Draco timoriensis Kuhl, 1820

Kaiser, Hinrich, Carvalho, Venancio Lopes, Ceballos, Jester, Freed, Paul, Heacox, Scott, Lester, Barbara, Richards, Stephen J., Trainor, Colin R., Sanchez, Caitlin & O'Shea, Mark, 2011, The herpetofauna of Timor-Leste: a first report, ZooKeys 109, pp. 19-86 : 32-33

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scientific name

Draco timoriensis Kuhl, 1820


Draco timoriensis Kuhl, 1820 Fig. 8 View Figure 8

Common name.

(E) Timor Flying Dragon, Timor Flying Lizard. (T) Teki liras (teki = gecko, liras = winged). Fataluku: Lika. Mambae: Berdigil.


Lizards of the genus Draco are diurnal and easily identified by the presence of patagia. These ‘wing’ structures ( Fig. 8 View Figure 8 ) consist of skin flaps that are stretched across highly modified ribs that allow the lizards to glide between trees. Although referred to as 'flying lizards’ these and other reptiles that have perfected this escape strategy are actually only gliding, flight being the preserve of birds, bats, and insects. They also possess a dewlap under the chin that males use for territorial display. Draco timoriensis is the only species of its genusknown to occur on Timor (see taxonomic comments below).

Collection and natural history.

We captured four specimens of Draco timoriensis and observed several others. All individuals were initially seen high off the ground (> 5 m) on the trunks or larger branches of trees but never on palm trees. Even though they are cryptically patterned against the bark background when stationary against the trunk of the tree, they are easily spotted when displaying their bright yellow dewlaps ( Fig. 8 View Figure 8 ). Our specimens were captured either using blowguns or by climbing the tree and forcing the lizard to glide to an accessible height. All specimens were seen and captured during the daytime. Where they occurred, these lizards were not rare. However, their dispersal pattern appears to be clumped (several lizards in one area with none outside of a particular territory) and we did not discern any pattern to their localized distribution. Based on our encounters, Draco timoriensis is limited in its distribution to altitudes from sea level to ca. 300 m.

Taxonomic comments.

Several historic reports of Draco collected on Timor list Draco volans or Draco walkeri in addition to Draco timoriensis . Based on recent unpublished findings from a molecular analysis (J. McGuire, in litt. 13 Oct 2009), Draco volans is confined to Bali and Java whereas the distribution of Draco walkeri is limited to Sulawesi ( McGuire et al. 2007). All records for flying lizards from Timor should therefore be attributed to Draco timoriensis .

The species name of the Timor flying lizard has variously been spelled timoriensis or timorensis. In the accepted original description ( Kuhl 1820:103), the name is given as Draco Timoriensis Péron. However, Péron never published a description of a Draco from Timor, even though the specimens from his expedition were presented to the Museum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris. The name Draco Timoriensis also appears in Duméril and Bibron (1837: 454), who list a manuscript by Péron first in their list of synonyms, with Kuhl (1820) relegated to second place. The first mention of the name " timorensis " is probably an unjustified emendation by Gray (1845), who listed the species as Draco Timorensis and referred to Draco viridis Timorensis , a plate in Schlegel (1837-44).Subsequent authors, beginning with Günther (1864) and Boulenger (1885), have perpetuated this error even though the latter corrected Gray in the spelling of the name attributed to Schlegel by listing it as Draco viridis var. timoriensis. Since this change in the spelling of the specific epithet is not via an accepted nomen substitutum (as suggested by Wermuth 1967), the correct spelling for the flying lizard found on Timor remains Draco timoriensis .