Named for the skin around its neck, the frill-necked lizard can be found mostly in northern Australia and southern New Guinea. The “frill” looks like a stylish neck cape most of the time, but when the lizard is alarmed or defensive, the neck flares up into a jagged, menacing ruff.
Usually you see the lizard as photographed here, with just a flap of skin near its neck. To be honest, usually you don’t see it at all. Chlamydosaurus kingii are arboreal lizards, and they don’t come out of the trees too often; and when they do, they blend right in.
A relatively large lizard, they are about 33 inches (85 cm) long, with half that length as the body, and half as the tail. They eat insects and small vertebrates, and come out of the trees to eat. More info here. They’re really fast on the ground, often running on their two back legs.
The first time we saw one, we were driving to a remote park and came across something about a foot tall on the road. It vanished when we got close, but it didn’t hop like a rabbit or kangaroo, or run like a dingo. So we screeched to a stop, ran to where we saw it disappear, but never saw anything. About a week later we were with an Australian guide, figured out from the guide’s description it had been this lizard.
The guide then took us to a forest filled with termite mounds, no humans anywhere. At first we didn’t see any lizards until the guide prompted us, pointed them out. Then we saw one on nearly every tree!
It’s perfect that this fiery dragon-like lizard is just another unique creature in The Land Down Under.
Photo credit: Athena Alexander except as noted