Varanus indicus species-complex

Varanus indicus species-complex

Finsch's Monitor (Varanus finschi)

Varanus finschi was described in 1994 as a subspecies of the blue-tailed monitor (Varanus doreanus finschi) before being raised to a full species soon thereafter (Ziegler, Philipp, & Böhme 1999).

Wild observations of Varanus finschi are lacking. The species is believed to be semi-arboreal and may be somewhat more aquatic than doreanus.

Distinctive Features (from Ziegler, Schmitz, Koch & Böhme 2007)

Background color: Dark grey

Dorsal pattern: Yellowish ocelli possessing dark centers, arranged in transverse rows

Tail pattern: Base of tail spotted; remainder banded (blue pigmentation absent)

Throat/ventral pattern: White; throat spotted; ventral surface banded (Note: bands remain complete across entire ventral surface)

Post-ocular stripe: Present

Tongue color: Pink


The islands of new Britain and New Ireland the Bismarck Archipelago. Found in eastern Papua New Guinea in the Huon Peninsula, Milne Bay Provinces, and the Central Provinces. Re-examination of museum specimens now shows that this animal inhabits the Cape York Peninsula of Australia. However, this range extension is based on a single specimen without exact locality data (Bennett & Sweet 2009). Reports of this species from the Kei (Kai) Islands refer to similar animals which are believed to be taxonomically distinct (see Varanus c.f. finschi).

Photos taken at Lamassa on the island of New Ireland.

Varanus c.f. finschi (Kei Islands)

Monitors have been imported from the Kei (Kai) Islands and sold as "Varanus finschi". While the overall pattern of these animals is similar to finschi and they have been treated as such at least once in the literature (Ziegler, Schmitz, Koch & Böhme 2007), they are widely considered to be taxonomically distinct. Differences in pattern include a throat which is pure white and unpatterned, ventral bands which do not extend completely across the ventral surface, and dorsal ocelli which are spaced closer together giving a more "crowded" look.Photos courtesy of John Adragna.

Photo courtesy of Danny Gunalen. Note the completely unpatterned throat on these specimens; a feature not seen in true Varanus finschi.

Status in the Pet Trade

Varanus finschi has never appeared in the pet trade (Papua New Guinea does not allow export). Animals originating from the Kei Islands and sold erroneously under the name finschi turn up fairly regularly (see above).


Bennett, D. & Sweet, S.S. 2009.0. Varanus finschi. In: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.4. (

Böhme, W.; Horn, H. & T. Ziegler (1994): On the taxonomy of the Pacific monitor lizards (Varanus indicus complex): Resurrection of Varanus doreanus (A.B. MEYER, 1874) and description of a new subspecies. Salamandra 30 (2): 119-142.

Ziegler, T.; Philipp, K. M. & W. Böhme (1999): Zum Artstatus und zur Genitalmorphologie von Varanus finschi BOHME, HORN & ZIEGLER 1994, mit neuen Verbreitungsangaben fur V. finschi und V. doreanus (MEYER 1874) (Reptilia: Sauria: Varanidae). Zool. Abh. Mus. Tierk. Dresden 50 (2): 267-279.

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.