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First record of the Blue Forest Lizard, Calotes mystaceus Duméril & Bibron, 1837 (Reptilia: Agamidae) from Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand, with a review of literature on the biology and distribution of the species in Thailand

  • Hawkeswood Biological Institute
First record of the Blue Forest Lizard, Calotes mystaceus Duméril & Bibron,
1837 (Reptilia: Agamidae) from Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand, with a
review of literature on the biology and distribution of the species in Thailand
Trevor J. Hawkeswood* & Aranya Sommung#
*PO Box 842, Richmond, NSW, 2753, Australia (
# via Ubon, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand (
Hawkeswood, T.J. & Sommung, A. (2018). First record of the Blue Forest Lizard, Calotes mystaceus Duméril &
Bibron, 1837 (Reptilia: Agamidae) from Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand, with a review of literature on the
biology and distribution of the species in Thailand. Calodema, 607: 1-8.
Abstract: In this paper, we record the Blue Forest Lizard, Calotes mystaceus Duméril & Bibron, 1837 (Reptilia:
Agamidae) from Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand, for the first time. Its habitat at Ubon is described. Papers
concerning its taxonomy, biology and distribution in Thailand are reviewed.
Key words: Calotes mystaceus, Agamidae, distribution, biology, review of literature, Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.
The Blue Forest Lizard, Calotes mystaceus Duméril & Bibron, 1837 (Reptilia: Agamidae) is a
spectacular coloured lizard recorded from Thailand (e.g. Flower, 1899; Smith, 1915a,b; Taylor,
1934, 1963; Soderberg, 1967; Inger & Colwell, 1977; Pauwels et al., 2003, 2009; Pearson &
Beletsky, 2008; Das, 2015; Zug, 2011; Chan-Ard et al., 2015; Thai National Parks, 2018;
Wikipedia, 2018), Vietnam (e.g. Bobrov, 1993; Das, 2015 2012; Chan-Ard et al., 2015; Pham et al.,
2018; Wikipedia, 2018), Myanmar (e.g. Stoliczka, 1870; Flower, 1899; Zug et al., 1998; Zug, 2011;
Das, 2015; Chan-Ard et al., 2015; Wikipedia, 2018), Laos (e.g. Das, 2015; Chan-Ard et al., 2015;
Wikipedia, 2018), Cambodia (e.g. Flower, 1899; Grismer et al., 2008a,b; Das, 2015; Hartmann et
al., 2013; Stuart & Emmett, 2006; Stuart et al., 2006; Zug, 2011; Chan-Ard et al., 2015; Wikipedia,
2018), Malaysia (e.g. Das, 2015), China (e.g. Smith, 1921; Das, 2010; Bain & Hurley, 2011; Thai
National Parks, 2018), India (e.g. Stoliczka, 1870; Annandale, 1904; Venugopal, 2010; Das, 1996,
2015; Das & Das, 2017; Chan-Ard et al., 2015; Wikipedia, 2018) and Sri Lanka (e.g. Flower, 1899;
N.B. this record may be erroneous). In this review, all of the literature available to us on C.
mystaceus pertaining to Thailand has been reviewed for the first time. Overall, since its discovery
almost 200 years ago, very little has been written about the species’ biology and behaviour, and
scientific literature usually fails to refer to the works of others.
During the morning of 23 March 2018 [0821 hrs, Thailand time], one of us (AS) observed a single specimen of Calotes
mystaceus Duméril & Bibron, 1837 (Reptilia: Agamidae) moving about on concrete and soil near her home near the city
of Ubon Ratchathani (Ubon), Ubon Ratchathani Province, north-eastern Thailand. No observations on feeding or any
other specialized behaviour was noted. The lizard was allowed to travel through the patio area to protective vegetation
undisturbed. The habitat here is long established farmland with various crops such as rice (Oryza sativa L., Poaceae),
guava (Psidium guajava L., Myrtaceae), coconut (Cocos nucifera L., Arecaceae), banana (Musa x paradisiaca L.,
Musaceae), rhambutan (Nephelium lappaceum L., Sapindaceae), durian (Durio zibethinus L., Malvaceae), cassava
(Manihot esculenta Crantz, Euphorbiaceae) and there are also many weed species. The foliage of these crop plants,
small trees and weeds is likely to be important cover for this lizard as it forages on insects in this farmland habitat and
on the margins.
