Starred agama (Laudakia stellio)

Also known as: hardun, painted dragon, roughtail rock agama, rough-tailed agama, sling-tailed agama
Synonyms: Agama cordylea, Agama sebae, Agama stellio, Iguana cordylina, Lacerta stellio, Placoderma stellio, Stellio antiquorum, Stellio cyprius, Stellio stellio, Stellio vulgaris, Uromastix horrida, Uromastyx horrida
GenusLaudakia (1)
SizeTotal length: up to 30 cm (2)
Snout-vent length: up to 21 cm (3)
Top facts

The starred agama has yet to be globally assessed, but is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN European Red List (1).

The starred agama (Laudakia stellio) is a large, robust lizard with a flattened, spiny body, a wide, triangular head, long legs and a long tail. The neck is particularly spiny, and rows of spines run across the body, flanks and tail (2) (4).

In general, the starred agama is light or dark brown to grey or charcoal-coloured (2) (3), with a series of yellowish, diamond-shaped markings along the back (2). The throat may be flecked with dark spots, and the tail often has conspicuous bars (2). However, the starred agama is quite variable in appearance across its range, with individuals from some areas having pale yellow or red heads and unspotted throats (2) (6) (7). A number of different subspecies are recognised (6).

Like many other members of the Agamidae family, the starred agama is capable of quite rapid colour changes, with individuals typically becoming lighter when warm and darker when cold (2). Dominant male starred agamas are particularly brightly coloured (2), often showing reddish-brown, turquoise and tan markings (5).

The starred agama ranges from Greece and Cyprus in south-eastern Europe, through Turkey, Syria and Iraq, and into the Middle East, northern Saudi Arabia and northern Egypt (1) (2). It has also been introduced to Corfu and Malta (1) (2) (6).

The starred agama is found in a variety of arid and semi-arid habitats (1) (2), including rocky hillsides, scrubland, grassland, and cultivated areas such as orchards and olive groves (1) (2) (8). It is particularly associated with stony and rocky areas (1) (8), and climbs well on rocks, walls, buildings and trees (1) (2) (8), aided by its sharp claws (9).

This species has been recorded from sea level up to elevations of about 1,900 metres (1). The subspecies Laudakia stellio brachydactyla tends to dwell at higher elevations, while Laudakia stellio stellio has adapted to living among development and cultivation in coastal northern Sinai (3).

Like other Laudakia species, the starred agama is likely to be highly territorial, and may show aggression by characteristic bobbing of the head. Members of this genus often form ‘harems’ in which a dominant male lives in an area with several females (4).

The breeding season of the starred agama usually runs from March to early June (9). The female may lay up to 2 clutches a year (2), with each clutch consisting of 3 to 12 eggs (1). The eggs are laid in a nest dug into the ground, and hatch after about two months (9). The maximum lifespan of the starred agama is reported to be about six years (10).

The starred agama shows opportunistic feeding behaviour. The majority of its diet consists of insect prey, particularly hymenopterans (ants, bees and wasps), but it has also been known to eat other invertebrates, such as snails, as well as some plant material (2) (9) (11). In addition, the starred agama may occasionally eat small lizards and even hatchling birds (2) (9). This species is usually active during the day (1) (2), and often hides in holes and crevices (2).

A generally common and widespread species, the starred agama is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction, especially considering its ability to live alongside human developments and its tolerance of a wide range of habitats (1) (3).

However, in some parts of its range the starred agama is under threat from habitat destruction and extensive collection for the pet trade. For example, its populations in Egypt are declining due to over-collection and habitat loss to coastal development (1) (3).

In addition to occurring in many protected areas across its range (1), the starred agama is legally protected in a number of countries (1) (8). In Egypt, the trade in this colourful reptile needs to be regulated and monitored, and further research has been recommended into the impact of collection on its populations (1).

Find out more about the starred agama and other reptiles:

More information on reptile conservation:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN European Red List (June, 2012)
  2. Arnold, E.N. and Ovenden, D. (2002) A Field Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe. Second Edition. HarperCollins Publishers, London.
  3. Baha El Din, S. (2006) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt. American University in Cairo Press, Cairo.
  4. Barabanov, A.V. (2006) The Reptiles of Northern Eurasia. Pensoft Publishers, Sofia, Bulgaria.
  5. Bartlett, R.D. (2003) Spiny-tailed Agamids: Uromastyx and Xenagama. Barron’s Educational Series, New York.
  6. The Reptile Database (June, 2012)
  7. Almog, A., Bonen, H., Herman, K. and Werner, Y.L. (2005) Subspeciation or none? The hardun in the Aegean (Reptilia: Sauria: Agamidae: Laudakia stellio). Journal of Natural History, 39(7): 567-586.
  8. Michaelides, G. and Kati, V. (2009) Diversity patterns and conservation management of the lizard community in a Mediterranean reserve (Cyprus). Journal of Biological Research - Thessaloniki, 12: 211-220.
  9. Brammah, M., Hoffman, J.I. and Amos, W. (2010) Genetic divergence between and within two subspecies of Laudakia stellio on islands in the Greek Cyclades. Herpetological Journal, 20: 91-98.
  10. AnAge: The Animal Ageing and Longevity Database (June, 2012)
  11. Düşen, S. and Öz, M. (2001) A study on the feeding biology of Laudakia (=Agama) stellio (L. 1758) (Lacertilia: Agamidae) populations in the Antalya Region. Turkish Journal of Zoology, 25: 177-181.