April 7, 2010

New Species Of Monitor Lizard Found In The Philippines

Biologists have discovered a previously unknown monitor lizard in the Philippines--a cousin to the Komodo Dragon that is more than six feet long and has a double penis, according to reports.

Dubbed the Varanus bitatawa or the Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard, the 22-pound lizards is an herbivore that prefers eating fruit, according to a report published in the British Royal Society Biology Letters journal. It was discovered on the island's northern Luzon Island river valley.

The authors, including University of Kansas Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology assistant professor Rafe Brown, called finding the new species of lizard in a heavily populated and highly deforested area "an unprecedented surprise."

"We think that it had not been discovered (before) primarily because of its secretiveness and because few comprehensive studies of amphibians and reptiles have been conducted in the inaccessible forests of NE Luzon Island," Brown told Discovery News on Tuesday.

"The Sierra Madre of Luzon is a treasure trove of undescribed vertebrate biodiversity," he added. "We suspect that many, perhaps dozens of new species of small vertebrates--reptiles, amphibians, and possibly birds and mammals--may await discovery in the forests of the northern Philippines."

It is unknown how many of the species have survived, but according to reports, it is most likely critically endangered. The first Varanus bitatawa was rescued from a hunter in June 2009. As mentioned above, the species is not carnivorous, nor do the University of Kansas researchers believe it is venomous.


Image Caption: The Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard. Courtesy of Joseph Brown/University of Kansas.


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