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Varanus bennetti WEIJOLA, VAHTERA, KOCH, SCHMITZ & KRAUS, 2020

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Higher TaxaVaranidae, Platynota, Varanoidea, Anguimorpha, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Bennett’s long-tailed monitor 
SynonymVaranus bennetti WEIJOLA, VAHTERA, KOCH, SCHMITZ & KRAUS 2020
Varanus cf. indicus — CROMBIE & PREGILL 1999 
DistributionPalau archipelago (Koror, Ngeaur and Ngcheangel islands, Ngeriungs and Babeldaob), Federated States of Micronesia (FSM: Yap and Losiep islands), Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI: Sarigan Island)

Type locality: south of Ngaramasch village, Ngeaur Island, Palau  
TypesHolotype: USNM 507504, collected by Ronald Crombie, 31 July 1996.
Paratypes: USNM 514125, 521719, Ngeaur Island, Palau. USNM 495369–70, Palau. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands: Sarigan Island (USNM 212494); Federated States of Micronesia: Losiep Island (USNM 122560), Yap Island (AMNH 00624–25, BMNH, SMF 32808–09, USNM 130186, ZMB 17520–22, 7619 and ZMH R-4727); Palau: Koror Island (AMNH 70652–53), Ngcheangel Atoll (USNM 495369). 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Varanus bennetti can be distinguished from all other members of Euprepiosaurus by its unique combination of (i) dorsum black and evenly speckled with yellow scales, sometimes arranged in small groups of yellow scales, (ii) tongue dark blue/grey, (iii) venter cream coloured with pale grey cross-bands, (iv) tail exceptionally long (F/SVL mean = 1.76, range = 1.60–1.89), high XY scale counts (148–160), (v) a clear yellow temporal stripe present in about half of the studied specimens, and (vi), in life, peach colouring on the throat (Weijola et al. 2020).

Comparisons with other members of Euprepiosaurus: Varanus bennetti can be distinguished from V. caerulivirens, V. colei, V. doreanus, V. finschi, V. jobiensis, V. juxtindicus, V. melinus, V. obor, V. semotus and V. yuwonoi by having a fully dark blue/grey tongue rather than a (at least partly) pink or yellow tongue; from V. cerambonensis by the absence of dorsal cross-bands and its comparatively longer tail (F/SVL: 1.60–1.89 in V. bennetti versus 1.32–1.61 in V. cerambonensis); from V. douarrha by the absence of dorsal ocelli and its comparatively longer tail (F/SVL = 1.60–1.89 versus 1.32–1.61); from V. indicus by the presence of a yellow temporal stripe in much of the population, generally higher scale counts (X: 41–48 versus 28–42 in V. indicus, XY: 148–160 versus 109–158 in V. indicus), longer tail (F/SVL = 1.60–1.89 versus 1.22–1.70 in V. indicus) and dark pigmentation on the lower part of the throat (versus dark pigmentation on throat normally absent in V. indicus); from V. lirungensis by the absence of dorsal cross-bands and lower scale counts (P: 31–40 versus 38–47 in V. lirungensis, Q: 54–74 versus 79–88 in V. lirungensis, S: 101–126 versus 134–151 in V. lirungensis); from V. rainerguentheri by its longer tail (F/SVL = 1.60–1.89 versus 1.36–1.47 in V. rainerguentheri), higher average scale counts of all measured characters (table 4) and the peach color of the throat (versus cream in V. rainerguentheri); and from V. tsukamotoi by its longer tail (F/SVL 1.60–1.89 (1.76) versus 1.33–1.73 (1.58) in V. tsukamotoi), higher scale counts of all measured characters (table 4), and the peach colour of the throat of live animals (versus yellow in V. tsukamotoi).

Variation and coloration in life: The light (probably cream coloured to yellow in life) temporal stripe is apparent in only part of the examined material. Some specimens lack tail bands altogether, whereas others show discernible bands. Crombie and Pregill [3] noted that live animals are black with prominent yellow dorsal rosettes and other irregular markings, and they have a vivid peach-coloured throat (figures 9–12, and fig. 188 in [5]). They also noted the large size (up to 180 cm) attained by V. bennetti in Palau, which is exceptional within the subgenus Euprepiosaurus. Fourteen specimens measured in the field on Sarigan had total lengths of 67–142 cm, tail/SVL of 1.69–1.88 and weights of 200–2180 g [54]. 
EtymologyThe specific epithet is a genitive singular patronym in commemoration of the late Dr Daniel Bennett, 1966–2020, and his life-long commitment to the study and conservation of monitor lizards in Africa and Southeast Asia. For an obituary and other biographical notes on Daniel Bennett see Biawak 14 (1-2), Dec. 2020. 
  • Crombie, Ronald I. and Gregory K. Pregill 1999. A Checklist of the Herpetofauna of the Palau Islands (Republic of Belau), Oceania. Herpetological Monographs 13: 29-80 - get paper here
  • Koch, A. 2020. Neue Pazifikwarane aus Mikronesien erfordern politisches Umdenken. Elaphe 2020 (5): 54
  • Weijola V, Vahtera V, Koch A, Schmitz A, Kraus F. 2020. Taxonomy of Micronesian monitors (Reptilia: Squamata: Varanus): endemic status of new species argues for caution in pursuing eradication plans. R. Soc. Open Sci. 7: 200092 - get paper here
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