Eastern Water Dragon Fact File
The body of an eastern water dragon is covered with scales that are typically colored brown in females and juveniles and yellowish-brown in males. On the legs they have black scales with pale spots. These legs are long with claws to assist in climbing. White scales cover the face and cheeks. They have small black lines across the top of the body. The underside is typically a pale brown though some have crimson red on the chest. Running back from the eye is a broad black stripe.
Running along the back and the head is a crest of spines. These are tallest on the head getting shorter as they run down the body.
Across the tail are black bands. Their long tail is thin coming to a point at the end. This shape aids in swimming. There tail is able to regenerate if lost or severed.
Their body length may be as much as 1m (3.25ft) and their weight varies between 1 and 1.3kg (2.25 and 2.75lbs).
They are the largest member of the dragon lizard found in Australia.
The Eastern water dragon is an omnivore. They eat a wide variety of food including insects, other reptiles, worms, frogs, small mammals, vegetation, flowers, berries and fruit.
Juveniles feed mostly on insects and become increasingly omnivorous as they grow.
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Australia is the native home of the Eastern water dragon. Here they can be found from Victoria in the South up through New South Wales and in to Queensland. An introduced population has been established around Adelaide in South Australia.
Previously they were listed as occurring in New Guinea but this has not been able to be confirmed and it appears this report was an error.
Eastern water dragons make their home in forests and coastal areas. With the expansion of human habitations they are found in urban areas including city parks in the middle of built up areas.
Most of their habitat is found near water.
Breeding takes place in spring as warmer weather begins. Typically populations in the north breed earlier than those in the south.
Males will form a territory and prevent other males from entering this. They may compete and attempt to flip the opponent on to their back. Fights may last as long as 10 minutes.
Males will head-bob and tail flick to try and attract a female.
In captivity they may breed twice in a single season though this has not been reported in the wild.
Eggs are laid in a hole in sandy soil. Their clutch of eggs may include 6-18 eggs. Populations which live in cities dig deeper holes. It is thought this may be due to higher temperatures or increased predation.
The eggs are incubated for a period of 3 months. Young are independent from birth with no parental care.
Sexual maturity is tied to size. Males reach maturity at 210mm (8.27in) which is achieved in the wild in 5 years though in captivity may occur as young as two.
Eastern water dragons are primarily arboreal and spend time sitting in trees. When a predator approaches they will drop in to the water to escape them.
They can remain underwater for as much as 30 minutes.
Typically they walk on all four legs though they can run at high speed on their back legs.
Eastern water dragons primarily communicate through visual cues. These include head bobbing, licking and arm movements.
They are active by day and will spend their time basking in the sun. Due to a lower preferred body temperature they can remain in the water or in the shade.
In the north of their range the eastern water dragon is active year round. In the south they will brumate (similar to hibernation) and slow their metabolism in an established burrow or between boulders. They will seal the opening of their burrow with dirt.
Predators and Threats
The main predator of eastern water dragons are snakes such the death adder and red bellied black snake. They are also cannibalized by larger water dragons.
Humans pose no major threat to this species. They may be collected in small numbers for the pet trade though this is illegal due to them being protected.
In Australia the eastern water dragon is sometimes kept as a pet.
The Intellagama portion of their scientific name means ‘intelligent lizard.’
H. Zell / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
Stu’s Images / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)
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