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Frilled Lizard

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A frilled lizard photographed at Lincoln Children's Zoo in Nebraska

About the Frilled Lizard

Undoubtedly, one of the quirkiest sights in nature is the gangly retreat of an Australian frilled lizard.

Defensive Behavior

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.

Habitat and Diet

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.

Size

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

Threats to Survival

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.

Reproduction

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.