New species of giant lizard found in Philippines

Last Updated: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - 09:15

Paris: Biologists have reported the
spectacular discovery of a species of giant lizard, a reptile
as long as a full-grown man is tall, and endowed with a double

The secretive but brightly-coloured beast, a monitor
lizard, is a close cousin of the Komodo Dragon of Indonesia.
But unlike the fearsone Dragon, it is not a carnivore,
nor does it feast on rotting meat. Instead, it is entirely
peaceable and tucks into fruit.

Dubbed Varanus bitatawa, the lizard measures two metres
in length, according to the account, published by Britain`s
Royal Society.

It was found in a river valley on northern Luzon Island
in the Philippines, surviving loss of habitat and hunting by
local people who use it for food.

How many of the lizards have survived is unclear.
The species is almost certainly critically endangered,
and might well have disappeared entirely without ever being
catalogued had a large male specimen not been rescued alive
from a hunter last June.

Finding such a distinctive species in a heavily
populated, highly deforested location "comes as an
unprecedented surprise," note the authors, writing in the
journal Biology Letters.

The only finds of comparable importance in recent decades
are the Kipunji monkey, which inhabits a tiny range of forest
in Tanzania, and the Saola, a forest-dwelling bovine found
only in Vietnam and Laos.

V. bitatawa has unique markings and an unusual sexual
anatomy, according to the study.

Its scaly body and legs are a blue-black mottled with
pale yellow-green dots, while its tail is marked in
alternating segments of black and green.

Males have a double penis, called hemipenes, also found
in some snakes and other lizards.

The two penises are often used in alternation, and
sometimes contain spines or hooks that serve to anchor the
male within the female during intercourse.


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First Published: Wednesday, April 7, 2010 - 09:15

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