The Chinese crocodile lizard is so named for
the appearance of its tail, which has an enlarged
pair of scales running in two sharply protruding
ridges down its length like a crocodile.
Coloration is highly variable, combining
shades of grey and brown on the upper surface and
yellowish-tan on the lower with distinctive
bright orange markings. Males are usually more
colorful than females, often being strikingly
adorned with brilliant orange sides and throat,
occasionally extending into the side of the head,
with these bright colors intensifying during the
breeding season. Newborn crocodile lizards are
uniformly deep brown, with a light tan snout and
A relatively small lizard, an adult crocodile
lizard is up to 16 inches long and weighs up to
10 ounces, with males being larger than females.
The Chinese crocodile lizard is
found in southern China and northeastern Vietnam.
It lives in evergreen and bamboo forests near
slow-moving streams or ponds with rocky
and sandy bottoms with vines dangling above.
Habits and Behaviors
Although usually solitary, the crocodile
lizard congregates with other lizards in rock
crevices or tree holes before hibernating from
November to March. Hibernation is triggered when
the water temperatures drop below 60 degrees
Fahrenheit. Hibernation ends in March when the
pond water warms.
The Chinese crocodile lizard is able to dive
beneath the surface and remain motionless or move
around underwater for long periods of time. To do
so it is able to reduce its respiratory rate
drastically. It will also spend long periods of
time out of the water, frequently remaining
motionless for hours in a "metabolic
When threatened, the crocodile lizard will
flee into the water. It swims using its powerful
tail and is a strong swimmer. If caught, it
becomes a fierce fighter, struggling violently
all the while defecating, hissing, and biting to
Crocodile lizards are most active during the
day, with activity concentrated in the morning
and evening, but they rarely engage in intense
Breeding takes place in July
and August. The female is pregnant for
8-12 months, and she gives live birth to two to
twelve offspring. The young are very active at
birth, feeding and swimming almost immediately.
Neither parent cares for the babies. The young
remain at their birth pond area for a few weeks
and then leave to seek their own pond or stream
to defend. They reach sexual
maturity at 2-3 years.
Crocodile lizards feed on snails, tadpoles,
dragonfly larvae, worms, and insects.
genus & species Shinisaurus crocodilurus
Toronto Zoo http://www.torontozoo.com/ExploretheZoo/AnimalDetails.asp?pg=575
Utah's Hogle Zoo http://www.hoglezoo.org/meet_our_animals/animal_finder/Chinese_Crocodile_Lizard
Questions or comments about