Okshtein I., Cherlin V. Unusual evening activity of toad-headed agamas (Phrynocephalus mystaceus) on the Sarykum dune (Republic of Dagestan, Russian Federation) // Principy èkologii. 2021. № 4. P. 57‒79. DOI: 10.15393/j1.art.2021.12222

Issue № 4

Original research


Unusual evening activity of toad-headed agamas (Phrynocephalus mystaceus) on the Sarykum dune (Republic of Dagestan, Russian Federation)

   Igor Leonidovich
Institute of Theoretical and Experimental Physics., 117218, Moscow, Bolshaya Cheremushkinskaya st., 25 25., okstain@mail.ru
   Vladimir Alexandrovich
DSc, Dagestan State University, 367000 Makhachkala, Republic of Dagestan, Russian Federation, cherlin51@mail.ru
toad-headed agama Phrynocephalus mystaceus
twilight activity
body temperature
Summary: In different seasons of 2019 and 2021, dusky activity was detected in toad-headed agamas (Phrynocephalus mystaceus) on the Sarykum dune (Dagestan), although they are considered to be typical daytime species. With the onset of evening, lizards first burrowed into the sand or went into holes (primary evening activity). But after about 50 minutes, often already at deep dusk, they came to the surface again and continued their activity sometimes in almost complete darkness for about 30 minutes more (secondary evening activity, twilight). During twilight activity, toad-headed agamas do almost everything that they do during the daytime: they ate, the males tried to mate with the females, chased each other and adolescents, carried out other social communications, etc. The main motivation for twilight activity on the Sarykum may be related to the need for additional nutrition, since there are not enough food facilities for them on the dune during the daytime for a number of reasons, and in the evening there is a massive flight of small forage insects. Twilight activity was also noted in the toad-headed agamas in the Astrakhan region, but there the motivation for it was clearly different. Evening or even nocturnal activity is described in the literature for some other usually diurnal reptile species. Some of them warmed up at night under incandescent lamps used in anthropogenic landscapes (anoles, some agamids). In this case, the lamps allowed them to heat up to body temperatures that allowed them to realize full activity. Other species remained active after sunset, as long as the ambient temperatures allowed them to keep their body temperature close to the minimum limit of the temperature of their full activity (anoles, monitor lizards, some agamids). The cardinal difference between the twilight activity of the toad-headed agamas described by us was that at that time they did all the things they did in the daytime, only their body temperatures were in the range of about 10° lower than during the day.

© Petrozavodsk State University

Reviewer: G. Lada
Received on: 22 November 2021
Published on: 16 December 2021


Afsar M., Sahin M. K., Afsar B., Çiçek K., Tok C. V. Data on nocturnal activity of Darevskia rudis (Bedriaga, 1886) (Sauria: Lacertidae) in Central Black Sea Region, Turkey, Ecologica Montenegrina. 2018. Vol. 19. P. 125–129.

Aliev S. A. Amphibians and reptiles of Tajikistan. Dushanbe: Donish, 1979. 147 p.

Amadi N., Luiselli L., Belema R., Nyiwale G. A., Wala C., Urubia N., Meek R. From diurnal to nocturnal activity: a case study of night-light niche expansion in Agama‌ agama lizards, Ethology Ecology & Evolution. 2021. DOI: 10.1080/03949370.2021.1883120.

Böhme W., Ziegler T. Varanus melinus sp. n., ein neuer Waran aus der V. indicus-Gruppe von den Molukken, Indonesien, Herpetofauna. 1997. Vol. 19. P. 26–34.

Badmaeva V. I. Lebedenko N. A. Savina N. A. Daily activity of the secret toad-headed agama in Kalmykia, Voprosy gerpetologii: Avtoreferaty dokladov. Pyataya Vsesoyuznaya gerpetologicheskaya konferenciya. Ashhabad, 22–24 sentyabrya 1981 g. 1981. L.: Nauka. Leningradskoe otdelenie, 1981. P. 11–12.

Bannikov A. G. Darevskiy I. Ischenko V. G. Rustamov A. K. Scherbak N. N. Identification guide of amphibians and reptiles of the fauna of the USSR. M.: Prosveschenie, 1977. 415 p.

Bogdanov O. P. SR. Fauna of the Uzbek SSR. Amphibians and reptiles. Tashkent: Izd-vo AN UzbSSR, 1960. 260 p.

Bogdanov O. P. Sudarev O. N. Ecology of reptiles. Tashkent: Ukitvuvchi, 1989. 128 p.

