Driving along the road I suddenly saw this kitschy lizard sitting on a rock by the side of the road. I called out to Stephen to stop, and he hit the brakes immediately. “Agama” he told us. That turned out to be a genus name, and it took a little searching to get to the species. This was the Kenyan rock Agama (Agama lionotus). The reason it took a bit of searching is that this species can be a stippled brown and black, but is apparently able to change colour. It is said to be the commonest lizard in Kenya, and also found in parts of Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania. I thought it looked like Spiderman, but apparently that name is already given to the related species A. mwanzae.
Agama lizards are spread across Africa, but the five East African species (A. caudospinosa, A. kaimosae, A. lionotus, A. mwanzae, and A. rueppelli) form a closely related group. The huge variety of species in this genus requires an explanation, and one which has been advanced is that climatic oscillations played a role. During wet periods, some of the ancestral species could have expanded their ranges, and then fragmented into separately evolving populations in drier eras. The individual we saw was rather active, although it was close to noon, and the day was pretty warm. It continued to bask in the sun on top of the flat stone we saw it on. When we left, it had resumed its position at the top edge of the stone.