Draco

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Composite of two images taken on Komodo island after found sleeping on a thin branch less than a meter above my head

Easily one of the most insanely cool reptiles I’ve ever seen in my life, the flying dragon lizard (Draco cf. boschmai). Flying lizards get their their common name from their wing-like patagia, expanding outward with elongated ribs to glide through air much like a sugar glider. See my footage of a sugar glider from the Top End here. Despite not having powered flight, Draco lizards can glide over 25 meters in distance, using the aerofoil to generate lift and allow for a controlled aerial descent. Some studies have documented Draco attaching its forelimbs to the front of the patagia suggesting a role in maneuvering during flight, though more work needs to directly address that hypothesis. Draco lizards are arboreal and insectivorous, very much reminding me of Anolis because of their small figure and erectable gular flags. Like an anole, male Draco lizards will flex their brightly-colored gular flags outward during courtship and territorial displays. We were only able to find two Draco lizards during the night, so unfortunately I did not get to witness their mating behavior or gliding in daylight hours. One of many reasons to return to Southeast Asia!

Read about fascinating observations of Draco in flight with amazing accompanying images in this paper.


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