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Calotes Angleheads Dragon Lizards and Relatives: Agamidae

Frilled Lizard (chlamydosaurus Kingii):species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The frilled lizard is large, with gray-brown coloring. Its length ranges from 2 to 3 feet (61 to 91.4 centimeters). Adult males weigh about 30 ounces (850 grams) and females about 14 ounces (397 grams). A frilled lizard has long legs and a medium-long tail. It has a large neck frill, or neck folds, made of thin skin. Most of the time, the frill is kept folded like a cape over the lizard's shoulders and back. The tongue and mouth lining are pink or yellow.

Geographic range: Frilled lizards are found in northern Australia and southern New Guinea.

Habitat: Frilled lizards inhabit grassy woodlands and dry forests. These tree-living lizards are seldom found very far away from trees.

Frilled lizards live in grassy woodlands and dry forests. They are seldom found very far away from trees. (©Steve Cooper/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Diet: Frilled lizards eat cicadas (suh-KAY-duhs), ants, spiders, and small lizards.

Behavior and reproduction: The frilled lizard spends most of its time on tree trunks and low branches. It is active during the day and comes down to the ground after it rains and to search for food. When it is threatened or alarmed, the frilled lizard quickly enlarges the big, reddish-orange, fanlike frill around its neck. This frill can enlarge to a size of 8 to 12 inches across (20.3 to 30.5 centimeters). The frill has zigzag edges and red, blue, and brown spots. At rest, the folded frill helps keep the lizard cool. It also acts as camouflage (KA-mah-flahzh), a sort of disguise, allowing the lizard to look like a branch or bark.

If a predator threatens, at first the frilled lizard may hide, become absolutely still, or run to the nearest tree. If cornered, the frilled lizard faces the predator. It enlarges its frill and opens it brightly colored mouth. Sometimes it hisses, stands up on its hind legs, or leaps at the predator. If these actions do not work, frilled lizards can run on their hind legs for short distances.

Frilled lizards mate during the wet season. Males are territorial, protecting their living area. They may use their frills to attract mates. Females lay a clutch or group of eight to fourteen eggs twice a year, in spring and summer. Nests are made in flat, sandy soil, surrounded by thin grass and leaf litter. They are not covered.

Frilled lizards and people: Frilled lizards are the reptile emblem of Australia. They are shown on the Australian two-cent coin. There are books for children about frilled lizards, and a frilled lizard was featured on one automobile commercial on television. Fire-prevention road signs in Australia say, "We like our lizards frilled, not grilled." The frilled lizard is protected by law in Australia.

Conservation status: The frilled lizard is not threatened, but problems are expected. Toxic, or poisonous, cane toads have been introduced to the areas in which they live. Thought to be helpful, these toads instead have become pests, eating lizards and other small animals. In some areas, land clearing and the introduction of cats have caused frilled lizard numbers to decline. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesCalotes Angleheads Dragon Lizards and Relatives: Agamidae - Physical Description, Behavior And Reproduction, Spiny Agama (agama Hispida): Species Accounts, Frilled Lizard (chlamydosaurus Kingii):species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, AGAMIDS