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A goanna is any of several Australian monitor lizards of the genus Varanus, as well as to certain species from Southeast Asia.

Around 30 species of goanna are known, 25 of which are found in Australia. This varied group of carnivorous reptiles range greatly in size and fill several ecological niches.

The goanna features prominently in Aboriginal mythology and Australian folklore.

Goannas are found throughout most of Australia, except for Tasmania, and manage to persist in a variety of environments. Most species are known to climb trees or outcrops; several primarily arboreal species are known. The lace monitor (V. varius) is probably the best-known amongst these, but is not the most common. The lace monitor is the second-largest of all goannas, reaching lengths of up to 2 m. Other more common tree goannas, such as the Timor tree monitor (V. timorensis) and mournful tree monitor (V. tristis) do not grow to quite such lengths, averaging only a few feet nose-to-tail.

Other goannas are adapted to swampy coastal environments, such as the mangrove goanna (V. semiremex). Further still, the Mertens’ water monitor (water goanna – V. mertensi), found in lagoons and rivers across northern Australia, is streamlined for swimming, using its tail as a paddle. Most other goannas are good swimmers, but tend not to voluntarily venture into the water.

Like most native fauna, goannas are rather wary of human intrusions into their habitat, and will most likely run away (into the scrub, up a tree, or into the water, depending on the species). A goanna is a rather swift mover, and when pressed, will sprint short distances on its hind legs.

Goannas also rear up when threatened, either chased or cornered, and also inflate flaps of skin around their throats and emit harsh hissing noises.


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