Varanus bitatawa, known by the common name northern Sierra Madre Forest monitor lizard, is a large, arboreal, frugivorous lizard of the genus Varanus. The lizard is a staple food of the Aeta and Ilongot indigenous people of the Philippines who call it Butikaw.
The forest monitor lizard can grow to more than 2 metres (6.6 ft) in length, but weighs only about 10 kilograms (22 lb). It is brightly colored with stripes of gold flecks. Its scaly body and legs are a blue-black, mottled color, with pale yellow-green dots, and its tail is marked in alternating segments of black and green.
Taxonomy and distribution
V. bitatawa is closely related to the Komodo dragon of Indonesia. It was confirmed as a new species in April 2010 by biologists from the University of Kansas. DNA analysis has revealed a deep genetic divergence between this species and its closest relative, Gray's monitor (Varanus olivaceus), which is also a fruit-eater, but lives on the southern end of Luzon, rather than the northern end where the forest monitor lizard lives. These findings were published in Biology Letters, a journal of the Royal Society.
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