Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Goannas ...Shaky Paws Lizard

When white people first came to Australia they saw large reptiles they thought were a kind of iguana, and called them 'goanna'. The goanna is in fact not an iguana, but a species of monitor lizard.

The goanna is about 160 cm long altogether. Its head and body measure about 70 cm. Its body is flattened, it has strong legs with long toes and claws. It has a long neck. It can give a fierce blow with its long tail. It has a tongue rather like a snake's, which it flicks in and out.

Goannas, or monitors as they are known elsewhere in the world, are a very distinctive group of lizards. They range in size from about 12 cm to 1.3 m, not including the tail. They include the largest lizard living today, the Komodo Dragon of Indonesia.

There are 58 living species of goanna and most of them are carnivores. Goannas find their food by searching widely across the landscape, catching animals by stalking or digging them out of shelters and nests. They are aided in their search for food by their long forked tongues which they flick in and

Goannas climb trees well and swim strongly. They can rear up or run quickly on their hind legs when threatened. They dig a system of burrows. Their habitat is woodland or grassland over much of Australia. In the northern parts of the country, goannas stay active all year round, but in the south they are inactive in the cold months.

The goanna eats lizards, the eggs of lizards and other reptiles, insects, spiders and small mammals.

There are 58 different types of Goannas...this one is called 'Shaky Paw' because when it sees danger, it sort of picks up its paws and shakes them as it runs away on its back legs. When I first saw them it looked like a dancer picking up her skirts and running away, but the name 'Skaky Paw' is aptly descriptive.

This species lives in the school ground. I have seen them sunning on the rocks and also around the school garden at the back. They run very fast so are not easy to photograph. This Shaky Paw got locked up in the Home Eco Room for almost 2 weeks. We finally cornered him, and I took some photos before we opened the door and sent him to freedom.

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