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Frilled Lizard

© AMNH / Denis Finnin

Frilled Lizard

Whoosh! Like an automatic umbrella, the large frill on this lizard's neck pops up when the animal wants to look menacing.

© B.G. Thomson / Photo Researchers

Frilled lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii) showing frills

Frill

The frill, a thin fold of skin that usually hangs like a cape, can be 30 cm (12 inches) across when erect. These lizards move them up and down to communicate with one another. When threatened, the animal raises it frill, opens it mouth wide, hisses and stands upright.

Mouth

The tongue and mouth are pink or yellow. Frilled Lizards open their mouths wide when they flare their frills.

© Richard J. Green / Photo Researchers

African rainbow lizard (Agama agama)

Legs

Frilled lizards do almost all their foraging on two legs. When disturbed, they may dash--still upright--for the safety of the nearest tree.

Color

With their gray to brown coloring, Frilled Lizards are well camouflaged when they sit motionless on the trunks and limbs of trees.

© Michael & Patricia Fogden / Minden Pictures

Boyd's Forest Dragon (Hypsilurus boydii)

Modern Myth

The creators of Jurassic Park were inspired by the Frilled Lizard when they designed their version of Dilophosaurus, the spitting dinosaur. But we don't know if Dilophosaurus had a frill, and the Frilled Lizard doesn't have venom, much less spit it.

Fast Facts

Name: Frilled Lizard; Chlamydosaurus kingii
Size: 60 to 90 centimeters (24 to 35 inches)
Range: Northern Australia, southern New Guinea
Diet: Mostly insects; some small mammals

Meet the Family

The Frilled Lizard is one of the odder members of its large family, Agamidae, a group of 420 species sometimes called the chisel-toothed lizards. Unlike human teeth, "chisel teeth" are fused to the jawbones and may last a lifetime. Chisel teeth appear in 80-million-year-old Mongolian fossil lizards.

© Dr. Christopher Austin/Louisiana State University

Mountain Horned Agama

African Rainbow LizardAgama agama

This lizard, native to Africa, has become established in southern Florida. Experts think pet animals were released--or may have escaped--during a severe hurricane in the early 1990s.

Boyd's Forest DragonHypsilurus boydii

This colorful Australian lizard perches in trees, usually on a vertical branch or trunk, and eats insects.

Mountain Horned AgamaCeratophora stoddartii

This southern Asian relative of the Frilled Lizard has its own strange ornamentation. Ceratophora means "horn bearer."

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