All About the Armadillo Lizard: Facts, Behavior, and Care

One of the most striking features of armadillo lizards is their armor-like skin, which is covered in sharp, bumpy scales. These scales resemble the armored plating of an armadillo, hence their name. The scales serve as a protective layer, defending the lizard against predators and other potential threats. Their strong, muscular tails also contribute to their defense mechanism, enabling them to curl up into a tight ball, making it difficult for predators to harm them.

As pets, armadillo lizards require special attention and care to thrive in captivity. They need a secure and spacious enclosure with a combination of heat lamps and UVB lighting to mimic their natural habitat. Additionally, a suitable diet that consists mainly of insects and occasionally small vertebrates should be provided. The correct temperature and humidity levels within their habitat are crucial for their overall well-being.

What is an Armadillo Lizard?

Armadillo lizards are characterized by their armored appearance, which helps protect them from predators. Their bodies are covered with small, bony plates, giving them a distinctive armored look. These plates are made of keratin, the same material found in human hair and nails. The armor extends from the top of their heads to the tip of their tails, providing them with excellent protection.

These lizards have a unique ability to curl their bodies into a ball by lifting their tails over their heads and tucking them underneath. This defensive behavior makes them difficult to prey upon. When threatened, an armadillo lizard will roll into a ball, exposing only its armored outer layer, making it nearly impervious to attacks from predators.

Armadillo lizards are also known for their strong jaws and sharp teeth, which they use to crush the exoskeletons of their insect prey. They are primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of insects such as ants, beetles, and termites. In captivity, they can be fed a diet of mixed insects, supplemented with calcium and vitamins to ensure their optimal health.

Overall, armadillo lizards are fascinating creatures with their unique appearance and behavior. Their armored bodies and ability to roll into a ball are some of the characteristics that make them truly remarkable. Whether in the wild or as pets, these lizards continue to captivate the hearts of reptile enthusiasts around the world.

Appearance and Physical Characteristics

Armadillo Lizards have a flat body and are small in size, typically measuring around 6-9 inches in length. They have short, stubby legs and a long tail that aids in their balance and movement. Their colors can vary depending on the species, but they usually have a combination of shades of brown, grey, and black, providing them with excellent camouflage in their natural habitat.

One of the most striking features of the Armadillo Lizard is their spiky and bumpy skin. Their scales are thick and heavily armored, providing them with a strong defense against potential predators. When threatened, these lizards will curl up into a tight ball, using their scales as protection against any would-be attackers.

Another unique physical characteristic of Armadillo Lizards is their sturdy and robust skull. Their jaw and head structure are designed to allow them to crush and consume hard-shelled prey, such as insects and small crustaceans. This specialized adaptation of their skull enables them to eat a variety of food sources and aids in their survival in their natural habitat.

In addition to their armor-like scales and robust skull, Armadillo Lizards also have a forked tongue, which helps them to sense and detect their surroundings. This adaptation allows them to locate prey and navigate their environment effectively. Their forked tongue is highly sensitive to chemical cues in the air, assisting them in hunting and finding potential mates.

Overall, the Armadillo Lizard’s unique appearance and physical characteristics make them a fascinating reptile species with a remarkable set of adaptations for survival in their native habitats.

Habitat and Distribution

Although the armadillo lizard has a limited distribution, it is considered locally common within its range. However, its populations have been impacted by habitat loss due to human activities, such as mining and urbanization.

Conservation efforts have been implemented to protect the armadillo lizard and its habitat. In some areas, these lizards are protected by law, and there are ongoing initiatives to educate local communities about the importance of conservation and the need to preserve these unique reptiles.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Armadillo lizards are primarily diurnal, meaning they are most active during the day. They spend their time basking in the sun to warm up their bodies and then go off in search of food. These lizards are territorial and can often be found in rocky areas or crevices where they feel safe and secure.

While armadillo lizards are generally solitary creatures, they do engage in social behaviors during the breeding season. Males will engage in territorial displays to attract females, and once a female is interested, the pair will mate. Female armadillo lizards are not the most nurturing parents and will typically lay their eggs in shallow burrows or crevices, leaving the young to fend for themselves once they hatch.

Armadillo lizards are primarily insectivores, feeding on a diet consisting of various insects such as ants, termites, and beetles. They have sharp teeth that they use to capture and consume their prey. These lizards are well adapted for a desert habitat and can survive for long periods without water, obtaining most of their moisture from the insects they consume.

Diet and Feeding Habits

The diet and feeding habits of armadillo lizards are fascinating and unique. These reptiles are insectivores, which means they primarily feed on insects. Their diet consists mainly of ants and termites, but they also eat other small invertebrates such as beetles and spiders. They have a strong preference for ants, and studies have shown that they can consume a large number of ants in a single feeding session.

