The frill-necked lizard is known by several names such as frill neck, frilled lizard and its scientific name, Chlamydosaurus kingii. However, one of its names – frilled dragon – may be most apt, and likely the one it would choose itself (that is, if awesome dragon of doom wasn’t available). That’s because in many respects it is a modern-day dragon – it enjoys being off the ground, looks magnificent and will take on challengers left, right and center – up to a point, that is.
The frill-necked lizard gets its name from the flap of skin around its neck that usually remains close to the body unless the lizard has a point to prove such as warning potential threats to back off or male lizards getting ready to challenge each other for a mate. If the lizard feels it is under threat, it will try to remain camouflaged unless it realizes it has been seen and the threat is not retreating. At this point it’s time to go big or go home and the lizard embraces the first option by opening its mouth wide and raising its frill while also lifting its body and sometimes raising its tail above its body, all in a bid to appear bigger and more threatening than it really is. It may also begin hissing and even moving towards the threat in a show of “Bring it on!”
The frill-necked lizard is for the most part found in northern Australia and southern New Guinea in humid climates. It spends the majority of its time in trees but will descend to the ground if food is available or to warn away invading males. The coloring of the lizard can differ depending on the environment it lives in, enabling it to blend into its natural surroundings better and enhance its camouflage. The frill, which may also be used to help the lizard regulate its body temperature, often contains orange and red scales. However, the rest of the body will feature muted colors and the frill will be kept down when not under threat so that the lizard doesn’t attract attention to itself.
At one point everyone in Australia had close contact with these lizards, in metal form at least, as they featured on the Australian two-cent coin until it was taken out of circulation.
When it comes time to chow down, insects form a prominent part of the menu, though frill-necked lizards won’t say no to eating smaller lizards and spiders if the opportunity presents itself. While they’re never going to reach dragon proportions, frill-necked lizards can grow up to 3 feet long and weigh up to 1.1 pounds. Generally the males are bigger than the females, who lay their eggs in an underground nest. The number of eggs can range greatly, for instance as few as 6 to as many as 25, and when the young lizards hatch they emerge with frills and can hunt and live independently.
Frill-necked lizards are not protected or under significant threat, though they are preyed on by animals such as dingoes, snakes, birds of prey and bigger lizards. Feral cats are particularly effective at hunting them and reductions in their natural habitats have adversely affected frill-necked lizard populations as well. It’s unclear how long they can live in the wild, but frill-necked lizards in captivity have been known to reach the grand old age of 20 years old, a feat they would no doubt have you believe is all down to their fearless dispositions.