Philippines dragon-sized lizard is a new species
2010-04-08 0:00

By Deborah Zabarenko | Reuters.com

A dragon-sized, fruit-eating lizard that lives in the trees on the northern Philippines island of Luzon has been confirmed as a new species, scientists reported on Tuesday.


Hunted for its tasty flesh, the brightly colored forest monitor lizard can grow to more than six feet in length but weighs only about 22 pounds (10 kg), said Rafe Brown of the University of Kansas, whose team confirmed the find.

"It lives up in trees, so it can’t get as massive as the Komodo dragon, a huge thing that eats large amounts of fresh meat," Brown said by telephone. "This thing is a fruit-eater and it’s only the third fruit-eating lizard in the world."

Discovering such a large vertebrate species is extremely rare, Brown said. The lizard, a new species of the genus Varanus, is skittish and able to hide from humans, its primary predators, which could explain why it has gone undetected by scientists for so long.


A Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard, a dragon-sized, fruit-eating lizard that lives in the trees on the northern Philippines island of Luzon. Both Photographs: REUTERS/Joseph Brown/University of Kansas/Handout

Biologists first saw photographs of the big, skinny lizard in 2001, when those surveying the area passed hunters carrying the lizards’ colorful carcasses, but the species at that point had never been given a scientific identification.

In the next few years, Brown said, ethnobiologists kept hearing stories "about these two kinds of lizard that everyone liked to eat because their flesh tasted better than the ones that lived on the ground; this thing was described as bigger and more brightly colored."

The two kinds of lizard described by the local people were two names for the same animal, Brown said.

CLAW SCRATCHES ON TREES

In 2009, graduate students at the end of a two-month expedition kept seeing signs of the big lizard. There were claw-scratches on trees and clumps of pandanus trees, whose fruit the lizard prefers.

The clumps indicated that the lizards had eaten pandanus fruit and then excreted the seeds in clusters.

"It was literally in the last couple days of the expedition, we were running out of money and food and this was the payoff: they finally got this gigantic animal," Brown said.

Hunters who had heard of the team’s interest brought a barely-alive adult male lizard to their camp. The team euthanized the animal and did genetic tests that confirmed it as a unique species, Brown said.

DNA analysis showed there was a deep genetic divergence between the new lizard and its closest relative, Gray’s monitor lizard, which is also a fruit-eater but lives on the southern end of Luzon, rather than the northern end where the forest monitor lizard lives.

"They are extremely secretive," Brown said of the new species. "I think that centuries of humans hunting them have made the existing populations ... very skittish and wary and we never see them. They see and hear us before we have a chance to see them, they scamper up trees before we have a chance to come around."

These findings were published in the Royal Society Journal Biology Letters, with additional work by scientists in the Philippines and the Netherlands.

Article from: Reuters.com



Related Articles
Lizards Undergo Rapid Evolution After Introduction To A New Home
Cosmic Keys, Archaic Man, and The ShapeShifting Lizard Kings (Video)
All Hail Our Lizard Overlords: White and Wright Prepare For ‘Them’
Remains of Prehistoric Reptile Species Found
Clotaire Rapaille - SUVs and the Reptilian Brain - 60 Minutes (Video)
Clotaire Rapaille - Reptilian Marketing (Video)
Reptilian Complex - Wikipedia


Latest News from our Front Page

Pro-Israel bias: BBC admits editorial breach in interview with Israeli defense chief
2015-05-23 7:58
The BBC has reached a “provisional finding” to uphold complaints made by Palestinian activists that the broadcaster breached its editorial guidelines in a “soft” interview with the Israeli defense minister. Complaints focused on BBC journalist Sarah Montague’s alleged failure to challenge controversial claims made by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. Journalist Amena Saleem, who works with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), wrote ...
41% of Americans Support Criminalizing "Hate Speech"
2015-05-23 7:31
The following are from a recent poll about what some are calling on for "hate speech" 1. Support for Hate Crimes Legislation Do you support or oppose the federal law that requires increased penalties for hate crimes committed on the basis of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or gender of any person? 2. Support for Expanding Hate Crimes Do ...
FBI Admits No Major Cases Cracked with Patriot Act Snooping Powers
2015-05-23 7:36
FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating. Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk ...
Sweetener Stevia Was Once Hailed As An Anti-Fertility Agent for Population Reduction
2015-05-23 7:13
Maybe it's not so sweet now... If you've thought stevia, the natural alternative to sugar and artificial sweetners with aspartame, et al., is too good to be true, there may be a catch. Check out this textbook written in 1970 by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, the precursor to the textbook Ecoscience they wrote with Obama Science Czar John P. Holdren ...
TPP Aproved: Senate Republicans Give Obama New Powers - Details Remain 'Classified'
2015-05-23 6:43
President Obama won a big victory for his trade agenda Friday with the Senate’s approval of fast-track legislation that could make it easier for him to complete a wide-ranging trade deal that would include 11 Pacific Rim nations. A coalition of 48 Senate Republicans and 14 Democrats voted for Trade Promotion Authority late Friday, sending the legislation to a difficult fight ...
More News »