Armadillo lizards have specialized adaptations that allow them to capture and consume their prey. One of these adaptations is their long, sticky tongue, which they use to catch and pull in insects. Their tongue is covered in a sticky secretion that helps to immobilize the prey. Once the insect is caught, the armadillo lizard uses its sharp teeth to chew and crush the exoskeleton, allowing for easier digestion.

These lizards have also developed unique feeding behavior. They have been observed using their forelimbs to dig into ant nests and termite mounds to reach their prey. This behavior, combined with their rough scales, allows them to protect themselves from the stings and bites of their prey.

Reproduction and Life Cycle of the Armadillo Lizard

The reproduction and life cycle of the armadillo lizard are fascinating and unique. These small reptiles have specific behaviors and adaptations that contribute to their successful reproduction.

Mating and Courtship:

During the mating season, male armadillo lizards engage in territorial displays to attract female lizards. They perform head bobbing and push-up movements to establish dominance and impress potential mates. Once a female is receptive, mating occurs.

Egg Laying:

After mating, female armadillo lizards lay small clutch sizes of around two to six eggs. The eggs are usually buried in soil or sand, which provides thermal insulation and protection. The female selects a suitable nesting site and carefully constructs a tunnel where she deposits the eggs.


The incubation period for armadillo lizard eggs varies from species to species. It usually lasts between 60 to 90 days. The temperature and humidity of the environment play a crucial role in the development of the embryos. During this time, the female closely guards the nest and ensures the conditions are optimal for the eggs to hatch.

Hatching and Development:

After the incubation period, the eggs hatch, and young armadillo lizards emerge. They are fully independent and capable of fending for themselves from birth. The hatchlings are miniature versions of the adults, possessing the same distinctive armored appearance.

Growth and Maturation:

Parental Care:

Armadillo lizards do not provide any parental care beyond nesting and protecting the eggs during the incubation period. Once the eggs have hatched, the young lizards are left to fend for themselves and navigate the world independently.


Armadillo lizards have a relatively long lifespan, often living up to 20 years or more in captivity. However, their exact lifespan in the wild is not well-documented.

Threats and Conservation Status of the Armadillo Lizard

Threats to Armadillo Lizard

  • Habitat Loss: One of the major threats to the armadillo lizard is habitat loss. These lizards primarily inhabit the arid and rocky regions of southern Africa. However, the expansion of human settlements, agricultural activities, and mining have resulted in the destruction and fragmentation of their natural habitat.
  • Predation: Armadillo lizards are preyed upon by various predators, including birds of prey, carnivorous mammals, and snakes. The loss of their natural habitat also exposes them to increased predation risk.
  • Illegal Wildlife Trade: The armadillo lizard is often targeted for the illegal pet trade due to its unique appearance. This trade puts additional pressure on their populations, as it involves capturing lizards from the wild.

Conservation Status

The armadillo lizard is currently listed as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This indicates that the species is facing a high risk of extinction in the wild if appropriate conservation measures are not implemented.

Various conservation efforts are being undertaken to protect the armadillo lizard populations. These include:

  1. Habitat Protection: Establishing protected areas and reserves for the armadillo lizard to conserve their natural habitat and ensure their survival.
  2. Monitoring and Research: Conducting studies and monitoring programs to assess population trends, habitat requirements, and threats faced by the armadillo lizard.
  3. Community Involvement: Engaging local communities in conservation activities to raise awareness and promote sustainable practices to protect the armadillo lizard and its habitat.
  4. Legislation and Law Enforcement: Enforcing strict laws and regulations against the illegal capture, trade, and poaching of armadillo lizards.

By implementing such conservation measures and raising awareness about the importance of protecting the armadillo lizard, we can ensure the long-term survival of this fascinating reptile species.

9. Interaction with Humans

The Armadillo lizard is not commonly found as a pet, mainly due to its specialized care requirements and protected status in its native habitat. However, some reptile enthusiasts and experienced herpetologists do keep Armadillo lizards as pets.

Armadillo lizards are insectivores, and their diet in captivity should consist primarily of insects such as crickets, mealworms, and roaches. It is essential to provide a varied and balanced diet to ensure their nutritional needs are met.

Armadillo Lizards in Conservation

Armadillo lizards are currently protected in their native habitat due to their dwindling numbers in the wild. Their populations have been severely affected by habitat loss, illegal collection for the pet trade, and being hunted for their skin. Conservation efforts are being made to preserve their natural habitats and combat the illegal wildlife trade.

