Melissa Kaplan's
Herp Care Collection
Last updated January 1, 2014

Cordylus sp.

Girdle-tailed Lizards, Sungazers and Armadillo Lizards are just some of the common names for members of this genus.

©2001 Melissa Kaplan


The genus Cordylus is native to Southern Africa. There are twenty-eight species in the hot (depending on the species), dry, rocky regions. Members of the Cordylidae family, these lizards are in the group of spiny-tailed or girdled-tailed lizards in the Scincomorpha infraorder.

C. angolensis
C. aridus
C. campbelli
C. cataphractus
[armadillo lizard]
C. cloetei
C. coeruleopunctatus
C. Cordylus
[common girdled]
C. giganteus
C. imkeae
C. jordani
C. lawrenci
C. macropholis
C. mclachlani
C. minor

C. namaquensis
C. niger
C. nyikae
C. oelofseni
C. peersi
C. polyzonus
C. pustulatus
C. rhodesianus
C. rivae
C. tasmani
C. tropidosternum
C. ukingensis
C. vittifer
C. warreni
[forest armadillo]

Source: TIGR Database

The Cordylus are found through dry, semi-arid regions. Diurnal, terrestrial and somewhat fossorial and saxicolous, they live in rocky outcroppings and boulder fields, hiding in crevices or burrows they dig (C. giganteus). When threatened, they retreat to burrows or crevices and inflate themselves to lodge themselves in, making extraction difficult.

Largely insectivorous, they are opportunistic omnivores, with species of all sizes occasionally eating plant matter as well as insects, small mammals, birds, etc.

As with many types of lizards, the males have larger femoral pores than the males.

The females are ovoviviparous, bearing 1-6 young a year. (Ovo=egg; viviparous=live bearing - so these are a mix of the two forms of birthing: eggs are incubated inside the female, hatching inside or immediately upon being laid); some sources call them viviparous.

Captive Environment

Terrarium should contain a thick layer of sand and some securely stacked rocks formed to make crevices into which the lizard can retreat for shade or to hide when stressed. A flat branch laid along the ground is fine, assuming a large enough enclosure. Assuming a large enough enclosure, an small aloe plant or other non-spiny, xerophilic plant may be placed in one corner. Cordylus needs lots of hiding places. If the rocky area is built up on one end and suitably arranged, it may also be used as a basking are when the daytime heat lamp is placed above this area.

Some say a drinking water dish is not absolutely necessary if the one area of the enclosure is sprayed daily (this would be an ideal place for the plant and some cupped rocks to collect the water). As always, the problem with this is that the lizard may be thirsty at other times. A small shallow bowl kept filled with fresh water ensures water availability ad lib. In addition, the substrate should have one area that does not dry out completely (they lay in this area and take up water through their skin.

Temperatures and Lighting
Daytime temperatures need to be around 30 C (86 F), with a basking area up to 120-130 F. This means a LARGE tank so that the lizard has plenty of room in which to adjust its body temperature. The temperature differences in the wilde between the air temps outside the burrows and crevices and inside them are surprisingly diverse; a large enclosure with a significant portion of the burrowing substrate and crevices scattered at increasing distances away from the basking light will provide a thermal gradient along which the lizard can thermoregulate. Night time air temps can drop to 60-68 on the cooler end, mid 70s in warm end.

The Cordylus needs access to UVB 12-14 hrs/day.

As with all species, they require darkness at night so use of non-white light heat sources will be required where the ambient room air temperature fails to meet the gradient needs.

Diet consists of a variety of arthropods (crickets, mealworms) with larger lizards taking king worms (Zoophoba) and mouse pups. Try a variety of plant matter: dark leafy greens, chopped fruits, yellow or orange flowers, etc.

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