Monday, 26 October 2015

Draco volans: Intelligently Designed Flying Lizard

Flying Lizard Draco volans. Image courtesy of Alfeus Liman, public domain.

Joel Kontinen

It’s a tiny lizard, barely 20 centimetres (8 inches) long, but it can glide 8 metres (26 feet). This colourful creature looks like a dragon, so it is no surprise that it’s called Draco volans, or flying dragon.

A fact sheet on the creature explains how it glides:

The flying dragon has 6 to 7 pairs of ribs which are much longer than others. The skin between the ribs forms a large membrane called the patagium. This membrane can be folded just like a fan. When the lizard glides, it spreads out its ribs foward, forming a gliding surface.”

It’s not the only amazing glider.

The lizard displays the hallmarks of design. Researchers have a hard time explaining why and how these tiny dragons or other creatures took to the air, but here’s one attempt from the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology:

The evolution of gliding can be cast as a multistep process initiated with an aerial righting reflex, and then followed by behavioral adaptations such that the falling lizard assumes a characteristic splayed posture with the body and tail oriented in the horizontal plane while falling. This allows the lizard to maximize drag and thus to parachute to the ground at a reduced velocity relative to that of a tumbling lizard (Oliver 1951).”

Like all animals, the Draco volans is amazingly well designed to do what it does.


McGuire, Jimmy A. and Robert Dudley. 2011. The Biology of Gliding in Flying Lizards (Genus Draco) and their Fossil and Extant Analogs. Integrative and Comparative Biology, July 2011, 1–8.

Wildlife Singapore