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Friday, February 13, 2009

Monitor Lizards: the tropical predators

  • All monitor lizards are tropical reptiles.
  • The claws of monitors are long and sharp.
  • Monitor lizard jaws are very strong and once they bite something it is very difficult to get them to let go.
  • Monitors are carnivorous and will devour anything they are capable of dismembering and gulping down.
  • Monitors do not divest themselves of their tails, like some other lizards. Once lost, the tail of a monitor does not grow back.
  • Many species of monitor lizards hold their heads erect on their long necks, which gives them the appearance of being alert.
  • Monitors tend to swallow their prey whole, like snakes.
  • Monitor lizards lay 7 to 35 soft-shelled eggs, usually deposited in holes in riverbanks or in trees along water courses.
  • The Nile monitor often lays its eggs in termite nests.
  • Komodo dragons are the largest lizards in the world and belong to the family of monitor lizards.
  • Some are small reptiles of less than a foot in length, while the Komodo dragon, the largest living lizard, grows to 364 lb.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Scleroglossa
Infraorder: Anguimorpha
Family: Varanidae
Genus: Varanus

Monitor lizards or biawak are members of the family Varanidae, a group of carnivorous lizards which includes the heaviest living lizard, the Komodo dragon, with the crocodile monitor being the longest in the world. Varanidae is monotypic, containing only the genus Varanus. Their closest living relatives are the anguid and helodermatid lizards.

Monitor lizards are generally large reptiles, although some can be as small as 12 centimetres in length. They have long necks, powerful tails and claws, and well-developed limbs. Most species are terrestrial, but arboreal and semi-aquatic monitors are also known. Almost all monitor lizards are carnivorous, although Varanus prasinus and Varanus olivaceus are also known to eat fruit. They are oviparous, laying from 7 to 37 eggs, which they often cover with soil or protect in a hollow tree stump.

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