Sudan Plated Lizard (Broadleysaurus major)
Published: September 27, 2019
Last Updated: June 19, 2023
Also commonly known as the Sudan plated lizard, it is more correctly called Broadley’s rough-scaled plated lizard. This lizard is a diurnal, terrestrial insectivore primarily native to parts of eastern and central Africa. According to iNaturalist observations, they may be present as far south as Kruger National Park in South Africa.
They prefer rocky, semi-open areas within coastal woodland, thicket, moist savannah, and dry savannah habitats, ranging from sea level to 1700m above sea level. They are most frequently found in and around hills and termite mounds, seeming to have a particular liking for rock piles and crevices.
This interesting lizard can be briefly described as looking like a heavily-armored skink, with a long but sturdy body with a short head, blunt, rounded snout, short legs, and a long tail. Its head, back, legs, and tail are covered in thick, matte, keeled scales which traverse the body in rows. In contrast, the belly scales are smooth and typically cream-colored. The thick back scales and smooth belly scales are separated from each other by a lateral fold of smaller, softer scales which permit the animal to temporarily expand or condense itself as needed.
There are two known subspecies of B. major, although there are likely more that have yet to be formally described.
B. major major — Mottled belly, tawny or dark sides, and a dark back with narrow yellow stripes. Juveniles are darker than adults, with more prominent spots that fade with age.
B. major bottegoi — Black/dark brown, orange, and yellow coloration with pale belly. The snout and top of the head are yellow. Juveniles are darker than adults, with spotting down the back and sides and a yellow stripe between. The spots fade with age.
There is also a fairly common variety of B. major that is generally patternless, with a tawny or brown colored body and a pale belly.
On average, wild-collected Sudan plated lizards range between 11-14” (30-35cm) long, although there are reports of individuals as long as 20-24” (51-60cm) from snout to tail. It is unclear whether the wild-collected specimens were measured from snout to vent or snout to tail. Generally speaking, adult females tend to be slightly smaller than adult males.
Most sources say that Sudan plated lizards can be expected to live up to 10 years in captivity, but anecdotes from other keepers suggest that they can live longer with appropriate care — up to 23+ years.
In order to provide adequate Sudan plated lizard care, you must take into account that they are naturally very active animals. Reports of handleability vary substantially, with some individuals being tame enough to be used as educational animals, while others are skittish enough to be display-only. If you are looking for a tame pet lizard that you will be able to handle often, the Sudan plated lizard is likely not a good fit for you.
- The Sudan plated lizard’s head scales are fused to its skull!
- B. major is currently the only member of its genus. It used to be categorized under Gerrhosaurus as G. major bottegoi, but this changed after DNA analysis in A molecular phylogeny of the African plated lizards, genus Gerrhosaurus Wiegmann, 1828 (Squamata: Gerrhosauridae), with the description of two new genera revealed that it didn’t belong with the Gerrhosaurus genus after all!
- B. major is an ancient species. According to The Field Guide to East African Reptiles, a 10 million year old fossil of this lizard was found on Mfangano Island in Lake Victoria!