they are from different families. Its spectrum of colours range from the bright green of grass, to the brown of tree trunks, and even the grey of concrete.

Above: Spot the Changeable Lizard trying to blend in.

It can also change colour according to moods. During breeding season, or after aggressive encounters, the head and shoulders of the male can be a bright orange to red colour, which gives rise to its other nickname 'bloodsucker', although it is generally harmless and feeds on insects.

Since we can't depend on colour to identify the Calotes versicolor, we have to look out for the crest which is most prominent on the neck, and continues all the way to the end of its tail. The tail is thin and long, taking up more than half of its entire length of 30 to 40 cm. Unlike the household lizards that we know, the Changeable Lizard does not have a regenerative tail - if the tail is lost in battle, it's gone for good!

Happiest when surrounded by books, Vanessa Ting finds herself thriving in the no-less-fascinating world of conservation biology. This mostly involves exponential (learning and topographical) curves, tagging behind ardent, energetic botanists and zoologists. She can be reached at

#biodiversitymap #orientalgardenlizard #calotesversicolor #vanessating #articles

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