This appears to be the first published record of C. mystaceus from Ubon Ratchathani, the most
easterly or north-easterly province of Thailand, although some authors (e.g. Taylor & Elbel, 1958;
Calodema, 607: 1-8 (2018) Hawkeswood & Sommung - record of Calotes mystaceus
(Calodema - an International Journal of Biology and Other Sciences) Page 1
Pearson & Beletsky, 2008; Chan-Ard et al., 2015) noted that the species is found throughout
continental Thailand. In addition, Thai National Parks (2018) to date, have not listed the species
from Ubon Ratchathani Province. [Aranya Sommung informs me (TJH) that this species is often
common in the Ubon district and nearby Sisaket Province during summer, despite the related
Calotes versicolor also being common in the area and more readily observed].
Stoliczka (1870) appears to have been one of the first authors to comment on the bright blue
coloration (with often black/red markings) of the male during the breeding season. 45 years later,
Smith (1915a) also recorded the phenomenon but did not refer to Stoliczka’s (1870) earlier
observations. However, Smith’s (1915a) account is very interesting especially regarding defense of
the males:
“The courtship, which has continued until the eggs were laid, was much the same as that described for C.
versicolor, (Robinson, P. Z. 8. p. 858, 1899) and consisted for the most part in absurd bowings and noddings
of the head. This was commenced by the male, and was usually, after a short time, responded to by the
female. The pair invariably faced each other on these occasions, arching their backs and puffing out their
throats to the full extent. The vivid hues assumed by the male (and slightly so by the female) during this
performance, transformed him into a truly gorgeous creature. The head and fore-part of the body became of a
light electric blue (sometimes green) colour, the gular pouch dark purple, whilst the pale stripe which borders
the upper lip, and passes on to the shoulder, turned almost white, and stood out in strong contrast to its
surroundings. They were first observed in copula on May 9th, and after that were frequently seen together.
On June 21st, I observed the female busy with the earth in the flower pot in the cage. She did not like being
watched, and ceased operations as soon as she saw me, but by hiding behind a door I was enabled to observe
the rest of the proceedings. 'l'he eggs had been already laid, and she was then engaged in covering them up,
raking the earth over them with her fore-paws and hammering it down with her nose. The male, perched on a
branch above, watched the performance with great interest, and I was surprised to see him, in the midst of it
all, suddenly race down to his mate and engage her. She, finally, completed her task, smoothing the earth
completely over at the spot, so that no traces were left to show that anything had been clone there. I never
saw her near the spot again, and she appeared to take no further interest in her progeny. The eggs were
placed about 2 inches deep in the earth, and had the usual soft, white parchment-like covering. They were 7
in number, 15 to 18 x 10 to 11 mm. in size. The first young one appeared on Aug. 20th, and measured from
snout to vent 26 mm., tail 48 mm. in length. 'l'hey had the usual drab colours of their parents. The colour
changes in these specimens, I found, were not brought about by sexual excitement only. Fear would produce
exactly the same effect. This could be demonstrated by putting a snake into their cage. Their attitude then
was that of being fascinated and unable to escape. They invariably faced the snake, bowing to it and nodding
their heads exactly as when courting. The crest was strongly erected, the gular pouch fully distended, and the
colours would gradually become more vivid until they were almost as intense as during sexual
excitement.” [Smith, 1915a: 256-257].
Flower (1899) noted that he had received two specimens of C. mystaceus from Chantaboon [=
Chanthaburi, Chanthaburi Province, Thailand] but did not provide any biological data on the
species. [This important paper has been overlooked by most subsequent workers on SE Asian
Smith (1915a) noted that the lizard was widely distributed throughout Thailand (as Siam) but its
southerly range was at Hua Hin (Hua Hin Province) but was not found in Bangkok or the
surrounding areas of the capital.
