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There are two main kinds of water dragons. The first type is the Chinese water dragon, or physignathus cocincinus, which is native to Asia. It inhabits Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam and Burma. This lizard is also found in parts of India and China. The second type is the Australian water dragon, or physignathus lesueurii, which is native to Australia.
Physignathus lesueurii is further broken down into physignathus lesueurii lesueurii, also known as eastern water dragon, and physignathus lesueurii howitti, called Gippsland water dragon. Both types of Australian water dragons live in the forests of eastern Australia. They are the same size and have similar coloring, with green or gray bodies and dark stripes. The Gippsland lizards can generally be identified by the black, yellow, and orange stripes on their throats, while the eastern reptiles have black banding on their heads.
Water dragons are large, diurnal lizards. This means they are active during the day and rest at night. These reptiles don’t live in the water in spite of their aquatic-sounding name; they live mostly in trees and shrubs near large waterways so they can hide in the foliage or leap into the water to escape predators. Their size and speed keep them safe from most animals, but they can become prey to large snakes, mammals, and birds. They can run and swim rapidly, and are capable of staying underwater for 30 minutes to hide from predators.
Male water dragons average a length of 3 feet (0.9 meters) and weigh around 2.2 pounds (1 kg). The females are smaller, and usually reach a length of around 2 feet (0.6 meters). Tails of these reptiles are so long that their slender bodies only measure one third of their total length. These lizards are omnivorous, with a diet consisting of fruit, leaves, fish, insects, small lizards, and small rodents.
After hibernating in the winter, the reptiles breed in the spring. Females dig holes in soft soil in sunny locations, and lay between six and 18 eggs. They cover the eggs to hide them from predators. The hatchlings spend the first part of their lives in their birth burrow before growing bigger and venturing out.
Chinese water dragons are also known as Asian water dragons and green water dragons. Most Asian water dragons are bright green with turquoise stripes, making them more colorful than their Australian cousins. Both types of lizards have become popular pets since they are fairly docile and rarely bite.