Mountain Dragon Rankinia diemensis


The Mountain Dragon belongs to a genus of small lizards (Rankinia) which usually have hidden or covered ear structures. It is similar in appearance to the Jacky Lizard but the inside of its mouth is blue (compared with yellow for the Jacky Lizard).

Mountain Dragon

A Mountain Dragon, Rankinia diemensis, Cape Portland, Tasmania.
Photographer: Peter Robertson. Source: Wildlife Profiles

Mountain Dragons are pale grey to dark brown in colour with darker patches on the back arranged in four lines. The scales on their backs are variable with the large spiny ones centrally located and arranged in lines down the back. They also have spiny scales along each side of the base of the tail. Mountain Dragons have a snout-vent length of about 80 millimetres and their tails are quite long (often 120 millimetres or more).

Biology and other information

The Mountain Dragon is the most southerly distributed dragon lizard in the world. Its diet consists mainly of insects. Reproduction is similar to that of the Jacky Lizard – they breed every summer and may have 3-9 eggs. Adults in the southern part of the distribution tend to reach a greater size than their northerly relatives.

Mountain Dragon, Tympanocryptis diemensis

A Mountain Dragon, Rankinia diemensis, digging a nest
Photographer / Source: Michael Kearney

Distribution and Habitat

Mountain Dragons are confined to the uplands of south-eastern Australia including the eastern part of Tasmania. They inhabit dry sclerophyll forests and heathlands and are usually found in ground litter or low vegetation.

The distribution of the Mountain Dragon in Victoria

The distribution of the Mountain Dragon in Victoria
Source: Museum Victoria (

Further Reading

Cogger H. 2000. Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia.  Reed Books.

Wilson S. & Swan G. 2003. Reptiles of Australia. Princeton University Press.

Comments (40)

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Sheryn 20 October, 2009 21:23
I found a mountain lizard in my dog run under hay. He looks healthy and comes out most days when i feed my dogs.I wasn't sure what it was to start with. I am located alond the Tamar River in Tasmania. I bred Bearded Dragons in Darwin so this was a real treat for me.
Colin 20 April, 2010 11:56
This site has the Mountain Dragon as Tympanocryptis diemensis. I have a listing from Trust For Nature whihc has it as Amphibolorus diemensis and Wilson and Swan (2008) have it as Rankinia diemensis. Which one is most up to date and where can I find the latest species names for other reptiles?
Ross Wellington 30 March, 2013 18:20
The Mountain Dragon or Mountain Heath Dragon as it is sometimes also named was originally named Amphibolurus diemensis (Type Locality Tasmania). However populations also occur on the mainland and all have historically been put into that taxon (name). In 1984/5 the Sydney Basin form was described as boylani to differentiate the sandstone populations surrounding Sydney. They were also placed into a new genus Rankinia at the same time because the 'group'of species/forms that were known were clearly sufficiently different from other dragons to warrant a unique genus name. Unfortunately whilst this was true and obvious some chose to place the diemensis group of species instead in with the earless dragons Tympanocryptus rather than use the newly proposed name Rankinia (at the time). This has now been accepted and so the correct genus name is Rankinia. As for the correct species name that is also in some question as it is now clear that upland ACT and Sthn Highlands are also distinct but unnamed, Grampians form is also distinct but unnamed, and coastal southern NSW and Gippsland form may also be distinct or perhaps the same as ACT uplands form? So dpending on where your specimen came from its correct name is Rankinia diemensis (TAS) or R. boylani (Sydney) or is an undescrobed form awaiting scientific description and formal recognition (hopefully before they go extinct!)
mark 13 October, 2010 12:56
Looked up the DSE Licensing site and noticed there is no listing for the Mountain dragon(tympanocryptis or rankinia diemensis).Can anyone explain this?
Discovery Centre 14 October, 2010 15:42
Hi Mark, good question, we are not aware as to why this species is not listed on the Department of Sustainability and Environment licensing list. You may want to follow this up with them to see if there is any reason. Their website is
sue 21 November, 2010 18:13
Found a mountain dragon today in our backyard, lower mount nelson, hobart, tasmania
scott 14 December, 2010 17:53
I found one on the side of the road in hadspen when our car broke down and wanted to keep it as a pet, is this legal?
Discovery Centre 16 December, 2010 15:51
Hi Scott - the short answer is no, sadly it's not legal. See the Question of the Week here for more information on why! If you still have the animal, best release it back where you found it, or to a registered wildlife carer if injured.
Reg Gordon 5 February, 2011 20:43
I have some excellent cloes up video footage of a mountain dragon catching a blow fly. The area is in the Alpine National Park - Moroka area. Regards Reg Gordon
Dean 14 June, 2011 02:34
I saw these dragons above the Thompson reservoir in 1996 I'm going to go and have a look for them this coming summer and maybe try and get a permit to collect
alan 12 November, 2011 16:09
i am in hazelbrook,blue mountains,nsw,and saw a few mountain dragons today, they can be grey,grey/yellow,brick red.markings are quite pronounce in most of help colin as to correct name,they chop and change names almost daily.i guess rankinea probably the most recent.cheers alan.
Discovery Centre 13 November, 2011 10:19

