Frilled Lizard

Part of the Lizards and Snakes: Alive! exhibition.

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


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.


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


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


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

Frilled lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii) showing frills
© B.G. Thomson / Photo Researchers

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.

African rainbow lizard (Agama agama)
© Richard J. Green / Photo Researchers

African Rainbow Lizard

Agama 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 Dragon (Hypsilurus boydii)
© Michael & Patricia Fogden / Minden Pictures

Boyd's Forest Dragon

Hypsilurus boydii

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



Mountain Horned Agama
© Dr. Christopher Austin/Louisiana State University

Mountain Horned Agama

Ceratophora stoddartii

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