Thursday, April 8, 2010

Giant Lizard Species Found in the Philippines

All too often we are hearing about how yet another species of animal is dangerously close to extinction so I really love reading news like this.

While he is nothing new to residents of the Philippine islands Western scientists have found a giant lizard species that is new to them.

It's a brilliantly colored, 6 ft. (1.8m) relative of the Komodo dragon named Varanus bitatawa. It has huge, curved claws that it uses to climb trees and has a diet of the fruit of the Pandanus trees.

For the past 10 years scientists had heard rumors of the giant lizard and even saw photographs of the animal being carried by hunters in 2001. In 2005, two different groups obtained young Varanus bitatawas but, for some reason, didn't collect genetic samples. In July of 2009, scientists embarked on a two month expedition to find the lizard they'd only heard stories of. Near the end of their expedition, they finally found an adult male that had been captured in the snares of a tribal hunter.

Genetic analysis, along with it's coloring, scales, body size and reproductive anatomy has confirmed the Varanus bitatawa as a new species.

You can read further about this exciting new find, and see photographs of the Varanus bitatawa here and here.

This is the sort of news I'd love to see every day when I check the headlines!

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