Black Dragon Lizard

Varanus salvator macromaculatus

Last updated: November 8, 2022
Verified by: AZ Animals Staff

Their black color is due to a genetic mutation!

Black Dragon Lizard Scientific Classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Reptilia
Order
Squamata
Family
Varanidae
Genus
Varanus
Scientific Name
Varanus salvator macromaculatus

Read our Complete Guide to Classification of Animals.

Black Dragon Lizard Conservation Status

Black Dragon Lizard Locations

Black Dragon Lizard Locations

Black Dragon Lizard Facts

Prey
rodents, frogs, turtles, snakes, crabs, young crocodiles, crocodile eggs, and fish
Name Of Young
hatchling
Group Behavior
  • Solitary
Fun Fact
Their black color is due to a genetic mutation!
Biggest Threat
king cobra, saltwater crocodiles, obesity
Most Distinctive Feature
Black color
Other Name(s)
black asian water monitor, black water monitor
Temperament
docile
Incubation Period
six to seven months
Litter Size
10 to 40 eggs
Habitat
mangrove swamps, wetlands, forests, city canals
Predators
king cobra, saltwater crocodiles
Diet
Carnivore
Lifestyle
  • Diurnal
  • Solitary
Favorite Food
rodents, turtles, crocodile eggs, poultry, frogs, snakes
Common Name
Black Dragon Monitor lizard
Origin
Thailand

Black Dragon Lizard Physical Characteristics

Color
  • Black
Skin Type
Scales
Lifespan
11 to 25 years
Weight
35-110 pounds
Height
4 to 9 feet
Venomous
Yes
Aggression
Low

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Their black color is due to a genetic mutation!

Facts

  • Water monitors are the second largest lizards in the world, after Komodo dragons.
  • The black dragon lizard is completely black. It is high in demand because of this.
  • This monitor lizard is not its own subspecies. It is actually a hyper-melanistic version of the southeast Asian water monitor.
  • Its color is as a result of a genetic mutation – much like albinism!

Summary

Black dragon lizards are a highly sought-after type of water monitor lizard due to their exotic black color. A subspecies of water monitors, they are semi-aquatic, needing bodies of water for their survival. They are carnivorous and eat carrion, or dead flesh, including human bodies.

Scientific Name

The black dragon lizard is also called the black Asian water monitor. The black dragon lizard gets its color from a gene mutation similar to the type responsible for albinism in other lizards.

This lizard belongs to the family Varanidae and genus Varanus. It is a subspecies of the water monitor Varanus salvator. Formerly known as Varanus salvator komaini, is it now regarded as the hyper-melanistic variation of the southeast Asian water monitor Varanus salvator macromaculatus.

Varanus salvator contains four other official subspecies in addition to the black dragon lizard. These subspecies are:

  • The Asian water monitor, Varanus salvator salvator, which is the nominate subspecies
  • The two-striped water monitor, Varanus salvator bivittatus
  • The Andaman Islands water monitor, Varanus salvator andamanensis
  • Ziegler’s water monitor, Varanus salvator ziegleri

Other common names for the black dragon lizard are black dragon, black water monitor, and black Asian water monitor.

Black Dragon Lizard Appearance

The black dragon monitor is quite rare. Unlike other types of water monitors that typically have dark colors on top and pale-yellow undersides, black dragon lizards have a gene mutation that makes them appear all black, like a reverse albinism.

Black dragon monitor lizards have muscular bodies, including short arms and legs. They have long necks and elongated, narrow snouts. A formidable creature, they possess sharp claws, serrated teeth, powerful jaws, and a strong tail that can seriously hurt when whipped at aggressors and prey alike.

Although black dragon lizards are relatively large lizards, they are slightly smaller than other water monitors. Water monitors usually grow to be around 35 to 44 pounds, although they have a maximum size of about 110 pounds!

They have a forked tongue which flickers in the air to pick up scents. They can sniff out carrion from far distances.

Black dragon lizard
Black dragon lizards have a gene mutation that makes them appear solid black.

Black Dragon Lizard Behavior

Black dragon water monitors are generally solitary animals. They rarely come together except during certain periods, such as mating season. Owners of black dragons should bear this in mind. These animals can get pretty territorial, so it isn’t a good idea to place two of them in the same enclosure.

Black dragon lizards in captivity have a docile temperament and can grow to be affectionate and loving pets. They are not a lizard species for beginners and should only be handled by expert lizard-keepers.

These lizards generally have an even temperament. However, they do not typically show signs of timidity around humans or other animals and will defend themselves when aggravated. They will not hesitate to bite or lash out their strong tails towards any offender. Their bites are extremely dangerous because of their teeth and oral bacteria which can cause infection. They are venomous, but the venom is fatal only to small animals such as rodents and not to humans.

Another defense strategy black dragons have is tree-climbing. They scale up trees to avoid predators and can even jump from the tree to a nearby stream to evade capture.

Black dragon lizards are semi-aquatic which means they need to live around a water source. They are excellent swimmers and dig burrows around their habitat, especially riverbanks, which typically serve as their dwelling place. They dig these burrows strategically to collect enough water to form a shallow pool inside where they can hydrate. The bodies of water also serve as a defense mechanism. When threatened, the lizards find safety in the water where their predators can’t reach them.

This reptile is a diurnal species. Most of their hunting activity is done during the day. Only on rare occasions do they hunt at night.

Habitat and Population

Water monitors are native to south and southeastern Asia. The black dragon lizard hails from Thailand, the Thai-Malaysian border, and also occurs naturally in some parts of Indonesia.

