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Asian Water Dragon Fact File

Appearance

Asian water dragons are large lizards with one of their prominent features being a hump at the back of the neck and a series of spines which form a crest along the back of their neck.

The majority of their scales are colored green with a pinkish, white or pale yellow patch under the neck and chin.

At the end of the body is a long tail which is ringed with brown and green. While climbing the tail will provide balance. This tail may account for as much as 70% of their body length.

Each foot features five toes that feature a thick claw. Their hind limbs are long allowing them to make fast movements, climb well and swim.

Males tend to become brighter in color during the breeding season. They are also larger with a bigger crest.

Diet

Asian water dragons are carnivores. Their diet is made up of insects, fish, eggs and small mammals such as rodents. On occasions they have been seen to graze on vegetation.

Typically they are ambush predators but they may also actively hunt for their food.

They have a sticky tongue which assists them to hold on to their prey.

asian water dragon

Scientific Name

Physignathus cocincinus

Conservation Status

Vulnerable

Weight

0.5-1kg (1.1-2.2lbs)

Length

80-100cm (2.5-3.25ft)

Lifespan

10-15 years

Diet

Carnivorous

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Range

As their name would suggest Asia is the native home of Asian water dragon. Here they can be found in the following countries – Cambodia; China; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Thailand and Viet Nam.

An introduced population occurs in Taiwan.

Habitat

They make their home in evergreen forests, swamps and rainforests. Asian water dragons are never found far from a stream or river.

asian water dragon

Reproduction

Males will engage in head bobbing displays to try and attract the attention of a female. Once he has found a female he will latch on to her crest while mating with her.

Following a successful mating the female will excavate a shallow nest on a sandy streambed in to which they can deposit between 5 and 20 eggs.

These eggs incubate for 60 to 75 days following which they emerge. At hatching the young are 12.7-15.2cm (5-6in) long.

After hatching the young are independent and will fend for themselves.

An Asian water dragon at the Smithsonian's National Zoo reproduced through parthenogenesis which is the process of reproducing without mating with a male.

Behavior

Asian water dragons are good climbers and will make their way in to trees using their long claws.

This species is a strong swimmer and they can remain submerged for up to 25 minutes.

On top of their head is a pineal body which is often called a third eye. This is able to sense the changes in light levels.

Asian water dragons tend to form a group of one male and multiple females. Each of these establish a territory which they can call home.

asian water dragon

Predators and Threats

Natural predators of the Asian water dragon include snakes and birds of prey.

Their main way to escape predators is to drop in to the water from the branch on which they were sitting.

Humans affect their population through collection for the pet trade and habitat destruction. They are also hunted for food. Males tend to be hunted more often than females leading some populations to become skewed.

Quick facts

The Asian water dragon may also be known as the Chinese, green or Thai water dragon.

asian water dragon

Photo Credits

Under License

References

Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Dudleyzoo.org.uk. 2021. Water Dragon (Chinese) – Dudley Zoo And Castle. [online] Available at: <https://www.dudleyzoo.org.uk/animal/water-dragon-chinese/> [Accessed 7 January 2021].

Solly, M., 2021. The National Zoo’S Female Asian Water Dragon Successfully Reproduced Without A Male. [online] Smithsonian Magazine. Available at: <https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/zoos-female-asian-water-dragon-successfully-reproduced-without-male-180972363/> [Accessed 7 January 2021].

Stuart, B., Sumontha, M., Cota, M., Panitvong, N., Nguyen, T.Q., Chan-Ard, T., Neang, T., Rao, D.-q. & Yang, J. 2019. Physignathus cocincinus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T104677699A104677832. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-2.RLTS.T104677699A104677832.en. Downloaded on 06 January 2021.

Smithsonian's National Zoo. 2021. Asian Water Dragon. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/asian-water-dragon> [Accessed 7 January 2021].

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