July 21, 2009
German researchers have discovered a new species of monitor lizard in Indonesia using DNA analysis and morphological characteristics. The species, Varanus lirungensis, is described in the Australian Journal of Zoology.
Varanus lirungensis inhabits the Talaud Islands, an archipelago between the Indonesian island of Sulawesi and Mindanao in the Philippines. Its latin name refers to the small village of Lirung on Salibabu Island where the new species was first located. Salibabu is the second largest island of the Talaud group.
Researchers say the discovery is important because it highlights the high, but poorly known, diversity of monitor lizards in Indonesia. Several species of water monitors have been discovered on Sulawesi and surrounding islands in recent years.
But the discoveries come as a mixed blessing for the species. On one hand, researchers can ask authorities to protect the species from trade. On the other, reptile collectors are always on the lookout for previously unknown species. When scientists report discoveries, reptiles hunters are not long to follow, poaching specimen from the wild.
“As monitor lizards are exploited for the international trade in live animals and reptile leather, small island populations could soon be eliminated” said Wolfgang Wägele, Director of the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (ZFMK) in Bonn. …
“The taxonomic revision of Indonesia’s monitor lizards is urgently required to determine and adjust the official export quotas and define the conservation status of single island populations,” added Thomas Ziegler, study co-author and head of the aquarium at the Cologne Zoo.
Monitors are a family of carnivorous lizards found throughout Asia, Australia, and Africa. The group includes the Komodo dragon, the world’s heaviest lizard, and the crocodile monitor, the longest lizard.
Koch A., Arida E., Schmitz A., Böhme W. & Ziegler T. 2009. Refining the polytypic species concept of mangrove monitors (Squamata: Varanus indicus group): a new cryptic species from the Talaud Islands, Indonesia, reveals the underestimated diversity of Indo-Australian monitor lizards. Australian Journal of Zoology, 57(1): 29-40. http://www.publish.csiro.au/nid/90/paper/ZO08072.htm
The origin of the Komodo dragon: here.
A possible new species of giant prehistoric lizard—bigger and badder than the deadly Komodo dragon—may have stalked the ancient Australian outback, a new study says. Three fossilized bones of the mysterious 13-foot-long (4-meter-long) lizard were collected in 1966 in western Timor island, part of Indonesia: here.
Komodo dragon catching a bat. Video here.
Komodo dragons and other giant lizards all evolved in Australia: here.
The Singapore Zoo has hatched the first baby Komodo Dragon in it’s 34 year history. Here you get a rare glimpse at the world’s heaviest lizard at it’s very smallest: just hatched!
A study published in the July 17 issue of the journal Science details how sandfish — small lizards with smooth scales — move rapidly underground through desert sand. In this first thorough examination of subsurface sandfish locomotion, researchers from the Georgia Institute of Technology found that the animals place their limbs against their sides and create a wave motion with their bodies to propel themselves through granular media: here.
Philippine crocodiles: here.