The Leibniz Institute for the Analysis of Biodiversity Change

is a research museum of the Leibniz Association

Diversity of colors: three new species of colorful agamid lizards have been described from SE Asia

Printer-friendly version
SE Asia is a hotspot of the global biodiversity. The regular description of new species from SE Asia shows that the biodiversity of the area is still insufficiently known. An international team of scientists have now studied the wide-ranging lizard species Calotes mystaceus and recognized it as species complex with the description of three new species.

An international team of scientists from the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig

Leibniz Institute for Animal Biodiversity (Research Museum Koenig) in Bonn, the Senckenberg Naturhistorischen Sammlung Dresden, the Naturhistorischen Museum der Stadt Genf and Allwetterzoo Münster has studied the Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard (Calotes mystaceus) from mainland SE Asia, including ist close related species Calotes bachae from Vietnam. The study shows that both species are part of a species complex, including three species formerly unknown which are officially described in the well known scientific journal Bonn zoological Bulletin.

Originally, the Indo-Chinese Forest Lizard had its main distribution area in Southeast Asia (Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Cambodia)and can be found in forests, but also parks, even in large Metropoles like Bangkok, in settlements of hotel complexes or at the Angkor Centre for Conservation of Biodiversity (ACCB), a conservation centre of Allwetterzoo Münster in Cambodia.

Therefore, one of the new species is named in honor to Dr. Stephan Goetz, who funded and developed the centre in the last decades. The two other species are named after Dr. Peter Geißler from the Museum Natur und Mensch in Freiburg and Jens Vindum retired staff of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, USA. Both of them have worked about the biodiversity of SE Asia and increased our knowledge about lizards and snakes.

"The males of this lizard with their bright blue heads are among the most conspicuous animals on the ACCB site and you can see them everywhere in the adjacent national park." Philipp Wagner, curator for research and conservation at Allwetterzoo. "It is a little surprising that the species has not been taxonomically studied since it was described in 1837." He owes his colleague Timo Hartmann from the Research Museum Koenig the idea of having a closer look at the entire species complex. Hartmann had already described a closely related species from Vietnam and suspected that even more exciting discoveries could possibly be expected. "The coloring of the males is the best way to distinguish these species," explains Dr. Andreas Schmitz from the Natural History Museum in Geneva. "Because the males form their territories, the color is used for recognition, not only between males and males, but also the females recognize the correct males." If a female approaches, the competitors outdo each other in the brilliance of the blue color. In territorial fights, however, the inferior male fades within a few minutes. Even at night the animals are brown or black and are hardly noticeable in their habitat.

"Agamas like these Calotes species have long been a research focus at the Research Museum Koenig in Bonn." Wolfgang Böhme, emeritus head of the Herpetology Section. “It is nice to contribute another important piece of the puzzle to our knowledge of this group of lizards.” The new species have now been published in the Bonn Zoological Bulletin, the renowned scientific journal published by the Research Museum Koenig and where the scientific studies are freely accessible.

“One of the three species is something very special for me,” says Philipp Wagner from Allwetterzoo, “because we describe it from the Phnom Kulen National Park, in which our ACCB is located. That's why we named the species after Dr. Stephan Goetz, the longstanding supporter of the ACCB. "

Stephan Goetz played a key role in setting up the ACCB and without his help this species protection centre, which is so important for Cambodia, would not exist. "And he is also at my side personally with advice, action and incredible commitment," explains Philipp Wagner, "and so it is a particular pleasure for me to be able to name the new species of Calotes goetzi after him". And the other two species also have male names.

Calotes geissleri honors Dr. Peter Geißler from the Museum Natur und Mensch in Freiburg. “Not only that Peter worked a lot about the biodiversity in Southeast Asia, but the closest related species to our new species was named after his girlfriend. So this pair also now also forms a pair as lizards,” explains Wagner. Third in the league is Jens Vindum, retired staff of the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, USA, who has also contributed with many studies to fundamentally expand our knowledge of lizards and snakes. “Here, too, a special name was very obvious,” explains Wagner, because “mystaceus”, the original collective species name is Greek and means bearded. And Jens actually has a very considerable beard. The name of his species is derived from the Latin word barbatus - bearded - and becomes vindumbarbatus. "


diversität der farben

The new species Calotes goetzi is shown here in spectacular green with brown dots.
Photographer: Peter Geißler



Contact: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Böhme
Vice-President Alexander Koenig Society (AKG)
Former Acting Director
Former Head of Department Vertebrata & Curator Herpetology
Herpetology, Alexander-Koenig-Society (AKG)
Tel:+49 228 9122-250
Mail:w.boehme [at]

Dr. Philipp Wagner
Curator for Species Conservation and Research at Allwetterzoo Münster
E-Mail: wagner [at]

Quelle: Wagner, P., Ihlow, F., Hartmann, T., Flecks, M., Schmitz, A. & W. Böhme (2021): Integrative approach to resolve the Calotes mystaceus Duméril & Bibron, 1837 species complex (Squamata: Agamidae). – Bonn zoological Bulletin 70: 141–171.

DOI 10.20363/BZB-2021.70.1.141
The DOI will be released later. You can find the document under following link:

Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig – Leibniz-Institute for Animal Biodiversity (ZFMK) is an independent research institute. The focus of research is on performing an inventory of the zoological species diversity on earth, on the analysis of changes in biodiversity as a result of environmental factors, and on evolutionary processes at the morphological and molecular levels. ZFMK furthermore explores the context of structure and function of ecological systems, advanced scientific methods, and the study of the history of science. The permanent exhibition “Our blue planet – the living network” offers a genuine nature experience based on naturalistic ecosystem displays.

The Leibniz Association combines 96 independent research institutes. Their focus ranges from the natural, engineering, and environmental sciences to the humanities and the business, space, and social sciences. The Leibniz institutes focus on relevant social, economic, and ecological issues. They perform knowledge-oriented and applied research (also among the cross-disciplinary Leibniz research alliances), are or support scientific infrastructures, and offer research-based services.






Press relations

Anna Margarethe Knopp
Ruth Moenikes-Peis

Tel.: +49 (0)228 9122 201
Fax: +49 (0)228 9122 202
E-Mail: secretary [at]

Contact person

Vice-President Alexander Koenig Society (AKG)
Former Acting Director
Former Head of Department Vertebrata & Curator Herpetology
+49 228 9122-250
+49 228 9122-212
w.boehme [at]

Press distribution list

Would you like to get our press informations regularly?