Categories
Asia Lizards Me

Blue Tree Monitor

Good looking ones have no personality

I said this was my childhood dream lizard. And, I also said blue is the rarest color in animals. But no, this lizard didn’t hold a special place in my heart only by its looks. Eye candies ain’t my thing (tho funny to say that in the gram). It’s special to me because we have something in common deep down, and we are both misjudged by the looks.

Good-looking ones have no personality. And what? Ugly ones have good personalities(?) Could be right most of the time. But generalization and stereotypical thoughts are harmful to the one in a zillion. This lizard proves to me that good-looking ones can have even greater personalities.

Blue is the rarest color in animals. You might already know that. But why?

Unlike other colors, Blue in reptiles is NOT a pigment, but a trick to human eyes. It’s produced by having other wavelengths of light canceled but only blue being bounced through reflective cells called iridophores on the skin of only a few species on earth.

In spite of looking extravagantly beautiful to the point that many might mistake it for being ostentatiously flashy, it has zero intention of flexing. Matter of fact, it’s been trying so hard to stay away from the crowd – A reclusive, hermetic and secluded lifestyle, however, of natural-born ornate appearance.

Monitor lizards are generally powerful, fearless in front of humans and widespread throughout SE Asia. But just not this unusual one.

The Blue Tree Monitor (Varanus macraei), or the blue-spotted tree monitor, is a fragile, timid, and uncommon species that can only be found in Batanta, a small island in Irian Jaya of Indonesia. Its natural range is among the smallest of all monitors. This species had been hiding successfully for over 66 million years. The species was known to science for a mere 19 years and not too much is known still today.

It was my childhood dream lizard to die for. Now having this literally in hand, this is the Blue Monday I love 💙

Categories
Asia HK Lizards Species Profiles

Asian Water Dragon – Hong Kong Wildlife | 長鬣蜥 – 香港野生動物

Never getting a PR ID card (permanent residency) in spite of residing in here for decades.

Expats who live in here and have their kids and grandkids bred, born and raised in here are called locals. But when it comes to wild animals it’s not how it works.

An alien species, it is among the oldest introduced lizards of Hong Kong. I personally first found them in the wild in the early 1980s. But they should have a much longer history living here. My uncles showed me photos of them they took during some hikes back in the 1960s.

The Asian water dragon (Physignathus cocincinus) is originally native to China and mainland Southeast Asia. It is also known as the Chinese water dragon, Thai water dragon, and green water dragon.

The Asian water dragon is the only all-green lizard in Hong Kong (if the Green iguanas and Madagascar day geckos have not yet developed local populations), not to be confused with the Australian water dragon (Intellagama lesueurii, formerly Physignathus lesueurii) which’s colors vary from brown, olive, dark gray to light gray.

Physignathus cocincinus (Cuvier, 1829)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Agamidae
Genus: Physignathus
Species: cocincinus

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

長鬣蜥, 水龍, 綠水龍, 中國水龍, 亞洲水龍

Categories
Asia HK Lizards Species Profiles

Changeable Lizard – Hong Kong Wildlife | 變色樹蜥 – 香港野生動物

One of the most common lizards in Hong Kong is Calotes versicolor.
It has many common names: Changeable lizard, Crested tree lizard, Oriental garden lizard, Eastern garden lizard, and even Bloodsucker.

Common throughout Hong Kong including all major islands, it is also widely distributed in Asia. These lizards can grow up to 40
centimeters. They are sun-loving lizards, can often be found basking in the middle of the day.

They are not chameleons but there are similarities. They can move each of their eyes in different directions similar to what chameleons do.

As the name suggests, they can change color. Males can change to bright red in the throat, the entire head, or parts of the body during the breeding season. In spite of the fact that they can turn red, they are not venomous. Still, bites are what you often get when you catch them.

Calotes versicolor (Daudin, 1802)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Iguania
Family: Agamidae
Genus: Calotes
Species: versicolor

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

其中一種香港最常見的蜥蝪是Calotes versicolor。在牠有很多名字: 變色樹蜥, 雞冠蛇, 馬鬃蛇, 貓公蛇甚至叫做吸血者。

在香港非常普遍包括大部分主要的島嶼, 同時也廣泛遍佈亞洲。這些蜥蝪體長可達40厘米, 喜愛陽光, 你可以很容易看到牠們在享受日光。

一如牠們的名字, 牠們可以轉變身體顏色, 牠們不是變色龍但也有相似的地方。雄性的喉嚨部分, 能夠變成鮮紅色, 甚至整個頭部或身體各個部分, 一般發生於繁殖期間。牠們也可以轉動眼睛到不同的方向, 就像變色龍一樣。

Categories
Asia HK Lizards Species Profiles

Water Monitor – Hong Kong Wildlife | 水巨蜥 – 香港野生動物

A gray area in Hong Kong fauna. Once thought to be locally extinct. Now they are here again! Some think they are native. Others think they are imports.

Varanus salvator (Laurenti, 1768)
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Family: Varanidae
Genus: Varanus
Species: salvator

Where in HK?
Very rare – reservoirs, rivers, Mai Po marshes

Size: 1.5 – 3.2 m / 4’11 – 10’6″
Distribution: Southern Asia
Habitat: Semi-aquatic
Diet: Carnivore
Behavior: Diurnal
Conservation status: Least Concern

The Asian water monitor or Common water monitor (Varanus salvator) is the largest lizard in Hong Kong and the world’s second-largest lizard (in weight) after the Komodo dragon. Water monitors can grow to anywhere from 1.5 m (4’11”) to 3.21 m (10’6″) as the largest specimen ever recorded.

