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Tropical girdled lizard,
Cordylus tropidosternum
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Clade: Cordyliformes
Family: Cordylidae
Fitzinger, 1826
10 genera (see text)

Cordylidae is a family of small- to medium-sized lizards that occur in southern and eastern Africa. They are commonly known as girdled lizards, spinytail lizards, or girdle-tail lizards.[1][2]

Cordylidae is closely related to the family Gerrhosauridae, occurring in Africa and Madagascar. These two scientific families of lizards, known as Cordyliformes or Cordyloidea, are sometimes combined into a larger concept of Cordylidae. Recent molecular analyses confirm the clade made up of Cordylidae and Gerrhosauridae (Cordyloidea) and place it in a larger clade including Xantusiidae (Cordylomorpha Vidal & Hedges, 2009).[3]

Description and behavior[edit]

Girdled lizards are diurnal and insectivorous. They are terrestrial, mostly inhabiting crevices in rocky terrain, although at least one species digs burrows and another lives under exfoliating bark on trees. They have flattened heads and bodies, and are distinguished by a heavy armour of osteoderms and large, rectangular, scales, arranged in regular rows around the body and tail. Many species have rings of spines on the tail, that aid in wedging the animal into sheltering crevices, and also in dissuading predators.[4]

Most species have four limbs, but those in the genus Chamaesaura are almost entirely limbless, with only tiny spikes in place of the hind limbs. The family includes both egg-laying and ovoviviparous species.[4]


List of genera
Genus Image Type species Taxon author Common name Species
C. anguina
C. anguina (Linnaeus, 1758) Schneider, 1801 Grass lizards 5
C. niger
C. cordylus (Linnaeus, 1758) Laurenti, 1768 Girdled lizards 21
H. capensis
H. capensis (Smith, 1838) Smith, 1838 Cliff lizards 2
K. polyzonus
K. polyzonus (Smith, 1838) Stanley, Bauer, Jackman, Branch & Mouton, 2011 Karusa lizards 2
N. peersi
N. pustulatus (W. Peters, 1862) Stanley, Bauer, Jackman, Branch & Mouton, 2011 Namaqua girdled lizards 5
N. coeruleopunctatus
N. coeruleopunctatus (Methuen & Hewitt, 1913) Stanley, Bauer, Jackman, Branch & Mouton, 2011 Blue-spotted girdled lizard 1
O. cataphractus
O. cataphractus (F. Boie, 1828) Stanley, Bauer, Jackman, Branch & Mouton, 2011 Armadillo girdled lizard 1
P. relictus
P. capensis Smith, 1844 Smith, 1844 Flat lizards 16
P. subviridis
P. microlepidotus (Cuvier, 1829) Smith, 1838 Crag lizards 6
S. giganteus
S. giganteus (Smith, 1844) Stanley, Bauer, Jackman, Branch & Mouton, 2011 Girdled lizards 9


  1. ^ "Cordylidae." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007.
  2. ^ "Cordylidae." Bill Branch. 1998. Field Guide to Snakes and other reptiles of Southern Africa. Struik Publishers, Cape Town.
  3. ^ Nicolas Vidal; S. Blair Hedges The molecular evolutionary tree of lizards, snakes, and amphisbaenians
  4. ^ a b Bauer, Aaron M. (1998). Cogger, H.G.; Zweifel, R.G. (eds.). Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. San Diego: Academic Press. pp. 160–161. ISBN 0-12-178560-2.

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