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Regions > Australasia > Frilled lizard

Frilled lizard

Location at the Zoo: Australasia











Scientific Name:

Chlamydosaurus kingii


: This is one of Australia's most distinctive and familiar dragon lizards. Its most prominent feature, from which it gets its name, is the ruff or frill around the neck. The frill is a thin, extensive fold of skin which may measure 30 cm across. It is supported by cartilaginous rods connected to muscles of the tongue and jaws. The frill lies like a cape over its shoulders until erected. When alarmed, the mouth gapes widely and the frill extends around the head. The frill has a variety of colours including yellow, black, orange and red. The body of the lizard does not have a standard colour but is characterized by being darker than its frill. The general colouring is grey-brown and has cryptic colouration. Frilled lizards have rough skin on their body with keeled dorsal and ventral scales. The body is relatively short to the long neck and limbs, and has a moderately long, banded tail. The upper and lower jaws have small sharp teeth, and their tongue and mouth lining are pink or yellow in colour.

Sexual dimorphism exists, with the male being twice as heavy as the female; 870g versus 400g. Average length is 85 cm but males can reach 91 cm.


: The frilled lizard is found mainly across northern Australia and southern New Guinea.


: It lives in the sub humid to semi-arid grassy woodlands and dry sclerophyll forests. This lizard is arboreal and spends most of its time on trunks and limbs of standing trees.

It is usually observed only when it descends to the ground after a rainfall or to search for food.


: Insectivorous; feeding mainly on invertebrates. It may also eat small mammals and other lizards. They employ an ambush method of hunting, dropping from above on their prey.

Reproduction and Development

: The mating season for C. kingii corresponds to the wet season, beginning in October or November. Males are territorial, they actively defend their territory displaying their frills, biting, swaying from side to side and hissing. They display to attract potential mates.

This species is oviparous. After breeding has taken place, gravid females select a nest site. The nest is located in areas of flat, coarse-grained sandy soil surrounded by sparse grass and leaf litter, with no vegetation directly over the nest, allowing the nest to receive sunlight for most of the day. Eggs are incubated for about 70 days. Clutches average about eight (range: 4-13). Births occur in February. Sex is determined by temperature. Extreme heat produces exclusively females. Intermediate temperatures (29-35 degrees Celsius) produce equal numbers of males and females. Hatchlings stay together for 10 days. There is no parental care. If food is abundant, two clutches may be laid in the same year.


: This is a diurnal, mainly arboreal lizard that spends most of its time resting on tree trunks and low branches. C. kingii undergo seasonal changes with respect to diet, growth, habitat use, and activity. It can reduce its body temperature, metabolic rate and water consumption during dry seasons. The dry season is characterized by a decrease in activity and a preference for large trees with canopy perches. The wet season is characterized by an increase in activity, and the selection of shorter trees with small diameters.
Colouration varies according to the lizard's environment affording them excellent camouflage. It blends in with the bark of trees and is not easily seen.

They are capable of bipedal locomotion and move with great speed when running. When disturbed they dash to the nearest tree, but as an alternative, it may hide beneath low vegetation or go into a "freeze" mode. This predator response of resting absolutely motionless has been adopted by C. kingii as part of its "bluffing" plan. If the lizard is cornered, it usually turns to face its aggressor and enacts the defense mechanism for which frilled lizards are most famous. The lizard erects the frill by opening its brightly colored pink or yellow mouth. This sudden apparent increase in size and bright mouth color is sometimes accompanied by hissing, standing up on its hind legs, and leaping at or chasing the predator. If the "bluffing" doesn't work, the lizard usually runs up the nearest tree.

Threats to Survival

: The frilled lizard's size makes it vulnerable to eagles, owls, larger lizards, snakes and dingoes.


: IUCN: Least Concern

Zoo Diet

: Crickets, meal worms, pinkie mice, TZ reptile and amphibian supplements, reptile salad.