Saturday, June 11, 2016

Telepathy, bike-paths, and confusions on Groote

Working in remote places requires a certain degree of patience, flexibility, ingenuity, and planning. Working closely with team-mates in remote locations makes all these qualities even more important. This is Groote Eylandt field work in a nut shell.

There's no doubt remote field work can be difficult. The idiosyncratic behaviours of others can quickly turn from a source of amusement to total frustration and bemusement. I mean - I really don't understand how the hell he can eat the same god damn breakfast everyday. What the f*** is wrong with him? But, we do our best to push aside any intolerances and work together for the common goal.

Chopper eating breakfast
But it's not all bad. There can be amazing benefits to the long, exhausting hours working closely with others. Communication can evolve.......into something almost telepathic.  It's like you're on another plane of consciousness - you understand what your team-mate is thinking before they even think it!! The nuance of their lip curl or subtle lift of their eyebrow are all that's needed to communicate a complex idea or emotion.

The latest trip to Groote Eylandt should be no exception to the telepathic communication of remote field work in a group. After all, Chopper (a.k.a. Andrew Hunter) is a key man in the team. He's a man of eloquence, temperance, empathy, humour and good ol' fashioned manliness. He's a provider, a homemaker, a nappy changer. He has it all. So it was a real surprise then that I received an email from Gwendolyn suggesting otherwise........

Gwendolyn sent me a figure that she feels best describes the relationship between the time taken to understand an explanation by Chop versus the effort required by Chop to explain. See figure below......... It seems to show that those two working closest together (Chop and Gwen) are having the most difficulty with the communication of complex ideas and concepts.

The relationship between the time until people understand a concept versus Chopper's explanation effort this is required. Robbie, Skye and Gwendolyn's data points are provided.

It's not easy to speculate as to the root cause of this pattern. After all, Chopper's legendary explanation about the dangers of bike paths in St Lucia have changed policy and bike-path design. Is Gwendolyn unusual in her ability to not understand Chopper or is it that Robbie and Chop just share a special telepathic communication that defies explanation. Let's explore the possible explanations together......

Chopper explaining the complexities of
bike path design
Possible explanations for the pattern observed above (not mutually exclusive) - feel free to suggest others I can add in:
1. Gwendolyn represents the norm of society and Chopper is just an incomprehensible blood-nut.
2. Robbie just understands the muffled garbles of a lunatic.
3. Every analogy used by Chopper somehow relates to the bike paths of St Lucia.
4. Skye represents the norm and the tails of the distribution are given by Robbie and Gwen.
5. Gwendolyn is too busy dreaming about tigers to listen to Chopper.
6. Gwendolyn believes (incorrectly) that if she stops moving and listening that he will move away and talk to someone else.
7. ?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Dogs, Dereks & Decks – a Lesson in Remote Data Collection

Andrew and Gwendolyn are off and running. Traffic lights are green, and the project looking at how dust affects the health of the Anindilyakwa people on Groote Eylandt is underway. We have done three trips since late 2015, spending most of March, May and June on our island paradise – a welcoming breath from the hustle of Briz-Vegas. Us chumps have been on and off Groote for the past 4 years, so we settled into the pace of island life seamlessly.
Settling in to Groote Eylandt life at Little Jagged

Serena, Carol, Judy, and Gwen visiting Bickerton Island

All the community organisations have been a great help, and with their advice and keen support we met many awesome people across the Groote Eylandt Archipelago and Numbulwar. Much of these trips were spent chatting with the local Angurugu and Umbakumba mobs about the project with the help of a trusty bilingual video, ad-hoc liaisons and a box of fresh bananas from the Angurugu Market Garden (cheers Dave!). A special mention goes to Groote Eylandt Linguistics, who have been invaluable to this project, even joining us on missions to Bickerton Island. One of the biggest lessons we learned is that some of the best opportunities happen through being in the right place at the right time…. and a pinch of luck

For example, a quick 5-minute chat about a community BBQ turned into a 2.5 hour guest spot on the Umbakumba radio station with DJ_Percy. We discussed our project and managed to intertwine quoll-sexcapades with smooth Bob Marley beats. Sunset BBQs under the tamarind tree, volunteering on ghost-net boat patrols with the Land & Sea Rangers and loitering outside supermarkets were just a few random ways that led to some interesting chats and project break-throughs. Worth a mention is when we tested our basketball skills against the zippy local kids – a humbling experience where we left with our soft city feet blistered and pride dented after being dusted in the final seconds of overtime.

