Draco volansCommon Flying Dragon

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Geographic Range

The Flying Lizard is found in tropical rain forests in southern India and Southeast Asia. This includes the Philippine Islands as well as Borneo (Taylor, 1966).

Habitat

The flying lizard is found mainly in rain forests and tropical areas that can provide adequate number of trees for the lizard to jump from (Hairston, 1957).

Physical Description

The flying lizard is characterized by a large set of "wings" along the sides of the body, which are used for flight. These are supported by elongated ribs. They also have a gular flap called a dewlap, which is located under the head. This tissue is used during displays. The body is very depressed and elongate. The male flying lizard is approximately 195 mm in length while the female is 212 mm. This includes the length of the long slender tail which is approximately 114 mm on males and 132 mm on females (Taylor, 1966). The species is distinguished from other Dracos by the rows of rectangular brown spots on the top of the wing membranes, and black spots on the bottom of the wing (Mori and Hikida, 1994). The male Draco has a long pointed dewlap, which is bright yellow. They also have bluish color on the ventral side of the wings, and brown on the dorsal side. Females are slightly different in that the dewlap is smaller and bluish gray. Also, the ventral side of the wings is yellow (Mori and Hikida, 1994).

Reproduction

It is not known exactly when reproduction occurs, but it is assumed to be in December and January. Males, and occasionally females, show several displays. These include the spreading of the wings and a bobbing motion of the entire body when the two are in close proximity to each other. The male will also spread his dewlap to a fully erect position and then circle the female three times before copulation. The female will only show display patterns to stop or prevent copulation (Hairston, 1957). The female Draco will build a nest for the eggs by forcing her head into the soil to create a small hole. She will then lay five eggs into the hole and cover them with dirt, packing the soil on top of them with a patting motion of her head. For approximately twenty four hours, the female will guard the eggs fiercely. After this period, no further guarding occurs. Incubation of the eggs take approximately 32 days (Card, 1994).

Behavior

The Flying Lizard is a diurnal species. This lizard is active from approximately 8:00 AM to 11:00 AM and then again after 1:00 PM into the afternoon. Between 11:00 AM and 1:00 PM, the lizard takes a break from normal activity. This is believed to allow the lizard to avoid the greatest light intensity during the day (Hairston, 1957). The Flying Lizard is best known for its ability to 'fly.' This is accomplished by the climbing tree and jumping. While jumping, the lizard will spread its wings and glide to the ground. They can generally glide for 8 meters on average. It is easy to recognize when the lizards are going to fly. Before flight, the lizard will turn so its head is pointing toward the ground. Gliding is only used as a means of locomotion and not for predator escape. The lizard will also never glide when it is raining or windy. To escape danger, the lizard will always climb (Hairston, 1957).

When the male lizard comes in contact with other Dracos or other lizard species, there are five behaviors that can be displayed. These include: 1) partial extension of gular fold, 2) partial opening of wings, 3) bobbing of the body, 4) complete extension of the gular fold and wings, and 5) circling around the female. Displays one and two are generally for other male species and are used to make the body appear bigger. Displays three, four, and five on the other hand can be used for female attraction in order to obtain mates as discussed above (Mori and Hikida, 1994).

Males are generally more active then females during the day. Most males are very territorial. The territories include two to three trees in which one to three females live, thus defining the lizards as residents. Males will defend these territories from other males that do not have territories, or are considered non residents (Mori and Hikida, 1994).

Food Habits

The Flying Lizard is generally an insectivore, feeding mostly on small ants and termites. The lizard is described as a sit and wait feeder, meaning it will generally sit next to a tree trunk waiting for the ants to come to it. When the ant or termite is close enough, the lizard is able to pick it up without shifting its own body. The lizard then chews the insect (Mori and Hikida, 1994).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Humans do not eat the flying lizard. In fact, this species is believed to be poisonous by many Philippine people, however, this is false (Taylor, 1966). Thus, the only benefit is the esthetic value of seeing such a colorful species of lizard take 'flight.'

Conservation Status

The lizard appears to be a common species and is not listed as threatened at the current time.

  • IUCN Red List [Link]
    Not Evaluated

Other Comments

The adults of this species are extremely agile and are very difficult to capture (Hairston, 1957).

Contributors

Michael Van Arsdale (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

References

Card, Winston C. 1994. Draco Volans Reproduction. Herpetological Review 25(2) p.65.

Hairston, Nelson G. 1957. Observations on the Behavior of Draco volans in the Philippines. Copeia No. 4, pp. 262-265.

Mori, Akira and Tsutomu Hikida. 1994. Field Observations on the Social Behavior of the Flying Lizard, Draco volans sumatranus, in Borneo. Copeia No. 1, pp. 124-130.

Taylor, Edward H. 1966. The Lizards of The Philippine Islands. A. Asher and Company. Amsterdam.