The fourth release in the Remarkable Reptiles series features the Australian goanna. Goannas are large, carnivorous reptiles also known as monitor lizards.
Goannas are capable of swimming, and can also climb trees. They will move quickly when pressed, often sprinting short distances to escape harm. Goannas will rear up when threatened, and also inflate flaps of skin around their throats and emit a harsh hissing noise.
Here’s seven more remarkable facts about the Australian goanna:
- Colonial settlers in Australia christened these large, carnivorous lizards ‘goanna’ – a corruption of the word iguana, a separate South American species.
- Like snakes, to which they are distantly related, goannas are venomous – but they lack their slithering rival’s injecting fangs.
- Despite the family association, goannas eat snakes – a choice that led people to conclude they were immune to snake venom (although this has never been proved).
- Some goannas lay their eggs inside termite mounds, which provide their young with an instant meal just after they hatch.
- At 5 metres in length, a gigantic goanna called Megalania – the largest the world has ever seen – stomped across Australia during the Pleistocene epoch.
- A surprisingly small member of the species, the pygmy goanna defies expectations at only 20 centimetres in length!
- But the majority of today’s goannas are hefty animals, and if cornered one can swing its tail like a crocodile with enough force to knock down a human!