Scientists Discover Two New Species of Lizard on the Black Market

A team of scientists has spent the last five years attempting to catalog the kinds of animals for sale on the black market in the Philippines. To their surprise, they couldn't catalog two animals, because no researcher had ever seen them before.


University of Kansas' Biodiversity Institute has spent quite some time analyzing the genetics of animals they bought in back alleys and on Facebook. The Facebook sales have increased in the last couple of years, as the black market of the Philippines has moved online, but deal is the same. Poachers sell animals they have illegally killed or captured as pets, medicines, or curiosities. Wherever the animals are sold, they are sold with a pitch that makes it hard to pinpoint their origin. "This is the rarest lizard in the world," or, "This turtle comes from the most remote part of the jungle," are the kinds of stories told to drive up the price of every animal.

Because it's hard to enforce a policy when you don't even know what animals are being traded, the team of scientists have been buying animals and doing genetic analysis on them, then creating a database that authorities can refer to. When the researchers analyzed the DNA for two water monitor lizards, one black and white, one black and yellow, they found that the two lizards were totally new to science.

The researchers have named the lizards Varanus dalubhasa and Varanus bangonorum, and have published a paper about them in Zootaxa.

[Via Zootaxa.]


Share This Story