Armadillo Girdled Lizard

Armadillo Girdled Lizard

Armadillo lizard, Golden-armadillo lizard, Armadillo spiny-tailed lizard

Ouroborus cataphractus
Population size
Life Span
20-25 yrs
7.5-9 cm

The Armadillo girdled lizard is a unique heavily-armored reptile native to South Africa. It has a stocky, flattened body that can be light brown to dark brown in coloration. The underbelly is yellow with a blackish pattern, especially under the chin.


Armadillo girdled lizards are native to desert areas along the western coast of South Africa. They are endemic to the Succulent Karoo biome in the Northern and the Western Cape provinces of South Africa, where they occur from the southern Richtersveld to the Piketberg Mountains and the southern Tankwa Karoo. They inhabit rocky outcrops and mountain slopes, preferably on sandstone substrate.



Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Armadillo girdled lizards are diurnal and during the night they find their shelter in rock cracks and crevices. They live in social groups of up to 30 to 60 individuals of all ages, but usually fewer. Males are territorial, protecting territory and mating with the females living there. Armadillo girdled lizards possess an uncommon antipredator adaptation, in which they take their tail in their mouth and roll into a ball when frightened. In this shape, they are protected from predators by the thick, squarish scales along their back and the spines on their tail. This behavior, which resembles that of the mammalian armadillo, gives these lizards their English common names. In order to communicate with each other, these lizards use tail wagging, head bobbing and tongue-flicking. For example, tongue-flicking is a warning sign for intruders to leave.

Group name
Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Armadillo girdled lizards are carnivores (insectivores). They feed mainly on small invertebrates, such as insects and spiders, but sometimes also may take plant material. In the wild, their most important prey items are termites.

Mating Habits

6-8 months
1-2 young

Armadillo girdled lizards are polygynandrous (promiscuous) meaning that both males and females have multiple partners in a single breeding season. They usually mate from September to October. This species is one of the few lizards that does not lay eggs; females give birth to one or two live young. The female may even feed her young, which is also unusual for a lizard. Females give birth once a year at most; some may take a year off between births. The gestation period lasts around 6-8 months. Young Armadillo lizards become reproductively mature when their body length is about 95mm.


Population threats

Armadillo girdled lizards are collected for the pet trade, which used to was a significant drain on populations but is now illegal. These lizards are thought to be susceptible to fluctuations in their primary food source (termites), which in turn can be impacted by climatic events such as changes in rainfall patterns, as well as to habitat changes through invasive alien plant species and poor fire management.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources don’t provide the number of the Armadillo girdled lizard total population size. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC).


1. Armadillo Girdled Lizard on Wikipedia -
2. Armadillo Girdled Lizard on The IUCN Red List site -

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