Armadillo Girdled Lizard

The Armadillo Girdled Lizard, also called the golden armadillo lizard, armadillo spiny-tailed lizard, and armadillo lizard inhabits the desert regions of South Africa. It gets its named after the armored mammal, the Armadillo, since, like the latter, this lizard also has a hard scaly appearance and can coil up to protect itself.

Scientific Classification

O. cataphractus

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

O. cataphractus

Armadillo Girdled Lizard


Size: Length: 3.0 – 3.5 in (7.5 – 9 cm), Weight: 8 -17 pounds (3.6 – 7.7 kg)

Head: It has a flat head covered with spines and scales.

Tail: Its club-shaped tail, with spiny projections, is 14-16 inches long.

Body and Coloration: They have hard squarish scales on their back that are yellow or brown. Their underbelly, starting from their chin, have black markings against the yellow base.  

Range and Distribution

The species makes its home in the Northern and Western Cape provinces of South Africa.


It lives in desert regions, preferring sparse vegetation and rocky outreaches. It also resides on mountain slopes with sandstone substrates.

Armadillo Girdled Lizard Habitat
Full Grown Armadillo Girdled Lizard


They live for around 20 years.


The Armadillo girdled lizard mainly eats insects, spiders, and some plant material.


  • It lives in permanent groups of 2 to 60, a trait relatively uncommon in lizards as they are primarily solitary.
  • They communicate by wagging their tail, bobbing their head, and flicking their tongues.
  • It is diurnal, hiding in rock cracks and crevices at night.
  • They are usually slow-moving but race at top speed if approached or on sensing danger.
  • Males display territorial behavior protecting their domain and mating with females residing in the terrain.
Armadillo Girdled Lizard Size
Armadillo Spiny Tailed Lizard


The Armadillo girdled lizard is attacked by birds of prey like falcons, ospreys, and eagles.


  • The lizard has a distinct defense mechanism, rolling into a ball by biting its tail to protect itself from predators.
  • They can detach their tail if threatened, a common tactic employed by many lizards. The tail grows back but is generally dissimilar to the original.
  • The scales on its body serve as an armor, making it hard for predators to reach its soft underbelly.
  • It has tubes in its nostrils, helping it smell food and predators.
  • Its flat body helps it squeeze through small cracks between places with ease.

Mating and Reproduction

Both sexes are polygamous and mate with multiple members of the opposite gender during the mating season. After a 6-8-month gestation period, the females give birth to live young.

Armadillo Girdled Lizard Baby
Golden Armadillo Lizard

Life Cycle

In general, 1-2 babies are born at a time. The Armadillo girdled lizard takes care and feeds its young, another unusual trait among lizards. The young gain sexual` maturity as they grow to about 4 inches. 

Conservation Status

The IUCN lists this species as “LC” or “Least Concern”. However, it was “Vulnerable” until 1996, the illegal pet trade being one of the prime reasons. After the impositions of trading regulations, the population rose and remains stable at present.

Interesting Facts

  • They have a strong bite, but doing so can potentially break their jaws.
  • The Armadillo girdled lizard looks like a smaller version of the mythological dragon.
  • These lizards make for good pets because of their friendly nature and easy maintenance.

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