Meet The Armadillo Lizard: Planet Earth’s Real-Life Mini-Dragon
Published in Apr 2019 / Updated in Aug 2021
The armadillo lizard is as rare as it is unique. This special combination of factors has predictably made this species threatened.
The name armadillo lizard (Ouroborus cataphractus) came from the fact that the creature likes to curl up like a ball in defense, just as armadillos do.
But even though the armadillo lizard is under threat, it has a number of natural defenses it can use against its foes. For instance, it has a thorny exterior.
Still, the creature is simply irresistible as it is quite cute and full of charm.
Its rugged appearance is unique, and it inspires curiosity every time. When threatened, this lizard curls up to display its sharp armor-like features throughout its body.
Getting to see this creature is also rare, as they like to live in large family groups among rock crevices in South Africa’s desert.
They do come up to get a little sun though.
These lizards also happen to be among a few reptile species that do not lay any eggs. They eat insects, and they do not need to eat much.
But they are also easy to catch, and their demeanor makes them lovely pets for many people. In fact, this has contributed greatly to them becoming a threatened species.
Despite their fierce look, these creatures are incredibly docile. They move slowly, and their faces fascinate many as they make them look rousingly dangerous. In fact, when approached by other critters, they will quickly scurry away rather than stand their ground.
You can find them in the Succulent Karoo region of South Africa, and they also go by the name golden armadillo lizards.
Their colors differ considerably from brown to light yellowish brown.
So unique are these lizards that they are very easy to identify. They have unmistakable spikes all over their bodies except for their undersides. Even their tails and heads are covered in spikes.
When they sense a threat, they will curl up and display nothing but these spikes. While in this position, the lizard will have its mouth bite the end of its tail.
In this curled up position, the spiked body parts will act as protection for the soft belly. They are also patient creatures, as they can stay in this position for up to an hour.
The seemingly passive defense works, as it can keep them from becoming food for snakes, big birds, and even mongooses.
At most, the cool dragon-like lizards can grow to about four inches. They can also live for over a decade, but not by much.
As for their food, the armadillo lizard eats small insects and invertebrates. However, their favorite delicacy is termites.
However, they are not usually found too close to termite mounds, and they can be up to 60 feet away from these ample hunting grounds. That is no small distance for an animal this small.
Given their seemingly insatiable desire for termites, armadillo lizards will usually depend highly on the presence of termites within their vicinity. Therefore, any environmental issues that affect termite populations can put them at great risk.
Although males are naturally territorial, they are especially protective of their territories and their female partners during mating seasons.
The armadillo lizards give birth to one or two offspring every year after a gestation period of between six and eight months.
The mothers also feed their offspring, which is not common among reptiles.
But they are also quite social, living in groups of up to 60 individuals. It’s quite rare to find an armadillo lizard on its own. These large groups improve their safety as predators are less likely to attack. But it can bring about feeding issues as there will be more mouths to feed when groups get this large.
Their Greatest Threat
Humans are their greatest threat. They are an easy target given their unique appearance, calmness, and slow movement.
Even after trading this creature has been illegalized, the species is still under threat.
At one time, wildlife traffickers were caught with 48 armadillo lizards, and they were fined $70,000 or 13 years in jail.
This trafficking problem is made worse by the fact that the armadillo lizard can be found in many pet conventions and pet stores.
More effort is necessary to ensure that armadillo lizards still have a place on this planet in the future.