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).
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
Distribution: Indonesia (Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Timor), West Malaysia (incl. Pulau Tioman ?), Thailand (incl. Phuket), Philippine Islands (Palawan), Singapore, Vietnam. sumatranus: W Malaysia, Thailand, Sumatra, Borneo, Palawan, Singapore
Type locality: “Indi a, Africa”
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).
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).
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest
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).
Life History and Behavior
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).
Evolution and Systematics
Special elongated ribs of the flying dragon lizard enable it to glide via adjustable membranes that act as 'wings'.
"The 'wings' of this spectacular lizard are made from membranes stretched between a series of specially elongated ribs that act as struts. The end result bears uncanny resemblance to early designs for aircraft wings, but the lizard's version is far more sophisticated since its wings can be opened and closed at will. The lizard's flattened body improves its aerodynamics, and its slender tail acts as a counterbalance. On average, each flight carries it roughly 25 feet (8m)" (Downer 2002:30)
Learn more about this functional adaptation.
- Downer, J. 2002. Weird Nature: An Astonishing Exploration of Nature's Strangest Behavior. Ontario: Firefly Books.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Draco volans
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 38
Species With Barcodes: 1
The lizard appears to be a common species and is not listed as threatened at the current time.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
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.'
It is a member of the genus of gliding lizards Draco. It can spread out folds of skin attached to its movable ribs to form "wings" that it uses to glide from tree to tree over distances upwards of 8 metres (26 ft); however, like all modern reptiles, it lacks the ability to sustain powered flight, and is capable only of gliding.
Its wings are brightly coloured with orange, red and blue spots and stripes, and they provide camouflage when folded. The flying dragon can reach a total length of up to 23 centimetres (9.1 in). It feeds on arboreal ants and termites.
The flying dragon does not give live birth. During the breeding season an adult female will venture down to the forest floor and lay 1-5 eggs, which it buries in the soil. The number of eggs usually depends on how good that particular lizard's habitat and surroundings are. A flying dragon's eggs can take anywhere from 1-2 weeks to hatch. A flying dragon hatchling will weigh around 2 grams, depending on how good the conditions were while laying the eggs and other factors. The female flying dragon will only guard her nest for at the most a couple of days before abandoning the nest. She does not return very often to care for her young. The flying dragon's life span is currently unknown.
Common Gliding Lizards (D. sumatranus) and Spotted Gliding Lizards (Draco maculatus) are common in open and disturbed areas; Five-banded Gliding Lizards (D. quinquefasciatus) are usually found in dense forest with relatively small, closely spaced trees; Giant Gliding Lizards (D. maximus) are somewhat restricted to riparian areas; the smaller Yellow-bearded Gliding Lizards (D. haematopogon) and larger Blanford's Gliding Lizard (Draco blanfordii) occur at higher elevations than most other species; and the Black-bearded Gliding Lizards and the larger Dusky Gliding Lizards (D. formosus) are habitat generalists in lowland forests.
Flying Dragons are brown with bluish coloration on the undersides of their wings and a yellow colored dewlap. Females tend to have bluish dewlaps and yellow coloring on the wings' undersides. Their heads are blunted and fairly short, and each leg has five clawed toes. Flying Dragons have low, long bodies. They have flaps of skin along the ribs, which can be extended into "wings" by the lizard elongating its ribs. They have a dewlap, or gular flap, which can also be extended. Generally, Flying Dragons grow to a little less than 12 inches in length. Although females are usually larger than males, their dewlaps are a bit smaller.
This lizard can get to about 20 cm long. Its wingspan is usually 3/4 of its body length.
In the wild, the Flying Dragon will generally claim a territory. Usually, males will mark two or three trees as their own, and one to three female Flying Dragons will live in each tree. When the male Flying Dragon meets another animal, he may extend his dewlap partially or fully, extend his wings partially or fully, perform a combination of dewlap or wing extension, or bob his body up and down. If he meets a female, he may circle her. Extending the wings and dewlap makes the Flying Dragon appear larger, and he will usually exhibit such behavior if he feels threatened. Flying Dragons eat insects. They catch such prey by sitting under a tree until an insect passes by, and then they consume it. They have short sticky tongues that they use to eat ants and termites.
In order to move from one place to another, Flying Dragons will spread the skin flaps along their abdomens and glide out of trees or from other high areas. They never glide when it is raining or when it is windy. When the Flying Dragon is about to take off, it will point its head toward the ground.
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (March 2012)|
- Boulenger GA. 1885. Catalogue of the Lizards in the British Museum (Natural History). Second Edition. Volume I. ... Agamidæ. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History). (Taylor and Francis, printers). xii + 436 pp. + Plates I- XXXII. (Draco volans, p. 256).