New Giant Lizard Species Could Spur Conservation Efforts in Philippines

April 7, 2010

(ChattahBox)—Scientists have confirmed the existence of an entirely new species of giant lizard in the deep forests of the Philippines. The 22-pound and 6.5-foot-long Northern Sierra Madre Forest Monitor Lizard is a close relative of the komodo dragon and eats fruits and snails, but no meat. The discovery of a new species is not only rare, but in this instance, the golden spotted tree-residing lizard may spur a new wave of conservation efforts, at a time when natural habitats are quickly disappearing from the northern Philippines Island of Luzon.

The giant lizard was first discovered last year, but was not confirmed as a new species until DNA tests were recently completed. Luke Welton, a graduate student at the University of Kansas, was present during the discovery. And he is the co-author of the article chronicling the importance of the find in the Royal Society journal Biology.

“It goes to speak toward the amount of information we don’t have on global diversity,” Welton says. “We know so little.” And as new species remain hidden in the forest, waiting to be discovered, the Philippines faces an annual deforestation rate of 2.2 percent. Unless the deforestation of Luzon’s forests is slowed, the habitat for the new species of lizard may soon be wiped out.

Dr. Rafe Brown, leader of the university team that discovered the new species and curator of herpetology at the University of Kansas, said in a statement that he hopes the new discovery will compel conservation biologists to take actions to protect “the remaining highly imperiled forests of northern Luzon.”

The journal article points out the importance of the discovery:

“This discovery identifies a seldom-perceived biogeographic boundary and emphasizes the need for continued biodiversity research in the megadiverse conservation hotspot of the Philippines. It is anticipated that the new species will serve as an important flagship species for conservation efforts aimed at preserving the remaining forests of northern Luzon.”

Photo Credit: Joseph Brown/University of Kansas/Reuters


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