Mangrove Monitor (Varanus indicus)
Mangrove monitors inhabit damp wetland, coastal rivers, inland lakes and mangrove forests. They are able to survive the high levels of salt found on marine shorelines and can also flourished with their roots completely submerged. They also form specialized habitats in the intertidal zone for a wide array of animals. Many fish and aquatic creatures take refuge and breed amongst mangrove roots. When the tide goes out, crabs, reptiles, insects and other animals descend the trees and crawl out of the soil to feed on seaweed, shellfish, and other organic material left behind. Although monitors are distributed over about 1/3 of the earth’s entire land mass, 2/3 of all monitors live on the continent of Australia, including Mangrove Monitor.
An Adaptable Lizard
Mangrove monitors are one of two species of monitors possessing nasal salt glands, which help the animals to excrete excess salt, enabling them to live in saltwater conditions and feed on marine animals. It is thought that presence of this gland helped the species to spread from island to island throughout the South Pacific.
What’s with that Tongue?
The Mangrove Monitor, like other lizards and snakes, flicks its tongue in and out to “taste” all sort of scents and smells, which it detects when it pulls its tongue in and touches it to Jacobson’s organ in the base of its nose. Jacobson’s organ detects different environmental chemical found on the tongue and translates them into a nervous signal sent to the brain. As such, both taste and smell are extremely important in allowing reptiles to “sense” their environment and what sorts of foods and predators might be out there!