The Australian frilled lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii) is a member of the dragon family and is found primarily in the forest and savanna areas of Northern Australia. Named for the large frill of yellow-brown skin around its neck, the frilled lizard unfurls the frill and opens its mouth when threatened in an attempt to ward off attackers.
Frilled Lizard Habitat
Also called the frilled dragon, frill neck or frill-necked lizard, the frilled lizard is an arboreal reptile, making its home in trees but descending to feed on ants and other small lizards, as well as spiders, cicadas and some small mammals. Harmless to humans, frilled lizards attain an adult length of around 3 feet and weigh around 1 lb. Their distinctive yellow brown and black markings clearly distinguish them from other lizard species in the region.
Purposes of the Frill
The frilled lizard's namesake frill is a loose drape of skin at the lizard's neck, which serves as a display as well as a means of regulating temperature. When threatened, the frilled lizard rises on its hind legs, opens its mouth wide and, while hissing, unfurls the frill. If this fails to intimidate an attacker, the lizard turns and runs, mouth open and frill unfurled, to the nearest tree. Studies of the frilled lizard suggest that unfurling the frill may act as a cooling mechanism, aiding in regulating the lizard's body temperature.
Frilled Lizard Life Cycle
Frilled lizard females lay between eight and 25 eggs underground in the spring. Hatchling frilled lizards emerge fully able to live independently and can spread their frill when threatened. Although the lifespan of the frilled lizard in the wild is unknown, captive frills have lived up to 20 years. In the wild, the frilled lizard is victim to large birds of prey, larger lizards, dingoes and wild cats.
Frilled Lizards: An Endangered Species?
Although not considered an endangered species, the frilled lizard is vulnerable. Its habitat is shrinking due to development and environmental pollution, and predation by feral cats as well as wild predators have reduced frilled lizard populations in some areas. Loss of habitat has also reduced the frilled lizard's primary food sources in some forested areas, but its numbers have not significantly declined.