Book Review - Advances in Monitor Research II
Book Review from

© Daniel Bennett 2000

Advances in Monitor Research II. H.G. Horn and W.Bohme (eds).

1999. Mertensiella 11. 366p. About 70 Deutsche Marks.

Rating (out of 10) = 9

This book contains the proceedings of the Second Multidisciplinary World Conference on Monitor Lizards, held in Bonn during August 1997. It is dedicated to Walter Auffenberg, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to monitor lizard ecology, and contains 28 papers. The highlights of the book are the long awaited publication of David Carter's study of the reproductive strategy of the lace goanna Varanus varius and a paper by Samuel Sweet on the long-tailed rock monitors V.glebopalma and V.glauerti that represents the only information available on this group. For me the paper by Graham Thompson summarising work on the metabolism of monitor lizards was of exceptional interest. Other papers on behaviour of free living monitors are field studies of V.salvator in Kalimantan and Sumatra, behaviour and energetics of hatchling Varanus rosenbergi on Kangaroo Island, niche partitioning in monitor lizards in Irian Jaya and the thermal ecology of Komodo dragons. These papers include a great deal of new and valuable information on monitor ecology and also provide some very useful discussion on field methodology. Anatomy is represented by papers on micro structure of skin glands, eye structure, genital structure of V. melinus and V. yuwonoi that confirm their validity, the use of ultrasound in clinical examinations and a comparison of this method with radiology and coelioscopy. Taxonomy and evolutionary history papers are a review of the fossil evidence on the origin of monitors and a summary paper on the biogeographic origins of varanids. Both papers support the hypothesis that the group has an Asian origin. Natural selection and evolution are represented by two discussions on character displacement in sympatric species and on behaviour and behavioural strategies. A paper on the distribution of V.yemenensis and V.griseus provides evidence that the species are not sympatric. Captive breeding and husbandry papers cover V. salvator, V. salvator cumingi and V.prasinus, variation in breeding season and incubation in V.acanthurus and parasitic burdens in captivity. The latter (by Herbert Bosch) is particularly interesting because it identifies Entamoeba invadens as an important agent in stress related disease. A paper by Michael Stanner on the effects of overcrowding and depression in V.griseus, which would doubtless provoke lively debate on the Monitor Forum is another of the volume's highlights. A proposal for a conservation program for V. olivaceus is querulously included in the book. It contains no new information and the study proposed is aimed at measuring faunal diversity in Luzon rather than focusing on the monitor lizard. Despite the great importance of the work outlined, I feel the paper should have been excluded from the volume. My only other criticism of this volume is not directed at the editors. There is a notable lack of contributions from the USA among the captive breeding papers. As a result the volume does not reflect the state of monitor husbandry in 1997. Interested people in the US have a duty to organise a similar meeting and publish the results. Such an occasion would be a landmark in the advancement of our understanding of not just captive husbandry, but of physiology, behaviour and evolutionary strategy. This is an extremely important book. It is equally va