Crocodile monitor

Varanus salvadorii

SUBFAMILY

Varanines

TAXONOMY

Varanus salvadorii Peters and Doria, 1878, Southern New Guinea.

OTHER COMMON NAMES English: Artrellia.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

This is an unusual large climbing monitor lizard. Characterized by an extremely long tail and a distinctive arched muzzle and bulbous nose, crocodile monitors could perhaps be allied with the Australian "lace monitor," V. varius, also a large climbing monitor. The largest reliable measurements of individual adult crocodile monitors list snout to vent lengths of 30.7-33.5 in (78-85 cm), tails from 60-65 in (153-166 cm), and total lengths of 91-100 in (231-255 cm), although many anecdotal reports of much larger lizards exist.

DISTRIBUTION Southern New Guinea.

HABITAT

This species is found in lowland rainforest.

BEHAVIOR

Crocodile monitors use their long prehensile tails as counterbalances when climbing in the canopy and as effective whips when threatened. Their teeth are very long and fanglike. Ritualized combat, the clinch-bipedal stance phase, courtship, and copulation have been observed in captive crocodile monitors, which have been successfully bred in Germany several times.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

In captivity, these monitors will eat mice, rats, and chickens. In the wild, they probably prey largely on birds.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Hatchlings are large, measuring 20 in (0.5 m) in total length.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

New Guinea natives consider this species to be an "evil spirit that climbs trees, walks upright, breathes fire, and kills men." ♦

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