Black Tree Monitor
The Black Tree Monitor, Varanus beccari, is a relatively small member of the Varanidae family. It is native to the forest of the Aru Islands of Papua New Guinea. It is well adapted to living in trees.
This species has a particularly long tail, sometimes two-thirds of the overall length of the body. It is used to stabilize the animal when on tree branches. In fact the tail is used for this purpose solely. It does not use its tail for lashing in a defensive manner as seen in other monitor species. Their feet sport large claws and adhesive soles, which help it to maintain grip on trees. It also has unusually long teeth for a monitor of its size. It is believed that the long teeth are used to hold onto prey it catches in the canopy.
Young Black Tree Monitors are dark gray in color, with regular rows of bright yellow-green dots which are particularly noticeable on the back. As they achieve adulthood they turn totally black and lose the colorful dots. Adults grow to between 3 and 4 feet long. Males are slightly larger than the females.
Black Tree Monitors are carnivorous, eating a range of prey items. Mostly consumed are insects, small lizards, and small mammals such as shrews. They may also eat scorpions, eggs, and nestlings. They are themselves predated by larger lizards and snakes. Foxes, which were introduced to the region, are an unnatural predator of the Black Tree Monitor. They are also hunted by humans.