Australian Frill Neck Info

 Frill neck lizards are found throughout the southern regions of New Guinea and the northern regions of Australia (shaded areas on map).  They are relatively abundant, and not considered endangered or threatened. 

NT (North Territory)  -  Brown to red, many have variations of red frills, lots of color variation in this form.  Large, can grow up to 100 cm.

QLD (Queensland) - Grey to black, often have yellow and/or orange frills, but they vary a lot in color.  Grow up to 70 cm.

WA/Kimberly (Western Australia) - Similar to NTs, slightly smaller (grow up to 70 cm), can be lighter colored with a lot of orange on their frills, especially toward the north. 

New Guinea (found in the southern regions of Papua New Guinea and a bit of southeastern Indonesia) - Most are grey, although there are some brown & red variations.  Their frills are often dark (black or black/red) with yellow flecking under the chin.  These are the smallest variety; males often max out at around 24 (+/- a few) inches, with females a bit smaller.  Most frillies in the American pet trade originate from Indonesian farms.


    Australian frill neck lizards can grow to over 3 ft long, males can weigh up to 800-900 grams, and females stay smaller and may only reach up to 300-400 grams.  The NT form grows the largest, although there isn't a significant size difference between females from both areas.  


    In the wild, they feed mainly on termites, ants, cicadas, beetles, spiders, moths, butterflies, caterpillars, small lizards & mammals, and other arthropods, usually in the morning or late afternoon.  They spend the majority of their time in the trees and usually only (but often) climb down to the ground in hunt of food, or to battle out territorial conflicts.  Forest areas with grassy or low density undergrowth is generally their preferred habitat. 
    Predators include birds of prey, large snakes and lizards such as monitors, dingos, quolls, and feral cats.  The invasive cane toads are currently becoming a threat to them as well.

Breeding Cycle:

    Breeding generally occurs Sept-Oct, during the early part of the wet season.  Eggs are laid Nov-Feb, during the middle of the wet season, and they hatch 2-3 months later.

Seasonal influence:

        Australia's climate is characterized by two main seasons.  The dry season lasts from May to September, and the wet season lasts from December to March. 80% of the yearly rainfall occurs during the four months of the wet/monsoon season, and only 2% falls during the five months of the dry season. 

    Wet Season:
    Food is most abundant during the wet season, and much of their growth occurs during that time.  They must build up their body weight and fat reserves to last them through the dry season. 

    Dry Season:
    During the dry season, lack of water and food may induce aestivation for as long as three months.  This is a warm-weather equivalent to brumation, and helps them survive until food and water become more available.  At this time, most if not all of their water intake is consumed through the available prey items.  They spend much of the dry season high in a tree canopy, and their metabolism is greatly slowed, down to nearly a quarter of their wet season metabolic rate.  There are relatively few sightings of them because of their decreased activity.  Due to the dryness, fires are frequent in certain areas.  The frills take refuge in tree tops and some have learned to hide in termite mounds.  A large percentage of the population is killed by the fires, however, the survivors flourish because of the reduced undergrowth, which leaves prey items on the ground exposed.  Their life span in the wild greatly varies and once they reach adulthood, it is difficult to determine age.  However, it is known they can live for up to 20 yrs in captivity, given proper husbandry.

    Summer - December to February
    Autumn - March to May
    Winter - June to August
    Spring - September to November

General climate:
    Wet season - Dec to March
    Dry season - May to Oct
Indigenous Calendar:
    Wakaringding- (Nov, Dec)  Start of wet season, humid, rains begin.
    Jiorrk - (Jan, Feb)  Wet season, lots of rain.
    Bungarung - (Mar, mid Apr)  Tail end of wet season, rainy, hot.
    Jungalk - (Mid Apr, May)  Beginning of dry season, weather still hot.
    Malaparr - (June, Aug)  Dry season, weather is cool, fires abundant.
    Worrwopmi - (Sept, Oct)  Hot, very humid, build-up to rainy season.

Classification information:

 Order Squamata 
 Suborder Lacertilia Lizards
 Family Agamidae Acrodonts, the "dragon" lizards, ~350 species, includes sailfins, uromastyx, calotes,
 Subfamily Agaminae Includes bearded dragon, water dragon, forest dragons, and thorny devil, among others.
 Genus Chlamydosaurus "Chlamy" is from the Greek for cloak or cape
 Species kingii Named after Admiral Phillip Parker King who explored the Australian coast in early 1800's
  • There are no official subspecies, although there is a lot of variation between frilled dragons from different areas, see Australian vs New Guinea.  It is possible that in the future there might be two or three recognized subspecies.
  • It is a monotypic genus, there are no other species in the genus.
  • Commons names are frilled dragon (US), frilled lizard, frill neck lizard (Aus), frilly, and any combination of these.

Anatomical info:

  • They cannot drop their tails, unlike skinks, geckos, anoles, and others.  However, it can still be broken, and if so, it will not regenerate.
  • They run on their hind legs, one of a few reptile species capable of bipedal locomotion.  They are unique in their ability to walk upright.
  • The frill is mainly used for defense when threatened, and communication in courtship and territorial conflicts, and may also be useful in thermoregulation.  It is extended by means of a modified hyoid bone.  It is supported by the anterior horns of the hyoid, and erected by muscle attachments to the jaw. 
  • Their neck is very long to accommodate the size of their frill, and the additional length also helps them to adjust their center of balance, allowing them to walk upright.  Personal note based on readings and observations:  Frill size, neck length, and jaw length appear to be somewhat constrained.  Frillies with longer frills also appear to have longer necks and more pointed snouts regardless of body size.  
  • A unique feature of Agamids is that they possess both acrodont and pleurodont types of teeth.  Acrodont teeth are attached to the margin of jaw and they are not replaced, whereas pleurodont teeth are attached to the inner side of the jaw and are regularly shed and replaced.  The frills' large rostral pleurodont teeth resemble canine teeth in mammals.  These fangs are much larger and more pronounced in males, corresponding to their larger head size relative to the females.  In addition to catching prey and territorial fights, they are utilized by the male to grasp the upper edge of the female's frill to keep her secured while mating.