Hi Colin and Alan, The most recent nomenclature for this species is indeed Rankinia diemensis. We have now updated this InfoSheet to reflect this. Thank you for helping us to improve the quality of our online resources!

Micah bonnici 19 November, 2011 22:15
the Mountain Dragon definitely does not belong to the Tympanocryptis genus (Earless Dragons). incase u didnt notice Tympanocryptis means hidden ear the genus has their ear drum covered by scales where as the Mountain Dragons is visiable. Genetic studies would prove they are not in the Amphibolurus genus and they belong to the Genus Rankinia. It is now a monotypic genus after a genetic study in 2008 moving the heath dragons in the Ctenophorus genus. btw the 2008 2nd edition was publish before or at the same time but did not make the taxonomic arragement yet if you look at the 3rd edition u will see the the Mountain Dragon (Rankinia diemensis) is in the monotypic genus Rankinia.
Ray French 1 April, 2012 09:46
On a recent trip(March 2012),to a shack at Woods Lake Tasmania,I found a Mountain Dragon right out side the door,very small (100mm) in length. First one I have ever seen!,mountain dragon is appropriately named, as we were at about 1000m.
Ben 25 January, 2013 17:45
Ih my name, is ben we just found mountion dragon in my back yard. For at first we did not no what it was, so we look on the net. It looked like a bit of bark, my mum saw it crawl up our bank. We had never seen any thing like it.
Janssen 26 January, 2013 14:55
I found one in Sandford , Tas. Cute little guy. Watched me with great curiosity. His eye moved like a chameleon.
Ian 28 January, 2013 17:57
We have seen several over the past month, 2 yesterday, 1 today, they are comimg right into the house! We live at Howrah, Tasmania. Does anyone know if they eat portuguese millipedes?
Discovery Centre 30 January, 2013 10:41

Hi Ian, there are no records of Mountain Dragons eating Portuguese Millipedes, and although it is possible, we don't consider it very likely. Other lizards with similar feeding habits, such as Blue Tongue Lizards and Jacky Dragons, will not eat Portuguese Millipedes due to their highly repellent chemicals. However, there is the odd animal that will take them, but with a choice of other prey available it would be unusual for Mountain Dragons to bother.

