Komodo Dragon - Goanna (Monitor) Lizard Resource Page - Varanidae Family of Lizards

Goannas (Varanidae family of Lizards)

The Varanid family is part of the Lizard sub-order (Sauria). There are around 50 species of Varanid Lizards, colloquially known as Monitor Lizards, and over half of all species occur in Australia and are referred to as Goannas, a corruption of the word 'iguana' by early European settlers (Vincent and Wilson, 1999).

The Varanid family contains the largest surviving lizard, the Komodo Dragon, to which this site is devoted. The Komodo is not a Dragon
(Family: Agamidae) at all, but is in fact a Monitor Lizard and a relative of the Australian Goannas.

Of the 50-plus varieties of Varanids, so far details on 12 species are included below.


Varanus bengalensis image.
Varanus bengalensis
The Bengal Monitor is one of the most widely distributed varanid lizards, extending from Iran, through Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and throughout southern asia through to the Malay Peninsula and into Indonesia.

Comprising a number of subspecies, the largest can reach over 160cm in length and weigh over 10kg (generally the southern most varieties). This lizard has a broad diet and habitat including constructed burrows.

STATUS: COMMON (Threatened in some areas)

Image: Phil Lomax (Bintan Island - Feb 2007)


Varanus tristis image.
Varanus tristis
The Black-Tailed Monitor is a relatively small arboreal Goanna, growing to as large as 70cm (28 in). Found in tropical and sub-tropical northern Australia, this species has a diet commonly consisting of insects, small reptiles, eggs and rodents. Males have spines on the sides of their tail that are generally absent in females.


Image: David Warwick (Sydney Wildlife World – Feb 2007)


Varanus komodoensis Image.
Varanus komodoensis
The inspiration for this website, the Komodo Dragon is the largest surviving lizard growing to over 3 metres in length. The Komodo Dragon occupies an ecological niche at the top of the food chain on four Indonesian islands in the Komodo National Park. The Komodo Dragon, although not poisonous, has sharp teeth and a saliva that contains approximately 50 types of bacteria that together cause blood poisoning in their prey.


Varanus komodoensis - Australia Zoo September 2006 image.
Image: David Warwick (Taronga Zoo Exhibit - Dec 2004)


Varanus varius Image.
Varanus varius
The Lace Monitor is a long and slender lizard that grows up to 2 metres (6ft 5in) in length. Their scientific name indicates variety and they are widely variable in colour and pattern from a blue-grey to a black colouration.

The Lace Monitor, Tree Goanna or simply 'Goanna' is restricted to Eastern Australia from Melbourne all the way up to Cape York. The Lace Monitor has no natural predators other than perhaps the Australian Dingo and is considered the most aggressive Australian monitor lizard.


Image: David Warwick (Australia Zoo Exhibit - Sep 2006)


Varanus mertensi Image.
Varanus mertensi
Considered the most amphibious of the Varanids, the Mertens' Water Monitor is found along the northern coast of Australia and may grow to over one metre in length, significantly larger than the juvenile shown here. Rarely found far from water, this lizard can stay submerged for extended periods, most food is taken from the water and observers describe the lizard's behaviour as 'crocodilian'. In captivity, they can live for around 20 years.


Varanus mertensi - Australia Zoo September 2006 image.
Image: David Warwick (Healesville Sanctuary Melbourne - Feb 2005)


Varanus mitchelli Image.
Varanus mitchelli
The Mitchell's Water Monitor is slender monitor found in the far-north of Australia around swamps, lagoons and other watercourses. Ready to make for water when disturbed, Mitchell's Water Monitor shelters under bark and in tree hollows.

This monitor grows to as long as 70cm (28in) and is generally dark coloured with many small yeallow spots or dark-centred ocelli.


Image: David Warwick (Taronga Zoo Exhibit - Feb 2005)


Varanus primordius Image.
Varanus primordius
The Northern Ridge-Tailed Monitor is only found in the far north-west corner of the Northern Territory of Australia. Generrally living in crevices, cracks and shallow burrows.

This lizard grows to around 30cm (12in) in length. Males are territorial, however females are more likely to bite when handled. The pain of these bites has led to speculation on the nature of this lizard's saliva.


Image: David Warwick (Melbourne Zoo Exhibit - Jan 2005)


Varanus giganteus image.
Varanus giganteus
The Perentie is Australia's largest lizard, growing close to 200cm (80 in) in length and weighing as much as 17 kilograms. Females are generally much smaller than males. Considered uncommon, their wariness of humans may well be responsible for the limited amount of contact. Preferring predominantly arid regions, the Parentie can be found from Western Australia through central Australia and their diet includes large insects, reptiles, fish and mammals, and has been recorded to include Kangaroos.


Image: David Warwick (Sydney Wildlife World – Feb 2007)


Varanus gilleni Image.
Varanus gilleni
The Pygmy Mulga Monitor is widely distributed throughout the drier parts of inland Australia, ranging from western New South Wales across all of South Australia and Western Australia. This lizard has one of the broadest diets of the Desert Monitors .

The animal is usually solitary and Males are renowned for displays of combat involving an arching embrace when they encroach on each others territory.


Image: David Warwick (Melbourne Zoo Exhibit - Dec 2004)


Varanus acanthurus image.
Varanus acanthurus
The Ridge-tailed Monitor contains three subspecies (acanthurus, brachyurus, and insulanicus) and is found throughout most of Northern Australia. The Lizard reaches a maximum length of around 60cm (24in) and prefers to live in crevices in rocky areas, however it is also found in trees, burrows and under spinifex grass. Diet is largely invertebrates including geckoes and skinks. Specimens often live for more than 10 year in captivity.


Image: David Warwick (Healesville Sanctuary – Feb 2007)


Varanus Brevicauda Image.
Varanus brevicauda
The short-tailed pigmy monitor is the smallest of all monitor species, growing to around 20cm in length and weighing around 15 grams.

The lizard lives in high-density colonies in central and western Australia and burrows in sandy and stony areas often associated with Spinifex grass. Mating occurs in spring with eggs being laid in late summer and hatching occuring some 2 to 3 months later
(Vincent and Wilson, 1999). The short tailed monitor feeds on insects, small lizards and other invertebrates.


Image: David Warwick (Taronga Zoo Exhibit - Feb 2005)


Varanus salvator image - Water Monitor
Varanus salvator
Although the Komodo Dragon may be the largest lizard, the Water Monitor or Varanus salvator is arguably the longest, growing to as much as 3 meters (10 feet) in length. Although muscular however, the Water Monitor is only about half the weight of the Komodo Dragon.

The Water Monitor is found in a large area from India in the west through to Indonesia in the east and although a water dependent lizard, it is also found in a wide variety of habitats making it one of the most commonly seen large monitor lizards. Although human attacks are unlikely there have been cases of Water Monitors digging up human remains.

Image: Iztok Kosir (Bali - August 2007)

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