Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Crocodile Monitor

New Guinea is an island of roughly 300,000 square miles, while the total surface area of the planet is about 57,000,000. That means New Guinea constitutes less than 1% of all the land on Earth, yet the island is home to nearly 10% of the planet's vertebrate species. Yesterday, new agencies around the world were abuzz with images of new species discovered in the Foja Mountains of New Guinea. These new creatures include the world's smallest wallaby, a black and white butterfly, a giant, woolly rat, and a long nose frog. While I would love to cover some of these fascinating new creatures, there simply isn't enough material out there yet, so instead I'm going to cover another one of New Guinea's interesting species, the Salvadori's or Crocodile Monitor.

Image from BioLib
When you think about huge lizards, you normally think of the Komodo Dragon, right? Well, the Crocodile Monitor and the Komodo share the same genus, Varanus, and can grow to very similar lengths. The largest recorded Croc was 12 feet long, though there have been unconfirmed rumors of individuals reaching growing even larger. Their tail can make up an disproportionate amount of their entire body length compared to other lizards. They definitely have the length of a Komodo, but they don't have the weight, as they reach only about 200lbs. Komodo Dragons can reach twice that number. 

Crocodile Monitors inhabit coastal areas of New Guinea, including swamps, mangroves and coastal rain forests. Sporting smooth scales colored black with white and yellow spots, they also have long sharp teeth which they use to hold on to its prey while climbing up and down trees. The Crocodile Monitor eats mostly small animals - birds, other reptiles, and rats. They are also quite fond of carrion. They also have an adaptation found in all monitors that allows them to breathe easier when running as compared to other lizard types. 

Crocodiles are not an endangered species, though their habitats have been threatened by deforestation, and their numbers have been jeopardized by hunting and collecting as pets.

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