Scientists have found a new species of lizard that lives in the trees on the northern Philippines island of Luzon, according to media reports Wednesday. Dubbed Varanus bitatawa, the dragon-sized, fruit-eating lizard measures 6 feet 6 inches (about 2 meters) in length, but only about 22 pounds (about 10 kg) in weight, and the creature is endowed with a double penis, according to the study published in the British Royal Society Journal Biology Letters. “It lives up in trees, so it can’t get as massive as the Komodo dragon, a huge thing that eats large amounts of fresh meat,” said Rafe Brown of the University of Kansas, whose team confirmed the find.
“This thing is a fruit-eater and it’s only the third fruit-eating lizard in the world.” However, how many of the lizards have survived is unclear. “They are extremely secretive,” Brown said, adding, “I think that centuries of humans hunting them have made the existing populations … very skittish and wary and we never see them.They see and hear us before we have a chance to see them, they scamper up trees before we have a chance to come around.” The brightly-colored beast, a monitor lizard, is a close cousin of the Komodo dragon of Indonesia, according to the finding. The Varanus bitatawa has unique markings and an unusual sexual anatomy, according the study, which stated that the creature’s scaly body and legs are a blue-black mottled with pale yellow-green dots, while its tail is marked in alternating segments of black and green.
The males have a double penis, called hemipenes, also found in some snakes and other lizards. The two penises are often used in alternation, and sometimes contain spines or hooks that serve to anchor the male within the female during intercourse, according to the finding. news from xinhuanet.com ~ Varanus bitatawa; The Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard (Varanus bitatawa) is a large, arboreal, fruit-eating lizard of the genus Varanus. The lizard is eaten by the Agta and Ilongot indigenous people of the Philippines, who call it bitatawa, hence the specific name. The forest monitor lizard can grow to more than six feet in length but weighs only about 22 pounds (10 kg). It is brightly colored with stripes of gold flecks. Its scaly body and legs are a blue-black mottled with pale yellow-green dots, while its tail is marked in alternating segments of black and green. Males have a double penis, called a hemipenis, also found in some snakes and other lizards. The two penises are often used in alternation, and sometimes contain spines or hooks
that serve to anchor the male within the female during intercourse. One of only three fruit-eating lizards in the world, the lizard prefers to eat the fruit of pandanus trees. It is described as skittish, and fearful of humans. It was confirmed as a new species in April 2010 by biologists from the University of Kansas. DNA analysis has revealed a deep genetic divergence between this species and its closest relative, Gray’s monitor (Varanus olivaceus), which is also a fruit-eater but lives on the southern end of Luzon, rather than the northern end where the forest monitor lizard lives. These findings were published in Biology Letters, a journal of the Royal Society. Its known range is currently limited to the Sierra Madre Forest, in the northeastern coast of the island of Luzon, Philippines. ~ GoodNews International
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