Found in northern regions of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and the Northern and Eastern areas of Queensland as far south as Brisbane, the frilled lizard is an arboreal species which inhabits woodland and dry forest. Most famous of the dragons, the Chlamydosaurus kingii is one of Australia's most distinctive and familiar dragon lizards. It is a large lizard, averaging 85 cm (33 inches) in length. The frilled lizard is moderately robust with long limbs and a moderately long tail.
When unthreatened, the neck's frill is folded back along the body, making the lizard almost invisible when it rests among branches. The frill is actually a thin elastic membrane around the throat, which when spread may measure up to 12 inches across. Although it is thought to use the frills when mating, actually the only time the frill is erected is when the lizard is provoked or when it perceives threat. The act of gaping the mouth extends the frill because the frill contains long bones that connect with the jaw and the tongue. The wider the mouth is opened the more extended the frill from the neck muscles becomes. When the lizard spreads its frill, this act is like engaging a sail and makes the lizard look larger than it really is. The frilled lizard is most likely to run than fight back, although it may inflict serious pain to its attacker with its sharp teeth.
Mating and Reproduction
When courting a female, the male frilled lizard performs an elaborate dance, sometimes displaying his frills to scare away rival males. The female confirms her interest by bobbing her head. Although frilled lizards are naturally territorial, during the mating season, the male becomes even more aggressive towards other males.
After the female makes her choice, the couple lizards mate briefly, the male transporting his sperm into her cloaca. Frilled lizards are oviparous, that is, they lay eggs rather than give birth to live young, and the female frilled lizard may lay as many as 23 eggs in the hot dry ground. The eggs, which are no bigger than wild cherries and weigh nore more than 5 grams, are covered in thin brittle shells (instead of thick leathery ones as in other lizards and some turtles). The unattended eggs hatch after an incubation period of 12 weeks. Frilled lizards must fend for themselves as soon as they hatch.
While the frilled lizard usually hunts in the trees for small arachnids and insects, it will often go to the ground to look for termites, ants, small reptiles and rodents. Although it thrives well in dry environments, it seldom drinks as it takes the moisture it needs from its food.
Frilled lizards can be found throughout Northern and North Western Australia. They favor tropical to warm temperate dry forests, savannahs, and woodlands. Although they can be seen running across the flat lands on their hind legs, frilled lizards are more at home in trees. Except during the mating season, frilled lizards, like most modern reptiles, are solitary.
Frilled lizards are prey to larger reptiles including other lizards and snakes, as well as to birds of prey like ospreys and owls, and a few mammals like dingoes and feral cats. Continuous predation does not seem to have significant effect on the frilled lizard's population.
The frilled lizard is also called the cloaked lizard, and belongs to the Agamidae family, genus Chlamydosaurus, species Kingi.
Aresté, M. and J. L. Farriols. 1999. Chlamydosaurus kingii. Reptilia 7: 39-42.
Authority to use Frilled Lizard Factsheet
Melissa-lea de Britt
Senior Education Officer
PO Box 20 Mosman
NSW 2088 Australia
Ph: 61-2-9978 4553
Fax: 61-2-9978 4508
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