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Varanus niloticus (LINNAEUS, 1766)

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Higher TaxaVaranidae, Platynota, Varanoidea, Anguimorpha, Sauria, Squamata (lizards)
Common NamesE: Nile Monitor, Water Leguaan
G: Nilwaran 
SynonymLacerta monitor LINNAEUS 1758: 201 (nomen rejectum)
Lacerta nilotica — LINNAEUS 1766: 369
Stellio saurus LAURENTI 1768: 56
Lacerta capensis SPARRMAN 1783: 749
Lacertus tupinambis LACÉPÈDE 1788 (in part)
Lacerta nilotica — MEYER 1795: 29
Tupinambis elegans DAUDIN 1802 (in part)
Tupinambis stellatus DAUDIN 1802 (in part)
Tupinambis ornatus DAUDIN 1803: 353
Monitor niloticus — LICHTENSTEIN 1818
Monitor pulcher LEACH in BOWDICH 1819
Varanus niloticus — FITZINGER 1826: 50
Varanus niloticus — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1836: 476
Monitor elegans senegalensis — SCHLEGEL 1839: X
Monitor elegans capensis — SCHLEGEL 1839: 76
Monitor elegans senegalensis — SCHLEGEL 1844
Varanus ornatus — GRAY 1845
Varanus niloticus — BOULENGER 1885: 317
Varanus niloticus — SCHMIDT 1919: 485
Varanus (Polydaedalus) niloticus — MERTENS 1942
Varanus (Polydaelus) niloticus ornatus — MERTENS 1942
Varanus niloticus — AUERBACH 1987: 136
Varanus niloticus — DE LISLE 1996: 131
Varanus ornatus — BÖHME & ZIEGLER 1997
Varanus (Polydaedalus) ornatus — SCHMITZ et al. 2000
Varanus niloticus — AST 2001
Varanus ornatus — PAUWELS et al. 2004
Varanus niloticus — TRAPE, CHIRIO & TRAPE 2012
Varanus (Polydaedalus) ornatus — BUCKLITSCH et al. 2016: 50
Varanus (Polydaedalus) niloticus — BUCKLITSCH et al. 2016: 50
Varanus ornatus — PAUWELS et al. 2016
Varanus niloticus — SPAWLS et al. 2018: 309
Varanus ornatus — PAUWELS et al. 2019
Varanus ornatus — BÖHME 2023 
DistributionRepublic of South Africa (Eastern Cape etc.), Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Tanzania, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Malawi, Tanzania, Gabon, W/N/S Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan (Jumhūriyyat), Republic of South Sudan (RSS), Chad, Egypt, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia (HÅKANSSON 1981), Guinea (Conakry), Equatorial Guinea

ornatus: Guinea, Togo, Benin, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire; except in the S), Cameroon, Gabon (BLANC & FRETEY 2000), Ivory Coast, Central African Republic; Type locality: Malimbe, Cameroon.

Introduced to USA (Florida)

Type locality: “Indiis” (Linnaeus 1758); Type locality: “in Ægypto” [= Egypt] (fide Hasselquist 1757, cited in Marques et al. 2018: 277).  
Reproductionmaybe parthenogenetic (Hennessy 2010). 
TypesSyntype: NRM 9185; Specimen mentioned by Hasselquist (1757) (collector F. Hasselquist), presumed lost fide Marques et al. 2018.
Varanus niloticus: Bocage
Syntypes: MNHN [Tupinambis stellatus]
Holotype: MNHN 7471 [ornatus] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: (1) Large lizard up to approximately 80 cm SVL and about 200 cm total length. (2) Tail laterally compressed with a low dorsal crest. (3)
A total of 136 to 183 scales around the midbody. (4) Basic dorsal color of adults gray brown to olive-brown with light yellow ocelli and bands on head, back, limbs, and tail. Belly and throat are paler, with black bars. (5) V. niloticus is characterized by six to nine crossbands or rows of yellow ocelli on the back between foreand hind limbs, whereas V. ornatus normally has only five bands. (Lenz in Pianka et al. 2004)

Sexual dimorphism: not evident in color. (Lenz in Pianka et al. 2004)

Hatchlings and juveniles are patterned with black aod bright yellow. (Lenz in Pianka et al. 2004) 
CommentSynonymy: The status of V. ornatus remains somewhat contentious. Böhme and Ziegler (1997) elevated V. ornatus to full species level based on differing pigmentation patterns, tongue coloration, genital morphology, and slight differences in scale counts. However, Dowell et al. (2015) synonymized V. ornatus with V. niloticus as both are genetically indistinguishable and because morphological characters largely overlap. However, Dowell et al. found distinct clades within V. niloticus across its huge range. SCHMIDT’s Varanus niloticus might represent both V. niloticus (specimens from savanna localities) and V. ornatus (specimens from rain forest localities). ICZN opinion 540 rejected Lacerta monitor LINNAEUS 1758.

Distribution: For a detailed distribution map and locality data see BAYLESS (2002). The monitor in Thieme 2004: 46 is not V. ornatus but rather V. niloticus. For a map with localities in Equatorial Guinea see SÁNCHEZ-VIALAS et al. 2022.

Conservation: although not threatened in the whild due to its large range, this species has been driven to local extinction by overexploitation for skins (Hinsley et al. 2023). 
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