Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Long lost monitor lizard 're-discovered' on Papua New Guinean island

Date: May 2, 2017
Source: University of Turku

Scientists have recently found and re-described a monitor lizard species from the island of New Ireland in northern Papua New Guinea. It is the only large-growing animal endemic to the island that has survived until modern times. The lizard, Varanus douarrha, was already discovered in the early 19th century, but the type specimen never reached the museum where it was destined as it appears to have been lost in a shipwreck.
The Varanus douarrha monitor lizard gets up to 1.3 meters (4.3 ft) in length
(Credit: Valter Weijola)


The discovery is particularly interesting as most of the endemic species to New Ireland disappeared thousands of years ago as humans colonized the island.

The monitor was discovered during fieldwork by Valter Weijola from the Biodiversity Unit of the University of Turku, Finland, who spent several months surveying the monitor lizards of the Bismarck Islands. It can grow to over 1.3 metres in length and, according to current information, it is the only surviving large species endemic to the island. Based on bone discoveries, scientists now know that at least a large rat species and several flightless birds have lived in the area.

"In that way it can be considered a relic of the historically richer fauna that inhabited the Pacific islands. These medium-sized Pacific monitors are clearly much better at co-existing with humans than many of the birds and mammals have been," says Weijola.
 

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