The movie and television industry has been around for decades, showing many sides of fiction, non-fiction, documentaries, etc., to the public. Many movies use animals of all kinds for references, ideas for creatures, and to enhance entertainment. For example, Jurassic Park is a well-known movie that helped increase the popularity of dinosaurs for about 30 years. In this movie, we see a dilophosaurus which was a genus of Theropod dinosaurs that lived in North America during the Early Jurassic, about 193 million years ago. For the Hollywood version of this creature, the frilled lizard was used as an inspiration to embellish the Jurassic Park dilophosaurus which had extra skin that flared out as it does in the picture to the right. In the movie, this dinosaur was large, scary, and could spit out venom to attack its predators and prey and was also one of the dinosaurs that could roam freely around the park. This adaptation of spitting venom out came in handy later in the movie!
Another example of frilled lizards being used as an inspiration can be seen in the early 2000s movie Holes. In Holes, this lizard was known as the “Yellow Spotted Lizard,” a venomous creature inhabiting the arid wasteland of Green Lake and terrifying the campers. The Yellow Spotted Lizard had yellow eyes, red eyelids, and 11 yellow spots on its back… the legend said that if you got close enough to count the spots, you could get bitten and die. Campers at camp Green Lake were quite scared of these reptiles, but at the end of the movie, when Stanley and his pal Zero find the buried treasure, they are covered head to toe with the Yellow Spotted Lizards, yet unharmed
In both of these movies, the frilled lizard (aka frilled dragon) was used as inspiration, but it was portrayed as a scary venomous creature.
So what are the REAL facts about this influential creature?
The frilled lizard can reach lengths of 2-3 feet with a weight of 1-2 pounds. And while the frilled lizard is non-venomous and may not seem nearly as intimidating as what we see in Jurassic Park, the frilled lizard actually has one of the most creative defense mechanisms. This lizard will open a frill around its neck, reaching 12 inches in diameter to make itself look big and scary, it might even open its mouth and hiss. If these defenses fail the lizard runs to safety, moving its legs in a wide circular motion and not looking back until they reach a tree. This peculiar motion landed them the nickname of “Bicycle Lizard”.
The frilled lizard is an impressive and eye-catching reptile to observe, and did you know we have one at the Nature Center right now? If you’d like to see a frilled lizard in real life make sure to check out our visiting exhibit Here Be Dragons: From Lizards to Legends. This exhibit will only be here until February 11, 2023 so stop by soon!