Chinese Crocodile Lizard

Chinese Crocodile Lizard Shinisaurus crocodilurus

Type of Animal:

Subtropical forests in/near freshwater ponds/slow-moving streams/pools, evergreen forest in/near slow-flowing streams/ponds/shallow pools, bamboo forest in/near slow-flowing streams/ponds/shallow pools, cool forests, shallow slow-moving pools covered by vines/vegetation, slow-moving water areas surrounded by Chinese weeping cypress/Phyllostachys bamboo/maples, small ponds surrounded by Chinese weeping cypress/Phyllostachys bamboo/maples

SE China & NE Vietnam

Gray-brown (sometimes w/ greenish tinge) w/ reddish/red-orange neck/throat/side markings & alternating bands of light/dark marks, 2 rows of crocodile-like bony scales, muscular crocodile-like tail, males more colorful than females & have more red-orange markings, hatchlings deep brown w/ lighter tan head, yellow-tan underside

Snails, insects, larvae, worms, tadpoles, fish, crabs, shrimp, lobsters, young mice, young rats, fruit, berries

Status in Wild:

Breeding in zoos, aquariums, wildlife centers, & herpetoculture

Solitary or harems of a male w/ 2-5 females

Additional Info:

Young: Neonate
Group: Leap

Male: 10 oz
Female: 8 oz
Young: 0.6 oz

9-14 months 

Life Span:
10 years

Body Length:
Male: 12.64-14.88 in
Female: 11.53-13.58 in
Young: 6 in

Tail Length:
Male: 6.73-8.5 in
Female: 5.55-7.51 in

Main predators are raptors, snakes, & carnivorous/omnivorous mammals.
Endangered due to water pollution, habitat loss/degradation, pet trade, deforestation, use of body parts in traditional medicine, mining, damming, human encroachment, & agricultural expansion. Species as a whole numbers around 2,000-2,500. Vietnamese population may be as low as around 150 individuals.
These lizards viviparous, giving birth to 1-15 live young.
Sexually mature at a year old.
Active during the day (diurnal).
Hibernate/brumate in cooler weather & more social during this time. Males still don’t tolerate each other & don’t share space.

Fun Fact(s):
Only living member of its family Shinisauridae.

Can remain underwater for extended periods of time by regulating respiratory rate.
Collected for medicine trade due to belief they cure insomnia.
1st mode of defense is to flee but if that doesn’t work, they’ll struggle violently, defecating/hissing/biting to free themselves. Bites can be quite painful.
If threatened in tree/on land, they’ll jump into water & propel tail.
Sometimes referred to as “lizard of great sleepiness” by native people due to ability to remain motionless for hours.
Chinese Crocodile Lizard, stock photo

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