Collecting rogue ghost-nets with the Land & Sea Rangers

Chopper recruiting help for the BBQ 

From Groote, a 20 min jump in a 6-seater plane finds you in the closest mainland community - Numbulwar. Conveniently, our long-lost UQ soccer club stalwart, Selena Uibo aka the current Labour Rep for East Arnhem, was living in Numbulwar and was the perfect host. Across a couple of trips, we saw Robbie take a few dives on the Numbulwar soccer court, met a bunch of smiling locals and we were invited to the public viewing of the men’s ceremony – an incredible experience to witness the pure joy and pride in the local culture (thank you Selena and Junga!).

Robbie fooling Chopper with his body swerve before slotting
home a goal for the good guys

Selena, Andrew and Gwen at Numbulwar Jetty

After a lengthy period of serious face-time in the communities, the snowball was gathering speed – data collection had successfully begun! In libraries, community gardens, backyards, on beachside decks and occasionally in air-conditioned bliss – wherever we were invited, we went forth in the name of Anindilykwa health.

However, living in sweaty paradise was not all about work. The UQ team, including the quoll contingent, brought home the bronze medal from the Games on the Green – a fundraiser for local sport. Andrew spent every spare second out on fishing jaunts, painting his fishing lures with glittery nail polish and fantasising about his next honking fish. Gwen and her ultimate doggy-friend, Buddy, spent most afternoons walking the bush outskirts of town getting stalked by resident crocs. Skye has been working her volunteers, Pip and Sarah, to the state of exhaustion similar to that experienced by male quolls at the end of breeding (minus the satisfying ending). When Skye wasn’t head-deep in quollness she limbered up with majestic yoga moves beachside at sunset (unknowingly putting on a show for the miners having after-work beers). The weekends brought us all together for some explorative camping, reading relaxation and vigilant prairie-dog-style swimming.

Pip, Andrew, Skye and Gwen receiving the Bronze at
the Games on the Green.

Chopper and his beloved Queenfish

We left Groote mid-June knowing our return was imminent in a couple of months, and with a few more key lessons learned:
1. Despite a perfect record of fixing the problem, opening the driver’s side door whilst fiddling with the sun-visor actually has nothing to do with helping a temperamental starter motor tick over.
2. The Bohnanza card game is Amazebeans.
3. To effectively communicate with other humans, articulating context in random one-liner-outbursts is crucial – never assume others can read your thoughts in the 20 minutes of silence preceding said outbursts……Andrew.
4. Whilst camp dogs ain’t always the prettiest, they have a cheery disposition and happy tail that won’t quit.
5. In small communities, there is nothing surer than running into Chatty-Cathies and Doomsday-Dereks.
6. “The Wire” is in the top 5 TV shows…. ever. In the immortal words of Senator Clayton Davis

Andrew and his new camp dog companion

Friday, November 14, 2014

Our New ARC Grant on Motor Performance and Ageing

If you thought turning 30 was bad, you're not going to like this. 

We lose more than 0.5% of our muscle mass each year after 30, which decreases our ability to run, jump, swim and perform virtually any motor task. Age-related muscle loss (known as sarcopenia) increases our risk of dying due to injury and even illness, as the proteins in our muscles are a major source of fuel for our immune systems.

elderly sea gypsy weaves nets in Phuket, Thailand

Luckily, there's a simple solution to the problem: getting off the couch.

Exercise improves the efficiency of muscle metabolism and makes muscles more protein-dense, which helps slow ageing. We live longer, healthier lives. 

bike riding in Galle, Sri Lanka

For humans, motor ageing affects the quality and length of life. But what about animals? In nature, motor function literally means life or death, as individuals have to escape predators and catch prey to survive. They also have to find mates to reproduce. They have to run over varied terrain, in the night or day, driving rain or blazing sun, with varied body sizes and shapes. Males may have dangling testicles, females may have dangling babies. And they have to do all this while avoiding catastrophic injury. 

Last week, our research team - A/Prof Robbie Wilson, Dr Diana Fisher, Dr Hamish Campbell, Dr Celine Frere and me - got a major grant from the Australian Research Council to study a critical aspect of animal performance: how an animal's habitat affects its motor development and ageing

well-endowed male antechinus  

What does habitat have to do with anything? We believe that within a species, individuals living in more-complex (i.e. rocky or diverse or steep) environments will have better motor function and slower motor ageing than those living in simpler (flat or unvaried) environments. This will help them live longer and produce more offspring.

