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Reptiles Guide

Monitor lizards

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Monitor lizards
An Australian lace monitor(Varanus varius) on a tree.
An Australian lace monitor
(Varanus varius) on a tree.
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Sauropsida
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Sauria
Family: Varanidae
Genus: Varanus
Merrem, 1820
Many, see text.

Monitor lizards are the family Varanidae, a group of lizards which includes the largest living lizard, the Komodo Dragon. Varanidae contains only a single genus: Varanus.

In Australia monitor lizards are known as goannas (See main article).


Evolutionary overview

Monitor lizards are considered to be the most highly developed lizards, possessing a relatively rapid metabolism for reptiles, several sensory adaptations that benefit the hunting of live prey, and a lower jaw that may be unhinged to facilitate eating large prey animals. Recent work indicates that the Varanid lizards, including the Komodo dragon, are indeed venomous and do not produce strains of deadly bacteria as previously thought. However, instead of injecting the venom into prey from fangs like most of their snake cousins do, the venom stays around the base of the teeth.

Origin of Name

It has been said that the name of monitor lizards is derived from a superstition that the creatures would give a warning about the presence of crocodiles. However, this explanation may be apocryphal. According to Wildwatch, the name actually resulted from a mishearing of the Arabic word oaran (lizard) as the German warnen (to warn), which was subsequently Latinized into monitor.


A Nile monitor
A Nile monitor

Genus Varanus

  • Varanus acanthurus: Spiny-tailed goanna or Ridge-tailed monitor
    • Varanus acanthurus acanthurus interestus or ???
    • Varanus acanthurus brachyurus or ???
    • Varanus acanthurus insulanicus or ???
  • Varanus albigularis or White-throated monitor
    • Varanus albigularis albigularis
      Varanus albigularis angolensis
      Varanus albigularis ionidesi or Black-throated Monitor
  • Varanus auffenbergi Peacock monitor
    Varanus baritji Northern ridge-tailed goanna
    Varanus beccarii Black tree monitor
    Varanus bengalensis Bengal monitor
    Varanus bogerti Louisiade tree monitor
    Varanus brevicauda Short-tailed monitor
    Varanus bushi
    Varanus caerulivirens Blue pin-spot monitor
    Varanus caudolineatus Stripe-tailed goanna
    Varanus cerambonensis Ceram mangrove monitor
    Varanus doreanus Blue-tailed monitor
    Varanus dumerilii Dumeril monitor aka Brown Rough Neck Monitor
    Varanus eremius Desert pygmy monitor
    Varanus exanthematicus: Savannah monitor
    Varanus finschi Finsch's monitor
    Varanus flavescens: Yellow mangrove monitor
    Varanus giganteus: the Perentie
    Varanus gilleni Pygmy mulga goanna
    Varanus glauerti Kimberley rock monitor
    Varanus glebopalma Black-palmed rock monitor
    Varanus gouldii Sand goanna (also Gould's goanna, or Ground goanna)
    Varanus griseus Desert monitor
    Varanus indicus Mangrove monitor
    Varanus jobiensis Peach-throat monitor
    Varanus juxtindicus Hakoi
    Varanus keithhornei Canopy goanna
    Varanus kingorum King's goanna
    Varanus komodoensis: Komodo dragon
    Varanus mabitang Panay monitor
    Varanus macraei Blue tree monitor
    Varanus melinus Quince monitor
    Varanus mertensi: Mertens' water monitor
    Varanus mitchelli Mitchell's water monitor
    Varanus nebulosus Clouded monitor
    Varanus niloticus: Nile monitor
    Varanus olivaceus Gray's monitor, Butaan
    Varanus ornatus Ornate monitor
    Varanus panoptes Argus monitor, Yellow-spotted goanna, Floodplain goanna
    Varanus pilbarensis Pilbara rock monitor
    Varanus prasinus: Emerald tree monitor
  • Emerald tree monitor (also called Green tree monitor) lizard Varanus prasinus
    Emerald tree monitor (also called Green tree monitor) lizard Varanus prasinus
  • Varanus primordius Blunt-spined goanna
    Varanus prisca: Megalania (extinct)
    Varanus rosenbergi Rosenberg's goanna
    Varanus rudicollis: Black Roughneck monitor
    Varanus salvadorii: Crocodile monitor, Artrelia
    Varanus salvator: Water monitor
    Varanus scalaris Spotted tree goanna
    Varanus semiremex Mangrove pygmy goanna
    Varanus spenceri Spencer's goanna
    Varanus spinulosus St. Isabel mangrove monitor
    Varanus storri Storr's goanna
    Varanus telenesetes Lia (Biri), Rossel Island tree monitor
    Varanus timorensis: Timor tree monitor or Timor monitor
    Varanus tristis Black-headed tree goanna
    Varanus varius: Lace monitor
    Varanus yemenensis Yemen monitor
    Varanus yuwonoi Tricolor monitor


The movie monster Varan takes its name from this genus.

In a season 4 episode of Hey Arnold, the character Helga owned a monitor lizard.

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| Monitor lizards
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| Tropidurids
| Spinytail lizards
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| Whiptail lizards
| Wood lizards
| Xenosaurids

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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.

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