Photo: Frilled lizard with mouth open

Hood expanded and mouth wide open, the Australian frilled lizard displays its threatening posture.

Photograph by Belinda Wright

Map

Map: Frilled lizard range

Frilled Lizard Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Reptile
Diet:
Carnivore
Average life span in captivity:
Up to 20 years
Size:
3 ft (0.9 m)
Weight:
1.1 lbs (0.5 kg)
Did you know?
Besides defense, this lizard's colorful frill may be used to help regulate body temperature.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Frilled lizard compared with adult man

Undoubtedly, one of the quirkiest sights in nature is the gangly retreat of an Australian frilled lizard. When this unique creature feels threatened, it rises on its hind legs, opens its yellow-colored mouth, unfurls the colorful, pleated skin flap that encircles its head, and hisses. If an attacker is unintimidated by these antics, the lizard simply turns tail, mouth and frill open, and bolts, legs splaying left and right. It continues its deliberate run without stopping or looking back until it reaches the safety of a tree.

Frilled lizards, or "frillnecks," are members of the dragon family that live in the tropical and warm temperate forests and savanna woodlands of northern Australia. They spend most of their lives in the trees, but descend occasionally to feed on ants and small lizards. Other menu items include spiders, cicadas, termites, and small mammals.

They vary in color and size from region to region. On average, the larger adults reach about 3 feet (0.9 meters) from head to tail and weigh up to 1.1 pounds (0.5 kilograms).

Their main predators are birds of prey, larger lizards, snakes, dingoes and feral cats. They are currently not threatened or protected, but habitat reduction and predation in some areas, particularly by feral cats, is affecting their populations.

Females lay 8 to 23 tiny eggs in an underground nest, and hatchlings emerge fully independent and capable of hunting and utilizing their frill. Their lifespan in the wild is unknown, but specimens in captivity have lived 20 years.

Reptile Features

  • Photo: Close-up of a king cobra head

    Snake Pictures

    Slither in to meet some of the largest, deadliest, and fastest snakes in the world.

  • 100507-DL2-swamp-men.jpg

    Swamp Men

    Welcome to Billie Swamp Safari, where things get wild.

  • Photo: A king cobra with head raised

    King Cobra

    Come eye-to-eye with the king cobra, the longest venomous snake in the world. Learn why it is the reptile of choice for exotic snake charmers.

  • Photo: An American crocodile emerging from its eggshell

    Alligator and Crocodile Pictures

    Take a dip with more of these prehistoric giants. But watch yourself; they do bite.

Please select a test to run

Animals

The Innovators Project

See more innovators »

From the Magazine

  1. Photo: Two adult preen, Ireland

    Gannets Pictures

    Champion divers but clumsy landers, doting parents but hostile neighbors—northern gannets abound in contradictions.

  2. Photo: Silent Ural owl

    Estonia's Ural Owls

    Photographer Sven Začek provides an intimate view of this large raptor.