SYDNEY, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Australian bearded dragons have an ability to change their color depending on their surrounds, researchers have found.
In a study published on Thursday, scientists from The University of Melbourne found that the Central bearded dragon, a native Australian reptile that can reach up to two feet in length, is capable of switching between shades in a matter of seconds.
While the dragons' display is not as striking as that of a chameleon, a reptile renowned for its pyrotechnic color displays, the color palettes the large reptiles adopt changes depending on the shade of their surroundings.
Viviana Cadena, the project leader from The University of Melbourne, said that the dragons likely change colors to regulate body temperature and communicate with opposition in their territory as well as hiding from predators.
Cadena collected dragons from north-western Victoria and the red desert in the Northern Territory (NT), habitats approximately 1,500 km apart, to use in the study.
"We chose these two populations because their colours and the appearance of the habitats in which they live differed the most amongst all bearded dragon populations," Cadena said in a media release on Thursday.
The lighter (southern) and darker (northern) populations were photographed in three separate habitats containing yellow sand similar to that in Victoria, red desert sand from the NT and black sand in simulated conditions varying from intense daylight to overcast conditions.
Cadena said both populations were able to change their color to a similar extent but when the Victorian lizards had adapted their hue remained more yellow than the naturally orange NT lizards and the same was true vice versa.
She said that the researchers were surprised to find that both sets of lizards achieved better color matches with their surroundings in low light conditions.
"We think this could be because there might be a higher risk of predation at low light levels at dawn and dusk, when many predators are most active," Cadena said.