Ctenophorus modestus — Swift Rock Dragon
Also known as:
Swift Dragon, Northern Tawny Dragon
Ctenophorus modestus was split from Ctenophorus decresiiin 2021.
My first agamid of South Australia was this mid-sized male Swift Rock Dragon eyeing me warily from a rock. It didn't let me get any closer before rushing to the back side of the rock and finding a way underneath. This species is one of a group of "rock dragons" for whom this is standard behavior.
The next day I saw a female (probably gravid) and a more colorful male. The female held her position while I snuck up on her, took photos, and then backed away. The male wasn't so sanguine; it first did some push-ups to try to impress me I guess, and then scrambled away behind the rock. I was more impressed with its pretty colors than with its push-ups, I must say.
The day after that was a Swift Rock Dragon bonanza. On a rocky hillside trail, I saw several females and at least a dozen males. The females were better at hiding, because they didn't feel the need to show off their bravado and beautiful colors the way the males did. The first photo above is a female, and the others are males in order of increasing beauty. Note that the second-to-last male has at least three large ticks trying to deplete his masculine glory: one on the chest, one in the ear, and one on the top of the head. It's not easy being a lizard!
A couple of days after that, further north, I found another thriving population of Swift Rock Dragons on another rocky hillside hike. The first two pictured are females, and the rest are males (but you knew that by now, right?).
- Cogger, H. G. 2014. Reptiles & Amphibians of Australia, Seventh Edition
- Wilson, S. and Swan, G. 2017. A Complete Guide to Reptiles of Australia, Fifth Edition