Varanus melinus was described in 1997 (Böhme & Ziegler) from animals imported for the pet trade. These specimens were originally said to come from the island of Obi, though this was later revealed to be incorrect. In some regards, this species resembles a large tree monitor and are often sold as 'yellow tree monitors'. However, genital morphology places it in the indicus-complex. They appear to be particularly close to Varanus cerambonensis and form a sister species (Ziegler, Schmitz, Koch & Böhme 2007).
Very little is known about this animal in the wild. They are said to inhabit lowland rainforest though whether they occur in any other habitats as well is not known. They are presumed to be fairly arboreal.
Background color: Yellow; the exact shade varies among individual and ages and may range from bright to dull
Dorsal pattern: Black reticulum
Tail pattern: Anterior third possesses a reticulum as on the dorsum; posterior two-thirds banded (blue pigmentation absent)
Throat/ventral pattern: Yellow and unpatterned
Post-ocular stripe: Absent
Tongue color: Pink, usually with a dark tip
In the Moluccas, known from Taliabu, Mangole, and Sanana in the Sula Islands and Banggai and Bowokan in the Banggai Islands. When this species was first imported for the pet trade, they were said to originate from Obi though this is now known to be false. Collectors have claimed other localities including Sulawesi (Celebes) and
Photos courtesy of Khai Phan.
Photo courtesy of Danny Gunalen. Note how the clear pattern of dorsal spots in younger animals (first three photos) tends to fade with age.Locale: Mangole. Photo courtesy of Valter Weijola.
Preceding two photos courtesy of Eugene Mazur.
A particularly bright-colored juvenile. Unusually dark and patterned melinus such as these have appeared now and then in the reptile market though it is currently unknown where they come from as well as whether they represent merely abnormally-colored individuals, a geographic variant, etc.
Varanus melinus was first brought to the light of science through specimens imported via the pet trade and has continued to be imported ever since, and probably represents the most sought-after indicus-complex species. Unlike other mangrove monitors, this animal is bred in captivity on a fairly regular basis, though most specimens continue to be imports.
Böhme, W. & T. Ziegler (1997): Varanus melinus sp. n., ein neuer Waran aus der V. indicus-Gruppe von den Molukken, Indonesien. Herpetofauna 19 (111): 26-34.
Ziegler, T., Schmitz, A., Koch, A. & W. Böhme (2007): A review of the subgenus Euprepiosaurus of Varanus (Squamata: Varanidae): morphological and molecular phylogeny, distribution and zoogeography, with an identification key for the members of the V. indicus and the V. prasinus species groups. Zootaxa 1472: 1-28.