Frilled lizards are now on display in Prague Zoo’s Feline and Reptile Pavilion. Being predominantly insectivorous lizards, they mainly get crickets and grasshoppers. Photo Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo

Prague Zoo now has frilled lizards on display. This is the first time the zoo has kept these striking reptiles. Visitors can find the Australian lizards, which inspired the creators of Jurassic Park, in the Feline and Reptile Pavilion.

“These are extremely attractive animals that are valuable not only as an exhibit, but also educationally. Lizards have various horns or growths, but only this species boasts such a characteristic frill of skin,” said reptile curator Petr Velenský, adding that the frill is made of loose skin reinforced with long cartilage and can be up to 26 centimetres wide.

According to Velenský, the frilled dragon, as it is also known, benefits from spreading its collar when threatened, as it makes itself look bigger and can startle a predator more easily driving it away when combined with its threatening hiss. Of course, the animals will not be so stressed at Prague Zoo. “The frill also serves other functions: the lizards like to shake it when courting or only partially open it for internal temperature regulation,” assured Velenský.

The frilled lizard is unmistakable because of its frill of skin. It uses it when threatened, but also as a means of internal temperature regulation or during courtship. This attractive lizard was once the inspiration for the creators of Jurassic Park. Photo Petr Hamerník, Prague Zoo

Frilled lizards inhabit the dry forests and bush in northern and north-eastern Australia as well as southern New Guinea. They can grow up to 90 centimetres in length, with almost half that length being the tail. They are mostly insectivorous, so in Prague they mainly get crickets and grasshoppers. Their diet is supplemented by vegetables – lettuce, carrots and napa cabbage.

Prague Zoo has four specimens that are just under two years old: a male and three females. Visitors can find them in the Feline and Reptile Pavilion in a terrarium that is also home to Malayan flat-shelled turtles. Frilled lizards are diurnal animals and during the day they like to sit in upright positions pressed tightly against a tree trunk or branch, so it is a good idea to look for them at the top of the exhibit, near the light source.