DRAGON HUNT: Kirilee Chaplin from the Museum of Victoria on the prowl for earless dragons in chick pea stubble just outside St George.
DRAGON HUNT: Kirilee Chaplin from the Museum of Victoria on the prowl for earless dragons in chick pea stubble just outside St George. Peter Carruthers

Found: the St G dragon, just outside Nindigully

THEY are not cute like koalas or cuddly like quokkas but still there is something endearing about the native grassland earless dragon.

Kirilee Chaplin, a PHD student working for the Museum of Victoria is on a mission to find out more about this small and elusive Queensland native.

Ms Chapman discovered a new species of dragon when conducting field work in Emerald last year and now she is on the hunt for new species in the south-west.

Collecting DNA samples from dragons found in Mitchell and Cunnamulla, St George is her last stop before heading back to the lab in Melbourne.

Using a converted fishing rod with a small noose at the tip and a keen pair of eyes, Ms Chaplin has been in pursuit of the earless dragon for the last month.

In the stubble of a harvested what field near Nindigully she found three earless dragons, Ms Chaplin said Monday was a successful day.

One of the three earless dragons found in wheat field near Nindigully.
One of the three earless dragons found in wheat field near Nindigully. Peter Carruthers

"No one knows that they are here. Its unbelievable to find something based on a hunch," she said.

Ms Chaplin said no one has really looked at the grassland earless dragon until recently.

"It's not really a priority. People like cute fluffy, furry things.

The earless dragons caught near St George could be a new species, but Ms Chaplin said she suspected they were a hybrid or in the process of diverging from a sister species.

She will not know until the DNA samples taken from the animal's tail are analysed back at the lab.

Ms Chaplin joked she loved saying she was doing her thesis on dragons but the form the animal took did not affect her primary goal.

"It's not about the species. It's more about the questions and the concepts: fusing genetics and evolution studies with ecology and conservation... is what I like doing.

She asked farmers to report sightings and send photos to her via email: kchaplin@ museum.vic. gov.au

Fun earless dragon facts:

Earless dragons can still hear but they have skin over their ears

They are typically 10-12cm long and weigh 10 grams

Favourite habitat is grass land and crop fields

They can move by floating down rivers

Four new species have been discovered in Queensland within the last year


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