First let me tell you about my ill-fated encounter with a Frilled lizard in Western Australia. We had been looking high and low for this lizard in the wild to photograph it, but to no avail. These lizards are small, gray and rough-textured like the branches of their favorite gum tree, and when their frill is flattened they are perfectly camouflaged.
Suddenly, though, I spied one on the road as we were winging our way to Windham early one morning. He was just sitting there in the middle of the road enjoying the morning sun. We screeched to a stop and with great excitement I grabbed my Nikon D1 and crept as close as I could, hoping not to frighten him off.
He almost immediately puffed out his frill - just as you would open an umbrella. He thought this would frighten me off but it didn't, so he opened his mouth as well in a fearsome leer. My zoom lens allowed me to keep a respectful distance so he just sat there as I moved up and down and then all around him to get the best angle. I couldn't believe my luck! What a photo op! I even had time to run back to the Landy to get my F5 with an 80-200 f/2.8 zoom attached. He was being so cooperative, my little lizard friend!
Suddenly things changed dramatically. He decided he was not happy with me after all. Just I was standing up from a back-breaking deep squat he rushed at me, hissing loudly. It worked, he frightened me! I stepped back quickly while still in an ungainly crouch and I tripped and went head-over-heels, cart-wheeling with my F5. We both landed with a sickening thud while the lizard laughed all the way up the tree.
When I picked
myself up the lizard had gone and I had one nasty lump on the
back of my head. I also had an expensive but totally wrecked,
completely dead 80-200 f2.8 lens on my hands.
Most famous of the dragons, the Chlamydosaurus kingii is one of Australia's most distinctive and familiar dragon lizards. It is a large lizard, averaging 85 cm (33 inches) in length. C. kingii is moderately robust with long limbs and a moderately long tail.
It is well-known to many people as it is featured on Australia's two-cent coin.
This species is grey to reddish brown in colour with variegation in darker tones. The frill is grey to yellow with vivid orange and red colouration in some populations.
Normally the neck frill is folded back along the body, making the lizard difficult to see when it is lying on a branch. The frill is simply a thin but extensive fold of skin surrounding the throat, which when fully erected may measure almost 12 inches across. It is erected when the lizard is confronted by a potential aggressor. And the act of gaping the mouth (also part of the display) extends the frill as shown above. The reason for this is that frill contains long rod-like bones that connect with the jaw and the tongue - the wider the mouth is opened the more extended the frill from the neck muscles becomes.
This sudden apparent increase in size and bright mouth color is sometimes accompanied by hissing, standing up on its hind legs, and leaping at or chasing the predator. If the "bluffing" doesn't work the lizard usually takes to its hindlegs and runs up the nearest tree.
It is well-known for its habit of running on its hindlegs.
Found in northern regions of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, and the northern and eastern areas of Queensland as far south as Brisbane, the Frilled lizard is an arboreal species which inhabits woodland and dry sclerophyll forest.
Frilled lizards are diurnal and arboreal, spending 90% of their time in trees. Usually, they only descend to the ground after a rainfall or to feed on insects and small vertebrates (not photographers). They have been known to eat small mammals and pieces of meat.
Females lay eight to fourteen eggs per clutch during the wet season, and the eggs must incubate for about 70 days. The nest is located in areas of flat, coarse-grained sandy soil surrounded by sparse grass and leaf litter, with no vegetation directly over the nest, allowing the nest to receive sunlight for most of the day.
The frilled lizard does not survive well in captivity. It seldom displays its well-known frill under captive conditions and is therefore a poor exhibit for zoological gardens. The lizard is best observed in its natural surrounding.
The number of Frilled Lizards around southeast Queensland have diminished in numbers as a result of land clearing and predation by ferel cats.
Swan, Gerry, A Photographic Guide to Snakes & Other Reptiles of Australia, The Australian Museum and New Holland Publishers, 1995.
Swan, Gerry, Green Guide: Snakes & Other Reptiles of Australia, New Holland Publishers, 1998.
For more information go to: http://www.jcu.edu.au/school/tbiol/zoology/herp/trept/frill.html
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