These dragons occur in heathlands, sandplains, and wooded country in southern regions of Australia. They are pale in colour, usually grey-brown, although males develop a reddish hue in the breeding season. This allows them to blend with their habitat; they are a ground-dwelling species found amid leaf litter and sand. Rankinia species are timid in their behaviour, and will only briefly break from the cover of vegetation. Their burrowing behaviour is unique in Australian dragons; they cover all but their snouts with a shuffling action, burying themselves in the sand; this behaviour may help the dragons to regulate their temperature.
Three species are contained by the genus, and subspecies of these have also been described:
- Rankinia adelaidensis (Gray, 1841) – western heath dragon, eastern heath dragon
- Rankinia diemensis (Gray, 1841) – mountain heath dragon, mountain dragon
- Rankinia parviceps (Storr, 1964) – Shark Bay heath dragon
Many of the subspecies are restricted to a small range. Their distribution in southwest Australia is represented by two subspecies of Rankinia adelaidensis; one at the western coast, another along the southeast coast of the region. A third subspecies, Rankinia parviceps butleri is found in a small range near Shark Bay and Dirk Hartog Island.
- Browne-Cooper, Robert; Brian Bush; Brad Maryan; David Robinson (2007). Reptiles and Frogs in the Bush: Southwestern Australia. University of Western Australia Press. pp. 162, 163. ISBN 978-1-920694-74-6.
- Rankinia, The Reptiles Database
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