Ouroborus is a monotypic genus that is restricted to the semi-arid winter rainfall region of South Africa. One of the most extraordinary lizards of the family, Ouroborus cataphractus is heavily armored and displays unusual defensive behavior; when caught in the open, these lizards will curl up and grasp their tails in their mouths, protecting their poorly armored underside. This behavior gives them their common name, armadillo lizards, as well as their generic name, which is derived from the greek for “Tail-eater”  and refers to an ancient symbol depicting a serpent or dragon biting or swallowing its own tail to form a circle. Ouroborous cataphractus are uncommonly social cordylids, forming dense aggregations of up to 60 individuals.


Common names: Armadillo lizards

Number of species: monotypic

Habitat: Rupicolous

Distribution: The winter rainfall zone of the Western and Northern Cape.

Reproduction: viviparous (1- 3 offspring)

Diet: Insectivorous


Ouroborus cataphractus (Boie 1828)

P. le F.N. Mouton


Stanley et al. 2011