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Monday, February 20, 2017

Species Fact Profile: Chinese Crocodile Lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus)

Chinese Crocodile Lizard
Shinisaurus crocodilurus (Ahl, 1930)

Range: Southeast China, Northeast Vietnam
Habitat: Evergreen Bamboo Forests, Mountain Streams
Diet: Insects, Small Fish, Tadpoles
Social Grouping: Solitary
Reproduction: Breeding season is July and August.  2-7 young are born live after a gestation period of 8-12 months.  Young are independent at birth.  Sexually mature at 2-3 years old
Lifespan: 10 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Endangered, CITES Appendix II

  • Body length up to 45 centimeters.  Most prominent features are the enlarged, bony scales on the back and tail, making the lizard resemble a crocodile
  • Upper surfaces are mottled grey and brown, turning into yellow or tan on the understand with some distinctive bright orange markings, especially on the sides, throat, and the side of the head.  Males tend to be more colorful than females, especially in the breeding season
  • Locally known as "the Lizard of Great Sleepiness" due to its ability to remain motionless for hours at a time, even underwater (it is capable to reducing its breathing rate).  This tendency towards inertia is responsible for a native belief that it can cure insomnia
  • Though primarily solitary, with one lizard usually occupying each pool, several individuals will share a winter den in a rock crevice from November through March
  • Spends most of its time on rocks and branches overhanging waterways, will take to the water quickly if disturbed
  • Habitat loss and disturbance has resulted in the drying up of pools; loss of plant cover leaves lizards more vulnerable to predators.  Also collected for the pet trade and for its role in Traditional Chinese Medicine

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