The Tropical Girdled Lizard (Cordylus tropidosternum) is the most readily available of the 30+ Cordylus species, and offers an excellent introduction to the group. It is sometimes sold as the “Armadillo Lizard”, confusing purchasers who had in mind another (and, at $1,200+ each, vastly more expensive!) species with the same common name, C. cataphractus. It also occasionally appears under the name “East African Spiny-tailed Lizard”.
Tropical Girdled Lizards in Captivity
Don’t let their inexpensive price tag mislead you – Tropical GirdledLlizards are no less interesting in appearance or behavior than their pricey cousins. In fact, the “true” Armadillo Lizard, C. cataphractus, which is no longer exported from South Africa, is one of the shyest reptiles I’ve ever encountered.
When kept properly, these southeast African natives may reward you by reproducing, always a thrill for responsible herp keepers (judging from the size of the young, the event is less thrilling for the moms – please see below!). While not bold, they are no as retiring as most related species, and are relatively easy to observe.
Girdled Lizards give birth to 1-4 huge live youngsters. The hatchling pictured here, born at the Maritime Aquarium in Connecticut, is one of a litter of 2 – their total mass seemed to be nearly half that of their mother.
Two subspecies of tropical Girdled Lizards appear in the pet trade; to help determine which you have, and for a key to other species in the genus, please see this reference.
Over the last several years I have helped to set up new reptile and amphibian exhibit areas for The Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk, CT (long known for its excellent collection of native marine life). To learn more, please click here.