After much painstaking research, this monitor lizard was identified as a new species. Image credit: Ingo Langlotz
Sometimes, a new species is discovered when it emerges, unsuspectingly, from the dense forest of some remote, secluded, "lost world"—an unexplored island of biodiversity in an unexplored corner of the world.
More often, however, such findings come after months—if not years—of painstaking and meticulous research in the lab and specimen archives of major museums. When a new identification is made in this way, it is just as exciting—and certainly just as important—as the more dramatic sighting of a plant or animal unlike anything yet known.
Image credit: Ingo Langlotz
Through this long process, Andre Koch, a scientist at the Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig in Bonn, Germany, and his supervisor, Dr. Wolfgang Boehme, have described two new species of monitor lizard and identified a new subspecies of the Southeast Asian water monitor lizard.
It's amazing that these largest living lizards of the world have been neglected for so long and that new species come up time and again. It shows that even with large vertebrates not all species of our planet are recognized and named. There are too few experts in the world, the education level at universities is declining and the essential knowledge about the global biodiversity stands to get lost!
The researchers spent countless hours in the field studying the lizards, the findings of which the compared with numerous specimens held in major European natural history museums. Unfortunately, they report, funding for such time-consuming research is becoming increasingly difficult to find—and the money that supports museum curators is drying up as well.
One of the new lizards was named after the late Jens B. Rasmussen—a colleague at the Zoological Museum of Copenhagen whose position was not renewed after his death—as means of honoring his contribution to the study and draw attention to the increasingly dire situation in the field.
Indeed, it seems that with the discovery of these new lizards, researchers have revealed that it is the taxonomists that are in need of conservation.