Australian Water Dragon

(Physignathus lesueuri)


Australian Water Dragon IUCN NOT EVALUATED (NE)


Facts about this animal

Including the tail, which is about 2/3 of the entire length, grown females reach about 60 cm and males more than 90 cm. The body is grey to grey-brown to olive-green with dark obscure bars which may extend as far around as the belly. There is quite a lot of colour variation particularly on the belly which is yellowish to red. A vertebral crest of scales (spine-like) extends along the back and onto the tail (the spikes that continue down the spine are getting smaller as they reach the base of the tail). The males are easily distinguished from the females as they have a red coloured chest and belly, which is mostly visible when they lift their heads in defensive mode and show their prominent nuchal crest (central row of enlarged spikes at the base of the head). Generally water dragons are usually shy creatures in the wild, sitting and basking on branches overhanging water bodies and may only make themselves known to the passer by from the sound of them dropping into the waterway. They have long powerful limbs and claws for swimming and climbing (they are called arboreal and semi aquatic). They use their laterally-compressed tails to propel them when swimming and are able to remain submerged for long periods of time. Also the nostrils of the water dragon are specially placed on top of its snout as an adaptation to its aquatic habits. Australian water dragons hibernate over winter. During spring, usually in early October, the female digs a burrow about 10-15 cm deep and lays between 6 and 18 eggs. This nest is in sandy or soft soil, in an area open to the sun. When the mother has laid the eggs, she backfills the chamber with soil and scatters loose debris over it. In the breeding season, the mothers may become more aggressive in order to make themselves known to distract any potential predators from capturing her young. Juveniles are very sociable, playful creatures and are usually found in groups ranging from 3 - 8 young dragons. Water dragons eat a wide variety of insects (aquatic and terrestrial), molluscs, small fish and turtle hatchlings, native fruit, and they will scavenge around picnic areas and urban parks.

Did you know?
that like many other lizards, water dragons have a parietal eye, a light-sensitive "third eye" located in the top of the head. A parietal eye, also known as a parietal organ is a part of the epithalamus present in some animal species. The eye may be photoreceptive and is usually associated with the pineal gland, regulating circadian rhythmicity and hormone production for thermoregulation. In some species, it protrudes through the skull. The parietal eye uses a different biochemical method of detecting light than rods or cones in a normal eye.


Name (Scientific) Physignathus lesueuri
Name (English) Australian Water Dragon
Name (French) Dragon d’eau
Name (German) Australische Wasseragame
Name (Spanish) Dragón acuático australiano
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
D. Gordon E. Robertson



Range Australia
Habitat As its name suggests, the Australian water dragon likes to live near water. It can be found near creeks, rivers, lakes and other water bodies that also have basking sites such as overhanging branches or rocks in open or filtered sun.
Wild population Australian water dragons are widely distributed along the tropical coast of eastern Australia
Zoo population 93 reported to ISIS (2007)

In the Zoo

Australian Water Dragon


How this animal should be transported

For air transport, Container Note 41 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


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Why do zoos keep this animal

Physignathus lesueuri is not a threatened species. Zoos and aquariums keep them primarily for educational reasons as a typical representative of the Australian herpetofauna.