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The Rock monitor (Varanus albigularis), also called the Legavaan, is a species of monitor lizard found in southern Africa. It is the second longest lizard found on the continent of Africa and the heaviest bodied.
First described by François Marie Daudin in 1802, these lizards were previously classified as a subspecies of Varanus exanthematicus, but have since been declared a distinct species based upon differences in hemipenal morphology. The generic name Varanus is derived from the Arabic word waral ورل, which is translated to English as "monitor". Their specific name comes from a compound of two Latin words: albus meaning "white" and gula meaning "throat".
There are three subspecies.
- White-throated Monitor, Varanus albigularis albigularis
- Angola White-throated Monitor, Varanus albigularis angolensis
- Black-throated Monitor, Varanus albigularis ionidesi
The heaviest bodied and second longest lizard (the Nile monitor is longer) in Africa reaching upwards of 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) in length, with the tail and body being of equal size. The head and neck are the same length and are distinct from each other. It's bulbous, convex snout gives an angular, box-like appearance. The forked tongue is pink or bluish. Its scales are usually a mottled gray-brown with yellowish or white markings.
An intelligent lizard, several specimens have demonstrated the ability to count as high as six in an experiment conducted by Dr. John Philips at the San Diego Zoo in 1999. Philips offered varying numbers of snails and the monitors were able to distinguish numbers whenever there was one missing.
This monitor ranges throughout the following countries: Namibia, Botswana, Republic of South Africa, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire). It is found in a variety of dry habitats including steppes, prairies and savannahs but are absent from desert interiors, rainforests and thick scrub forests.
People living with the HIV/AIDS virus in Yumbe district of Uganda have been injecting themselves with the blood of rock monitors, which they believe to be a cure for the virus. Most are discontinuing anti-retroviral therapy to pursue this anecdotal treatment. As a result Varanus albigularis is reported to have become an expensive item in the Ugandan black market, selling for more than $175 US.
- ^ a b Daudin, F. M. (1802). Histoire Naturelle, génerale et particulièredes reptiles, ouvrage faisant suite, a l'histoiure naturelle, générale et particulière composée par LECLERC DE BUFFON, et redigée par C. S. SONNINI, vol. 3. F. Dufart, Paris.
- ^ Varanus albigularis (TSN 716498). Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved on 22 August 2008.
- ^ Laurent,R.F. 1964. A new subspecies of Varanus exanthematicus (Sauria, Varanidae). Breviora 199: 1–5
- ^ Bohme, W. (1991). New finding on the hemipenal morphology of monitor lizards and their systematic implications. Mertensiella, 2, 42–49.
- ^ Carruthers, Vincent (June 5, 2008). The Wildlife of Southern Africa: The Larger Illustrated Guide to the Animals and Plants of the Region. South Africa: Struik Publishers. pp. 320. ISBN 9781770071995.
- ^ a b c d e Alexander, Grahm; Marais, Johan (2008). A Guide to the Reptiles of Southern Africa. South Africa: Struik Publishers. pp. 408. ISBN 9781770073869.
- ^ Pianka, Eric R.; Vitt, Laurie J. (2003), [Expression error: Missing operand for > Lizards: Windows to the Evolution of Diversity (Organisms and Environments, 5)], 5 (1 ed.), California: University of California Press, ISBN 9780520234017
- ^ King, Dennis & Green, Brian. (1999). Goannas: The Biology of Varanid Lizards. University of New South Wales Press. ISBN 0-86840-456-X, p. 43.
- ^ The Weekend Australian. July 24–25, 1999, p. 12.
- ^ a b c "Ugandans turn to varanid lizard blood for AIDS cure", BIAWAK (INTERNATIONAL VARANID INTEREST GROUP) 2 (1), 2/1/2008, http://www.varanidae.org/Vol_2_No_1.pdf, retrieved 2008-08-27
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