Western Girdled Lizard
Zonosaurus laticaudatus (Grandidier, 1869)

Family: Cordylidae (Gerrhousaurinae) - Girdled Lizards

Order: Squamata (Sauria) - Lizards

Class: Reptilia

Phylum: Chordata - Vertebrates

Kingdom: Animalia

Red List status: Not listed

Snout-vent length: Mean 135 mm

Western girdled lizard. Tulear Region, Madagascar


Throughout western Madagascar, as far north as Sambirano. Populations are also known from the southeast coast. Within the main western range, the species occurs in separated northwestern and western populations

            Range            Description            Habitat            Behaviour            Taxonomy            References

A robustly-built lizard with well-developed limbs and tail, and a lateral fold of skin that runs from the base of the neck along the length of the flank. The body is dark brown, irregularly patterned along the back and sides with small cream and black spots. In some cases spotting is so dense that the animal appears blackish. Two thick cream stripes run along the sides of the dorsum from just behind the head to the tail. These stripes are widest behind the head, becoming narrower towards the tail. In some cases, the stripes may become broken into a line of spots beyond mid-body; the row of spots continues on to the tail. Head colouration is a lighter brown than the ground colour, and some animals may have a red throat.

Similar species: The presence of a lateral skin fold distinguishes girdled lizards from skinks; in addition, no Malagasy skinks possess longitudinal stripes that become narrower towards the tail. This latter feature also distinguishes the western girdled lizard from other species of Zonosaurus,  including the similar Z. karsteni and Z. madagascariensis. The western girdled lizard further differs from Z. madagascariensis in possessing stripes that begin behind, rather than on, the head, and in its distribution and habitat preference. Z. madagascariensis occurs throughout eastern Madagascar, mainly in evergreen rainforest. The western girdled lizard never exhibits mid-dorsal stripes. It is distinguished from members of Madagascar's other plated lizard genus, Tracheloptychus, by the presence of a skin fold that extends down the length of the body; in Tracheloptychus species the skin fold extends no further than the forelimb.  



This terrestrial lizard is often very abundant in disturbed habitats, including plantations and secondary forest, and also inhabits the dry forest of western Madagascar.  The species is also known from some areas of humid forest.



While predominantly terrestrial, the western girdled lizard is adaptable in its choice of microhabitats, and both arboreal behaviour has been documented in this species. Animals bask on rocks during the warmest parts of the day; in southern Madagascar, sightings are most likely between 10.00 and 16.00.

The western girdled lizard has been observed to dive up to 20 cm beneath the surface of pools to evade predators. Animals can remain submerged among leaf litter at the bottom of a waterbody for at least three minutes before surfacing for air. Animals may swim distances of half a metre or more.

Diet: Omnivorous. This species is known to include both invertebrate prey and fruit in its diet.



Despite its wide, disjunct distribution molecular evidence confirms that Z. laticaudatus represents a single species (Yoder et al, 2005).




D'Cruze, N.C. (2006) Zonosaurus laticaudatus (Western girdled lizard): semiaquatic defensive behaviour. Herpetological Bulletin 98: 37-39

Glaw, F. and Vences, M. (2007) A Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Madagascar. Third Edition. Cologne, Vences & Glaw Verlag: 496pp

Yoder, A.D., Olson, L.E., Hanley, C., Heckman, K.L., Rasoloarsion, R., Russell, A.L., Ranivo, J., Soarmalala, V., Karanth, K.P., Raselimanana, A.P. & Goodman, S.P. (2005) A multidimensional approach for detecting species patterns in Malagasy vertebrates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102 supp.1: 6857-6594