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Regions > Indomalaya > Green water dragon

Green water dragon

Location at the Zoo: Indomalaya











Scientific Name:

Physignathus cocincinus


: Coloration ranges from dark to light green. The upper part is a vivid green with cream colored stripes; however it can also be dark brown, according to the stresses of its environment. Diagonal stripes of green or turquoise are found on the body, while the tail is banded from the middle to the end with green and dark brown. These dark bands become larger towards the end of the tail. Their undersides are white, very pale green or pale yellow. Their throats can be quite colorful (generally yellow, orange, or peach), some with a single color, some with stripes There are touches of blue and pink among the big round scales around the throat and often a yellowish wash along the flanks. The males are larger, more boldly coloured and have more conspicuous crests on the neck, back, and tail. Adult males also have larger, more triangular heads than females. The body and in particular the tail are laterally compressed. The tail is nearly two-thirds of the entire body length. Males are up to 90 cm in length and females up to 60 cm.


: They are native throughout southern parts of China as well as Southeast Asia, including Laos, eastern Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia.


: These water dragons are most commonly found along forested areas bordering freshwater lakes, rivers and streams. They live in areas with average humidity levels of 60–80% and temperatures ranging from 27-32°C.


: Primarily an insectivore but will also take small lizards, frogs, fish, birds, and mammals. Occasionally they will also eat flowers, fruits, and leaves.

Reproduction and Development

: Male water dragons are territorial. Usually they live in a group of one male and several females. Both sexes establish territories. Male courtship includes prominent positioning, head bobbing, and the pursuit of females. He will try to look big by bloating out his neck. The male has a pink wash over the neck and throat during the breeding season. They will curl up into a ball shape and mate. When mating the male bites into the crest of the female. Eight to twelve eggs are laid in tunnels near a river bank. Eggs are about 2.5 cm long. The young hatch after 60-75 days. As with all reptiles, incubation length varies with temperature. Hatchlings are about 13-15 cm in total length; are often a brownish green dorsally and a pale green to white ventrically, light colored stripes, usually white or beige run vertically across each side of the body, with brown and green banded tails, very large eyes, and short snouts. Sexual maturity occurs when animals exceed 40 cm in length. This is usually in their second or third year.


: Water dragons have well developed rear legs used to aid in climbing as well as jumping or leaping from object to object. Water dragons can run bipedally. Their hind feet are five toed as well, with the middle toe being the longest. Their claws are long and thick and end in sharp needle like points. With a laterally compressed body they are strong swimmers. If threatened, the dragon will drop from the trees into the water and either swim to safety or remain submerged for up to 25 minutes. The flattened tail provides a propulsion advantage when the water dragon dives into adjacent water to flee predators. They also use their tails for balance and leverage when climbing, and can use them to whip would be attackers.

They are active during the day (diurnal), and spend most of their time in the trees (arboreal).

Their green colour provides camouflage in leafy trees. Like many lizards, water dragons have a parietal eye, a light-sensitive "third eye" in the top of the head. This is a small, iridescent, photosensitive spot between their eyes referred to as the pineal gland (or colloquially as the third eye) that is thought to help thermoregulate their bodies by sensing differences in light to assist with basking and seeking shelter after sunset. Since it recognizes differences in light, the pineal gland can also help the lizard avoid predation from birds and other aerial threats. The tongues of water dragons are thick and wide ending in a very small fork or notch at the tip. The tongue has a sticky surface that helps them to catch and hold their prey. Their teeth are small and pointed, an adaptation to an omnivorous diet.

Threats to Survival

: Encroachment of waterside areas by human settlement. These are hunted as a food item in several areas. Although now bred in captivity for the pet trade these are still captured in the wild.


: IUCN: Not listed; CITES: Not Listed

Zoo Diet

: Mealworms, TZ reptile and amphibian supplement, reptile salad, TZ plain carnivore meat diet, worms.