Text and pictures from : "Field giude to snakes and other reptiles of southern Africa" - by Bill Branch
These unmistakble and bizarre creatures are some of out most beautiful lizards.
The body is very flattened and cocered with granular scales. The legs and tail
are well developed and often have scattered spiny scales. The eyes and eyelids
are well developed, and the eardrums are visible. Femoral pores occur in both
sexes; large in males and as small pits on females. The flattened shape of these
'platys' ( or 'flatties') permits them to squeeze under thin rock flakes where
they are safe from predators. Up to 12 individuals may squeeze into the same
crack, although it is unusual to find adult males together during the breeding
season. They are restricted to certain types of rock ( for example granite,
gneiss and some sandstones) and are therefore found in isolated populations.
Sociable, they form dense colonies. Prime territories on the rock faces are
defended by dominant males during the breeding season. These depressed dandies
are clothed in Jacobean splendour, the colours varying from species to species.
They are most vivid on the belly, where their intensity of colour is hidden
from predators. Females and juveniles have black backs, usually attractively
marked with three pale, longitudinal, dorsal stripes. Males grow slightly larger
than females. In confrontation, males circle each other and expose their brightly
coloured bellies by tilting sideways. In courtship, males present head-on to
females, raising the head and forebody on straightened forelimbs, revealing
the bright colouration of the throat and chest. They mature at the end of their
second or third year. Unlike other cordylids, they are oviparous and lay only
two eggs, usually in November-December. The eggs are large, elongate ( 7-10
x 17-22 mm) and soft-shelled, and are laid in deep cracks, usually in damp leaf
mould. Numerous females may nest in the same crack, where as many as 30 eggs
may be laid. Most platys feed on small invertbrates ( flies,beetles and larvae)
although some ( for example P.broadleyi, P.guttatus and P.i.wilhelmi)
also eat plant material (flower petals, young leaves, fruits and seeds). They
are relatively long-lived, and have liver for longer than 14 years in captivity.
When attacked by a snake, they may form a ring by holding their tail in the
mouth to prevent being swallowed.
This genus has speciated explosively in Zimbabwe and adjucent areas, where 14 species (some with local races) have evolved. Two closely-realted and isolated occur in NW Cape and S.Namibia. Thirteen species, of which 12 are endemic, occur in the region. Species and subspecies are often identified by the male´s breeding colours, which makes the identification of females and juvenils difficult. However, few species are sympatric (except the Waterberg-Southpansberg region) and if the locality is known, there is little difficulty identifying the species.
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