Bogdanov O. P. Ecology of reptiles of Ctntral Asia. M: Nauka, 1965. 257 p.

Bogdanov O. P. Reptiles of Turkmenia. Ashhabad: Izd-vo AN Turkm. SSR, 1962. 235 p.

Bondarenko D. A. Ecology of the Phrynocephalus rossikowi in the summer-autumn period, Vestnik zoologii. 1982. No. 5. P. 55–59.

Bondarenko D. A. Phrynocephalus rossikowi, Priroda. 1984. No. 4. P. 48–49.

Bondarenko D. A. Some information on the ecology of the Phrynocephalus rossikowi, Materialy 11 konferencii molodyh uchenyh po problemam ohrany zhivoy prirody VNII ohrany prirody MSH. M., 1979. P. 41–42.

Bozhanskiy A. T. Secret toad-headed agama, Krasnaya kniga Astrahanskoy oblasti. Astrahan': Astrahanskiy gop. un-t: Izdatel'skiy dom «Astrahanskiy universitet», 2014. P. 265–266.

Brisbane J. L. K., van den Burg M. P. No need for artificial light: nocturnal activity by a diurnal reptile under lunar light, Neotropical Biodiversity. 2020. Vol. 6, No 1. P. 193–196.

Cellarius A. Yu. Cherlin V. A. Men'shikov Yu. G. Preliminary report on works on the study of biology of Varanus griseus (Reptilia, Agamidae) in Central Asia, Gerpetologicheskie issledovaniya. L.: LISS, 1991. No. 1. P. 61–103.

Cherlin V. A. Cellarius A. Yu. Gromov A. V. To the temperature biology of the Turkestan plate-tailed gecko (Teratoscincus scincus) in the Karakum Desert, Ekologiya. 1983. No. 2. P. 84–87.

Cherlin V. A. Cellarius A. Yu. Dependence of the behavior of the saw-scaled viper, Echis multisquamatus Cherlin 1981, on temperature conditions in southern Turkmenistan, Fauna i ekologiya amfibiy i reptiliy palearkticheskoy Azii. L.: Nauka, 1981. P. 96–108 (Trudy Zoologicheskogo instituta AN SSSR. T. 101).

Cherlin V. A. Muzychenko I. V. The use of burrows in the thermoregulation of reptiles, Prikladnaya etologiya: Materialy III Vsesoyuznoy konferencii po povedeniyu zhivotnyh. T. 3. M.: Nauka, 1983b. P. 172–174.

Cherlin V. A. Muzychenko I. V. Thermal biology and ecology of reticulate racerunner (Eremias grammica), secret toad-headed (Phrynocephalus mystaceus) and toad-headed Lichtenstain (Ph. interscapularis) agamas in summer in Karakum, Zoologicheskiy zhurnal. 1983a. T. 62, No. 6. P. 897–908.

Cherlin V. A. Shepilov S. A. Thermal biology of the Central Asian blunt-nosed viper (Macrovipera lebetina turanica) of the Nuratau ridge and the Chernov’s blunt-nosed viper (Macrovipera lebetina černovi) of the western Kyzylkum desert, Zoologicheskiy zhurnal. 2014. T. 93, No. 2. P. 242–247.

Cherlin V. A. Method of Ecology-Physiological Matrix of Species in Researches on Reptile Biology, Gerpetologicheskie issledovaniya. L.: LISS, 1991. No. 1. P. 138–146.

Cherlin V. A. Physiology-ecological matrix and its significance in biology of reptiles, Some important aspects of thermal biology of reptiles. Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2015. P. 117–125.

Cherlin V. A. Reptiles: temperature and ecology. Saarbrücken: Lambert Academic Publishing, 2014. 442 p.

Christian T. Notes on Varanus glebopalma, Vic. Herp. Soc. Newsletter. 1977. Vol. 6. P. 11–13.

Climate of Dominica. URL: http://www.world-globe.ru/countries/dominica/climate/ (data obrascheniya: 01.10.2021).

Cota M., Chan-Ard T., Mekchai S., Laoteaw S. Geographical Distribution, Instinctive Feeding Behavior and Report of Nocturnal Activity of Varanus dumerilii in Thailand, Biawak. 2008. Vol. 2, No 4. P. 152–158.

Doronin I. V. Secret toad-headed agama, Krasnaya kniga Stavropol'skogo kraya. Stavropol': OOO «Asteriks», 2013. P. 144.

Duncan W. W., Gehlbach F. R., Middendorf III G. A. Nocturnal activity by diurnal lizards (Sceloporus jarrovi, S. virgatis) eaten by small owls (Glaucidium gnoma, Otus trichopsis), The Southwestern Naturalist. 2003. Vol. 48, No 2. P. 218–222.

