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Spencer’s Monitor Lizard: Behaviour and Characteristics

Blog | December 6th, 2017

Spencer’s goanna, also known as Spencer’s monitor (binomial name Varanus spenceri), is a species of monitor lizard that is endemic to Australia. Belonging to the family Varanidae, it was named after the English-Australian biologist Walter Baldwin Spencer.

Spencer’s monitors are moderately sized monitor lizards that can grow to up to 47 inches (120 centimetres) in length. While these may be slightly smaller than the famed and feared Komodo dragon, they are on the stockier side of the monitor family and is remarkable for its heavy-set build. Because of this, it appears larger than most other medium-sized monitors.

Like all monitor lizards, it is equipped with sharp claws. The Spencer’s monitor however does not use its claws to defend itself against predators, but rather, to burrow holes that act as its shelter. These lizards have never been introduced to forested environments, and because their habitat, which spans the largesse of the Northern Territory all the way to Brisbane, are more populous in the Barkley region.

Because of a lack of large trees in its native environment, adult monitors did not have to adapt to climbing and are ground-dwelling lizards, which like snakes, bury holes as makeshift shelters or as nests.

Spencer’s Monitor Lizard are Voracious and Efficient Eaters 

Spencer’s monitors are voracious eaters and opportunistic hunters, just like many of their species. Their primary line of defense is their long, muscular tail – one that is powerful enough to knock out or knock down an adult human being with relative ease. Their diet consists of consume venomous snakes, small mammals, small lizards, and carrion. Like all monitors, their stomach acids are potent enough to dissolve flesh, fur, feathers, and even bone, so after eating there is very little remnants of their prey.

Spencer’s monitors have a unique defence mechanism; whenever they are threatened, they will hiss loudly and whip their tails. The juvenile Spencer’s monitor will also attempt to climb shrubbery or overhanging rocks to hide from potential predators. The Spencer’s monitor has had a significant degree of relationship with humans since discovered, and they were originally hunted as food by natives in the past.

While they are in the least way endangered, there is a growing (and quite erroneous) interest in them as exotic pets, which not only puts these animals at risk for hunting or poaching to be traded, but likewise puts the potential pet-keepers at risk of being injured by their lizard.