Size The largest of the crag lizards. Adults may reach a snout-vent length of 160 mm, with no difference between males and females. Sexual maturity is reached at a snout-vent length of 110 mm.
Description The dorsal body is covered with granular scales and the tail is only moderately spinose. Both males and females have 5-6 femoral pores on each thigh, but the femoral glands are better developed in males. Males have slightly broader heads than females. This is the only cordylid which has additional generation glands on the back and in the inguinal area. In other cordylids, these glands are restricted to the thigh region. Males have more generation glands than females and females never have glands in the inguinal region. Coloration is variable. The dorsal body and head is usually dark brown to black with yellow to orange infusions forming irregular crossbars. The sides are usually bright yellow to orange and this coloration may extend onto the ventral body, with the central part of the belly normally being a dirty white. The limbs and tail are yellow/orange underneath. The tail has irregular bands of yellow and black. A black patch occurs on the throat. Males are normally more brightly coloured than females.
Biology As the name suggests, the Cape Crag Lizard is a strict rockdweller. It occurs on mountain plateaus and upper mountain slopes, but near the coast may occur down to coastal rock. This species is a strict sit-and-wait forager and its diet includes a wide range of invertebrates. It probably also feeds on other small lizards. It is very aggressive and can inflict a painful bite. Both males and females appear to maintain exclusive territories outside the mating season, but during the mating season, in their search for mates in the low density populations in which they occur, both males and females are forced to scout large areas. This does not appear to be done from a permanent home site, but the lizards rather seem to adopt a nomadic lifestyle during this period. One can speculate that the increased numbers of generation glands in this species is somehow related to locating mates in low density populations. The high number of glands may be essential for amplifying the chemical signal which will allow individuals to locate mates in low density populations or for males that already secured a mate, to deter other suitors at the female's home site. Females give birth to two to four babies in late summer to autumn. Males have a postnuptial reproductive cycle with spermatogenesis peaking in autumn. Males then store the sperm until mating takes place in spring. The reason for disaccociated male and female reproducitive cycles is uncertain.
Distribution It occurs throughout the Cape Fold Mountains, from Citrusdal in the Western Cape southwards and eastwards into southern Transkei (Eastern Cape). It also occurs in the inland escarpment mountains of the Western and Eastern Cape.
Distribution in GCBC Probably restricted to the southern half of the Corridor, from Citrusdal southwards.
Conservation status Not listed in the latest South African Red Data Book for reptiles and amphibians, or in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Like all other cordylid species, it is listed internationally in Appendix II of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES); legislation which regulates the international trade in these animals.
Threats No specific threats have been identified, but alien infestation and poor fire management may have local impacts.
Current studies Recent studies include:
GAGIANO, C., MOUTON, P.LE F.N. & SACHSE, B. 2004. Generation glands and sexual size dimorphism in the Cape Crag lizard, Cordylus microlepidotus. African Journal of Herpetology 54: 43-52.