April 7, 2010 | David F. Coppedge

Leapin’ Lizards: Giant Lizard Discovered

A large species of lizard unknown to science has been discovered alive and well in the Philippines.  The BBC News has a picture of the monster, a class of monitor lizard, that measures 2 meters from snout to tail.  That makes it about 2/3 the size of its famous cousin from Java, the Komodo Dragon.  The new lizard, Varanus bitatawa, sports bright blue, green and yellow skin.  Footnote: the fearsome-looking creature eats fruit.
    See also the National Geographic story for more information and pictures.  It ends with the tantalizing possibility that additional species may be out there, waiting to be found.
Update 04/27/2010: Live Science reported the discovery of another monitor lizard, Varus obor, in Indonesia.  This species, nicknamed the Torch monitor, is 1.2 meters long, has a black body and bright orange head.  In contrast to the fruit-eating one found in the Philippines, this one lives on small animals and carrion.

Some lessons from this story: (1) There may be more large animals around our globe that remain to be discovered.  (2) You can’t always tell the diet or behavior of an animal by appearance alone.  How much more so when dealing with fossils?  Other monitor lizards, like the Komodo dragon, eat pigs, and sometimes people.  (3) What is unknown to science is not necessarily unknown to humanity.  The local tribespeople knew all about Varanus bitatawa; they hunted it for meat.  So get famous; go find that missing supersaurus that is lurking in the jungles of some tropical isle.

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