Open main menu

Draco is a genus of agamid lizards that are also known as flying lizards, flying dragons or gliding lizards. These lizards are capable of gliding flight; their ribs and their connecting membrane may be extended to create "wings" (patagia), the hindlimbs are flattened and wing-like in cross-section, and a flap on the neck (the gular flag) serves as a horizontal stabilizer. Draco are arboreal insectivores.

Draco taeniopterus Gunther, 1861 from Bulon.jpg
Draco taeniopterus in mid-glide, from Bulon Island, Thailand.
Draco spilonotus.JPG
Male Draco spilonotus extending the gular flag (throat flap) and patagia ("wings") in Sulawesi, Indonesia
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Agamidae
Subfamily: Draconinae
Genus: Draco
Linnaeus, 1758

While not capable of powered flight they often obtain lift in the course of their gliding flights. Glides as long as 60 m (200 ft) have been recorded, over which the animal loses only 10 m (33 ft) in height, which is quite some distance, considering that one of these lizards is only around 20 cm (7.9 in) in total length (tail included).[1] They are found in South Asia and Southeast Asia, and are fairly common in forests, areca gardens, teak plantations and shrub jungle.


The only time a female flying lizard ventures to the ground is when she is ready to lay her eggs. She descends the tree she is on and makes a nest hole by forcing her head into the soil. She then lays 2–5 eggs before filling the hole and guards the eggs for approximately 24 hours, but then leaves and has nothing more to do with her offspring.[1]


Carl Linnaeus derived the name of this genus from the Latin term for mythological dragons.


Male Draco dussumieri displaying for females by extending his gular flag, from Dandeli, India
Size of Draco quinquefasciatus in comparison to a human hand, from Sarawak, Malaysia

The following 42 species are recognized:[2][3]

Nota bene: a binomial authority in parentheses indicates that the species was originally described in a genus other than Draco.


The lizards are well known for their "display structures" and ability to glide long distances using their wing-like, patagial membranes supported by elongated thoracic ribs to generate lift forces.[5] The India flying lizard is capable of gliding from tree to tree found in the Western Ghats and hill forests of southern India. The Flying Dragon Lizard avoids danger by opening two large winglike flaps of skin and steers, brakes with its tail.[6]

In fictionEdit

Draco dussumieri features prominently in Poornachandra Tejaswi's Kannada novel Carvalho (ಕರ್ವಾಲೊ, Karvālǒ). In this story, middle aged scientist Carvalho, searches for this flying lizard (considered very rare in this novel) in the forests of the Western Ghats in the Indian state of Karnataka, and finally the lizard flies down a steep cliff off thick forest.

The titular monster from Toho's 1958 film "Varan the Unbelievable" is based on that of a Draco lizard.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Piper, Ross (2007). 'Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals'. Santa Barbara, California: Greenwood Press.
  2. ^ Draco. The Reptile Database.
  3. ^ "Draco ". Dahms Tierleben.
  4. ^ Beolens, Bo; Watkins, Michael; Grayson, Michael (2011). The Eponym Dictionary of Reptiles. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. xiii + 296 pp. ISBN 978-1-4214-0135-5. (Draco beccarii, p. 21).
  5. ^ Herre, Albert W. (1958). "On the Gliding of Flying Lizards, Genus Draco ". Copeia. 1958 (4): 338–339. doi:10.2307/1439979. JSTOR 1439979.
  6. ^

Further readingEdit

  • Goin CJ, Goin OB, Zug GR (1978). Introduction to Herpetology, Third Edition. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman & Company. xi + 378 pp. ISBN 0-7167-0020-4. (Genus Draco, pp. 41, 86, 112, 279, 288).
  • Inger RF (1983). Morphological and ecological variation in the flying lizards (Genus Draco). Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History. (Fieldiana Zoology, New Series, No. 18). Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help) 33 pp.
  • Linnaeus C (1758). Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, diferentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio Decima, Reformata. Stockholm: L. Salvius. 824 pp. (Genus Draco, p. 199).
  • McGuire JA, Dudley R (2011). "The Biology of Gliding in Flying Lizards (Genus Draco) and their Fossil and Extant Analogs". Integrative and Comparative Biology. 51 (6): 983–90. doi:10.1093/icb/icr090. PMID 21798987.