Long tails, even by saurian standards, are a hallmark of lizards that hunt amid dense vegetation and survive on their whips. An appendage more than twice the length of your body may seem unwieldy, but what this sartorial excess offers in the field is a handy accessory for swimming through unruly tangles or cushioning a leap into stray branches. Caudal elongation in Bronchocela falls short of the disproportionate extremes of Takydromus, a genus of lizards that inhabit East Asian grasslands, but probably serves a similar purpose: to give the reptile a firmer grip on its surroundings, not in a prehensile manner, but by spreading the load of a front-heavy torso and adding touchpoints to the rear that brace the animal against a mesh of overlapping foliage.
At Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve last Sunday, shortly after a walk of annual significance, a green crested lizard made a futile lunge at a passing butterfly, landing with a soft but telltale thud on a blade of Thalia by the pond that leads to the mangrove boardwalk. The agamid stood its ground, trusting perhaps in its native colours, as a passing lady remarked to her child on its dissimilarity to the more common brown 'chameleons' they see in urban parks. Her husband paid no heed to these observations, focusing instead on his weekend broadsheet and declaring a marked preference for the refuge of a nearby mall. The wetlands, even in the lull of a tropical winter, are, evidently, too hostile an environment for urban warriors, though a little less so for gentler beasts who share their home with amphibious monsters and herpivorous snakes that need no fifth leg to scale low trees and wind their way over a plane of uneven odds.