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„Lost” monitor lizard species was rediscovered in Papua New Guinea

A monitor lizard lost to science in an 1800s shipwreck has been rediscovered on an island in Papua New Guinea, according to CBS.

Varanus douarrha, a medium sized lizard, was first identified by French naturalist René Lesson in 1823. The scientific name was inspired by how the lizard’s name is pronounced in Siar, the language of the people who share the same home with the lizard, the New Ireland island.

The specimen disappeared in a shipwreck off the Cape of Good Hope in 1824, meaning that the monitor lizard has never been studied systematically. Scientists were aware that monitor lizards roamed New Ireland, but thought they were the common mangrove monitor species (Varanus indicus) found all over New Guinea.


New research proves them wrong. Valter Weijola, a zoologist at the University of Turku in Finland, did fieldwork on the island, trying to survey the monitor lizards there. He, allong with his colleagues, found that the monitor lizards there are both morphologically and genetically different from Varanus indicus. V. douarrha has been present on the Bismarck Islands, of which New Ireland is a part, for longer that V. indicus, the researchers noted in the Australian Journal of Zoology.

V. douarrha is black with yellow speckles that are concentrated more densely on its underbelly, as Live Science reports. It grows to about 4.3 feet in length. The largest monitor lizard, the Komodo dragon, can reach 10 feet long. V. douarrha is the only large native animal that is known to live on New Ireland. However, fossils of large flightless birds and rodents have been found in the past.

Daisy Wilder