Stay in the know about wildlife, water quality, and ecosystems on Sanibel and Captiva Islands and in Southwest Florida

Have You Seen a Peter’s Rock Agama on the Islands?

April 3, 2024

SCCF is asking for your help in documenting the post-Ian spread of Peter’s rock agamas (Agama picticauda), formerly the African red-headed agama (Agama agama africana), into new areas on the islands.

“We’ve had a sharp increase in reported sightings,” said SCCF Wildlife & Habitat Management Director Chris Lechowicz. “Since Hurricane Ian, we’ve documented several species of flora and fauna that have moved to new areas on the island where they were previously not present.”

Native to West Africa, this species was purposefully introduced into Florida as early as 1976 by the pet trade. They can reach up to a foot in length.

These fast-moving, highly diurnal (daytime) lizards are in the same family as bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps). These agamas thrive in residential areas (disturbed areas) and are often seen sitting on curbs, rock piles, and the sides of buildings.

Males have an orange/red head with a blue body. The tail starts off whitish and blends to orange/red in the middle and ends in black.

A male Peter’s rock iguana

Females are primarily brown with faint whitish spots. The brown head has more distinct spots that can range from white to green and often connect into stripes.

They are primarily insect and other small invertebrate eaters but will also consume smaller lizards such as anoles and have also been documented eating small mammals, birds, and vegetation.

“Sightings of this invasive and exotic species on Sanibel began in 2006 when two were documented on the west end of the island,” said Lechowicz.

The range of Peter’s rock iguanas

Their sudden appearance in that location was not a mystery as several other exotic lizards such as the northern curly-tailed lizard (Leiocephalus carinatus), brown basilisk (Basiliscus vittatus), Cuban knight anole (Anolis equistris), and the flat-tailed gecko (Hemidactylus platyurus) were also documented on Captiva and the west end of Sanibel in a relatively short time.

Hurricane Charley, a Category 4 storm in 2004, severely impacted this area resulting in massive tree and shrub loss. 

“After Charley, thousands of plants were brought in for the replanting from Homestead and the east coast where these exotic lizards are established,” said Lechowicz. “These invaders simply hitched a ride in these shipments and managed to establish in those areas.”

Some species have expanded faster than others. Peter’s rock agama moved relatively slowly, until recently, as indicated by recent reports.

“As with documented localities of this species in Florida, it is expected to become a more commonly seen exotic lizard over time,” he added.

If you see this lizard on Sanibel or Captiva, please try to take a picture, note the location, and send it to

An immature Peter’s rock iguana


Archives by Month