Monitor lizards are medium-sized lizards in the family Laridae. They are indigenous to Africa, Asia, and Oceania, however, one only species, Varanus cristatus, is found in the Americas. About 80 different species are known worldwide.
The most common subspecies are M. saccharine, the yellow-colored M. albiflora, the dark-colored M. Atlantica, the red-headed M. Capricornus, the leopard M. or P. leucotomos, the blue-striped M. chrysops, the black-headed or Mexican Monitor lizards, the spotted Monitor lizards, and the cinnamon-stripe M. Versicolor.
The Monitor lizard looks more like a small adult all over, except for its thick scales. Its head, neck, eyes, and legs are scaled in a pattern that looks somewhat like a caterpillar. Its two-seared limbs have three digits that are clubbed and bear well-defined ridges along with sharp lines on their tips.
A Monitor lizard’s body is covered with a thick, waxy, brownish-colored shell. This protects the lizard from the elements such as rain, wind, snow, and even predators. The head of a Monitor lizard can be compared to that of a potato. It faces forward slightly and its mouth is placed lower than its eye.
Unlike most reptiles, a Monitor lizard will not use its tongue for eating. Instead, it uses its two front toes to grasp prey in its mouth. When a Monitor lizard catches its prey in this manner, it uses its claws to tear off the flesh and strip the bones clean.
A Monitor lizard’s saliva contains digestive enzymes that break down and digest the meat. They swallow air with their mouth wide open. Due to their unique feeding habits, no other known reptiles make use of their tongues.
The majority of monitors are solitary animals. However, they do travel in pairs during mating season. When the male and female mate, their babies are born in July and August.
A Monitor lizard is the largest member of its genus. Its body length is three to four times that of an average-sized lizard. Also, it has one to two tail flaps, which can measure up to half a foot in length.
A medium-sized monitor lizard weighs two to three and a half to five inches in length. These animals live in southern Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Their beautiful orange-red stomach shows when they are prey, as does their distinctive “ringed” tongue. Monitor lizards usually hunt prey using their scent glands.
While most Monitor lizards prefer to eat mice or rats, they will eat just about anything. Because of their large appetites, Monitor lizards will even eat carrion if they are offered the chance.
Monitor lizards will eat almost any kind of meat, although their favorite foods are voles, small rodents, crickets, moths, grasshoppers, flies, mosquitoes, dragonflies and flies, snails, frogs, and birds. They do not, however, have good Digestive systems, so they must get their food from their prey’s bodies. As a result, Monitor lizards will force their prey into their mouth before taking it from them.
An adult female Monitor lizard will eat approximately twenty times her body weight in food every day. She will catch her prey in the evening and return to the rock to digest her meal. After eating, she will climb back into her hiding place where she will remain for about two hours. After this time, she will sleep for up to four days without eating. (Alert readers may have figured out by now that she hibernates during the winter.)
Every morning, a Monitor lizard will meander around her rock and look for potential prey. During the day, she will browse along the walls and walk up and down the shelves of her enclosure. When she is looking for food, a Monitor lizard will flip through her mouth hundreds of times in search of her next meal.
After she eats, she will climb back into her burrow and wait a few more hours before returning to the same spot she had visited before dawn on the previous day. When the lizard returns after a rest, she will be much larger and will have to eat one or more adults to sustain herself.
Although a Monitor lizard will eat large meals when she is active, she usually craves smaller meals at night. Because of this habit, Monitor lizards do not become obese. They will occasionally steal the food of other reptiles, but they will only do it if they are left with no choice. A Monitor lizard that feels threatened will scale a tree or climb a rock and escape.
The last habitat a Monitor lizard will inhabit is the den. A male Monitor lizard will construct a den in a wooded area such as a tree trunk or a rock. The den has a small bed, which the Monitor lizard will share with only one other Monitor lizard or one of her offspring. The young that remain inside the den will grow up after the age of five, and then they will go off to begin their own lives as adults.