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Varanus mitchelli Print E-mail
Mitchell's goanna

Varanus mitchelli       Mertens 1958

Mitchell's monitor is a small arboreal goanna found along the waterways of northern Western Australia and Northern Territory. Its long compressed tail led Mertens (1958) to place the species in the subgenus Varanus along with other large Australian goannas, but more recent studies suggest that this is a dwarf monitor of the Odatria subgenus (e.g. Baverstock et al 1994). This lively little goanna reaches a maximum size of about 70cm TL. The tail is 173-210% of SVL (Storr 1980). At hatching they measure less than 8cm SVL and sexual maturity is attained in both sexes at about 22cm SVL (Shine 1986).

Varanus mitchelli
Mitchell's goanna is found in both freshwater and marine habitats. They are said to inhabit mangrove swamps and coasts as well as along inland rivers, streams, lakes and billabongs. Around Jabiru, Northern Territory, they occupy areas that are only intermittently flooded and are usually seen on trees close to the water. During the wet season they expand their habitat to take advantage of temporarily flooded areas (Shine 1986). Diet in this area is comprised largely of fish and crabs, together with frogs, lizards, reptile eggs, small mammals, nestling birds and terrestrial invertebrates (orthopterans, arachnids, beetles etc.). A specimen examined by Losos & Greene (1986) also contained a frog and Schmida (1985) considered frogs to be their most important prey item (he considers this diet to be responsible for the large numbers of parasites which the goannas harbour). At Jaribu breeding occurs during the dry season, with gravid females found from April - June containing up to 12 small (2.5 X 1.3cm, volume 4.4cc) eggs. The diet of Mitchell's goanna indicates that they forage both on the ground and in the water. However, during most of the day (and throughout the night) they rest on tree branches overhanging the water (Peters 1971b, Shine 1986).

There appear to be no published reports of captive breeding for Mitchell's goanna. In captivity they are said to be very nervous and shy (Peters 1971b; Murphy 1972) and need to be housed in a large, high enclosure with high temperatures and plenty of hiding places, both on and above the ground. In general they tolerate each other well but may harass smaller or weaker lizards. Their diet should contain animals of both aquatic and terrestrial origin.


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The Butaan Project - Research
butaan3.jpgThe only obligate fruit-eaters among reptiles are three species of monitor lizard that live in the Philippines. Frugivorous vertebrates tend to be able to fly (almost all are bats and birds) and so these lizards have a unique ecological role as highly specialized and relatively immobile fruit eaters. Before this project started, the only studies of this unique giant and endangered lizard had involved killing the animals. We have developed a set of techniques that allow us to learn about these animals in a completely non-destructive way.


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