Smith (1915b) noted that the species was found in the Sai Yok district (cited as Sai Yoke),
[Kanchanaburi Province] during Jan-March 1914 during the expedition with K.G. Gairdner.
Taylor (1934) recorded the species from Chiang Mai [Chiang Mai Province](fide Taylor, 1963) but
we have not been able to review this paper because of its unavailability. [This paper has been
overlooked by most subsequent workers on SE Asian herpetofauna].
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Taylor & Elbel (1958), recorded the species from Lam Phaya village, Nakhon Pathom district
(Nakhon Pathom Province), Boekprai village, Bangpon district (Ratchaburi Province- incorrectly
cited as Rat Buri Province), Non Khun village, Phukhieo district (Chaiyaphum Province) as well as
Nakhon Si Thammarat Province. Taylor & Elbel (1958) noted the species was widespread in
continental Thailand but not in the southern peninisula with Malaysia. This was also what Smith
(1915a) stated concerning its distribution in Thailand.
Taylor (1963) recorded the species from the following provinces in Thailand: Loei, Chiang Mai,
Nong Khai, Udon Thani, Saraburi (as Sara Buri), Khon Kaen, Phetchaburi (as Phet Buri), Nakhon
Pathom (as Fathom), Ratchaburi (as Rat Buri) and Chaiyaphum.
Fig. 1. Dorsal view of the male of Calotes mystaceus Duméril & Bibron, 1837 (Agamidae) wandering around a
dwelling on concrete near Ubon Ratchathani, Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand. 23 March 2018. (Photograph: A.
Soderberg (1967) recorded two preserved specimens of the species from Thaichai Teak Plantation,
Sukhothai Province, and noted C. mystaceus was a predator of the Teak Bee-hole Borer (Xyleutes
ceramicus Walker, 1865-Lepidoptera; incorrectly cited as Xyleutes cerambicus).
Pantawutana et al. (1969) recorded the species from Red Cross Horse Farm, Bang Phra, Chonburi,
(as Cholburi) in southeast Thailand. (N.B. This paper seems to have been overlooked and not cited
by any subsequent authors of C. mystaceus). These authors noted: “22 individuals captured; 2
preserved as specimens. Frequent. This lizard is larger (15 weights average 30 grams and range
from 9 to 68 grams) and less numerous than the above, although certain adults can be seen daily at
their stations on mango [Mangifera indica L., trunks. Habits and occurrence are like the foregoing;
Viz. The habitat of the fleet-footed, wide-ranging immatures is on and about bushes, grass, vines,
and fences, whereas the relatively few mature individuals are stationed upon the shady trunks of
trees. There they advertise their territory by striking changes of color. Each mango tree probably
harbors a pair”.
Inger & Colwell (1977) recorded the species as common in deciduous forest of the Sakaerat
research station (Nakhon Ratchasima Province) but less so in evergreen forest and agricultural land
Calodema, 607: 1-8 (2018) Hawkeswood & Sommung - record of Calotes mystaceus
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(see also Zug, 2011, who utilises their data in a Table). Most of the specimens of C. mystaceus were
collected on trees/saplings less than 3 metres in height, while some specimens were collected from
seedlings and grass as well as from tree stumps (Inger & Colwell, 1977).
Pauwels et al. (2003) noted that several adults were observed in Ban Salakern, Ban Lat District,
Phetchaburi Province during March-April 1998 on mango trees (Mangifera indica L.,
Anacardiaceae) in a garden during the afternoon; probably due to shyness and its arboreal habits,
they rarely encountered the species. In a follow-up paper, Pauwels et al. (2009) recorded the species
from the Witthaya School, Ban Lat, Ban Lat District, on 14 May 2006, representing a population
living on the school campus and a new locality record; these authors noted that C. mystaeus is
known only from two localities within this province (viz. Phetchaburi).
Fig. 2. Lateral view of the same male of Calotes mystaceus (Agamidae) wandering around a dwelling on concrete near
Ubon Ratchathani, Ubon Ratchathani Province, Thailand. 23 March 2018. (Photograph: A. Sommung).