Michael Thow 19 February, 2013 11:03
i have a good few images of these
adam 19 February, 2013 14:17
i was always under the assumption that the Rankinia types where the ones found in tassie and the other Tympanocryptis type was the ones found in vic and nsw, but this is going off info from about 5 years or more ago, i have kept them in the past and they are awesome lil creatures, so full of personality
Tom 25 October, 2013 14:33
I saw one on a 4wd track in Jellore State Forest in the Southern Highlands, NSW. Sent some photos of it too the National Museum for identification and they sent me a link to this page. It was a light brown colour and matches the description here, except the location is further north than it says they inhabit.
Brett 15 February, 2014 16:51
I saw a dragon in my garden at Reedy Flat in Victoria which resembled a mountain dragon except it had 4 or 5 yellow blotches on each side of its back. Is it a local variation?
Imogen 27 September, 2014 19:39
I've been trying to find a breeder or a store that has Mountain Dragons for sale but can't find any out of NSW. I live in Victoria and I'm just wondering if anyone knows where there are some or why there's so hard to find! Thanks
peter cullen 13 October, 2014 09:46
I have been flicking arounf the internet attempting to understand somthing of australian dragons. I note that there is some question about the status of the sister species Rankinia adelaidensis that it may better be placed in or left in Ctenaphorus. That leaves Rankinia with two species only. Is Rankinia a sister group to Amphibolurus (the genus of the simular A muricatus)or Ctenaphorus? Is there a danger that the creation of Rankinia is causing a problem by making a paraphyletic taxon of Ctenophorus or Amphibolurus? Is it perhaps the case that this is not a consideration in liizard taxonomy?
Discovery Centre 13 October, 2014 10:27
Interesting question, Peter! We'll forward it to our experts and see what they say.
Discovery Centre 14 October, 2014 10:29
Hi Peter - our Senior Curator of Terrestrial Vertebrates actually published a paper a few years back revising the taxonomic placement of Rankinia parviceps and Rankinia adelaidensis – they are now both in the genus Ctenophorus (see the ABRS website for current official taxonomy - ). So now Rankinia is a monotypic genus containing one species – Rankinia diemensis.

The reference for this revision is:
Melville, J., Shoo, L.P. & Doughty, P. 2008. Phylogenetic relationships of the heath dragons (Rankinia adelaidensis and R. parviceps) from the southwestern Australian biodiversity hotspot. Australian Journal of Zoology 56: 159-171

Chevan C 23 December, 2014 03:07
I just bought a pair of dragons to my home in Sweden. 2 of 4 a total thats here in this country. I hope they will be with me for long, do you know how many years they live? Also, what can I do to make them more home, like that nest? They got a full terrarium. Thank you!
Discovery Centre 23 December, 2014 09:59

Hi Chevan,

Try contacting the certified dealer that you purchased your dragons from as they might have some good suggestions for places to purchase suitable food and foliage in Sweden.

Trevor W 6 January, 2015 22:16
Found one of these guys in my garden. Its the first time I have ever come across this lizard,it appears to be a little bluer in color I do have photos, my be its just the location, central Vic.
Savjasmickmel 12 January, 2015 22:40
I was wondering where I could purchase a mountain dragon lizard in Tasmania?
Brooke 17 January, 2015 17:07
I found a mountain dragon lizard in Bermagui he was very well camouflaged in the dry grass and I found lots of skinks
jon flentjar 19 October, 2015 19:17
I took several pics of a very small mountain dragon yesterday. 18-10-15 . This was at Mt Buffalo in Victoria. Can email some if you wish.
Jo 28 December, 2015 00:51
My place about 50 kms out of Melbourne and we've recently had visits from some beautifully patterned steely grey mountain dragons. Not sure if they are resident or just passing through - either way they are delightful and seem totally unfazed by normal farm activity.
Josh 8 January, 2016 10:25
Why do mountain dragons stick there tail up
Gemma Dyke 26 January, 2016 22:00
I saw a beauty down at the new Dharawal National Park south of Sydney today. My second one. First one was near Buckland in Tasmania. I was wondering if they are quite common?
Discovery Centre 27 January, 2016 10:07
Hi Gemma; yes, this species is known from Tasmanaia, and is reasonably abundant in suitable habitats.
Shezz 31 January, 2016 10:11
How do you tell the difference between a mountain dragon and a bearded dragon? I am trying to work out which species is living near my home at the moment. Thanks
Discovery Centre 1 February, 2016 13:50
Hi Shezz,

This is a bit of a tricky question, and can rely on information as specific as altitude, habitat and specific location. Your best option might be to take a picture and use our Identifications service.
Raymond Hoser 29 March, 2016 23:20
Easiest way is look in mouth - bearded dragon is yellow - jacky is Orange and Mountain dragon whitish with a purple blue tongue - easy as pie!
Raymond Hoser 29 March, 2016 22:37
There are three species of Rankinia in Vic and NONE are diemensis. One from Grampians, one in the central region (Anglsea/Kinglake) and another from the east Mts. See the relevant paper here:
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