Varanus indicus species-complex

Varanus indicus species-complex

Rennell Island Monitor (Varanus juxtindicus)

Varanus juxtinidicus was described from several preserved specimens originally labeled as Varanus indicus (Böhme, Philipp & Ziegler 2002). Rennell Island is located a considerable distance from most other islands in the Solomons and so this species enjoys a degree of isolation. Normal Varanus indicus as found in the rest of the island chain do not occur on Rennell. A distinctive feature of this species is a tail that is rounded in cross-section (versus laterally compressed as in other indicus-complex species). Though this species is only known from Rennell Island, indicus-type animals with rounded tails have been collected from Olu Malau further north in the Solomon Islands. The taxonomy of these animals is not known, though it leaves open the possibility that juxtinidicus occurs more extensively than currently known (possibly due to human transport?).

Nothing is known concerning the habits of this species in the wild, though they are presumed to be semi-aquatic.

Distinctive Features (from Böhme, Philipp & Ziegler 2002)

Background color: Brownish-black

Dorsal pattern: Small dirty yellow spots arranged irregularly

Tail pattern: Small dirty yellow spots arranged irregularly (blue pigmentation absent)

Throat/ventral pattern: Yellow and unpatterned

Post-ocular stripe: Absent

Tongue color: Pink with a dark tip

Range

Found on Rennell Island in the Solomons.

Note the distinctive round-in-cross-section tail; unique among described members of the indicus species-complex.

 

 

Note the distinctive bi-colored tongue in the last two photos. All preceding photos courtesy of Steve Foo.

Photos courtesy of Rune Midtgaard (http://www.natureswindow.dk/). Note: These animals were originally (incorrectly) identified as Varanus indicus. The similarity between these two taxa has resulted in some confusion before including the mis-identification of captive animals (see Wesiak & Koch 2009).

 

Status in Captivity

Varanus juxtindicus has been imported and kept in the pet trade. In fact, it had been done so many years before its formal description and the fact not noticed until recently (Wesiak & Koch 2009). The close resemblance between this species and indicus had prevented its true identity from being acknowledged. It is likely that many imported 'mangrove monitors' from the Solomons are in fact this species and keepers should be on the lookout. This species has been bred in captivity, though like many other indicus-complex species there is currently not much incentive to do so.

Sources

Böhme, W.; Philipp, K. M. & T. Ziegler (2002): Another new member of the Varanus (Euprepiosaurus) indicus group (Sauria, Varanidae): an undescribed species from Rennell Island, Solomon Islands. Salamandra 38 (1): 15-26.

Wesiak, K. & A. Koch (2009): Successful husbandry and first breeding of Varanus juxtindicus Böhme et al, 2002, with remarks on the development of juveniles of this "rarely-kept" endemic Solomon monitor species. Biawak 3 (4): 106-121. (http://www.varanidae.org/Vol3_No4.pdf)