Water Dragons belong to:
World-wide, around 350 species are recognised currently in the family Agamidae. Of these, 72 species in 14 genera occur in Australia. Australian agamids are small to moderate-sized lizards. The Water Dragon is Australia's largest agamid lizard.
Water Dragons belong to the genus Physignathus. This genus has only two species world-wide.
The Chinese Water Dragon (Physignathus cocincinus) occurs throughout South-east Asia: eastern Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia and southern parts of China.
The Water Dragon species found in Australia is divided into two subspecies; the Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii) and the Gippsland Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii howittii).
The Eastern Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii lesueurii) has a dark stripe from ear to eye, that the Gippsland Water Dragon (Physignathus lesueurii howittii) lacks. The Eastern Water Dragon male has a red flush on its chest and darker bands. The Gippsland Water Dragon male has an olive-grey chest, and is distinguished with a colourful throat that is blotched or striped with various colours; orange, blue and yellow.
|Chinese Water Dragon
© Klaus Dræby
|Eastern Water Dragon
© Danny Yee
|Gippsland Water Dragon
© Robyn Lawrence
Fossil and biochemical records of Physignathus in Australia show that they have existed here for the past 20 million years and are quite an ancient lineage of reptile.
J.E. Gray in 1831 first described the Water Dragon species in Australia. The original specimen was taken from Parramatta, NSW and is stored in the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France.
Lophura lesueurii Gray, J.E. (1831). A synopsis of the species of the class Reptilia. pp. 1-110 IN Griffith, E. (ed.) The Animal Kingdom Arranged in Conformity with its Organization by the Baron Cuvier. London: Whittaker, Treacher & Co. Vol. 9 481+110 pp. .