Ever since I happened across a book on giant lizards in my youth, I’ve been fascinated by komodo dragons and their relatives. And while this story may not be quite a terrifying as the komodo dragon one Margaret and my boys recently experienced while watching Life, it’s still a fascinating one:
A dragon-sized, fruit-eating lizard that lives in the trees on the northern Philippines island of Luzon has been confirmed as a new species, scientists reported on Tuesday.
Hunted for its tasty flesh, the brightly colored forest monitor lizard can grow to more than six feet in length but weighs only about 22 pounds (10 kg), said Rafe Brown of the University of Kansas, whose team confirmed the find.
Over at Discovery.com, Mr. Brown has a few theories as to why this species has gone unnoticed for so long, despite its flamboyant appearance:
We think that it had not been discovered (before) primarily because of its secretiveness and because few comprehensive studies of amphibians and reptiles have been conducted in the inaccessible forests of NE Luzon Island.
The Sierra Madre of Luzon is a treasure trove of undescribed vertebrate biodiversity. We suspect that many, perhaps dozens of new species of small vertebrates — reptiles, amphibians, and possibly birds and mammals — may await discovery in the forests of the northern Philippines.
It is described as a “keystone species,” though the comments on the Discovery piece left me a little confused as to what exactly that meant. Apparently, they’re sort of like bees — helping to spread the seeds for various fruit-bearing trees that (scientists speculate) would be unable to disseminate any other way.
Ironically, the folks presenting these sorts of stories always seem to couch them in terms of our ever-increasing paucity, whereas it’s hard for me to see them without being amazed once again by the incredible richness of Creation.