Monday, 14 December 2015

Dragon Skin

A Bearded Dragon watches as it basks in the sun

Spring is now long past in Canberra and the summer sun is hotting up. The local Bearded Dragons Pogona barbata have now passed their breeding season, so they are now shedding their skins. This one was basking on the sunny side of an old tree stump.

Eyes just above the top of the stump - watching, ever watching

The dragon was lying flat against the stump, to gain maximum warmth from the heated surface. All the while it was positioned with its eyes just above the level of the top of the stump, for it was watching all the time for any potential predators approaching. I have often watched dragons basking like this, especially when on fence-posts - a favourite basking spot - and when seen from the far side of the post they form a distinctive profile, with their pointed head peaking above the post.

The head and  tail are mostly clean of old skin

It is tricky for the dragons, with all those spiny scales, to cast their skin. It tends to come off in small pieces rather than as a whole as snakes can do. Note how this one's head is mostly clean and other shed areas are the ends of the limbs and tail.

The hands and wrists are clean of old skin

I was almost upon this dragon when I first saw it, perhaps a few metres away, and as I considered how camouflaged it was, I wondered which skin was best suited for the purpose. The old pale skin faded well in the sunshine and would conceal the animal on dusty surfaces, but on the shiny old wood I think the new black skin was a better fit. The high shine of the highlights on the dark skin, especially on a scaly skin with numerous spines, all seemed to blend with the substrate of shiny wood and dark shadows of the crack lines

Basking in the sun can be dangerous - so camouflage is important as a defence from predators

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