Karoo girdled lizard (Cordylus polyzonus)

loading
Close up of a Karoo girdled lizard
loading
Loading more images and videos...

Karoo girdled lizard fact file

Karoo girdled lizard description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyCordylidae
GenusCordylus (1)

This spiny, yet attractive lizard is a characteristic feature of many rocky outcrops in arid parts of South Africa. Heavily armoured, thick scales run down the back and tail, with sharp spines protecting the soft, vulnerable underparts from potential predators (3). Colouration in adult Karoo girdled lizards varies greatly between regions, and individuals may display turquoise, olive-brown, or reddish-brown patterning, while black morphs occur in coastal regions (3) (4). However, all populations retain a distinctive black spot on the side of the neck, between the ears and the front limbs. Juvenile colouration is more consistent, but equally attractive, with prominent dark-brown banding on a yellow-brown body, checked with cream (3).   

Also known as
African spiny-tailed lizard, smooth-backed girdle-tailed lizard.
Size
Average snout-vent length: 9 – 10.5 cm (2)
Maximum snout-vent length: 11.3 cm (2)
Top

Karoo girdled lizard biology

Highly conspicuous during the day, this diurnal lizard can be seen basking on rocky outcrops, soaking up the sunlight to heat its body (5) (6). Hampered by the weight of the body armour, the Karoo girdled lizard moves slowly, making it vulnerable to predation and, as a result, individuals never stray far from the protection of a rocky crevice (5). If a predator is sighted, it will retreat into a defensive cavity, and the spiny tail will curl around the body, presenting an impregnable defensive barricade to the predator. The Karoo girdled lizard is a sit-and-wait predator, lingering close to its crevice, waiting for beetles and grasshoppers to pass, before making short bursts to catch its prey. However, juveniles are more active foragers, and will travel further in search of food (3)

Unusually for a lizard, the Karoo girdled lizard is gregarious, and small groups will occupy the same rocky outcrop. Individuals may hibernate during the winter in a tunnel dug in the soil beneath a boulder, before the breeding season commences in late spring (3). The Karoo girdled lizard is ovoviviparous, meaning fertilised eggs are retained inside the female’s body, and the female gives birth to between one and five live young in late summer (7).

Top

Karoo girdled lizard range

The Karoo girdled lizard possibly has the widest range of any  cordylid, and is found throughout the Karoo region of western South Africa, northwards, into southern Namibia (3).   

Top

Karoo girdled lizard habitat

The Karoo girdled lizard inhabits rocky outcrops in semi-desert areas, with succulent karroid and renosterveld vegetation, characteristic of the Karoo region. It typically inhabits lower altitudes within its range (3).

Top

Karoo girdled lizard status

Listed on Appendix II of CITES (1).

Top

Karoo girdled lizard threats

In common with other cordylids, the attractive Karoo girdled lizard is a sought after pet species. As it is a relatively slow moving animal that can be easily located and collected from rocky outcrops, it is particularly vulnerable to overexploitation, and it may be threatened by illegal collection. However, at present, it is unclear how detrimental an effect this may be having on the population (3).

Top

Karoo girdled lizard conservation

There are no specific conservation measures in place for the Karoo girdled lizard, but it is listed under Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), meaning that international trade in this species must be carefully monitored (1) (3)

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Top

Find out more

For more information on the Karoo girdled see:

  • Branch, B. (1998) Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Ralph Curtis Books Publishing, Florida.
Top

Authentication

Authenticated (02/06/2010) by Jaco van Wyk, scientist and teacher, Pretoria, South Africa.

Top

Glossary

Diurnal
Active during the day.
Gregarious
Tending to form a group with others of the same species by habitually living or moving in flocks or herds rather than alone.
Hibernation
A winter survival strategy in which the animal passes the winter in a resting state. This period of inactivity is characterised by specific biological and biochemical changes including lowered blood pressure and respiration rate. In reptiles, this is also known as brumation.
Karoo
A semi-desert region of South Africa.
Karroid
Used to describe vegetation types typical or reminiscent of the semi-desert Karoo region of South Africa, namely sparse vegetation dominated by dwarf, perennial (living more than one year) shrublets.
Ovoviviparous
Ovovivipary is a method of reproduction whereby the egg shell is weakly formed and young hatch inside the female; they are nourished by their yolk sac and then ‘born’ live.
Renosterveld
A type of fire-prone shrubland vegetation, characterised by a dominance of members of the daisy family. Renosterveld grows in fertile, clay-rich soils, where the annual rainfall is between 300 and 600 millimetres.
Top

References

  1. CITES (January, 2010)
    http://www.cites.org/
  2. Branch, B. (1998) Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Ralph Curtis Books Publishing, Florida.
  3. SCARCE: Survey of Cederberg Amphibians and Reptiles for Conservation and Ecotourism (January, 2010)

    http://academic.sun.ac.za/capeherp/cederberg/cordylidskaroogirdled.htm
  4. Mouton, P.LE.F.N., Nieuwoudt, C.J., Badenhorst, N.C. and Fleming, A.F. (2002) Melanistic Cordylus polyzonus (Sauria: Cordylidae) populations in the Western Cape, South Africa: Relics or ecotypes? Journal of Herpetology, 36: 526-531.
  5. Losos, J.B., Mouton, P.F.N., Bickel, R., Cornelius, I. and Ruddock, L. (2002) The effect of body armature on escape behaviour in cordylid lizards. Animal Behaviour, 64: 313 - 321.
  6. Alexander, G. and Marais, J. (2007) A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  7. J. Craig Venter Institute (January, 2010)
    http://www.jcvi.org/
X
Close

Image credit

Close up of a Karoo girdled lizard  
Close up of a Karoo girdled lizard

© Ann & Steve Toon / www.photoshot.com

NHPA/Photoshot Holdings Ltd
29-31 Saffron Hill
London
EC1N 8SW
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7421 6003
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7421 6006
sales@photoshot.com
http://www.photoshot.com

X
Close

Link to this photo

ARKive species - Karoo girdled lizard (Cordylus polyzonus) Embed this ARKive thumbnail link ("portlet") by copying and pasting the code below.

Terms of Use - The displayed portlet may be used as a link from your website to ARKive's online content for private, scientific, conservation or educational purposes only. It may NOT be used within Apps.

Read more about

X
Close

MyARKive

MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.

Play the Team WILD game:

Team WILD, an elite squadron of science superheroes, needs your help! Your mission: protect and conserve the planet’s species and habitats from destruction.

Conservation in Action

Which species are on the road to recovery? Find out now »

Help us share the wonders of the natural world. Donate today!

Blog RSS