Horvath's toadhead agama - Phrynocephalus horvathi (Mehely, 1894)

Agamas — Agamidae

Status. Previously was considered as a subspecies of P. helioscopus. Listed in the Red Data Book of the former USSR. An endangered species of very low numbers. Listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 3.1) as Critically Endangered CR A2c. According to IUCN criteria categorized as Critically Endangered CR A2c; B2ab(i, ii, iii).

Distribution. Azerbaijan, an area from Northeastern Turkey to the eastern part of the South Caucasus.

Distribution in Armenia. Individual populations are known from the Arax riverside. Lives in the Baghramian, Armavir and Ejmiadzin districts (Armavir Province) and in some sites of the Ararat Province.

Habitats. Inhabits sandy and salt–marsh semi–deserts covered with sparse arid vegetation dominated by achilleans, saltworts and wormwoods at 800–1050 m above sea level.

Biological traits. The hibernation period begins in November and lasts until early March. Feeds on arthropods (ants, small beetles, larvae, spiders and others). Egg–laying occurs 2–3 times a year, 2–7 eggs/clutch. Lifespan is up to 3 years.

Population size and its trends. It was widespread across most of the Ararat Valley’s takyr semi–deserts and in relict patches of sandy semi–desert. All these landscapes have been intensively and increasingly used by humans. Nowadays, only 6 very small populations are known to survive in the Arax River basin. The population densities are 1–2 individuals/ha in Goravan Sands Sanctuary and on the outskirts of Armavir, 1.5–2 individuals/ha in the Ararat district and 2–3 individuals/ha near Bagharan and in the Armavir district.

Major threats. Large–scale conversion of semi–deserts of the Ararat Valley to crop fields, irrigation, expansion of villages and reservoirs have led to deterioration and extirpation of the majority of populations. Overgrazing and poaching also pose serious threats.

Conservation measures. Protected in Goravan Sands Sanctuary and Vordan Karmir Sanctuary. It is essential to fence off the sanctuaries from trespassing livestock and to implement activities targeted at recovery of depleted wild populations. Breeding in terraria is possible under certain conditions.

© A. Aghasyan

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Darevsky, 1957, 1975; Bannikov et al., 1977; Aghasyan, 1985, 2001, 2003, 2009; Red Data Book Armenian SSR, 1987; Ananeva et al., 2004, 2006

Compiler. A. Aghasyan