Pearson & Beletsky (2008) in a brief overview of the plant and animal life of Thailand, noted that
C. mystaceus inhabited monsoon, evergreen and deciduous forests and rural areas with trees, mainly
in lowlands; lizards are active by day, usually on tree trunks but occasionally on the ground.
Chan-Ard et al. (2015) noted C. mystaceus was found throughout continental Thailand southward to
Prachup Khiri Khan Province. Chan-Ard et al. (2015) noted that the species is highly arboreal,
occurring in dense foliage providing shade; a mature individual may occupy a tree trunk patrolling
up and down and around the trunk, chasing away intruders. Adults feed mostly on insects found
inhabiting trunks and branches of the host trees Chan-Ard et al., 2015). Females lays eggs in soft
soil where they are guarded (Chan-Ard et al., 2015).
Das (2015) noted that the species inhabits evergreen forests at mid latitudes as well as parks and
gardens in the lowlands and submontane forests at elevations of 180-1500 metres above sea level;
individuals are active on high tree trunks and diet consists of insects. The egg clutches number 7
eggs and the incubation period is 60-70 days (Das, 2015; Das & Das, 2017).
Calodema, 607: 1-8 (2018) Hawkeswood & Sommung - record of Calotes mystaceus
(Calodema - an International Journal of Biology and Other Sciences) Page 4
Currin (2016) recently recorded the species from Kaeng Krachan National Park (Phetchaburi and
Prachuap Khiri Khan Provinces, Thailand). He noted a specimen on a tree trunk near a campsite
near the park headquarters in secondary forest.
10/14/2018 Calotes mystaceus - Wikipedia 3/4
Terrestrial & arboreal; diurnal; naturally found in forest, but can be found in treed neighborhoods and city parks.
Feeds on crickets, grasshoppers, moths, and other insects.
Oviparous;[2] -----.
No known practical uses. Plays an insectivorous role in its ecosystem.
Non-venomous and harmless to humans. Can give a painful bite if handled, but is not dangerous.
Not Evaluated (NE).
Hallermann, J. 2005 Mit Hörnern, Kämmen und Gleithäuten - die bizarren Baumagamen. Reptilia (Münster) 10 (1): 18-25
1. Duméril, A. M. C. and G. Bibron. 1837 Erpétologie Générale ou Histoire Naturelle Complete des Reptiles. Vol. 4. Libr. Encyclopédique Roret, Paris.
2. Calotes mystaceus ( at the Reptile Database (http://reptile Accessed 22 July 2014.
3. Boulenger, G. A. 1890. Fauna of British India. Reptilia and Batrachia.
Male Calotes mystaceus from
Fig. 3. Male specimen from another area of Thailand (not specified)(from Wikipedia, 2018).
Amber et al. (2017) recorded the species from the Sakaerat Biosphere Reserve (SBR), located in
Nakhon Ratchasima Province, in northeastern Thailand during September and November 2016.
When they handled one specimen, the blue coloration became more apparent after it twitched but
did not flee. Two juvenile specimens were also observed during November 2016; in the station
headquarters parking area on a tree (Shorea obtusa Roth, Dipterocarpaceae) surrounded by a one
metre radius ring of bare soil and woody shrubs (Phyllanthus emblica L., Euphorbiaceae/
Phyllanthaceae; Wrightia tomentosa Roem. & Schult, Apocynaceae); when approached within 1–2
metres, the smaller juvenile (Snout-Vent Length - SVL - ca. 3.0 cm) fled towards the brush without
changing color, while the larger juvenile (SVL ca. 6.0 cm) displayed dark red spots on its dorsum;
this individual also fled further up the tree in short bursts of about 0.5 metres, visibly pausing twice
(Amber et al., 2017). During both pauses the animal jerked its head straight backwards 2–3 times.
Amber et al. (2017) finally summarized their observations thusly: “Individuals in all life stages
appeared to first rely on cryptic defense, but upon approach differed in defensive tactics. The smaller
juvenile, most vulnerable to predation, quickly fled. The larger juvenile may have used bright red spots and
head jerks in an attempt to deter a predator, whereas the adults initially changed color and stood their ground.
