Apart from snakes and lizards, a host of mammals, frogs, ants, fish and, believe it or not, some species of squid evolved the ability to glide. Technically this means they can locomote from a higher to lower elevation at an angle of under 450 (parallel to the ground/water). Convergent evolution made such feats possible through a series of remarkable body changes in both the skin and skeleton, coupled with behavioural adaptations, all geared to generate enough ‘lift’ to overcome what aeronautical engineers refer to as drag (air resistance).
All this relates to survival of the fittest, the mantra that Charles Darwin gifted to the world of science. This has little to do with strength and everything to do with adaptability. Take a look at the bark of this tree again. Take a still closer look. So, did you spot the lizard? “There is no lizard there,” did you say? Well, one of India’s finest wildlife photographers, Yuwaraj Gurjar, would disagree. He discovered this amazingly-camouflaged reptile in Goa’s Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary and its cryptic colouration is only one part of its natural ‘magic’. It is popularly known as the ‘flying’ lizard, though technically it can only glide, not fly!
Found in the Western Ghats, Draco dussumieri leaps off trees, spreading its lateral ‘wings’ (actually a flap of skin that serves as a wing membrane, or patagium), below each foreleg to ‘parachute’ to its new chosen perch. The lizard also possess a yellow gular (throat) appendage called a dewlap (longer in males), which is used as a signalling device to attract mates. Field biologist Dipti Humraskar of the National Centre for Biological Studies says she has observed females of the species spending as much as 90 per cent of their daily time staying immobile! Now that’s an incredible survival strategy! Still can’t see it?
Please drag the cursor over the image below for a closer look.
Photography by: Yuwaraj Gurjar
Location: Bondla Wildlife Sanctuary, Goa.
Author: Parvish Pandya, First appeared in: Sanctuary Asia, Vol. XXXII, No. 6, December 2012.