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Habitat Ecology Information

What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #34 Lace Monitor

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week or so I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#34 Lace Monitor

(Varanus varius)

Not a regular visitor to our place but a very welcome one when they turn up. This was only a young one at around 1.2m long.  The Lace Monitor is the second largest lizard in Australia after the Perentie (Varanus giganteus) and can reach up to 2.0m in length..

There are two distinct colour forms of the Lace Monitor with one being a dark grey to dull bluish black with numerous, scattered, cream-coloured spots.  The head is black, and the snout is marked with prominent black and yellow bands extending under the chin and neck. The tail is narrowly banded with black and cream on the basal portion. The other form is called the “Bells” form and is has a simple broad black and yellow bands across the body and tail.

These lizards are agile climbers spending a significant amount of time in trees especially when startled they seek refuge in the closest tree. They will also seek out food in the in hollows of trees. They will come to the ground to forage and scavenge for food which may consist of insects, other reptiles, small mammals, birds and bird eggs as well as carrion. Like other carnivorous reptiles they swallow their food whole. They are often found in areas inhabited by people raiding rubbish bins, BBQ scraps and even chicken coops.

Lace monitors are sexually mature at around four to five years when they are fully grown, and the male will fight for suitable mates by standing on their back legs and grappling with their opponent.

Breeding season for monitors occurs generally between September and December with the female laying between 4 and 14 eggs inside a termite nest on the ground or within a tree. The use of the termite nest as nesting spot ensures a constant temperature for incubation which may take 6-7 months. These nesting spots may be utilised by the same female over consecutive years.

Distribution of the Lace Monitor is from northern Cape York Peninsula to south- eastern South Australia.


© Habitat Ecology 2020