• Julia RIley

Bold in the City



Australian Water Dragons (Intellagama lesueurii) are found in major cities, like Sydney and Canberra, on the eastern coast of Australia. Photo by James Baxter-Gilbert.

Australian Water Dragons from urban environments are born bolder! Our recent paper, led by James Baxter-Gilbert, shows that, even if you raise water dragons from natural, semi-natural, and urban populations in the same environment, the ones from more developed areas are innately bolder. Also, their expression of boldness is repeatable, which suggests selection may favour this trait in human-altered environments.


We quantified dragon boldness by scaring them into a undesirable refuge (see set-up on left), and recording how long it takes for them to emerge - the less times it takes a dragon, the bolder they are! The dragons from semi-natural and urban environments both took less time to emerge (see figure on right) - reflecting a bolder reaction to our assay!

Dr Kirstin Winchell (@kmwinchell) put together an amazing summary of our paper for the Life in the City blog - you should check it out here! It's also a great resource for keeping up to date about amazing research in the field of urban ecology. Also make sure to follow James Baxter-Gilbert (@JamesBG_27) and the Lizard Lab (@lizard_lab) at Macquarie University on Twitter for more great research.

You can download the full paper here, and please cite this article as:

Baxter-Gilbert JH, Riley JL, and Whiting MJ. 2019. Bold New World: Urbanization promotes an Innate Behavioural Trait in a Lizard. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, 73: 105.