Caught and Coloured: Zoology Illustrations from Colonial Victoria


Australia's predominantly arid landscape created an ideal environment for lizards to evolve into diverse forms. Twenty-one species of the more common Victorian lizards were illustrated in the Prodromus, representing all Australian lizard families.

The goanna family includes Australia's largest lizards. First illustrated was the Lace Monitor, shown characteristically gripping a tree. Also depicted was the Sand Goanna, which occurs only in the state's far north-west. Similarly, geckoes are more diverse in the north, with just two species represented: the Marbled Gecko and the Thick-tailed Gecko.

Several species of flap-footed lizards, such as the Burton's Legless Lizard and the Striped Legless Lizard, were also included, along with a number of dragon species. The Eastern Water Dragon was described by McCoy as being collected from:

... a country so rugged and overgrown with forests and almost impenetrable scrub that it is an extremely rare occurrence for a white man to reach the habitat in which the Physignathus is found, in the upper reaches of the Buchan River.

Closer to home, McCoy described the Blood Sucker as 'the commonest lizard about Melbourne, especially in the sandy districts on the south coast'. Now familiar as the Jacky Lizard, it was portrayed as making an 'elegant little pet'.

Presently considered threatened, the Earless Dragon has not been recorded in Victoria since 1967, standing as a reminder of species which have not fared well since European settlement.

Skinks, the most abundant of Australia's lizards, were well represented. Largest are the blue-tongues, of which three species were illustrated, while a specimen of Cunningham's Skink collected from Essendon was also depicted.

Having covered most of the larger species, McCoy turned to the smaller, more cryptic skinks. Numerous unpublished plates indicated his intention to provide more thorough classification of the family, but unfortunately his notes for these have not been located.

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