Dragons are animals of myth, but their modern and real equivalents—lizards—are truly fascinating animals. One of the best places to see unique examples of these fascinating creatures is in Australia. There are a wide variety of lizards inhabiting the island continent, ranging from the frilled lizard to the blue-tongued skink to the giant perentie monitor, the world’s fourth largest lizard that can reach lengths of over eight feet. That being said, one of my favorite Australian lizards is Boyd’s forest dragon (Hypsilurus boydii), an endemic lizard found in the tropical rainforests of northeastern Australia. The reptile is named after John Archibald Boyd, who worked on a sugar plantation at Ingham, Queensland, and collected specimens for the Australian Museum and for naturalist William John Macleay, who wrote the original description of the species. The species has a distinct appearance and is highly photogenic, with its very enlarged cheek scales, a prominent nuchal crest, and a yellow dewlap under the chin that is edged with enlarged spines. They are sexually dimorphic, with males being much larger than females. Average length of the species is around 19 inches, with much of this consisting of tail.
One of the best places to see and photograph these unique animals in at Lake Barrine in the Atherton Tablelands, located just west of the city of Cairns in Queensland. Despite its distinctive appearance and attractive coloration, the species is cryptic and difficult to see in its forest environment, where it often resides in trees. Boyd’s forest dragon is an opportunistic sit and wait predator subsisting on a diet of insects and other invertebrates, of which ants are among the most common prey. They will also eat beetles, grasshoppers and earthworms. The species is territorial, with large males defending territories that overlap the territories of several females. Females lay from one to six eggs in shallow nests, often located in rainforest clearings. The have few predators, the Grey Goshawk and feral pig being the only two known predators of adults.
Boyd’s forest dragon is just one of the many unique animals that can be seen while traveling in Australia. Let World Safaris help you get there and experience the wildlife wonders of the Land Down Under.