Malay Archipelago

Malay Archipelago

The Flying Lizard is found in tropical rain forests in southern India and Southeast Asia. Their range includes the warm, tropical forests of Indonesia (Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Timor), West Malaysia, Thailand (including Phuket), Philippine Islands, Singapore and Vietnam.

Flying lizards are a family of lizards called ‘Draco’ which includes 31 different species.

Over thousands of years, the Draco lizard has adapted the capacity for flight. While jumping from a tree, the Flying Lizard will spread its wings and glide to the ground. Gliding is used as a means of locomotion and not for predator escape.

These flying dragons have a set of elongated ribs, which they can extend and retract. Between these ribs are folds of skin that rest flat against the body when not in use, but act as wings when unfurled, allowing the Draco to catch the wind and glide. The lizards use their long, slender tails to steer themselves, and each sortie can carry them up to 30 feet (9 meters). Males are highly territorial and will use their ability to glide to chase rivals from the two or three trees they claim as their own.

Smaug Giganteus or Sungazer

Sungazer.First described in 1844 by the Scottish naturalist, Dr. Sir Alan Smith, this species is known by many different names such as; Sungazer, Giant Girdled Lizard, Zonure, Lord Derby’s Lizard or Ouvolk. Sungazers are heavily armored lizards endemic to South Africa and are synonymous with the gently sloping Themeda sp. grassland of the Highveld plateau.

Draco Volans.The flying lizard is characterized by a large set of “wings” along the sides of the body, which are used for flight. These are supported by elongated ribs. They also have a gular flap called a dewlap, which is located under the head. This tissue is used during displays. The body is very depressed and elongate. The male flying lizard is approximately 195 mm in length while the female is 212 mm. This includes the length of the long slender tail which is approximately 114 mm on males and 132 mm on females.

Adults reach a size of about 38 centimetres (14.6 inches) from snout to tail tip, are dark brown in color on their upper body becoming a yellow-straw colour on their flanks and underside.  Younger animals are more colorful with yellow and black bars or stripes on their body, which fades as they mature.

One of their common names, the Girdled Lizard, is derived from the rows of ossified, bony scales along their body. These scales or osteoderms are heavily keeled and are arranged in uniform rings or girdles around the body. The name Ouvolk is from the ancient Afrikaans language spoken by early Dutch settlers and roughly translates into “Old Folk.” The most commonly used name, Sungazer, is also derived from this posturing.

Malay Archipelago Islands.

Draco Volans or Flying Dragon

Draco Volans. Flying Dragon.Today, the flying lizard is found mainly in rain forests and tropical areas that can provide adequate number of trees for the lizard to jump from.

Their colorful “wings” are skin extensions called patagia, stretched over highly specialized, elongated ribs. Patagia are found in all 45 recognised species of the Draco genus, and not only do they allow these lizards to move effortlessly up, down and around the trees, each species displays a unique color pattern across their patagia.

They are territorial and claim one to three trees as their property.

Sources Include:, Taylor (1966), National Geographic, Australian Geographic

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