Armadillo Girdled Lizard Fact File


The armadillo girdled lizard or simply armadillo lizard is found in Africa. Their flattened body is covered by spiny scales which form hard plates across the back. Their scales are colored a sandy yellow or brown. Under the throat they are colored yellow or violet with brown blotches.

On the underside they have soft skin. Their habit of rolling up serves to protect this soft skin.

The sandy color of their back provides camouflage against the dry habitats they call home.

They have a broad triangular head. At the end of the body is a tail of similar length to the body.

An average armadillo girdled lizard will measure between 7.5 and 16.5cm (3-6.5in) long with an average weight of 70-100g (2.5-3.5oz)


The armadillo girdled lizard is a carnivore. Most of their diet is made up of insects and spiders. Small amounts of plant material may be ingested occasionally.

Their main food source is the southern harvester termite. These are most plentiful after the spring rains.

Armadillo Girdled Lizard

Scientific Name

Ouroborus cataphractus

Conservation Status

Least Concern


70-100g (2.5-3.5oz)


7.5-16.5cm (3-6.5in)


Captive 25 years



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Africa is the native home of armadillo girdled lizard. Here their range is restricted to parts of South Africa along the countries western coast line.


They make their home in rock crevices within shrublands.

Armadillo Girdled Lizard


Mating for the armadillo lizard occurs during early spring with the young being born six to seven months later.

Unusually for a lizard the armadillo girdled lizard will give birth to between one and two live juveniles. One is most common. These are quite large compared to other juvenile lizards.

They will provide some level of maternal care to their young and these young often remain in their parents family group for a period of time.


Armadillo girdled lizards form family groups which typically include 3 or 4 members but have been recorded with as many as 50. These are made up of both genders. Smaller groups tend to only include a single male but larger groups may have many.

These lizards will spend part of their day basking in the sun. They are diurnal spending the day searching for food.

They will seek shelter in a burrow, rock crevice or among tree roots. Armadillo lizards are considered shy and dive for cover if disturbed.

Armadillo girdled lizards will communicate through head bobbing, tail wagging or tongue flicking.

Armadillo Girdled Lizard

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the armadillo girdled lizard include birds of prey.

When threatened the armadillo girdled lizard will curl up in to a ball and hold its tail in its mouth. This will present the spines outward to help protect them against attack. When threatened they may hold this position for up to an hour.

Where they are close to cover they will wedge themselves between rocks rather than roll up. Their flattened body means they can enter spaces smaller than most of their predators.

Armadillo girdled lizards are able to perform tail autonomy. This allows them to lose their tail and grow it back to escape a threat.

Humans have affected the population of the armadillo girdled lizard though over collection to fuel the pet trade. Their habit of living in groups makes it easy for poachers to collect large numbers and this could wipe our entire populations.

Quick facts

The name of the armadillo lizard comes from the South American mammals famous for rolling up in to a ball when threatened.

Their scientific name Ouroborus cataphractus comes from the mythical Ouroboros which is found in many ancient cultures. This Ouroboros is said to eat its on tail to sustain life in an eternal cycle of renewal.

Armadillo Girdled Lizard

Photo Credits

Top and Middle One

Handré Basson, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle Two

CC BY-SA 2.5,


Frank wouters, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

National Geographic Society (U. S.), 2012. National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia. Natl Geographic Soc Childrens Books.

Bates, M.F., Tolley, K. & Mouton, P.L.F.N. 2018. Ouroborus cataphractus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2018: e.T5333A115650102. Downloaded on 20 April 2021. 2021. Blue Planet Biomes - Armadillo Lizard. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2021].

SANBI. 2021. Armadillo Girdled Lizards threatened as they become pets in Japan - SANBI. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2021].

Bouchard, K. 2009. "Cordylus cataphractus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 20, 2021 at

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