Monday 20 July 2015


Image: Joachim S. Müller
Smaug giganteus

Image: Joachim S. Müller

Image: Matthias Wicke

Image: Christoph Würbel
Sungazers have SPIKES!

They belong to a whole family of spiky lizards called Cordylidae, also known as Girdled Lizards or Spinytail Lizards. At some 20 cm (8 in) long, not including tail, Sungazers are the biggest of the lot. They also have the mightiest spikes!

Image: Joachim S. Müller
Because of their size, Sungazers are also known as Giant Girdled Lizards or Giant Dragon Lizards. Scientists initially named them Cordylus giganteus but after some of that good ol' molecular research (DNAgazing) they decided Sungazers and a few other species required a whole new genus of their own. Thus we have Smaug giganteus, Smaug being a dragon from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Hobbit.

Smaug was a lot bigger than the Sungazer but not nearly as spiky. You win some, you lose some. He also lived in a mountain with his vast piles of sparkly gold and treasure. Sungazers get to look at the vastest and sparkliest treasure of them all. The sun!

Sungazers love to bask in the sun, but not in a slouchy, couch potato way. These guys have poise. They lie on the ground with their head proudly raised up to the sky. It's a very dragon-like pose! And they can also snap up any insects who wander by, which is less dragon-like.

If predators come along Sungazers will swiftly cease their sun-lounging and leap into a nearby burrow, swishing their slicey-dicey tail at anything who pokes their head in. Sungazers dig their own burrows in the sandy soils of their South African grassland habitat. There isn't a whole lot of this habitat left these days so Sungazers are split into several, scattered populations, the biggest one in an area called Free State... which is where J. R. R. Tolkien was born!

Image: BlueRidgeKitties
Sungazer burrows can be over a foot deep and extend up to 6 feet into the earth, but they may well have company. Sungazers are quite social and they usually have lots of neighbouring burrows forming a kind of Sungazer village and there can even be more than one Sungazer squeezed into the same burrow!

That's crazy! Don't they realise Sungazers have SPIKES?


Lear's Fool said...

I love how they move, it's just eccentric enough.

Porakiya said...

these guys are awesome, just like dragons are awesome XD Also, they have this...character?...about them when they walk

Joseph JG said...

@Lear's Fool: Ha! Yeah, I like how they constantly return to that pose.

@Porakiya Draekojin: Yeah, I like how proud they seem to look. They have a healthy sense of self-worth!

TexWisGirl said...

very cool!

Joseph JG said...

That about sums it up!