Sunday, 30 October 2011

Dragon time

Now the warm weather has arrived, the Boyd’s forest dragons (Hypsilurus boydii) have livened up. Livening up for a forest dragon involves sidling around to the other side of a tree when they notice you and occasionally wandering down to ground level. They rely on camouflage — with bursts of frantic running — to keep them out of trouble. I rely on them relying on camouflage to allow me to get close enough to take a photo. I don’t care much for frantic running.

The species is named after John Archibald Boyd, an Englishman who ran sugar plantations in Fiji (1865 – 1882) and North Queensland (1882 – 1926). He was an enthusiastic collector, shipping great amounts of zoological and ethnographic material to naturalist William Macleay in Sydney.

In 1884, he gathered an assortment of animals from the lowland rainforest around Ingham and sent them south. On examining them, Macleay wrote:
I received a few days ago from Mr. Archibald Boyd of Ripple Creek, Herbert River, an earthenware jar containing specimens in spirits of several species of bats, muridæ, antechini, lizards and snakes. A very cursory glance at the contents of the jar satisfied me that Mr. Boyd had hit upon a new and untried and also a very prolific field for the Zoologist.

He named six new species of reptiles from the Ripple Creek collection — Tiaris boydii (the forest dragon) and five snakes. (Unfortunately, four of the snakes belonged to widespread and variable species that had all been described before.) The Ripple Creek dragon specimens were first lodged in the Macleay Museum, Sydney University, and are now in the type collection of the Australian Museum.

Although they are common on the Atherton Tablelands, forest dragons can be difficult to spot. In the two and a half years that I’ve been living here, I’ve only seen them a handful of times. They really are very well camouflaged. (And excellentat sidling.)

Macleay, W. (1884) Notes on some Reptiles from the Herbert River, Queensland. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 8: 432 – 436.

Macleay, W. (1884) Census of Australian snakes with descriptions of two new species. Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales 9: 548 – 568.


Sherrie Y said...

OMG! What a face! That does it, I am saving my pennies to come visit you with a pile of sketchbooks. Consider yourself warned. (PS: I don't like frantic running, either, so don't get any ideas.)

Snail said...

You'd be most welcome. You might end up being held ransom by a bunch of brush turkeys, but they have their charm.

Bernie said...

Spectacular creature! Lucky for you he stayed still for these fabulous shots.

Snail said...

They are fine until you get too close. Then they move like lightning. Still. much easier to photograph than turkeys.

Shakes fist at uncooperative megapodes

Calling Ravens said...

As a fellow snapshot"er" of lizards, I share your fist shake and revel in the fantastic photos you took! Excellent colors on him/her/it too!

biobabbler said...

What a beauty!

Snail said...

They are very handsome lizards. Those colours are a perfect match for lichen and moss on the tree trunks.

But I think the spiny crest is just showing off.