Military dragon

Ctenophorus isolepis

SUBFAMILY

Agaminae

TAXONOMY

Ctenophorus isolepis Fisher, 1881, Nickol Bay, Western Australia. Three subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

These are small reddish or reddish brown terrestrial lizards with long hind legs. Males are more colorful than females,

■ Ctenophorus inermis H Ctenophorus isolepis

HABITAT

They inhabit red sandy deserts with spinifex grass vegetation.

BEHAVIOR

These lizards dig several shallow dead-end burrows near favored basking sites, to which they retreat when threatened. If with dark black patches on their sides and bellies. Males of the desert subspecies also have yellowish stripes on the sides of their heads and shoulders.

DISTRIBUTION

Military dragons occur in desert regions of central Australia. HABITAT

The species inhabits red sand plain deserts with spinifex grass vegetation.

BEHAVIOR

In the early morning, these lizards bask in the open sun, but as temperatures climb during midday, they position themselves in the dense shade offered by spinifex grass tussocks. Their active body temperature is about 100°F (37.8°C), but it is lower during winter months and higher in the summer. Lizards are active during midday in winter, but they are most active early and late in the day in the summer. When pursued, they make long, zigzag runs through the open between grass tussocks. If chased until they experience oxygen debt, they seek cover by trying to climb into spinifex tussocks, but their long legs impede their ability to move inside such grasses.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

These sit-and-wait ambush predators feed mainly on ants, but they also eat grasshoppers, termites, beetles, and other insects.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The military dragon has two clutches of three to four eggs per year, laid during spring and early summer. Hatchlings mature by the next year.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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