Dragons (family Agamidae) are a group of diurnal lizards that have small, dull, non-overlapping body scales. Many species are adorned with spines (for example, the Thorny Devil, Moloch horridus, and the Central Bearded Dragon, Pogona vitticeps), crests (for example, the Eastern Water Dragon, Physignathus lesueurii and Boyd’s Forest Dragon, Hypsilurus boydii) and even frills (the Frilled lizard, Chlamydosaurus kingii). They have broad fleshy tongues, movable eyelids and well-developed limbs. There are 28 species in Queensland.
Habitat and Range
Most dragons live on the ground but some species spend a significant amount of time in the trees (for example, Amphibolurus temporalis, Chlamydosaurus kingii and Hypsilurus spp.) They are generally insect feeders but the Thorny Devil, an arid zone dragon with a slow and jerky gait, is very choosy and feeds exclusively on ants. Some larger dragons (for example, Pogona barbata and Physignathus lesueurii) also include vegetable matter in their diets.
Most dragons are fast-moving and will retreat rapidly if disturbed. Some run for a burrow (for example, the Central Netted Dragon, Ctenophorus nuchalis), others dive into a nearby creek (the Eastern Water Dragon). Some species use other tactics. The beaded dragons (Pogona spp.) rely on bluff tactics – inflating their bodies, puffing out their throats and gaping widely to expose a brightly coloured throat. The Pebble Dragon (Tympanocryptis cephalus) relies on camouflage, its colour and texture blending perfectly with the pebbles that litter the stony flats on which it lives. Forest Dragons (Hypsilurus spp.) use stealth, sliding quietly to the other side of a tree to avoid detection.
All dragons lay eggs which they bury in loose soil or composting vegetation. Males may develop bold breeding colours; Beaded Dragons have strong black throats and male Water Dragons have a deep red chest. Beaded Dragons often display with vigorous head bobs and foot stamping.
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Text © The State of Queensland (Queensland Museum)
Image © Jona Photography