Outside Hong Kong, it is widely distributed in southern Asia including the Chinese Guangxi and Hainan provinces. The species was first described in 1768. But it’s not until 1961 the species was first officially recorded in Hong Kong (northern New Territories). Since then few sightings have been reported from time to time. But they were mostly believed to be released or escaped from imports. Many think that those are from the pet market. But I think the food market would be the most possible main source.

They are still rare in Hong Kong but I have been spotting more of them in recent years. Whether natives or imports, it is kind of proven that they have already (re)established a small population in Hong Kong and become our permanent residents.

See more of my encounters with Hong Kong Wildlife.

這是一個香港野生動物相的灰色地帶。一度被認為於香港已絕種,但牠們又回來了。有說是香港本地物種, 又有說由外地引入。

水巨蜥, 或者一般大眾認識的五爪金龍, 巨蜥,澤巨蜥,圓鼻巨蜥等等。是香港最大的蜥蝪, 以及科莫多龍以外世界上第二大的蜥蝪(體重計)。由已知的標本紀錄所得知, 水巨蜥體長可由1.5米達到3.21米不等。

在香港以外, 廣泛分佈於亞洲南方中國廣西及海南一帶。最早於1768年有紀錄形容這個物種, 但只有在1961年才第一次於香港(新界北)有官方的紀錄。由於只有少量的發現個案, 普遍認為是外地引入時被野放到野外。 現在牠們在香港仍然非常罕有, 但我在近年有更多的發現。無論牠們是本地品種還是外來的品種, 相信已經在香港(重新)發展到一個數量。

Categories
Africa Lizards

Chameleons in Madagascar I Encountered

In my last 6-week trip to Madagascar, I have been to most of the districts in the country except the extreme north such as Nosy Be where I already visited a few times in the past. I went on field trips every day (and night). There have been 183 chameleons in my findings. Here I’m collecting highlight photos of some of the chameleons I found during the herping trips.

If you will be visiting Madagascar for wildlife you will never miss the chameleons. There are about 202 known species of chameleons in the world, while 89+ of them are endemic to Madagascar. The rest of the family mainly hail from sub-Saharan Africa. Malagasy species are classified into 3 genera: Calumma,  Furcifer, and Brookesia.

Categories
Africa Lizards

Lizards in Madagascar I Encountered

There are over 300 species of lizards in Madagascar. During the trip, I’ve come across countless lizards that were mostly Chameleons, Leaf-tailed geckos, and Day geckos.

Other than these 3 popular types of lizards, there had been some
lesser-known species I found that are no less interesting.

Three-eyed lizard (Chalarodon madagascariensis)

One of the 8 species of Malagasy iguanas. It is also called Malagasy collared lizard. I found them in Ifaty (south) and Morondava (west).

Categories
Africa Lizards

Day Geckos in Madagascar I Encountered

Phelsuma is a genus of geckos mostly found in Mauritius and Madagascar. Day geckos are especially easier for me to spot than other geckos not only because of their bright green color but also their unusually diurnal behavior. I found them not only in the field but also in many of the rooms I stayed just like house geckos.

Madagascar giant day gecko (Phelsuma grandis)

Categories
Africa Lizards

Leaf-tailed Geckos in Madagascar I Encountered

Uroplatus is a genus of geckos, commonly known as leaf-tail geckos, which are endemic to Madagascar. If you think chameleons are experts at camouflage I’d say the leaf-tailed geckos are the masters of camouflage. At some point, they could be at the same difficulty level to spot in the jungle as stick insects. Not only does their tail resemble a leaf, most of their body parts are exactly like tree branch textures. Locals describe them as “half plant, half animal”. Luckily I have found a number of them during my trip to Madagascar.

Giant leaf-tailed gecko (Uroplatus fimbriatus)

Categories
Lizards

Why Do Some Lizards Have Forked Tongues?

Animals tongues are much more useful than humans!

Red tegu

Different Shapes of Tongues

Most of the lizards have short and round tongues. Chameleons have elongated, extrudable tongues yet not forked. The only lizards with a serpent-like forked tongue are the carnivorous ones of a larger size in family Varanidae (Monitors, goannas, Komodo dragon) and Teiidae (Tegus, whiptails, caiman lizards).

Northern caiman lizard

How Do Their Tongues Work?

Snakes and some lizards rely on flicking out their tongues to collect environmental information. Every flick receives odors and miniscule moisture particles floating in the air. When the tongue is back into their Jacobson’s organ the collected data will be processed and converted into a 3D image resembling the surrounding environment.

Komodo dragon

Why Better Split?

Being forked in the tip helps them tell objects on the left from the right. The difference is the lizards forked tongues are way longer than snakes. Lizards have higher mobility with heads higher up above ground hence the longer tongues help to reach the ground for the smell of earth.

Lace monitor
Categories
Americas Asia Lizards

Jesus Christ Lizard

There are over 10,000 extant species of reptiles. How many have you seen? There are only two lizards known to be able to run on water. This earned the renowned Basilisk of the new world the nickname “Jesus Christ lizard”.

From the old world, there’s this lesser-known Sailfin Dragon that evokes even more of my interest. Its Latin name Hydrosaurus says it all. They inhabit rainforests and can run across the river like a jet boat. Firstly described almost 250 years ago but not much has been known so far. I’ve had such a privilege to be able to handle such a beautiful adult Sailfin Dragon. Life is good.