Quick Links
Home Page
Site Map
Search Mampam.com
       You are here: Home > Varanus A-Z > Varanus tristis
Main Menu
About Mampam
Viper Press
Contact Us
Book Reviews
Varanus Species A-Z
Butaan Project
Savannah Monitors
Bui Hippo Project
Frogs of Coorg
Polillo Project
Madagascar Bats
Western Visayas
Monitor Lizards


Varanus tristis Print E-mail
Mournful goanna, Black-headed goanna, Freckled goanna, Racehorse goanna

Varanus tristis
Varanus tristis tristis      Boulenger 1839
Varanus tristis orientalis   Fry 1913.

The mournful goanna is perhaps the most widespread of the Australian monitor lizards. It is found throughout the continent except for the extreme south and south-east and occurs on many northern islands. Christian (1981) reports that they are absent from Victoria and restricted to arid parts of western New South Wales. Fitzgerald (1983) records a specimen from north-eastern New South Wales. According to Houston (1979) they are not well known in South Australia. Low (1978) records their presence on Magnetic Island off the northern coast of Queensland. Storr (1980) gives a list of locations in Western Australia and Maryan (1989) found them at Peak Charles, Western Australia. I visited Peak Charles in 1991, a few months after an extensive fire, and could find no sign of them. Records of V.tristis orientalis in New Guinea and adjacent islands (Mertens 1950) probably refer to the V.timorensis type animals discussed previously. V.tristis centralis (Mertens 1957) is an obsolete name for V.tristis orientalis (Mertens 1958).

Varanus tristis
The name mournful goanna is somewhat misleading. It refers to the entirely black colouration of the populations of V.tristis tristis around Perth, Western Australia (tristis = sad). Mournful goannas from warmer (i.e. more northern) areas become increasingly less sombre in appearance. The freckled goanna V.tristis orientalis was described from animals collected on the Burnett River, Queensland. These animals lack the melanistic pattern of the mournful goannas and can further be distinguished by the less spiny scales on the tail (Fry 1913; Mertens 1958). Storr (1980) remarked that the few specimens he examined from Queensland differed in scalation from Western Australian animals, but did not give details. In the literature therefore, animals without black colouration tend to be described as V.tristis orientalis. The subspecies appear to be sympatric in many areas and both are found on the eastern coast of Queensland (Christian 1981). Hatchlings of both varieties are brightly coloured, but freckled goannas retain most of their juvenile pattern whilst in mournful goannas the pattern darkens and is replaced with varying amounts of black as the animals grow. Mournful monitors reach a slightly larger size than freckled monitors (about 80cm TL vs. 60cm TL). In the deserts both sexes reach sexual maturity at 20cm SVL. A specimen 29cm SVL weighed 307g, another 25cm SVL weighed 150g and a hatchling of 7cm SVL weighed just over 4g.

The mournful monitor is an excellent climber. Where trees are available the lizards spend most of their time concealed beneath bark or in tree hollows. Where trees are absent, or are occupied by other species, the goannas will live in rock crevices or under slabs of stone. Fyfe (1979) notes that at Ayres Rock they are often seen around buildings. They are often found along rivers and are known from forests, woodlands and scrublands but are also widespread in deserts. They are probably absent from the rainforests. Little is known about their way of life in tropical Australia.



About Mampam
News from Mampam Conservation


The mampam website has been running for 25 years and aims to provide full details of projects at no charge. All out of print books and multimedia guides are provided here and full image archives are being developed for each project. This will complete the website's mission.


Help Mampam
The Butaan Project
Monitoring Individuals 1

butaan1.jpgButaan are so shy they frequently remain in a tree for more than a week after being frightened. A large male we rescued from a trap hid in a tree for 22 days before coming down!* . Most lizards do not appear traumatised by being caught and released by scientists, and resume normal activity very quickly. But we think that butaan, especially older individuals, may permanently alter their activity areas after such an encounter. Because the animals are so shy, and highly vulnerable to human disturbance, we have had to develop a range of techniques that allow us to learn about them with the absolute minimum of interference.





© 2019 Mampam Conservation