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Tropical & Subtropical Savanna Woodlands

Order Squamata: Lizards and Snakes 

Family Agamidae: 'Dragons'

Dragons are found from Europe, to Africa, Asia, Australia, and the south Pacific. There are some 70 species in Australia, and there is a high diversity in the tropical woodlands of northern Australia. Most dragons have large angular heads, sometimes with flaps, spines or frills. They have long bodies, strong hind legs and long toes, and very long tails. They generally have an upright posture and some species can run quickly on their hindlegs when alarmed.


Ctenophorus spp.

The largest group of dragons in Australia, most associated with arid areas.

'Slater's Ring-tailed Dragon' (image by Damon Ramsey)(Telstra Hill, Mt.Isa, Queensland)

Ctenophorus slateri, 'Slater's Ring-tailed Dragon'.

(Millstream, Western Australia)

Ctenophorus caudicinctus, 'Western Ring-tail Dragon'. Found in arid shrublands and sub-tropical woodlands of central west of Australia, mostly around Pilbara region.

Lophognathus spp. 'Ta-Ta Lizards'

Recently some of the species in this genus have been moved around; currently there are two species. They are one of several Australian dragons known as 'Ta-Ta' Lizards because of they way they signal with their forearm, lifting it up as a sign to other dragons.

(George Brown Botanical Gardens, Darwin, NT)

Lophognathus gilberti, 'Gilberts Ta-Ta Lizard'. This is the common species of 'Ta-Ta' Lizard around the suburbs of Darwin.

'Horner's Ta-Ta Lizard' (image by Damon Ramsey)(Lake Mooroondah, Mt.Isa, Queensland)

Lophognathus horneri, 'Horner's Ta-Ta Lizard'. This species can be distinguished from the former by the white spot in the tympanum.

Family Varanidae: 'Goannas', 'Monitors'

This family includes the Komodo Dragon. There are species in this family found in tropical Africa and across Asia, however it is in Australia where there is the highest diversity. And within this region, there are more species found in the tropical woodlands than other habitats.

(Clem Walton, Queensland)

There are two species of Water Monitor found in Australia, and they can be found sunning themselves on rocks along the edge of freshwater. They have distinctive laterally compressed tails with a sharp ridge, shaped like a butterfly knife. This reflects their semi-aquatic lifestyle. The two species are 'Mertens Water Monitor' and ' Mitchells Water Monitor'. Based on its larger geographic range, the above image is likely to be the former. The latter species is now rare.

(Bigge Island, W.A.)

Varanus glauerti, 'Kimberley Rock Monitor'. Striking, with spots on back, stripes along tail. Medium but slight goanna with a 'squashed' flat appearance good for sliding in under rocks. Very long tail. Found around rocky habitats north west and top end of Australia.

(Jar Island, W.A.)

Varanus glebopalma, 'Black-palmed Rock Monitor'. Grey-reddish in colour, the long tail is darker upper half and whitish in lower half. The top of the limbs are normally darker with spots; the underside of the limbs are also apparently dark, thus the common name. Found around rocky habitats across northern Australia.

(Raft Point Bluff, W.A.)

Varanus acnathurus, 'Spiny-tailed Monitor'. Mosgt distinctive feature is rows of spines along tail. Shy, found sheltering around drier rocky habitats across northern Australia.

Family Scincidae

Morethia spp. 'Fire-tailed Skinks'


Morethia ruficauda, 'Lined Firetail Skink'. Found across northern Western Australia and Northern Territory.

Cryptoblepharus spp.

Known as 'Wall Skinks', 'Fence Skinks', 'Snake-eyed Skinks', 'Shining Skinks', although their genus name translates as 'hidden eyelash'.

Cryptoblepharus sp.

Family Colubridae

Boiga irregularis, 'Brown Tree Snake', 'Night Tiger'.

(King George River, W.A.)

Dendrelaphis punctulatus, 'Comon Tree Snake'.

Dendrelaphis punctulatus, 'Comon Tree Snake', the 'Golden form'.

For a lecture on the reptiles of the tropical Australian woodlands 

Back to the page on Australian tropical savanna

Throughout the virus I am working in Australia on and off as local borders close, mostly in the Kimberley with Coral Expeditions (May-September). If you can't go travelling until everything settles down, then until then, here I am doing online guided walks for Noble Caledonia and online lectures for Silversea.