Over the next 3 years, we'll be testing these ideas on small mammals - including quolls and antechinus - both in the wild and in captivity. At our field sites, we'll use GPS trackers to understand how animals use complex versus simple habitats, and how this affects their motor performance, ageing and mating. At our research facility, we'll raise animals in complex versus simple habitats to measure differences in performance, muscle physiology and mating success between environments and over lifetimes. 

male antechinus

Our study will show how habitat use affects motor performance and ageing in wild animals, which is key to their conservation. But more than that, we hope to shed light on a new way of thinking about motor rehabilitation. Over 50% of elderly people will experience debilitating muscle loss in their lifetimes, yet little is known about how the complexity of movement affects muscle quality.

So this is some of what we'll be doing these next few years! If you're interested in collaborating, volunteering or learning more, please get in touch - we'd love to hear from you. ( or

*This post was originally published here.

Friday, May 30, 2014

From the field: Studying endangered northern quolls on Groote Eylandt

- by Rebecca Wheatley

It's a new year, which means there's new research to be done as I delve into my PhD. But before I start writing about that, I want to write about a somewhat related experience I was lucky enough to have last year.

In August/September, I got to join my labmates Ami, Jaime and Gwen up on Groote Eylandt, which is a large island off the coast of the Northern Territory owned and run by the Anindilyakwa people. The reason:
to help them out with their research on the endangered Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus).

Catwoman, a pretty little female Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus). 

Now, if you’ve ever been to Australia, you probably have heard the story of the Cane Toad (Rhinella marina) – even if it’s just via one of the many delightful novelty souvenirs available in Australian tourist shops.

A classy addition to any accessory collection. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons. 

The cane toad is an extremely successful invasive species that was introduced into Australia in 1935 to eat a beetle that was negatively affecting the cane industry (which it didn’t), and since then it has spread down the East coast and across the Northern Territory, and is slowly making its way down the West coast as well. One of the reasons Groote Eylandt is so amazing is because it is one of the few areas up North that has remained cane toad-free. Because of this exclusion, it is the last stronghold population of the endangered Northern Quoll, whose numbers have been decimated via their predation on this toxic species. This makes Groote an ideal location to study the quoll in its natural habitat, as numbers are high enough for recapture studies to generate useful amounts of data.

A magical sunset in the bush next to the highway to Umbakumba.

I was on Groote Eylandt for 5 weeks helping Ami with data collection for her PhD project. As well as stunning landscapes and amazing native animals, Groote Eylandt is also home to a large manganese mine. All animals need some amount of manganese to function, but like any heavy metal it can be toxic in high concentrations. For her PhD, Ami is looking at how quolls from different parts of the island (that have been exposed to different amounts of manganese) perform in motor control and cognitive function tests. We are lucky enough to have access to laboratory facilities at the Anindilyakwa Land and Sea Ranger Station, where we get to work with the Rangers to figure out how to do our research in a way that is compatible with indigenous culture.

Ami measuring one of our little darlings. 

We went out every night and set 30-60 traps in one of our three trapping areas various distances from the manganese mine, which we then checked first thing the next morning. If we were lucky, we’d see white spots and hear some angry growling – otherwise it was rather likely that we’d caught one of the other marsupials that populate the area. We then transported our precious bundles back to the lab at the Anindilyakwa Ranger Station where we sexed them, weighed them, took various morphological measures and a hair sample (to get their internal manganese concentration from) and pit- and ear-tagged them.

Alfred, a feisty (and adorable) little male. 

Lastly, we’d gather information on their level of motor control. I won’t give away too many details, but we basically assessed their performance at various speeds and analysed how many mistakes they made depending on the difficulty of the task and the speed at which they performed it. We would expect that as speed and/or “difficulty” of the task increases, the quolls will make more mistakes. The reasons for this are very intuitive and you will probably have observed them in your own life; as you do things faster you have less control over your movements and are more likely to make an error. Similarly, if a task is difficult, you’re more likely to make a mistake than if it’s relatively easy. What Ami wants to know is whether the manganese concentration the quoll has been exposed to enhances this effect – i.e., whether high manganese concentrations affect motor control.

Back to the bush you go. 

Ami also wants to look at whether manganese concentration affects cognitive function in the quolls – but that’s for her to write about! She’ll continue to run these experiments for the next two years, and hopefully get some excellent results. I was very lucky to be involved in helping out with this project, as many of the techniques she used will be helpful in my own PhD.

Having a sniff out of the corner of his bag. 

