June 22, 2010

New Monitor Lizard gives Scientists Double-X-Rated Surprise

A Varanus bitatawa lizard on its home island of Luzon in the Philippines.
Photograph by Joseph Brown

Scientists in the Philippines recently discovered a new species of giant Monitor lizard, as long as a human being. The new species was a surprise for several reasons: First, it is unusual for such a large species to have gone undiscovered (turns out this "incredibly secretive" lizard was hiding in the trees!), and secondly, the new species has a double penis. Yep, that's right. Two wangs.

This species with it's peculiar penis is related to the famous Komodo Dragon, but unlike it's gnarly relative known for biting prey with its bacteria filled mouth and returning to their bloated corpses to feast days later (yum) --- the Varanus bitatawa is a gentle vegetarian. What a nice fellow.

However, this gentle giant lizard is most likely in severe peril. The Philippines is one of the most heavily deforested areas on the planet, so there may not be much time to learn about this amazing species.

Forests continue to be cut down in the Philippines due to economic inequality, lack of government regulations, lack of political will, and corruption. It is hoped that international pressure (perhaps, via REDD) could slow or stop the devastation of the 5% of these forests that remain. These rain forests, rich in biodiversity, no doubt still harbor many more surprises!

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