Armadillo Lizard

Armadillo Lizard

The Armadillo Lizard (Cordylus cataphractus) is a spiny-tailed lizard endemic to desert areas of southern Africa. It is also known as the Armadillo Girdled Lizard or the Armadillo Spiny-tailed Lizard. They can be a light brown to dark brown in coloration and are sometimes referred to with the common name of golden armadillo lizard. The underbelly is yellow with a blackish pattern, especially under the chin.This lizard has a distinctive defensive posture, in which it grabs its tail and curls into a ring. Its size ranges from 16 to 21 cm (6½ to 8½ in) in length. In South Africa, trade in Armadillo Lizards is illegal. This lizard is very difficult to find for sale in the pet trade for this reason. These lizards are also called the "True" Armadillo Lizards.

This animal is named after the armadillo for its appearance and a similar defense mechanism. The lizard's skin is covered with thick, squarish, protective scales along its back and stout spines on its neck and tail for making it awkward for predators, such as birds of prey to attack in defence.

They occur in scrub and rocky outcrops and hide in large cracks and crevices when hibernating for the winter. They live in family groups and the female gives birth to 1-2 live young. The female may even feed her young, which is unusual for a lizard in that they rarely demonstrate parental care. They are one of comparatively few live-bearing lizards; they do not lay eggs like most other lizard species. The Armadillo Lizard lives mainly on small invertebrates such as insects and spiders and can live up to 25 years in captivity, slightly more in rarer cases.


Armadillo Lizards have an interesting defense, in that if frightened, they will grab their tail in their mouth and curl up into a ball. This behavior is remarkably like that of the mammalian armadillo, which explains the common English name for these lizards. And just as it does for the mammal, this defensive posture enables the lizard to protect its soft underbelly from predators, exposing only its armored back. Armadillo lizards display the typical lizard communicating skills of head-bobbing, tail-wagging and tongue-flicking, when confronting another unfamiliar armadillo lizard. These lizards have very powerful jaws, which can be very hard to open. When they do fight, they can clamp down on legs and toes, biting them off, and drawing blood. They can bite down on the sides of the body and start rolling or twisting their opponent's torso. This can cause internal damage to the animal.

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