Flying Dragon Lizard
|FLYING DRAGON LIZARD (Draco volans)
The flying dragon lizard, Draco volans, has adapted to its dangerous habitat – the thickly forested jungles of Southeast Asia, Borneo and the Philippines. When the ground is teeming with dangerous predators, they discovered that life in the trees was a better option. To help them search for food and mates, they have developed a special ability – they can fly. Or glide, to be more accurate. They have evolved elongated ribs which they can extend or retract to act as wings. In between these ribs are flaps of skin. This allows them to launch themselves from a tree and glide, up to 50 metres (160 feet) to nearby trees. When they’re not using them, these rib wings lie flat against their bodies.
From nose (called a snout) to tail end, these lizards measure about 8 inches (20 cm) long. You can tell the difference between male and female Draco volans by their colors. Males have blue underneath their wings and bright yellow neck skin (called a dewlap). Females have yellow underwings and bluish grey dewlaps. This bright coloration is called “startle coloration” because it scares predators when they see a quick flash of brightness. This gives the lizard a few moments to dash away before their predator realizes it was just a trick.
Male Draco’s will fight for their territory, usually two or three trees, that they call their own. The colors on their dewlap are especially important in attracting mates and intimidating other males. Sometimes males will also do push ups to show other males how strong they are.
They eat ants and termites from the bark of the trees. They are “sit and wait” predators, patiently waiting for their prey to come close enough to be lapped up by their sticky tongues. They move from tree to tree to find enough to eat.
The only time they must go to the ground is when a female is laying eggs. She will descend from the tree, dig a small hole with her snout and insert up to 5 eggs into the hole. Then she will cover it up and spend about 24 hours defending her nest. After that, she ascends back into the safety of the trees, leaving her young to fend for themselves. Predators include arboreal (tree-living) snakes, raptors, kingfishers and other lizards.