A semi-aquatic lizard, the black dragon monitor is dependent on water and must dwell near a water body. They live in mangrove swamps, primary forests, and wetlands. They like to burrow in riverbanks. These reptiles can cross sizeable expanses of water, expanding its geographical reach.

Black dragons are very adaptable creatures and opportunistic as well. They can live in human cities, mostly in canals and agricultural areas. They sometimes inhabit parks and canals in Bangkok. This versatility is a survival advantage for them.

Black dragon lizards in captivity have similar handling requirements as other monitor lizards. They grow to be very large despite being smaller than other water monitors, which means they will need enough housing space. They love to climb and they love to swim, so a sufficient water source should be made available for them to take cool dips.

In Thailand, all monitor species are protected. The black dragon monitor lizard is not individually listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. However, its nominate species Varanus salvator is listed as Least Concern.

Reproduction and Lifespan

There is not a lot of information on the black dragon monitor’s breeding information, but it is very similar to those of other water monitor types. Male monitors reach sexual maturity at 3.3 feet and at least two pounds, whilst the females reach sexual maturity at just 1.64 feet. Although these sizes may seem small, black dragon lizards can grow up to be relatively large at lengths of up to 5 feet and reach a maximum weight of just over 110 pounds.

Mating between water monitor lizards might be a bit strange for a first-time spectator. There is a lot of biting and scratching involved. These lizards breed very quickly. Breeding starts with the wet season and the female monitors lay their eggs four to six weeks later.

First, they scout out warm and humid locations such as burrowed tunnels, active or abandoned termite or rodent nests, rotting logs or tree stumps. Then they return to their chosen location to deposit their eggs, laying from 10 to 40 eggs per clutch. The number of eggs is determined by the size of the female. The larger the mother, the more eggs she will likely lay. The time of incubation varies per account, lasting anywhere from six to seven months on average. Sometimes, it can be considerably shorter or longer.

Hatchlings are precocious and gain independence as they emerge from their eggs. In captivity, these monitor lizards can live from 11 to 25 years.

Black Dragon Lizard Diet

These lizards are carnivorous monitors and enjoy a wide selection of food. Because they aren’t picky-eaters and live in various habitats, they have adapted to eating whatever they can find. Dragons living in the swamps and forests prey on rodents, frogs, turtles, snakes, crabs, young crocodiles, crocodile eggs, and fish. Like other water monitors, they typically engage in open pursuit of their prey rather than the subtler method of stalking.

Black dragon lizards that live around human-disturbed zones will surely include human food waste in their diet, in addition to farm animals, and domesticated animals such as cats, dogs, and rodents.

They are mostly insectivorous, especially as hatchlings. In captivity, owners should dust their food with a calcium and vitamin powder supplement to meet their nutritional requirement. Gut-loaded insects are also a healthy option. As pet monitors age and get bigger, they can eat larger prey items. They will be able to eat animals such as frozen chicken and turkey, rodents, and fish.

It is important to understand the lizard’s dietary needs to avoid malnutrition and obesity. Black dragon monitor lizards in captivity mostly face challenges in the form of health issues. They should be fed periodically throughout the week instead of daily, depending on the size of each meal. Also, temperatures should be optimal for proper digestion.

Predators and Threats

In the wild, black dragon lizards have few predators. These include saltwater crocodiles and king cobras.

Another threat these animals face is the ever-booming fashion industry. With the high demand of leather and reptile skin, water monitors are at the top of the most exploited animals. Hunters kill and skin them for clothes, shoes, and bags.

In captivity, black dragons are prone to various health challenges such as metabolic bone disorder (MBD) which is caused by calcium deficiency and characterized by brittle bones. It leads to immobilization and death.

They are also susceptible to obesity, caused by frequent feeding of calorie-rich food. An adequate feeding schedule should be implemented to prevent this from occurring. Owner should also refrain from feeding too many fatty foods such as cooked eggs and fatty worms or rodents.

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About the Author

Hi! I am a writer, actor, and filmmaker. Reading is my favorite hobby. Watching old movies and taking short naps are a close second and third. I have been writing since childhood, with a vast collection of handwritten books sealed away in a duffel bag somewhere in my room. I love fiction, especially fantasy and adventure. I recently won the James Currey Prize 2022, so now, naturally, I feel like I own words. When I was 11, I wanted to be a marine biologist because I love animals, particularly dogs, cats, and owls. I also enjoy potatoes and chocolate in all their glorious forms.

Black Dragon Lizard FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

Why are black dragon lizards black?

Black dragon lizards are black due to a gene mutation which causes hyper melanin production.

 

 

Are black dragon lizards dangerous?

Black dragon lizards are dangerous when provoked or aggravated. They have sharp claws, serrated teeth, powerful jaws, and strong, muscular tails that form a good defense system against assailants. You do not want to get on this lizard’s bad side. However, they keep to themselves most of the time and do not bother people.

Are black dragon lizards friendly?

When properly handled and cared for, captive black dragon lizards can be amazing pets. They are friendly, intelligent, and affectionate towards their owners.

What is the difference between black dragon lizards and Asian water monitor?

Black dragon lizards are simply a type of Asian water monitor. They are a hyper-melanistic variation of the Southeast Asian water monitor subspecies.

Are black dragon lizards venomous?

Yes, they are, but don’t fret. This venom is not fatal to humans. If you do get bitten by a black dragon lizard, you would still surely need medical attention because of the severity of the bite as well as oral bacteria which could cause infection.

Do black dragon lizards attack humans?

Black dragon lizards will only attack when they feel like they are in danger. They are not prone to attacking people. They usually stay out of our way. However, if they are threatened, they will not hesitate to defend themselves.

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