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South African Sungazer Lizard

South African Sungazer Lizard

Cordylus giganteus, the Sungazer, Giant Spiny-tailed Lizard, Giant Zonure, or Giant Girdled Lizard is the largest species of Girdled Lizard. They live in colonies and dig burrows into the silty soil of the Themeda grassland in South Africa. The name Sungazer comes from their habit of sitting at the burrow entrance and facing the sun. They are insectivores, but occasionally will eat small vertebrates. Sungazers reproduce every other year, and only produce one or two offspring. The decline in numbers is a result of habitat destruction (conversion of the grassland to farmland) and illegal collecting for the great pet trade. Sungazers are protected by spiny dorsal scales and large spines run along the back of the head. The tail is armed by whorls of large spines and is waved at predators that pursue it into a burrow. Adults are 150-180 mm from the snout to the vent. The back is yellow to dark brown and the sides are yellow. Males can be identified by the presence of enlarged scales on the forearm.