|L.A. Zoo Resident|
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
by Corinna of TheFrogBag
Photos courtesy of Arkive.com
The Incredible Fruit-Eating
Lizard of the Philippines
Lizards tend to be carnivores. Small lizards tend to eat small creatures, like bugs. Medium-sized lizards tend to eat bigger creatures, like mice. And big lizards tend to eat large creatures, like rabbits and even goats. But apparently no one told this to monitor lizards in the Philippines, because the bigger they get the more they tend to eat fruit.
When young, the shy arboreal Gray’s monitor (Varnus olivaceus) subsists mostly on insects, snails, and crabs, with a side of fruit now and then. That’s odd enough since fruit is something most monitor lizards would eat only if it happened to already be in the stomach of another animal. But as the lizards grow older they reverse this trend and start eating a more frugivorous diet supplemented by snails and small prey items. Look closely and you can see that they are well adapted for this life style. Their teeth are blunter than those of other monitor lizards and therefore better at grabbing fruit and crushing snails. Their olive green coloration blends into the rain forests that they call home. Each foot sports long, well-developed claws that help them cling to tree limbs and pluck their “prey”.
Unfortunately, populations of these reptiles are decreasing in the wild. They’re listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, a measure of how close we are to losing them entirely. They’re also very difficult to breed in captivity, making their status all the more worrisome. The culprit is mostly habitat destruction, but smuggling is also a concern.
Fortunately an illegal shipment of Grey’s was intercepted at the Los Angeles airport in 2010 and the lizards taken to the LA Zoo. Too weak to be sent back to the wild, they were nursed to health and now occupy a large enclosure in the zoo’s new reptile house where every effort is being made to get them to mate. If they do, a population can be maintained outside of their native habitat, providing an assurance against extinction of the species. That’s important, because the world really would be a little less marvelous without a 20-pound fruit-eating giant lizard.
Posted by Brizel Handcrafts on Wednesday, November 27, 2013