Tuesday 18 June
Gilbert's dragon (Lophognathus gilberti)
- Gilbert’s dragon is also commonly known as a ‘ta ta’ lizard because of its habit of waving its forefeet after it runs.
- Gilbert’s dragon is normally grey to reddish-brown or black, but has some ability to change colour, becoming lighter or darker.
- A semi-arboreal species, Gilbert’s dragon is agile in the trees and is also capable of sprinting rapidly on the ground.
- Gilbert’s dragon typically hunts its prey by watching for it from a perch in a tree or other vegetation.
Gilbert's dragon fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Gilbert's dragon description
Named after the British naturalist who first collected this species (4), Gilbert’s dragon (Lophognathus gilberti) is a medium-sized Australian lizard with a characteristic upright posture and alert, active behaviour (3) (5) (6). Gilbert’s dragon, together with other members of its genus, is also commonly known as a ‘ta ta’ lizard because of its habit of waving its forefeet after it runs (5) (6).
Like other members of the Agamidae family, Gilbert’s dragon has long, slender, well-developed limbs, rough skin and a long, tapering tail (3) (6). This species has a small, serrated crest on the back of its neck and along its back (2) (3). Gilbert’s dragon is usually grey to olive brown, reddish-brown or black and has a broad light stripe along each side of its back (2) (3), which may sometimes be broken into blotches (3). A light band also runs through the upper and lower lip (2).
Adult male Gilbert’s dragons are reported to be generally darker in colour than females, and are also distinguished by their relatively larger head (5), while juveniles have dark cross bars on the body (2). Gilbert’s dragon may have some ability to change colour, for example becoming lighter in full sun and darker in shade, which may help it to maintain its body temperature (5).
- Also known as
- Centralian lashtail, Gilbert's lashtail, Gilbert's water dragon, ta ta lizard.
- Amphibolurus gilberti, Gemmatophora gilberti, Grammatophora temporalis, Physignathus gilberti, Physignathus incognitus, Redtenbacheria fasciata. Top
The Reptile Database:
Australian Wildlife Conservancy:
Australian Conservation Foundation:
- An animal which lives or spends a large amount of time in trees.
- A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
- Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
IUCN Red List (February, 2013)
- Boulenger, G.A. (1885) Catalogue of the Lizards in the British Museum (Natural History). Volume I: Geckonidae, Eublepharidae, Uroplatidae, Pygopodidae, Agamidae. British Museum, London.
- Wilson, S. (2005) A Field Guide to Reptiles of Queensland. Reed New Holland, Sydney.
The Reptile Database (February, 2013)
- Thompson, G.G. and Thompson, S.A. (2001) Behaviour and spatial ecology of Gilbert’s dragon Lophognathus gilberti (Agamidae: Reptilia). Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia, 84: 153-158.
- Wilson, S.K. (2012) Australian Lizards: A Natural History. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Australia.
Moro, D. and MacAulay, I. (2010) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Barrow Island. Chevron Australia, Perth. Available at:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
Gilbert's dragon biology
A semi-arboreal species (3), Gilbert’s dragon often perches on the trunks and branches of trees as it watches for prey. This lizard is active during the day, and mainly detects its prey using its acute vision, although it is also likely to use sound. Gilbert’s dragon feeds on a variety of insects and other invertebrates, and once a potential prey item is spotted the dragon will typically dash from its perch at great speed to capture it with a dab of its short, sticky tongue (3) (5) (6).
Like related agamid lizards, Gilbert’s dragon is capable of sprinting extremely quickly over short distances, and may even rise up to run on its hind limbs (3) (6). This species is also fast and agile in the trees, and is a capable swimmer that has been known to dive to the bottom to escape capture. Even when active, Gilbert’s dragon appears to prefer to stay in the shade rather than full sunlight (5).
The function of the forefoot-waving display that characterises this lizard is not fully understood, but may potentially serve to distract predators or be used to communicate with other individuals. In addition to waving its feet, Gilbert’s dragon also commonly bobs its head after each short sprint. Other body postures are used in defensive and aggressive displays, such as arching the back and elevating the chest, while courting males bob the head, press the body up and down and twitch the tail. Male Gilbert’s dragons defend a small area against other males, but both males and females change their daily area of activity each day (5).
Although Gilbert’s dragon is an abundant, readily seen species, many aspects of its biology are not well known (5). This species is thought to breed between about September and February (5), and like other species in the Agamidae family it is likely to lay its eggs in a burrow excavated in an open area (3) (6). As in related species, the gender of Gilbert’s dragon hatchlings is likely to be determined by the temperature at which its eggs were incubated, with high and low temperatures typically producing females while those in between produce varying proportions of males (6).Top
Gilbert's dragon range
Gilbert’s dragon is found only in Australia, where it occurs in western and central Queensland, the Northern Territory, and northern Western Australia (1) (3) (4). It has also been recorded on Barrow Island, off the coast of Western Australia (7).Top
Gilbert's dragon habitat
Although it occurs in a variety of habitats, from coastal sand dunes to grassland, shrubland, woodland, swamps and mangroves (1), Gilbert’s dragon is particularly abundant along the edges of permanent waterways such as rivers and lakes (1) (5). This species rarely occurs more than five metres away from a tree or other vegetation (1).Top
Gilbert's dragon status
Gilbert’s dragon is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Gilbert's dragon threats
Gilbert’s dragon is widespread and abundant, and is not currently considered to be at risk of extinction. This common reptile is not known to be facing any major threats at present (1).Top
Gilbert's dragon conservation
There are no specific conservation measures currently in place for Gilbert’s dragon, although it is likely to occur in a number of protected areas across its range (1).Top
Find out more
Find out more about Gilbert’s dragon:
More information on conservation in Australia:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
More »Related species
Play the Team WILD game
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.