Scientists have re-discovered a monitor lizard species, thought to have been extinct, in the island of New Ireland in Papua New Guinea. The researchers “resurrected” the Varanus douarrha using a genetic analysis and a comparison of its physical features to others like it. It is the only species from its family of lizards that is endemic to the island of New Ireland, a study in the Australian Journal of Zoology explained.
The scientists chose to use the word “resurrected” because a French naturalist had discovered the lizard in the early 1800s. However, a ship carrying a specimen of the lizard back to France wrecked on the southwestern tip of South Africa and the animal was lost, Finland’s University of Turku, which was associated with the find, said.
“The discovery is particularly interesting as most of the endemic species to New Ireland disappeared thousands of years ago as humans colonised the island,” the university said. This monitor lizard “is the only large-growing animal endemic to the island that has survived until modern times…In that way it can be considered a relic of the historically richer fauna that inhabited the Pacific islands.”
The lizard can grow to more than 4 feet.