Dzhamirzoev G. S. The rear vertebrate animals of the reserve “Dagestansky”, Pod red. G. P. Dzhamirzoeva i P. A. Bukreeva. Mahachkala: Gosudarstvennyy zapovednik «Dagestanskiy», 2013. 372 p. (Trudy zapovednika «Dagestanskiy». Vyp. 6).

Geography of Dominica. URL: https://ru.abcdef.wiki/wiki/Geography_of_Dominica (data obrascheniya 01.10.2021).

Honyakina Z. P. Lizards of Dagestan: Avtoref. dip. ... kand. biol. nauk. Mahachkala, 1964. 20 p.

Honyakina Z. P. The dynamics of the number of secret toad-headed agamas in the Kumtorkala region of DASSR, Zoologicheskiy zhurnal. 1962a. T. 41. Vyp. 5. P. 778–780.

Huey R. B., Webster P. T. Thermal biology of Anolis lizards in a complex fauna: the cristatellus group on Puerto Rico, Ecology. 1976. Vol. 57. R. 985–994.

Irwin S., Engle K., Mackness B. Nocturnal Nesting by Captive Varanid Lizards, Herpetol. Rev. 1996b. Vol. 27, No 4. P. 192–194.

Irwin S., Lyons B., Frisby T. Nocturnal activity by Varanus panoptes at Cape Melville, Herpetofauna (Sydney). 1996a. Vol. 26, No 2. P. 50.

James F. C., Porter W. P. Behavior-microclimate relationships in the African rainbow lizard, Agama agama, Copeia. 1979. No 4. P. 585–593.

Jones A. Nocturnal activity in captive varanid lizards, Herpetofauna (Sydney). 1998. Vol. 28, No 2. P. 50–51.

Kireev V. A. Amphibians and reptiles. Fauna of Kalmykia. Elista, 1983. 112 p.

Kropachev I. I. Thermal biology of Phrynocephalus versicolor kulagini Bedriaga, 1909 (Squamata: Agamidae) on the north border of their area, in Tuva, Izvestiya Samarskogo nauchnogo centra. 2013. T. 15, No. 3 (7). P. 2319–2327.

Krymov N. G. Geckos of Australia and Oceania. Distribution. Keeping. Breeding. Barnaul: Altay, 2021. 596 p.

Lister B. C. The nature of niche expansion in West Indian Anolis lizards. Ecological consequences of reduced competition, Evolution. 1976. Vol. 30. P. 659–676.

Litvinov N. A. Yugov M. V. Body temperature and microclimatic habitat conditions in two species of toad-headed agamid in the Northern Caspian region, Vestnik PGGPU. Ser. 2. Fiziko-matematicheskie i estestvennye nauki. 2013. P. 19–25.

Lotiev K. Yu. Secret toad-headed agama, Krasnaya kniga Chechenskoy Respubliki. Rostov n/D: OOO «Yuzhnyy izdatel'skiy dom», 2020. P. 340–342.

Mazanaeva L. F. Secret toad-headed agama Phrynocephalus mystaceus (Pallas, 1776), Krasnaya kniga Respubliki Dagestan. Mahachkala: Respublikanskaya gazetno-zhurnal'naya tipografiya, 2020. P. 479–481.

Mazanaeva L. F. Secret toad-headed agama, Krasnaya kniga Respubliki Dagestan. Mahachkala, 2009. P. 387–388.

Nanhoe L. M. R., Ouboter P. E. The distribution of reptiles and amphibians in the Annapurna-dhaulagiri region (Nepal), Zool. Verh. Leiden. 1987. Vol. 240. P. 1–105.

Nikol'skiy A. M. Reptiles – Chelonia и Sauria. Vol. 1. Fauna of Russia. Pg., 1915. 534 p.

Okshteyn I. L. Cherlin V. A. Veto D. V. Kozhara V. V. Korneeva A. A. Lozhkina A. V. Marenkov A. D. Ryabova E. D. Tischenko M. A. Turova M. A. Fraerman A. Yu. Yacuk A. A. Twilight activity of secret toad-headed agama (Phrynocephalus mystaceus) on the Bolshoy Sarykum sandy massif in Dagestan, Voprosy gerpetologii: Programma i tezisy dokladov VIII s'ezda Gerpetologicheskogo obschestva imeni A. M. Nikol'skogo pri RAN «Sovremennye gerpetologicheskie issledovaniya Evrazii» 3–9 oktyabrya 2021 g. M.: KMK Scientific Press, 2021. P. 199–201.

