New species of giant lizard ’discovered’ in the Phillipines

By Hilary Miller 08/04/2010 3


In Biology Letters this week is the report of a new giant monitor lizard discovered in the Phillipines.  Varanus bitatawa is 2m long, brightly coloured and has a double penis, and lives high up in the trees on the island of Luzon. 

It always amazes me when new species of large vertebrates are discovered in this day and age, when you would think that the majority of the world has been given a thorough going-over, and that 2m long lizards would have been noticed.  Actual new discoveries – as in “thats the first time we’ve seen THAT animal”, as opposed to an organism thats been known about for years but only been named as a separate species on the basis of DNA analysis – are pretty rare these days.  So I was slightly disappointed to find out that Varanus bitatawa is only a new discovery from a western scientific perspective – Filipino tribal hunters have of course known about it for years. 

National geographic has more on the discovery here.

Varabus bitatawa (photo by Joseph Brown)


3 Responses to “New species of giant lizard ’discovered’ in the Phillipines”

  • Apparently, the locals have been treating it as the centrepiece for large meals for years, which is why they were reluctant to give up any they had captured (it tastes better than some of the other lizards they eat).

    Amusingly, the whole double penis thing seems to be a bit of a red herring – it’s not at all unusual in the animal kingdom, particularly amongst snakes and reptiles…

    I do love the fact that it climbs trees 🙂

  • My strongest memory of monitor lizards was crawling out of the water after swimming in an island off the coast of Malaysia to be confronted with an approximately 1.8m long monitor lizard. Seen up close in the flesh, they’re big 🙂