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Top 10 - 2011

Monitor Lizard

(Holotype, adult male, taken by J. Brown; paratype, juvenile male, taken by A.C. Diesmos)

Name:  Varanus bitatawa

Common Name:  Sierra Madre Forest Monitor or Golden Spotted Monitor

Family:  Varanidae

How it made the Top 10:  This is a large arboreal frugivorous lizard of the genus Varanus and can only be found in the Northern Sierra Madre Forest, Luzon Island, Philippines.  The forest monitor lizard can grow to more than 2 meters (6.6ft) in length but weighs only about 10 kilograms (22lb).  It is brightly colored with stripes of gold flecks.  Its scaly body and legs are a blue-black mottled with pale yellow-green dots and its tail is marked in alternating segments of black and green.  It is quite astounding to think that something this size has eluded biologists that surveyed the area possibly because it spent most of its time in trees.  However, it was known to the local hunters and is already a flagship for conservation in the Philippines.

Reference:  Welton, L.J., C.D. Siler, D. Bennett, A. Diesmos, M.R. Duya, R. Dugay, E.L.B. Rico, M. van Weerd and R.M. Brown. 2010. A spectacular new Philippine monitor lizard reveals a hidden biogeographic boundary and a novel flagship species for conservation. Biology Letters 6(5):654-658.

Type Material:  Holotype – Philippine National Museum (PNM), Manila, Luzon, Philippines. Paratypes – PNM and University of Kansas (KU), Lawrence, Kansas, USA.

Type Locality:  Philippines, Luzon, Aurora Province, Municipality of Casiguran, Barangay Casiguran, Sitio Casapsipan, San Ildefonso Peninsula, 16.286667°N, 122.185833°E.

Etymology:  The specific epithet is derived from bitatawa, the Agta tribespeoples’ common name for the new species.

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