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Cordylus giganteus

Giant Girdled Lizard (Cordylus giganteus ), Photo: Michael Lahanas

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Reptilia
Subclassis: Diapsida
Infraclassis: Lepidosauromorpha
Superordo: Lepidosauria
Ordo: Squamata
Subordo: Sauria
Infraordo: Scincomorpha
Familia: Cordylidae
Genus: Cordylus
Species: Cordylus giganteus

Giant Girdled Lizard (Cordylus giganteus ), Photo: Michael Lahanas


Cordylus giganteus Smith, 1844


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 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.

Captive bred Sungazers, usually juveniles, are occasionally imported from South Africa to the U. S. and command a very high price. They are long-lived, hardy captives, but rarely reproduce in captivity. Cordylus tropidosternum and Cordylus jonesii are occasionally marketed as “Dwarf Sungazers.”

Captive Care

Fogel, G., 2000. Observations on the Giant Sungazer Lizard, Cordylus giganteus, in captivity: Bulletin of the Chicago Herpetological Society, 35(12): 277-280.[1]


* World Conservation Monitoring Centre 1996. Cordylus giganteus. 2006 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 28 July 2007.

Branch, B., 1998. Field Guide to Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa: Ralph Curtis Books Publishing, Sanibel Island, Florida, 399 p.

Fitzsimons, V. F., 1943. The Lizards of South Africa: Transvaal Museum Memoir, Pretoria.


Source: Wikispecies, Wikipedia: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License