Australian dragons: motion displays

Australia’s dragon lizards (Family: Agamidae) employ dynamic visual signals in a variety of contexts but the signalling behaviour of this group has been relatively overlooked. In this review, we collated information on the signalling behaviour of these animals and determined that 34 of the 78 described species use movement-based signalling. This number is likely to bean underestimate, as knowledge of the signalling behaviour of many species is lacking. The richly contrasting environments of Australia inhabited by these lizards provide considerable variation in ecological context, so our second objective was to place known signalling behaviour in the context of species ecology. We found that broad habitat classifications do not strongly influence the likelihood of motion signalling, and specific motor patterns are not more likely to occur in particular microhabitats. We conclude by suggesting that fully understanding the motion signalling behaviour of Australia’s agamids will require considering in detail the environmental context under which signalling takes place.

Ramos JA & Peters RA (2016) Dragon wars: a review of movement-based signalling by Australian agamid lizards in relation to species ecology Austral Ecology 41, 302-315.


Figure above: Core motor patterns utilized by Australian agamid lizards. Each image shows an illustration of a lizard performing a motor pattern and a pie chart indicating the proportion of signalling species (n = 33) that utilize that particular pattern (shownin black): (a) Head bobs, (b) limb waves, (c) tail flicks, and (d) tail coils and push ups.