Moving on the dazzling salt flat are cryptile lizards, part of the agamid family which has populated the warm regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and Australia since well before humans.
When the lizard is hunting, it scampers along and raises itself onto its hind legs. Then it opens up the frill around its neck. Superficially, it resembles the frilled lizard, an agamid that lived mainly in northern Australia and southern New Guinea during the Quaternary period. But unlike the frilled lizard, which had an unbroken large ruff of skin, the cryptile's frill forms a net which is covered in a film of sticky mucus secreted by pores on the individual strands.
When a cryptile runs across the salt, the open weave of its frill causes little air resistance. They often career headlong into a thick cloud of brine flies, running straight through it. The cloud swirls and parts if the lizard settles, exhausted after its brief hour of activity. The frill that was pale-colored before the cryptile's run will now be black and laden. The brine flies have adhered to it as if to flypaper. Settling in the salt, the lizard folds its frill, gathering the trapped insects into bunches. In rapid jerks it extends its long tongue and packs off the flies. It will do this even while running through a swarm, licking the caught flies off of its frill.
The cryptile never drinks water from the lakes (the amount if salt they contain would prove fatal if ingested). The lizard gains all the moisture it needs from the flies it eats.
After hunting, the cryptile's pale coloring allows it to fade back into the white of the salt flats. It spreads its ribs and flattens its body against the salty surface. The rough, three-dimensional pattern of its scaly skin mimics the crystalline salt structures of its surroundings. So positioned, the animal is practically invisible. Indeed, the cryptile is a true master of disguise and is well deserving of its name, which is derived from the Greek word kruptos, meaning hidden or concealed.
There are times when a cryptile abandons its camouflage and changes its color to deliberately draw attention to itself. When an enemy approaches, the lizard quickly adopts a threatening pose. It pugs itself up and spreads its frill, turning black in color. Against the white background, the cryptile now stands out, appearing to be a bigger and much more threatening creature. This is usually enough to frighten off an attacker, and allows the cryptile to make its escape.During the mating season, the cryptile adopts yet another colorful appearance. As a prelude to mating, the male cryptile raises himself with his front legs and expands his frill. Cartilaginous supports allow the frill to open rigidly like a fan or an umbrella. Pigment cells in the frill flash vivid colors across the structure. The more impressive the display, the greater the chance of attracting a potential mate. This skin coloration also serves as a warning signal to rival males. At such times the cryptile stands on top of salt pinnacles or other promontories and allows itself to be seen from afar.
Female cryptiles also have an expandable frill but, unlike males, do not use it for mating displays. Instead, the frill is only used for feeding and in self-defense. As soon as she spots a displaying male, the female can cover great distances across the salt plains to meet her mate. If it is a group of males showing off for the female all at once, the female will invite the best-looking male on a courtship dash across the salt. If he keeps up with her, she will let him mate with her. Once mating is over, the female leaves the salt lagoon and heads into the rocky limestone karst in search of a safe place to lay her eggs. This can be a very dangerous period of time for a female, for outside the salt flats there will be more predators to worry about.
It is in the shelter of the grykes that a mother cryptile hides her eggs. They will be safer here than on the open salt plains, but there are dangers nonetheless. The long nose of a snuffling, foraging scrofa can find newly-laid cryptile eggs in the shallow soil if they are not laid deep enough. Sometimes the mother herself will be ambushed by a larger predator such as a gryken.