Chordates •

Chinese crocodile lizard

(Shinisaurus crocodilurus)



The Chinese crocodile lizard (Shinisaurus crocodilurus) is a semiaquatic anguimorph lizard found only in cool forests in southeast China and northeast Vietnam. The Chinese crocodile lizard spends much of its time in shallow water or in overhanging branches and vegetation, where it hunts its prey of insects, snails, tadpoles, and worms. Individuals in captivity may be fed baby mice. A rare and little-studied lizard, it is listed in CITES Appendix I, which regulates international trade of specimens. This is the only species in the monotypic genus Shinisaurus. It is the only living member of the Shinisauria, a group of lizards whose fossil record extends back to the Early Cretaceous, over 120 million years ago. Chinese crocodile lizards are characterized by their green, colored with reddish necks. They often have alternating bands of light and dark patterns. Male Chinese crocodile lizards are more often than females, especially during the breeding season. On average, these lizards are 40-46 cm (16-18 in) long. Perhaps the lizards’ most distinctive features are the rows of bony scales down its back and muscular tail, imitating those of a crocodile. Additionally, Chinese crocodile lizards are sexually dimorphic and can be distinguished visually. Adult males are larger and more colorful than females, especially during mating seasons. Surviving subpopulations of Chinese crocodile lizards primarily occupy isolated fragments of land in Guangxi and Guandong provinces of southeastern China. The Vietnamese subspecies is only found on Yên Tử Mountain in Qang Ninh and Bac Giang provinces of northeastern Vietnam. Shinisaurus crocodilurus live alongside clear streams within subtropical broadleaf evergreen forests. They have a habitual preference for remote streams in undisturbed areas such as mountain ridges and dense forests. The species lives in a relatively cool, monsoonal climate at moderately high elevations, 200-1500 meters (656-4921 feet) above sea level. Their preference to occupy less dense habitat is in-line with their antipredator trajectory towards flight rather than fight. Shinisaurus crocodilurus utilize tree holes, rocks, vegetated perches as shelter and are rarely found exposed on the forest floor.

Taxonomic tree:

Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Reptilia
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