With their small bodies, scaly skin, and red-ringed eyes, these reptiles look like something straight out of Game of Thrones.
But while they look a lot like baby dragons, they’re actually red-eyed crocodile skinks from the genus Tribolonotus. In the wild, these lizards live in the tropical rainforests of New Guinea, parts of Indonesia, and the Solomon Islands. But since deforestation has leveled much of their natural habitat, they’ve adapted to living on coconut plantations beneath the husks of the trees.
These small animals grow to about 20-25 centimeters in length and are often kept as exotic pets. Unlike crocodiles, these guys are relatively shy – and they haven’t been studied widely.
The information we do have on red-eyed crocodile skinks suggest that they’re pretty unique among other lizards. When they’re threatened, they perform an odd, high-pitched vocalization that resembles a shriek or high-pitched bark. That’s in addition to shedding their tail skin and vomiting, which is unusual enough to scare off most predators. If that fails, they will typically play dead, like other reptiles.
Another interesting feature? Red-eyed crocodile skinks wear their sexes on their skin — literally. While their genitals are located inside their bodies, the males can be easily distinguished by the pores on their feet, which the females lack.
Females have one working ovary and only lay one egg at a time, making for a pretty limited reproductive process. Naturally, they’re very protective of their young and are often found curled up around it — just like a little nesting dragon.
The lizards tend to only come out at night or in the early morning to hunt for food, which attributes to our limited understanding of the species as a whole.