Although quolls were the main attraction for us, Groote Eylandt has plenty of other amazing qualities that made my trip there one of the most memorable ventures into the field that I’ve ever had. We are extremely privileged to be able to conduct research there, and I learned more about indigenous culture than I ever thought I would. I also saw loads of awesome animals and plants, and got to spend a lot of time in the field – which is definitely one of the best ways to spend it.

A Mertens' Water Monitor (Varanus mertensi) chilling by Milyerrngmurramaja (the "Naked Pools"). These guys are also threatened by ingestion of the cane toads. 
A Striated Pardalote (Pardalotus striatus) that was nesting next to the Anindilyakwa Ranger Station.
A Burton's Legless Lizard (Lialis burtonis) we found while we were setting traps near Alyangula.
A Helmeted Friarbird (Philemon buceroides) next to the highway to Umbakumba. 
I’d like to say a huge thank-you to my lab for this opportunity, but most especially to Ami, Jaime and Gwen for teaching me so many new skills and being the best bush-buddies ever. I’m looking forward to future adventures with the Wilson Performance Lab as I start my PhD on another kind of carnivorous marsupial… the Yellow-footed Antechinus (Antechinus flavipes)!

Sunset on the beach at Ayangkwa ("Tasman Point"). 

All images by Rebecca Wheatley unless otherwise credited.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

UQ CIEF Grant awarded to the Performance Lab

- by Robbie Wilson

Last week I travelled back to Groote Eylandt to sign off on a collaborative research project with the Anindilyakwa Land Council worth $375,000 over the next two years. This supports an important project and recognizes our strengthening relationship with the people of Groote Eylandt with whom we've been working for the last five years. 

Indigenous dugong painting on Groote Eylandt
For our UQ-CIEF grant we'll be exploring the possible toxic effects of manganese from the local mining operations on the wildlife of Groote Eylandt. Groote hosts one of the world’s largest Mn mines - and despite considerable financials rewards for the local community, many locals are becoming increasingly concerned about the long-term impacts of Mn contamination for their environment. The toxic effects of Mn usually manifest in animals by affecting their cognitive and motor function, which places our research group in a unique position to tackle this research.

We'll examine the pattern of Mn accumulation in the local wildlife and then test whether any increased Mn affects motor function in our primary study animal, the northern quoll. This species offers a perfect model system because it is highly abundant across the island – both close and far from the mining operations – and we can easily adapt tests of motor control from protocols used in biomedical studies of rats and mice.

Groote Eylandt field work

Ami (PhD student) and Skye (Researcher) will be the main team members working on this project but, as always, everyone in the lab will contribute to the smooth running of the work. There is never a shortage of volunteers offering help!! We’re all excited about continuing our work with the Indigenous Rangers of Groote Eylandt and we hope they get as much out of our collaboration as we all do. My feeling is that you haven’t graduated as an Australian ecologist (or zoologist) until you’ve wandered through the bush with a real local and seen the land through their eyes. 

Thanks again to the Anindilyakwan people for their on-going trust and acceptance of our research team. We look forward to the season ahead.

I spent a late afternoon wandering rocky landscapes and avoiding crocodiles

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

In Search of Hot Mosquitofish

thermal ecology research Queensland outback
A natural thermal gradient - the hot bores of outback Queensland

- by Robbie Wilson

How do animals adapt to hot temperatures? What allows some animals to do well in hot conditions while others simply, well – die? Seems like a pertinent question when one considers the world is getting hotter. And quickly.

My current ARC Discovery Project poses these very questions. I want to understand the mechanisms of adaptation to warmer temperatures and how this can shape a species' population dynamics and survival. It's not surprising then that my interest was piqued by rumours of an introduced species of freshwater fish (the ubiquitous mosquitofish) that can actually survive in the bath-hot bore drains of western Queensland.

Across the state's west, numerous deep bores tap into the rich underground water sources of the Great Artesian Basin. Water spews out of these pipes from depths of more than 1500m at temperatures in excess of 70°C, flowing into narrow drains and cooling – allowing livestock to persist in an environment that would be otherwise uninhabitable. Fish (well, so the rumours go) inhabit these open drains at year-round temperatures above 30°C and sometimes even greater than 40°C. The possibility of capturing and studying these fish was too tempting to ignore.

RA Skye Cameron + echidna

My RA and lab organising force Skye is used to my crazy, impetuous ideas, and she doesn't even seem surprised when my ideas are offered at stupidly short notice and without any respect for logistics. In this specific case, Skye laughed – and started packing – when I suggested we should head out west in search of some hot fish in just a few days’ time. We would collect some fish from hot bores to study in the lab. It was the prospect of teaming-up with some UQ colleagues that work out near Barcaldine (1200 km north-west of Brisbane) who know the local people, properties and bore-drain locations that lit a fire under my b-hind.

