New Live Exhibits in Search & Discover: Year of the Water Dragon

By: Chris Hosking, Category: At The Museum, Date: 05 Apr 2012

Two young Eastern Water Dragons are being displayed in the Australian Museum’s hands-on enquiry center; Search & Discover.

Hatchling Water Dragons: Phineas and Ferb

Hatchling Water Dragons: Phineas and Ferb
Photographer:  © Australian Museum

Eastern Water Dragons

The Eastern Water Dragon Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii, is a subspecies that occurs along the east coast of Australia from Cooktown in the north down to the New South Wales south coast (approximately at Kangaroo Valley) where it is replaced with the Gippsland Water Dragon Physignathus lesueurii howittii.

It can be found in a variety of habitats, from tropical rainforest in the north to temperate woodland in the south. Flowing water with ample tree cover and basking sites appear to be the key to habitat preference for this species. Water dragons can also be found in cities and towns within its range.

The Water Dragon is more often heard than seen as it dives into the water when disturbed. It can remain submerged for around one hour. This species has a much lower preferred body temperature than other large dragons and can remain in the water or in shade on hot days. They are often seen on overcast days or in the morning basking in the available heat.

Water dragons are omnivores, feeding on both plants and animals, mainly invertebrates such as insects and spiders. In Sydney, the breeding season begins in September when courtship and mating begins and concludes in January when the last clutches of eggs are laid. Females lay 6 to 18 eggs in a shallow hole under dirt or sand and take from 68-120 days to hatch.

The hatchlings start at around 10cm in length and will take approximately three years to reach a mature size of about 70cm. Some males will continue to grow, reaching a maximum size of 90cm, making them the largest species of dragon lizard in Australia and second largest in the world after the Philippine Sail-finned Water Dragon, Hydrosaurus pustulatus.

More information can be found at the Water Dragon page.

Water Dragons and Search & Discover

Search & Discover has received many photos of Water Dragons over the years to either identify new backyard visitors or share their sightings of these magnificent reptiles. Here are just a few.

The dragons can now be seen in their exhibit in Search & Discover, on Level 2 , where staff can answer questions you have and provide resources about the Museum’s collections.