Function and evolution of the frill of the frillneck lizard, Chlamydosaurus kingii (Sauria : Agamidae)

Richard Shine*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Relative to body size, the frill of the Australian agamid lizard Chlamydosaurus kingii is one of the largest and most spectacular display structures seen in any animal species. More than 300 hours observation of free‐ranging lizards, combined with data on museum specimens, revealed that the frill is used primarily for intraspecific communication and predator deterrence. Earlier hypotheses on alternative uses for the frill (gliding, food storage, thermoregulation or auditory enhancement) are not supported. The folded frill may also enhance camouflage, but this is probably a fortuitous effect rather than an adaptation. Male frillnecks frequently display and fight during the mating season. Male displays are highly stereotyped, and involve repeated partial erection of the frill, head‐bobbing, tail‐lashing, and waving of forelimbs. Both males and females erect the frill during social encounters, and in response to potential predators. Males grow larger than females and have larger heads than do females at the same body size, but no dimorphism is apparent in the relative size of the frill. The extreme development of the display structure in this species may be due to general allometric relationships, as well as to ecological features that have intensified the action of sexual selection in Chlamydosaurus.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-20
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - May 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Agamidae
  • allometry
  • display
  • Sauria
  • sexual dimorphism


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