Chordates •

Mangrove monitor

(Varanus indicus)



The mangrove monitor, mangrove goanna, or Western Pacific monitor lizard (Varanus indicus) is a member of the monitor lizard family with a large distribution from northern Australia and New Guinea to the Moluccas and Solomon Islands. Populations from the Marshall Islands, Caroline Islands, and Mariana Islands formerly classified in V. indicus are now considered to comprise two distinct species. It grows to lengths of 3.5 to 4 ft (1.1 to 1.2 m). The mangrove monitor was first described by the French herpetologist François Marie Daudin in 1802. Daudin's original holotype of a subadult specimen was collected on Ambon, Indonesia, and has since disappeared from the museum in Paris. Daudin's original name for the species was Tupinambis indicus, an appellation it would carry for 100 years until being renamed as a Varanus. The generic name Varanus is derived from the Arabic word waral (ورل), which translates to English as "monitor." Its specific name, indicus, is Latin for the country of India, but in this instance it relates to Indonesia or the East Indies, where the animal was first described. The mangrove monitor's range extends throughout northern Australia, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, the Marshall Islands, the Caroline Islands, and the Mariana Islands, where it inhabits damp forests near coastal rivers, mangroves, and permanent inland lakes. It also occurs on the Moluccan islands of Morotai, Ternate, Halmahera, Obi, Buru, Ambon, Haruku, and Seram in Indonesia. Within this range of thousands of miles across hundreds of islands are large variations in size, pattern, and scalation. The monitors have also been introduced to Japan since the 1940s. Like the introduction to Japan, some herpetologists believe this animal's dispersal from the East Indies to smaller Pacific islands was facilitated by Polynesians to provide a meat supply. However, other scientists maintain this is not likely, as the monitors would compete with man for food, grow slowly, and yield little meat.

Taxonomic tree:

Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Reptilia
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