Captivity in Australia:

    Australian keepers mainly feed them woodies (specked roaches, aka lobster roaches - Nauphoeta cinerea), crickets, and fuzzes.  Licenses are required to own this lizard, and it is illegal to remove them from the wild.  Captive bred animals must be purchased from licensed dealers.  Hatchies in Australia can sell for $250-$600, depending on locale, color, size, etc.

NSW - Class 2 license required.
VIC  - Advanced license required.
QLD - Recreational license suffices.
NT - Permit required.
SA - Specialist permit required.

References/Recommended Reading:

Research Articles (Note: full text articles may be unavailable, depending on affiliation)

Keith Christian, Gavin Bedford and Anthony Griffiths
Journal of Herpetology  Vol. 29, No. 4 (Dec., 1995), pp. 576-583

Shine, R. (1990)
Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 40: 11–20.

GRIFFITHS, A. D. and CHRISTIAN, K. A. (1996)
Australian Journal of Ecology, 21: 386–398. 

Anthony D. Griffiths and Keith A. Christian
Oecologia   Vol. 106, No. 1 (1996), pp. 39-48

Anthony Griffiths, School for Environmental Research, Charles Darwin University, 2006

Anthony D. Griffiths
Copeia, Vol. 1999, No. 4 (Dec. 17, 1999), pp. 1089-1096

Shine, R and Lambeck, R (1989) .
Australian Wildlife Research 16 , 491–500.

Keith A. Christian, Anthony D. Griffiths and Gavin S. Bedford
Oecologia,  Volume 106, Number 1, 49-56, DOI: 10.1007/BF00334406

Keith A. Christian and Gavin S. Bedford
Ecology, Vol. 76, No. 1 (Jan., 1995), pp. 124-132

Keith Christian, Brian Green
Herpetologica,  Vol. 50, No. 3 (Sep., 1994), pp. 274-28

Ujvari, B., Shine, R. and Madsen, T. (2011)
Austral Ecology, 36: 126–130

Herpetologica Vol. 55, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 205-212

Keith A. Christian, Anthony D. Griffiths, Gavin Bedford and Graham Jenkin
Journal of Herpetology Vol. 33, No. 1 (Mar., 1999), pp. 12-17

Additional Research on C. kingii:

Beddard, F. E. (1905)
Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 75: 9–22.

Ujvari B, Dowton M, Madsen T.
Biol Lett. 2007 Apr 22;3(2):189-92.

Ujvari B, Madsen T.
Mitochondrial DNA. 2008 Oct;19(5):465-70.

Ujvari B, Dowton M, Madsen T.
Mol Ecol. 2008 Aug;17(15):3557-64.

Griffiths AD, Jones HI, Christian KA.
J Wildl Dis. 1998 Apr;34(2):381-5.

Keith A. Christian, Gavin S. Bedford
Canadian Journal of Zoology, 1995, 73:2302-2306, 10.1139/z95-272


Bedford, G. S. 1995. Anti-predator tactics from the Frilled Neck Lizard Chlamydosaurus kingii. Journal of the Victorian Herpetelogical Society 6(3): 120-130.

Brook, B.W. & Griffiths, A.D. (2004). Fire management for the Frillneck Lizard Chlamydosaurus kingii in northern Australia. In Species Conservation and Management: Case Studies Using RAMAS® GIS (eds H.R. Akçakaya, M.A. Burgman, O. Kindvall, P. Sjögren-Gulve, J. Hatfield & M.A. McCarthy).

Griffiths, A.D. and Brook B.W. (2002) Disturbance regimes and a sit-and-wait predator – burning for frillneck lizards. Savanna Landscapes in Northern Australia - fire and heterogeneity. Cooperative Research Centre for Tropical Savannas Management and the ARC Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management, Darwin.

Middleton, S.; Fitzgerald, A. & Pye, G. 1997. Captive breeding of the Frilled Lizard, Chlamydosaurus kingii. Monitor: Journal of the Victorian Herpetological Society 9 (1):6-7

Hörenberg, T. 2004. Ein echter Saurier im Terrarium: Die australische Kragenechse (Chlamydosaurus kingii). Reptilia (Münster) 9 (6): 68-73

Reisinger, M. 1995. Erfahrungen bei der Haltung und Vermehrung der Kragenechse Chlamydosaurus kingi. Elaphe 3 (3): 16-20

Günther, R. & Kapisa, M. 2003. Allochtone Populationen der Kragenechse, Chlamydosaurus kingii GRAY, 1825, und des Papua-Wasserdrachens, Lophognathus temporalis (GÜNTHER, 1867), auf der Insel Biak. Sauria 25 (2): 31-35

Bedford, G.S., Christian, K.A., and Griffiths, A.D. (1993). Preliminary investigations on the reproduction of the frillneck lizard (Chlamydosaurus kingii). pp. 127-32. In Lunney, D. and Ayers, D. (eds.), "Herpetology in Australia: A Diverse Discipline". Transactions of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales. Surrey Beatty and Sons, Sydney.