It is crucial for individuals to respect and appreciate Armadillo lizards in their natural environment and refrain from capturing or harming them. By supporting conservation projects and promoting environmental awareness, we can contribute to the protection and preservation of these remarkable creatures for future generations.

Popular Armadillo Lizard Species

There are several popular species of armadillo lizards that are commonly kept as pets. These unique and fascinating reptiles are sought after for their unusual appearance and interesting behaviors. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most well-known armadillo lizard species:

Giant Armadillo Lizard (Cordylus tropidosternum)

Armadillo Girdled Lizard (Ouroborus cataphractus)

Armadillo Lizard as Pets

Armadillo Lizard as Pets

Appearance and Behavior:

Housing and Care:

To keep an armadillo lizard as a pet, you need to provide a well-ventilated terrarium with proper temperature and humidity levels. The terrarium should be spacious enough to allow the lizard to move around comfortably. The substrate should be made of a mix of sand and soil to mimic their natural habitat. It is essential to provide hiding spots and branches for them to climb on for maximum comfort.

Diet and Feeding:

The armadillo lizard is an insectivore and mainly feeds on insects, such as crickets and mealworms. It is crucial to provide a varied diet for optimal nutrition. You can also supplement their diet with calcium and vitamin D3 to ensure they receive the necessary nutrients.

Handling and Interaction:

Armadillo lizards are not known to be the best reptiles for handling. They are primarily a display species, and excessive handling can cause stress to them. However, it is still possible to interact with them by gently observing their behavior and providing them with a suitable environment.


How to Care for an Armadillo Lizard

How to Care for an Armadillo Lizard

Here are some tips for caring for an armadillo lizard:

  1. Enclosure: Armadillo lizards need a spacious enclosure that mimics their natural habitat. It should have plenty of hiding spots, rocks, and branches for climbing. A glass terrarium or a wooden enclosure with a secure lid is recommended.
  2. Temperature and Lighting: Armadillo lizards require a warm environment with a temperature gradient. The basking area should be around 90-95°F (32-35°C), while the cooler side of the enclosure should be around 75-80°F (24-27°C). A UVB light source is also necessary to provide the lizards with vitamin D3.
  3. Substrate: A suitable substrate for armadillo lizards is a mixture of sand and soil. This substrate allows them to burrow and dig, which is a natural behavior.
  4. Handling: Armadillo lizards are not known to be particularly social or friendly towards humans. It is best to observe them and limit handling to prevent stress or injury.

Remember, owning any pet requires commitment and responsibility. Before getting an armadillo lizard, make sure you have done thorough research and are fully prepared for their specific needs. Providing a suitable environment and proper care will ensure that your armadillo lizard lives a long and healthy life.

Tips for Armadillo Lizard Owners

2. Temperature and Lighting: Maintain the appropriate temperature and lighting conditions in the enclosure. Armadillo lizards require a temperature range of 78-88°F (25-31°C) during the day and a slight drop in temperature at night. Use a basking light and UVB light to provide the necessary heat and UVB radiation.

3. Substrate: Use a suitable substrate such as reptile carpet or newspaper to line the bottom of the enclosure. Avoid using loose substrates that could be accidentally ingested by the lizard.

4. Diet: Armadillo lizards are insectivores, and their diet should consist mainly of insects such as crickets, mealworms, and dubia roaches. Offer a variety of insects to ensure a balanced diet. Dust the insects with calcium and vitamin supplements before feeding.

5. Hydration: Provide a shallow water dish for your armadillo lizard to drink from. The water should be changed regularly to ensure cleanliness. Additionally, mist the enclosure once or twice a day to maintain proper humidity levels.

6. Handling and Socialization: Armadillo lizards are not known to be social animals, so limit handling to avoid causing stress. When necessary, handle your lizard with care and support its body to prevent injury.

7. Health Monitoring: Regularly monitor your armadillo lizard for any signs of illness or injury. Look for changes in appetite, behavior, or physical appearance. If you notice any abnormalities, consult a reptile veterinarian.

8. Environmental Enrichment: Provide environmental enrichment by adding branches, rocks, and other objects for the lizard to climb and explore. This helps prevent boredom and promotes natural behaviors.

9. Cleanliness: Regularly clean the enclosure, removing any waste or uneaten food. Keep the enclosure hygienic to prevent the growth of bacteria or parasites.

10. Research and Education: Continually educate yourself about armadillo lizards to ensure you are providing the best care possible. Stay informed about their natural behaviors, habitat, and any new research or advancements in lizard care.

By following these tips, you can create a suitable and healthy environment for your armadillo lizard and ensure its overall well-being.