With the appearance of a mini dinosaur, the Australian frilled lizard is one of the most strangely awesome reptiles. Only 20 inches long and fewer than two pounds, this little lizard wanders the tropical and wooded areas of Australia and New Guinea.
An expandable neck frill is not the only characteristic that makes the frilled lizard unique. In fact, this bizarre species is known for running on its hind legs and hopping like a kangaroo when endangered. Due to these habits, the frilled lizard is sometimes called a “bicycle dragon.”
The frilled lizard also possesses sharp eyesight, which helps it capture prey. A frilled lizard diet includes butterfly and moth caterpillars, termites, ants, and some small vertebrates. Their keen sense of sight also helps the lizards to defend themselves from predators, whom they can spot at distances of nearly 25 yards away. Frilled lizards spend about 90% of their time perched in trees high above the ground to avoid these predators.
If a predator catches a frilled lizard out of a tree and on the ground, however, the lizard has a four-step defense routine. First, it remains motionless and tries to go unseen. Second, if feeling threatened, the lizard spreads its neck frill and exposes the bright yellow or pink lining of its mouth to hiss and frighten its predator. Third, if the aggressor is not frightened, the lizard rears up on its hind legs and lashes its whip-like tail. If necessary, the lizard will resort to its fourth and final line of defense—sprinting away from the predator on its hind legs.
While much is known about the frilled lizard’s methods of defense, little is know about the creature’s breeding habits. Experts do know that female frilled lizards lay leathery, white eggs in burrows. The eggs stay buried in the ground for two or three months before the baby lizards hatch and dig their way out into the world. Typically only six inches at birth, the newly-hatched lizards immediately begin to search for food.
Though the frilled lizard was once the target of Aborigine hunters, the species has remained abundant due to its vast and untouched habitat. Additionally, Australian law protects the frilled lizard. Someday I hope to see this weird and cool lizard in action!