Bornean Gliding Lizards Disguise Themselves as Falling Leaves

Posted on January 19, 2015

Bornean gliding lizard resembling leaf

Scientists have found that gliding lizards disguise themselves as leaves to avoid being eaten by birds of prey. The gliding lizard species, , has extendable gliding membranes (patagia) that closely match the red and green colors of falling leaves. Draco is the only living lizard genus with patagia.

The photograph above shows a the Bornean gliding lizard Draco cornutus. The photos below shows how the lizard's patagia match the falling leaves in their habitat.

The gliding membranes of the Bornean gliding matching the colors of a red leaf


Ms. Danielle Klomp, a PhD student at the University of Melbourne and University of New South Wales, conducted the research with her supervisors Dr Terry Ord and Dr Devi Stuart-Fox and collaborator Dr Indraneil Das from the University of Malaysia. The research team found different populations of Draco have gliding membranes that match the types of falling leaves in their habitat. One population has gliding membranes that match their coastal mangrove forest habitat and another has membranes the colors of falling leaves in their lowland rainforest habitat.

Ms. Klomp says in a statement, "It's a cool finding because these gliding lizards are matching the colours of falling leaves and not the leaves that are still attached to the tree. In the mangrove population the leaves on the trees are bright green, but turn red shortly before falling to the ground, and it is this red colour that the lizards mimic in their gliding membranes. This allows them to mimic a moving part of the environment- falling leaves - when they are gliding."

The study was published here in the journal Biology Letters.

Photos: Dr. Devi Stuart Fox (top)/Danielle Klomp (second)