Thursday, 25 September 2008

Here be Dragons

.....Mountain dragons - Rankinia diemensis (J.E. Gray, 1841)

While up the back of the block today I came upon a dragon. No not the fire breathing kind; just the humble Mountain Dragon, Rankinia diemensis. Of Tasmania's 17 lizard species this is the only one which is not a skink. It belongs to the family Agamidae and it has the most southerly distribution of all the lizards in this family..

You can get quite close to a Mountain Dragon if you move slowly. If they run they will only go a short distance and then stop again, pretending you can't see them. It works too as sometimes you can't see them because they blend in so well among leaves and sticks. I did manage to get close enough to one today to actually stroke it and it did not run.

While following it around trying to get a decent shot I suddenly noticed, while looking through the lens, that there was in fact a pair of them. A breeding pair? I don't know, you be the judge. It is said that a female is larger than a male but has a proportionally smaller head.

They are found in the north and east of Tasmania, in dry forest and heathland as these areas are more open to the sun. Their diet consists of ants and other small invertebrates. At my place Mountain Dragons are quite common (there are certainly enough ants for them) although these are the first I've seen this spring.

In late spring and early summer they lay from 2 to 9 small eggs (15mm) within a short burrow.

(Click Photos to Enlarge)
Mountain Dragon - Rankinia diemensis

Mountain Dragon - Rankinia diemensis

Mountain Dragons - Rankinia diemensis

Mountain Dragons - Rankinia diemensis

Mountain Dragons - Rankinia diemensis


  1. Great photos of very interesting dragons. I especially like the third one.

  2. Better pix than in Guide to Aust Reptiles, which adds the Tasmanians are world's most southerly dragons. Seems odd, I'd have thought bottom of S.America would have a candidate or two.

  3. Great post. I've never got anywhere near a lizard in Britain, not that I've gone out specially to see them. The second photo is my favourite. It's showing you it's best side I think!

  4. Hi Mosura.
    You will get into trouble with comments about females with big bodies and small heads.
    Nice photos. Cute paired Lizards.
    You obviously have lots of patience, or are a slow mover.
    I recall that "Jackie Lizards" in the Blue Mountains would freeze, but I could never get close to them.

  5. Mountain Dragons are cool!! Nothing like that on my patch!

  6. Thanks Mick - Glad ya like 'em.

    Thanks Tony - They like the heat so maybe availability of land is not the only limiting factor in their distribution.

    Thanks Jenny - What about those fantastic slow worms you photographed recently.

    Thanks Denis - Yep - slow mover, that's me :-) The Jacky Lizards look very similar too.

    Thanks Warren - Yeah they are pretty cool although I miss the big lizards on the mainland.

  7. Great shots.. These little fellows are common at my mum's . Yet I only live 1/2 a K away up the hill and I dont have any at all.. cheers kim

  8. Saw one today quite dark all over, much more so than your photros or those on the PWS site

    Did a search for rankinia and discovered your site.

  9. Thanks Peter - I wonder if you have dark coloured rocks where you saw yours. Apparently that can effect the colour.

    Thanks frogpondsrock - sorry I seemed to miss this comment when you posted it.

  10. Hi Gr8 photo's. i too have "found" a baby dragon on our block at "Dolphin sands" Tassy.
    (Well my hubby found it first) AND the kids want to keep it as a pet!
    Is this a good idea? i have been doing some research about them... not much out there. I get they eat insects. love running water. Our little guy likes sitting in his!
    but i can't tell IF he is eating.
    At present he is only about 60mm long from nose to end of tail. Cute, but young. We have had him around (in a fish bowl) for a couple of days... he seems ok, loves the sun, but i'm worried!
    If anyone has any suggestions...