Size Adult snout-vent length ranges from 55-75 mm. Females reach larger body sizes than males, but males have larger heads than females.
Description The head and body are not flattened, an indication of a terrestrial lifestyle. The very large dorsal scales are strongly keeled and arranged in 14-18 longitudinal rows. The ventrals are also keeled and arranged in 10 longitudinal rows. The tail is relatively spiny and shorter than the body. Males have 7-9 and females 4-6 femoral pores. In both males and females, the number of generation glands range from 2-7. The back and sides are grey with irregular dark markings. The belly is light grey.
Biology This small girdled lizard is one of the few ground-dwelling or terrestrial species in a predominantly rock-dwelling family. In parts of its range, it shows a distinct preference for the succulent plant, Euphorbia caput-medusae and other close relatives as shelter. The piled-up tuberculate stems of the succulent plant provide ideal hiding places, similar to rock crevices, and as many as 13 lizards have been found to shelter together in a single plant. These aggregations normally include only one adult male. Where E. caput-medusae is abundant, the lizard shelters exclusively in this plant, but elsewhere it has been found to shelter in limestone cracks, under rocks, and under debris. In areas where E. caput-medusae is used as shelter, the adult sex ratio is highly female-biased. The female bias extends down to the smaller size classes, except the neonate class. Males mature at a relatively small body size compared to other cordylids and it is believed that young males are excluded from Euphorbia plants by older territorial males to less optimal shelters where mortality due to predation is high. Cordylus macropholis is one of few cordylids where neonates already possess active generation glands; in other cordylids these glands only develop when sexual maturity is reached. Like other cordylids, it is a sit-and-wait forager that spends most of its time close to its shelter. It is insectivorous and eats a wide variety of small insects. Females attain larger body sizes than males, but males have relatively larger heads. The larger female body size can be attributed to lengthening of the trunk, probably because these lizards shelter in tubular spaces between the stems of Euphorbia where gravid females may find it difficult to fit in. Lengthening of the trunk allows the embryos to fit in one behind the other thereby reducing the body circumference. Males display the typical prenuptial reproductive cycle. Mating takes place in spring and two to three young are born late March to April.
Distribution Along the West Coast of South Africa, from Yzerfontein to Kleinsee.
Distribution in GCBC Restricted to the extreme western parts of the Corridor where it occurs among coastal dunes. Abundant where the succulent, Euphorbia caput-medusae is present.
Conservation status It is 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 Habitat destruction through coastal development and mining activities is a major threat.
Current studies Recent studies include:
MOUTON, P.LE F.N., FLEMMING A.F. & SEARBY C.A. 1998. Active generation glands present in neonates of some cordylid lizards: A case study of Cordylus macropholis (Sauria: Cordylidae). Journal of Morphology 235: 177-182.
MOUTON, P.LE F.N., FLEMMING, A.F., & NIEUWOUDT, C.J. 2000. Sexual dimorphism and sex ratio in a terrestrial girdled lizard, Cordylus macropholis. Journal of Herpetology 34: 379-386.
NIEUWOUDT, C.J. , MOUTON, P.LE F.N., & FLEMMING, A.F. 2003. Sex ratio, group composition and male spacing in the Large-scaled Girdled Lizard, Cordylus macropholis. Journal of Herpetology 37: 577-580.
NIEUWOUDT, C.J. , MOUTON, P.LE F.N., & FLEMMING, A.F. 2003. Adult male aggression towards juvenile males in the Large-scaled Girdled Lizard, Cordylus macropholis. African Journal of Herpetology 52: 53-59.
OLIVIER, C. 2003. Aggression and circulating androgen levels in males of a ground-dwelling lizard, Cordylus macropholis. Honours study, University of Stellenbosch .
NIEUWOUDT, C.J. , MOUTON, P.LE F.N., & FLEMMING, A.F. 2004. Aggregating behaviour and movement patterns in the Large-scaled Girdled Lizard, Cordylus macropholis. Amphibia-Reptilia 24: 345-357.