So - it was early on a Monday morning that Skye picked me up half-asleep (me, not her) and we set-off on our adventure with no guarantees of success (let's face it, little chance of success). By lunchtime on Tuesday we reached Barcaldine. We'd avoided suicidal kangaroos and emus playing chicken with every vehicle pelting along the highway, and we rendezvoused with Jeremy (RA) and Billie (Honours) – from my colleague Rod Fensham's lab group – at the local bakery. Incidentally, Rod and Jeremy work on the spring systems of Edgbaston - the site of Australia's most endangered freshwater fish, the red-finned blue-eye (more on this another time).

we had to stop driving at dusk as the emus and kangaroos made the roads dangerous

After the obligatory orientation tour of the town's pubs on Tuesday evening and a sampling (2 kgs) of the local beef (not by Skye), we set off in search of bores on Wednesday morning. It didn't take long before we found them.

The first property we visited had a bore flowing out at 55°C into a tiny, narrow drain. Over the course of 30 m, the water cooled down to temperatures of around 45°C, and as we walked along the drain we spotted our first hot candidates. Little juvenile mosquito fish living at 42.8°C. Holy be-jesus!! This temperature is higher than I thought possible for any mosquito fish to survive in.

It was incredible - fish living in water I found hot to the touch.

mosquitofish were found at temperatures as (naturally) hot as 42.8 degC

Walking along the drain revealed a beautiful temperature gradient that dropped down by around 1°C every 5 meters. When we hit temperatures of around 35°C there was an absolute explosion of fish and the surface rippled with movement. We'd found our hot fish – and in truly staggering numbers. The air temperature was just a little over 20°C – and it was dropping nightly to below 5°C – yet the fish were enjoying balmy water. These fish had found their stable, warm conditions and were clearly loving it.

kangaroos - as far as the eye could see

By the end of the next day, we'd collected mosquitofish from two more sites and were ready to head back to Brisbane with a troop-carrier full of bore water and thermophilic fish. All we had to do was avoid those roos and make it back for my daughter Nelle's birthday party by 11am Saturday (Happy Birthday Princess).

And we did. I was only 30 minutes late to the party …

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Grand Slam: How Hard Should You Hit?

Today on the blog we're happy to have former Wilson Honour's student, Rebecca Wheatley, who describes her thesis work on gecko personality. Rebecca's currently working as a research associate in the Wilson lab, and plans to start a PhD next year. You can find out more about Rebecca on her science blog, The Adventures of the Integrative Ecologist

The trade-off between performance and accuracy is a problem faced by a lot of different animals in a variety of situations. For example, consider a squirrel running along a bare branch to get from one tree to another; the faster it runs, the less time it spends exposed to predators. However, as the squirrel runs faster, it also increases its chances of mis-stepping and falling to its potential doom. 

So, to get the best of both worlds, the squirrel needs to optimise its running speed depending on its chance of slipping (the width of the branch) and the cost of falling off (the height from the ground).

Squirrels know what’s going down (or do they)? Image source: Wikimedia commons.

These sort of performance/accuracy trade-offs are also commonplace in the human world. How fast should you smash out a text message to your supervisor asking him (politely) to email back your latest draft before the number of typos makes the whole thing unintelligible?  In particular, these trade-offs are of a great deal of interest in elite sports. An awesome example of a sport where this trade-off is of utmost importance is in singles tennis. 

Serving hard: Heather Watson, Roger Federer and David Ferrer. Image source: Wikimedia commons.

In tennis, it’s pretty well accepted that if you serve really hard, it’s more difficult for your opponent to return the ball. But the harder you serve, the more likely it is that you’ll miss the service area and fault. So, players will usually belt it out on their first serve, but if they miss the first serve they’ll hedge their bets and serve softer the second time round to make sure they don’t double fault.

A/Prof Robbie Wilson, Dr Chris Brown and I have been testing this idea about performance trade-offs and optimal strategies using data from the men’s singles in the 2013 Australian Open. We’ve found this observation to be generally true: the probability of winning the point increases as the serve speed approaches its maximum, but the probability of faulting increases as well (for most players – some players are really consistent at getting it in regardless of how fast they serve). This was reflected in the frequency of high serve speeds in the first and second serves.