Our observations suggest that C. mystaceus undergo an ontogenetic shift in defensive strategies, with older
individuals utilizing color change. However, it is also possible that the color change associated with our
approach was an artifact of increased hormone levels (e.g. testosterone) due to the approach”.
Saijuntha et al. (2017) undertook genetic studies on various populations of the species throughout
Thailand (42 in total - but they did not list these). These authors recognized two lineages for the
Calodema, 607: 1-8 (2018) Hawkeswood & Sommung - record of Calotes mystaceus
(Calodema - an International Journal of Biology and Other Sciences) Page 5
species in Thailand (see Saijuntha et al., 2017; Fig.2), and as such the specimen from Ubon falls
into Lineage 1.
Fig. 4. Map of presently known distribution of Calotes mystaceus in Thailand (from Thai National Parks, 2018); our
record from Ubon Ratchathani is shown as a red rectangle.
Within this paper have provided a summary and review of the biological and distributional data of
C. mystaceus from scientific papers/books which have been available to us. [Taylor (1934), a paper
cited rarely and not seen by us, should be reviewed for earlier research on Thailand reptiles]. There
will be no doubt other obscure publications/reports which mention C. mystaceus in Thailand but
which we were not able to review. However, we feel that most of the mainstream scientific
literature has been reviewed together for the first time and hope that this paper will be useful as a
basis for further studies on this lizard species.
We would like to thank an anonymous referee for reviewing the paper before publication.
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Date of publication: 15 October 2018
Copyright: T.J. Hawkeswood & A. Sommung
Editor: Dr T.J. Hawkeswood (
PO Box 842, Richmond, New South Wales, Australia, 2753
(Published as hard paper copy edition as well as electronic pdf)
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Full-text available
We report five new records of lizards from Son La Province, namely Pseudocalotes brevipes(Agamidae), Gekko palmatus, Hemidactylus garnotii(Gekkonidae), Ateuchosaurus chinensis and Sphenomorphus cryptotis (Scincidae). In addition we provide an updated list of 32 lizard species from Son La Province.
Full-text available
Over the past two decades many checklists of reptiles of India and adjacent countries have been published. These publications have furthered the growth of knowledge on systematics, distribution and biogeography of Indian reptiles, and the field of herpetology in India in general. However, the reporting format of most such checklists of Indian reptiles does not provide a basis for direct verification of the information presented. As a result, mistakes in the inclusion and omission of species have been perpetuated and the exact number of reptile species reported from India still remains unclear. A verification of the current listings based on distributional records and review of published checklists revealed that 199 species of lizards (Reptilia: Sauria) are currently validly reported on the basis of distributional records within the boundaries of India. Seventeen other lizard species have erroneously been included in earlier checklists of Indian reptiles. Omissions of species by these checklists have been even more numerous than erroneous inclusions. In this paper, I present a plea to report species lists as annotated checklists which corroborate the inclusion and omission of species by providing valid source references or notes.
The blue-crested lizard, Calotes mystaceus Duméril & Bibron, 1837, is listed as a protected wild animal in Thailand. Its population is likely to be dramatically reduced due to massive hunting in several areas in this country. Basic information on its population genetics is therefore needed to facilitate its conservation. Thus, in this study we investigated the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (CO1) sequence variation of 238 individual C. mystaceus from 42 different geographical localities of the north, west, central, east and northeast regions of Thailand. High genetic diversity and genetic differentiation at the intrapopulation and interpopulation levels was observed. We detected 63 unique haplotypes and 12 common/shared haplotypes. The phylogenetic analysis reveals two major lineages, I and II. These two lineages are separated by mountain ranges, which play an important role as natural barriers blocking gene flow. Our finding reveal at least two cryptic lineages represented in C. mystaceus populations in Thailand. However, a comprehensive investigation of the morphology, biology, ecology and genetic diversity of C. mystaceus in other regions within its area of distribution is needed.