Monsters and Dragons of the Lizard World

Eric R. Pianka and Laurie J. Vitt

in Lizards

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2003 | ISBN: 9780520234017
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520939912 | DOI:
Monsters and Dragons of the Lizard World

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This chapter focuses on Varanoid lizards, which form a natural monophyletic group consisting of three extant families: earless monitors (Lanthanotidae), beaded lizards and Gila monsters (Helodermatidae), and monitor lizards (Varanidae). One of the strangest and least known of all lizards is Lanthanotus borneensis, commonly called the earless monitor lizard. These medium-sized secretive lizards (about 42 to 43 cm in total length as adults) have relatively long cylindrical bodies and long necks. They have short legs and long, curved, sharp claws, The two species of Heloderma are the world's only truly venomous lizards. Gila monsters, Heloderma suspectum, are large lizards, ranging from 300 to 500 mm in total length. Beaded lizards, Heloderma horridum, are larger, usually about 700 mm but occasionally reaching nearly a meter in total length. Varanids, also known as monitors, are often large. The largest living species is the Indonesian Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), which attains lengths of 3 m and weights of 150 kg.

Keywords: Varanoid lizards; earless monitors; Lanthanotidae; beaded lizards; Gila monsters; Helodermatidae; monitor lizards; Varanidae; Komodo dragon

Chapter.  8616 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences

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