Jérémy Chardy, Andy Murray and Janko Tipsarevic. Image source: Wikimedia commons.

We’ve also constructed an optimality model which predicts the optimal serve speed taking into account the probability of faulting and the cost of a fault. An optimality model is, in essence, a mathematical model where you input the risks and rewards of a specific situation for a given individual, and it will tell you the optimal response for that individual if it wants to both minimise the risks and maximise the rewards. 

Optimality modelling is useful because it allows us to calculate the optimal response of specific individuals to any situation. We are looking at whether their opponent’s world ranking (ability to return a fast serve) and the point they’re going for or defending against (normal, game, set or match) affects their serve speed in relation to their optimum, but more on those results later.

Rafael Nadal, Caroline Wozniacki and Jérémy Chardy. Image source: Wikimedia commons.

We hope that our research can teach us more about how animals optimise their behaviour and physical efforts to improve their chances of successfully performing a given task. Depending on what we find, we might even be able to offer specific recommendations to tennis players wanting to improve their service game – who knows what the future might hold!

Andrew Hunter, a PhD student in our lab, is looking at performance/accuracy trade-offs in soccer. Will the results be similar between an individual and a team sport? We don’t know yet, but it will be interesting to find out.

Novak Djokovic, Agnieszka Radwańska and Venus Williams. Image source: Wikimedia commons.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Can water dragons actually run on water?

Today's guest poster is Dr Christofer Clemente. After postdoctoral stints at Cambridge and Harvard, Chris obtained an ARC DECRA and joined the Wilson lab at UQ. You can keep up with Chris's adventures on his science blog, Biomechanics Downunder.

I have long been impressed with the ability of the South American Basilisk lizard to run on water. There are plenty of videos of it on youtube, for example a short one here. 

It's pretty amazing. Looking at this video alone shows 2 important aspects of its locomotion: 
  1. it's able to lift the whole body out of the water, and 
  2. it's able to do so for quite long distances (around 10-15m). 

Some lizards' ability to run on water has been documented quite well by a series of papers by a group at Harvard University, particularly Tonia Hsieh. They've done some great work, including describing how smaller lizards are better able to support their body weight than are larger lizards, modelling 3D forces and recording 3D kinematics of the lizards' stride. Below is a gif showing some of the detailed kinematics of the lizard stride from George Lauders lab webpage. 

(NOTE: just click on the gifs if they are not running)

One other important point reported in these papers, based on the description given in Hsieh (2003), is it seems the lizards' kinematics change when running on water, such that the limb moves behind the hip, rather than being both in front and behind the hip.   

This is shown quite well in the gif above. So given this information on how Basilisk runs on water, we can then ask the question,  
Can the water dragon (Intellagama lesueurii) also run on water? 

I was led to believe it may be able to from two dominate and convincing lines of logic. 
  1. they are water dragons! - it might behoove them to be able to do so and 
  2. I heard reports of the juvenile lizard being observed doing so from a fellow researcher. 

So I modified the lizard racetrack which I have here at the University of Queensland, by placing a short, water-filled aquarium across the water dragons' path which they must cross to get to the other side. Then I sat back and filmed them using the fastec high speed camera system. And this is a typical (read: absolutely best) result below

Well the first thing I noticed is that they are no basilisk lizards. The body is not held out of the water and progress is significantly slowed. The first step seems hardly effective at all, and the second step is much deeper, and seems like a breaking step, with the foot held flat. However, the following step seem to have some similarity to those of the basilisk. From steps 3 onwards, the foot does not appear to be pushed as far forward, and much of the stroke seems to be posterior of the hip, as in basilisk. Secondly the trapped air bubbles on the foot are interesting, and these are also observed for basilisk, where they are thought to be the result of tiny fringes along the toes of the south american lizard. Such fringes however, are not obvious in the water dragons. Below is a snapshot of the bubble being dragged down on the trailing edge of the foot. 

So I'm unsure what to make of this all. It does look like they are capable of some run/swim locomotion, but it certainly falls short of the amazing prowess of the basilisk.

Here are some less impressive runs. Though notice that the right hind foot is actually brought out of the water - suggesting they could be using surface effects to give more downward force. 

And this one below shows a similar stroke. 

So that's as far as I've got. Let me know whether you think it is sufficiently interesting to warrant detailed kinematic analysis, or whether you think water dragons are just a little impaired when it comes to running on water. 

Finally, I leave you with what happens after several trials and the dragons know the water is coming up. It led me to believe, that for water dragons, they sure do not like water!