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New study on colour-changing dragons!

We have recently launched a new study to investigate how and why bearded dragons change colour. This study, funded by the Australian Research Council, will allow us to examine the speed and triggers of colour change, as well as the role of hormones, and the impact that colour change has on the heat balance of the lizards.

Bearded dragons can change from black and dark grey to a bright reddish or orange colour, and the dragons change colour most dramatically during social and territorial displays. The dragons also change colour to help them heat up or cool down. Not only do the lizards change the colours that we see, but they can also change how their skin reflects wavelengths of solar radiation that humans cannot see, such as the ultraviolet and near-infrared. Changes in near-infrared reflectance may be very important for a lizard’s thermal balance, and we are particularly interested in this aspect.

This research will help us get a clearer understanding of the evolution of colour change in animals. The study may also have practical uses, such as providing a natural model for the development of materials that change colour in response to temperature. This study is being conducted in collaboration with John Endler from Deakin University and Warren Porter from the University of Wisconsin.

To learn more, read the media coverage of the study:

Hopes for harnessing chameleon superpower – The Age (8 April 2013)
Vic study looks at chameleon colours – The Australian (7 April 2013)
Dragons colour study could fuel breakthroughs – ABC News (7 April 2013)
From colour-changing lizards to colour-changing bandages – L’Oréal Australia & New Zealand, Women in Science Fellowships (7 April 2013)

Photo credit: Adam Elliot

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