Okshteyn I. L. Thermal biology of the toad-headed agama Phrynocephalus guttatus (Gmelin, 1789) in the Astrakhan region, Vestnik SPbGU. Ser. 3. 2016. Vyp. 3. P. 107–112.

Paraskiv K. P. Reptiles of Khazahstan. Alma-Ata: Izd-vo Akad. nauk KazSSR, 1956. 228 p.

Röll B., Horn H, G. The structure of the eye in the monitor lizard Varanus griseus caspius (Reptilia: Varanidae), Advances in Monitor Research II. (Eds. H, G. Horn and W. Böhme), Mertensiella. 1999. Vol. 1. R. 291–306. Rheinbach, Germany.

Rhind D., Doddy J. S., Ellis R., Ricketts A., Scott G., Clulow S., McHenry. Varanus glebopalma (Black-palmed Monitor). Noctural activity and foraging, Herpetological Review. 2013. Vol. 44, No 4. P. 687–688.

Roitberg E. S., Mazanaeva L. F., Ilyina E. V., Orlova V. F. Die Echsen Dagestans (Nordkaukasus, Russland): Artenliste und aktuelle Verbreitungsdaten (Reptilia: Sauria: Gekkonidae, Agamidae, Anguidae, Scincidae et Lacertidae), Faunistische Abhandlungen, Staatliches Museum. Tierkunde. Dresden. 2000. Vol. 22, No 8. P. 97–118.

Seasonal and daily activity of the secret toad-headed agama (Phrynocephalus mystaceus Pallas.) in the Kumtorkala region of the Dagestan ASSR, Uchenye zapiski Dagestanskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Biologicheskie nauki (zoologiya, parazitologiya i fiziologiya). 1962b. T. XI. P. 133–154.

Shammakov S. Reptiles of lowland Turkmenistan, Pod nauch. red. A. K. Rustamova. Ashhabad: Ylym, 1981. 311 p.

Shnitnikov V. N. Reptiles of the Semirechye. Kzyl-Orda: Ob-vo izucheniya Kazahstana, 1928. 85 p. (Trudy Obschestva izucheniya Kazahstana. 1928. T. 8, vyp. 3).

Sweet S. S. Spatial ecology of Varanus glauerti and V. glebopalma in northern Australia, Mertensiella. 1999. Vol. 11. P. 317–366.

Team B. What Kinds of Lizards Are Nocturnal? URL: https://www.cuteness.com/article/kinds-lizards-nocturnal (data obrascheniya: 01.10.2021).

Tertyshnikov M. F. Gorovaya V. I. To the study of the western populations of the secret toad-headed agama Phrynocephalus mystaceus and Ph. guttatus, Vid i ego produktivnost' v areale. Sverdlovsk, 1984. P. 43–44.

Tertyshnikov M. F. Reptiles of the Central Pre-Caucasus. Stavropol', 2002. 240 p.

Trembath D. Nocturnal activity by Gould's Monitor (Varanus gouldii) at Town Common Environmental Park, Townsville Queensland, Herpetofauna (Sydney). 2000. Vol. 30, No 2. P. 52–53.

Vidan E., Roll U., Bauer A., Grismer L., Guo P., Maza E., Novosolov M., Sindaco R., Wagner P., Belmaker J., Meiri S. The Eurasian hot nightlife: Environmental forces associated with nocturnality in lizards, Global Ecology and Biogeography. 2017. Vol. 26. P. 1316–1325.

Wilson S., Knowles D. G. Australia’s Reptiles: A Photographic Reference to the Terrestrial Reptiles of Australia. Sydney: Collins, 1988. 447 p.

Yong D. L., Fam S. D., Ng J. J. Rediscovery of Dumeril's monitor Varanus dumerilii (Varanidae) in Singapore, Nature in Singapore. 2008. Vol. 1. P. 21–22.

Yugov M. V. Litvinov N. A. Galiulin D. M. Okulov G. A. Thermal biology of the toad-headed agama (Phrynocephalus guttatus, Gmelin, 1789) in the Caspian lowland, Izvestiya Samarskogo nauchnogo centra. 2014. T. 16, No. 5 (1). P. 448–450.

Zhdokova M. K. Secret toad-headed agama, Krasnaya kniga Respubliki Kalmykiya. T. 1. Zhivotnye. Elista: ZAOr «NPP «Dzhangar», 2013. P. 94–95.

Displays: 1792; Downloads: 248;