Are Frilled Lizards Dangerous?

Written by Emilio Brown
Updated: August 25, 2022
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Frilled Lizard on a rock

Frilled lizards are the only species with a frill.

©Matt Cornish/

When you see a frilled lizard, you might wonder if this species is dangerous. One of the most iconic lizard species native to Australia and New Guinea, the frill-necked lizard is also called the frilled dragon. When angry or trying to intimidate an enemy, they will puff out the skin around their neck and open their large mouths. 

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Puffing out the frill around their neck may intimidate you as it does other animals. When they do this, frilled lizards resemble the dinosaurs that we may see in movies and give this lizard a dragon-like look. No other lizard species have this frill, but there are also other exciting things that you can learn about this amazing species. 

Some people have reported that frilled neck lizards are venomous, can spit venom, or will leap great heights to attack enemies. We’ll dive into whether these reports are true. While frill-necked lizards are among the fiercest looking lizard species, they are not more dangerous when compared with other lizard species and are usually harmless.  

Frilled Lizards: Are They Dangerous

Frilled Lizards can bite and possibly break skin, but for the most part, they are harmless lizards. They are not venomous and will only bite as a last resort. In general, most lizards – as well as frilled lizards – will only bite if they are picked up and feel threatened. As a primary defense, they will try to escape or scare a potential predator away. 

Biting is the last resort for this lizard. This species is medium-sized and can bite harder than other smaller lizard species. They have sharp teeth, and adults can grow up to 3 feet. 

If bitten by a frilled lizard, it is not dangerous but can be painful. You may bleed, but they are not venomous like some snakes or the Gila monster. The frill of the frilled lizard is what makes most people and animals scared of this species, but it’s mostly cosmetic. Before biting, their primary tactic is to try to scare away any enemies. 

Along with puffing up its frill, this lizard will open its mouth wide and hiss to try and scare any threat away. If that doesn’t work, they will flee to safety and are usually seen running on two legs. This bipedal species is often called the bicycle lizard, as they look like they are riding a bicycle when they are running on two legs. When this lizard frills out its neck, it may terrify some people. However, when running away, they can look quite comical!

Why Frilled Lizards Have A Frill

Frilled lizard on termite mound

©Matt Cornish/

The Frilled lizard’s frill is a unique part of its body and uses it to scare away potential predators. When puffed up, the frill makes this lizard look larger and intimidate enemies. If their frill is not up, they look like regular lizards, as it lays flat on their body. No other lizard species have these frills, and it also has other uses. 

Like most other reptiles, the frilled lizard is cold-blooded and uses its environment to regulate its body temperature. The frill around their neck is beneficial in maintaining this lizard’s temperature. Attracting other mates is another way this lizard uses its frill. 

To puff up these flaps, they open their mouths and erect the spins in the frill. The frill is made of cartilage, and on average, is around 7.8 to 9.8 inches in diameter. Red, yellow, and light orange with yellow spots are the pattern of their frill. 

Where Are Frilled Lizards Found 

The frilled lizard baby (Chlamydosaurus kingii) is showing aggressive behavior.

©I Wayan Sumatika/

Northern Australia and New Guinea are where frilled lizards live. They have sharp claws but do not use these to attack. Frilled dragons can be spotted running along the ground on two legs, but their sharp claws make them great climbers. Savanna woodlands, forests, and tropical areas are habitats where they can be found. 

Frilled dragons are found primarily on trees, but will come down to feed. Some of the things they eat include:

This species is listed as least concerned, but they are not the most common lizard found in their environments. Frilled lizard populations have been on the decline due to habitat destruction and feral cats. While this species may look dangerous they are not, and occasionally kept as pets. 

Keeping A Frilled Lizard As A Pet 

Chlamydosaurus kingii pair

Frilled Lizard Pair of Frill-necked Lizards (Chlamydosaurus kingii)

©TimVickers / Public Domain – License

Unlike bearded dragons, frilled lizards are not commonly kept as pets. Their dinosaur-like appearance makes some people want to keep them. Monitor lizards and Gila monsters are more dangerous lizards to keep, but frilled dragons are much easier and safer to have as a reptile companion. 

Bearded dragons are one of the best lizard pets, but is the frilled lizard just as easy to keep? 

Frilled lizards are not aggressive, and can be handled easily when they get used to it. However, most frilled lizards in pet stores are wild-caught and are not used to being held. If disturbed, they will try to bite, but for the most part, they are docile creatures. Learning how to handle this lizard is important if you want to safely keep them. 

If you have a frilled lizard as a pet, you will not likely see its frill often. If their frill is open, that means they are stressed, which can lead to more health issues. This species needs to be kept in a large tank of at least 10 gallons, with a substrate, ample light, things to climb, and enough heat. 

In summary, frilled dragons are not aggressive towards humans, and can make a good pet. They can be handled easily and are not strong enough to severely harm a human, like some monitor lizard species.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Miklos Schiberna - Public Domain

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About the Author

Spiders, snakes, and lizards are my favorite types of animals, and I enjoy keeping some species as pets. I love learning about the various wonders nature has to offer and have been a writer for 5 years. In my spare time, you can find me getting out into nature.

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