Thursday, September 6, 2012

Butikaw

Varanus bitatawa
Today's animal goes by two different common names. The first is the titles of this post- Butikaw. This is the name given to the Lizard by the local residents. The second is Northern Seirra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard. Which is a bit of a mouthful. You can see why we'll be using the shorter name, right?

The Butikaw is actually a relatively new species to science-- they were first described and catalgoed as a species only a few years ago. The Butikaw is quite notable because it is one of only three frugivorous Monitor Lizard species in the entire world. They are actually close relatives to the Komodo Dragon, which makes their diet all the more surprising!

Doubly interesting is that this is a new species that is very, very large. Oftentimes the new animals that we find are very small, and are not as easily noticed. The Butikaw can grow to be 2m long! Granted, the indigenous people of the region had known about the large reptiles for hundreds of years, but it wasn't until 2001 that biologists noticed a picture and began to investigate. They also probably avoided detection because they rarely come to the ground. They live as high as 60ft up in the trees, and may only descend once a week for a very short period of time.

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Philippines
Size :  Length up to 6.5ft (2m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Reptilia -- Order : Squamata
Family : Varanidae -- Genus : Varanus -- Species : V. bitatawa

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