Tuesday, June 9, 2015


As a lover of fantasy, I am drawn to stories about dragons. The closest living things to dragons, in my opinion anyway, are lizards. Some of them are very fierce looking and others are just plain fun and interesting. This week we will visit and learn about a very unusual lizard. 

J.R. Tolkien picked the right name for the dreadful dragon that was the main protagonist in his book, The Hobbit. We’re all familiar with Tolkien’s Smaug. Apparently Smaug made such an impact on scientists that this lizard, which was originally known as cordylus giganteus, was renamed and is now also known as smaug giganteus. Art imitating life, or life imitating art? Ummm – you decide. It is commonly referred to as Sungazer Lizard or Girdled Lizard. 

Smaug Giganteus (Photo by Wilfried Berns/Creative Commons via Wikimedia)

Photo credit: San Diego Zoo (http://kids.sandiegozoo.org/animals/reptiles/sungazer)

Sungazer is a heavily armored lizard. The spikes on their heads are a form of defense. They inhabit burrows in the ground and the spikes prevent a predator from pulling them out of their homes. Some known predators are jackals, badgers and even birds. Getting a mouthful of spikes must not be pleasant, but these predators have a way of getting around that. As for our lizard, he likes to eat insects and an occasional mouse. Typically the Sungazer will sit and wait until a meal crosses its path. Although this lizard lives in large groups, each lizard will have its own burrow. 

This lizard is known as the Sungazer Lizard due to its habit of basking with its face pointed toward the sun. It is found only in the highlands of South Africa. We do not know how many are living in the wild and scientists are currently studying Sungazer to determine its status. It is assumed that they are rare. Even Arkive.org, which is one of my main sources for information, is still compiling data for those of us who want to learn more. Like you and me!!!

The Sungazer grows to a length of about fifteen or so inches when mature. They have live births and their babies can be as long as four inches.

Although they look fierce, they are quite benign and easy to handle. This makes our friend very tempting to the exotic pet trade, and may be one of the reasons why scientists are concerned about their status.

Sungazer is a magnificent reptile, which is, unfortunately, threatened by people. It lives in an area where men use the land for farming. Sadly, they are no match for a tractor or combine.

Photo Credit: Mike McGecko – You Tube

You all know how much I love to bring you a video about our featured animal. However, there weren’t any good videos about our friend the Sungazer. But do not despair! I have a video about another very interesting lizard that I know you will enjoy. This is David Attenborough talking about the Flat Lizard. He’s a really cool lizard and he just may be on my list of future blog posts - so stay tuned! 

According to the IUCN*, the Sungazer is ‘vulnerable.’ That means that it is endangered. Once studies are completed, the information we gather will help us to insure their survival in the wild. 

For more information about Sungazer, visit the following pages:

I hoped you enjoyed this week's post, and please come back again. We'll have fun exploring more of the world's endangered and unusual animals. 

*IUCN = International Union for Conservation of Nature


Jeanne E. Rogers, Award Winning Author 
The Sword of Demelza and The Gift of Sunderland 
Middle Grade Fantasy Where Endangered Animal Heroes Roam the Pages! 

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