Behavior

Girdled lizards' thick scales with bony plates protect them from abrasion against rough rock. To evade predators, many species jam themselves into rock cracks by inflating the body and shortening and thickening the skull, which has an unusual hinged structure. Armadillo lizards (Cordylus cataphractus) are very social and form large groups (up to 43) that inhabit the

Blue Desert Animals
An armadillo lizard (Cordylus cataphractus), showing its typical defensive posture from which it gets its common name, in Namaqualand, South Africa. (Photo by Bill Branch. Reproduced by permission.)
An armadillo lizard (Cordylus cataphractus) defends itself from predators by rolling up in a tight ball, holding its tail in its mouth, and exposing the rings of spiny armor that surround its body. The predator shown here is a black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas). (Illustration by Bruce Worden)

same rock crack. They are very wary and retreat at the first sign of danger. If caught in the open, like their namesakes, they bite their tail and roll into a tight ball. It makes it difficult for predators to swallow them.

The shape of flat lizards permits them to squeeze under thin rock flakes where they are safe from predators. Up to 12 individuals may squeeze into the same crack, although it is unusual to find adult males together during the breeding season. They are restricted to certain types of rock (e.g., granite, gneiss, and some sandstone), and are therefore found in isolated populations. Sociable, they form dense colonies. Prime territory on a rock face is defended by a dominant male during the breeding season. In confrontations, males circle each other and expose their brightly colored bellies by tilting sideways.

Snake and grass lizards hunt grasshoppers and other insects in grassland. They are diurnal, retreating at night into a grass tussock or beneath a stone. The vestigial limbs are minute, and are used for support when stationary and to as-

sist small movements in long vegetation. The very long tail (up to three times the body length) is used for propulsion, rendering them almost impossible to catch when they "swim" through grass. When startled they also "spring" by flexing stiff coils against the ground. If grabbed, the tail is readily shed. However, regeneration is very rapid; it must be, as they are helpless without their tails.

Except for a few small Madagascan species that clamber on tree trunks, all plated lizards are terrestrial. They dig holes in loose sand around bushes or excavate leaf litter from large rock cracks or under boulders. When foraging they move slowly, often sliding down slopes on their smooth bellies. When basking they rest on the belly with the limbs flexed upward off the ground. The thick tail base is used for fat storage. Rarely common, they are shy and usually solitary, although the giant and desert plated lizards often form loose colonies. When disturbed they dash into bush clumps or to their retreats. In danger the desert plated lizards dive into loose sand, disappearing with a swimming motion. They can remain buried for up to 24 hours, sheltering from both danger and temperature extremes.

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