Picture by Timothy Donald Morris

Long and thin tongue of reptiles of order Squamata, is constantly put outside to gather information about the environment and to carry it to Jacobson’s organ at the palate. It is frequently able to penetrate into various cracks and apertures. Therefore would be quite possible to it to get in the future any more function, which was earlier not met at present group of animals.

Initial sketch by Arseny Zolotnikov

In human epoch monitor lizards (Varanidae) were considered as the most progressive family of lizards. One of variety centers of this family is Australia. In Neocene one of survived representatives of monitor lizards family from savannas and semi-deserts of this continent, using an abundance of various species of social insects, had passed from predating habit of life to feeding by this specific catch. Before this species Australian echidna (Tachyglossus) and less specialized banded anteater, or numbat (Myrmecobius) had such diet. This reptile became, thus, their ecological analogue, taken place of these animals in savannas of Neocene Meganesia.

Reaching more than 2 meters in length, the Meganesian ant-monitor is rather sluggish and slow, and rather peaceful in comparison with its relatives. It has powerful enough claws, both on front and on hind legs, with which breaks the ground and nests of colonial insects. Long and thin tongue, doubled at the end and covered with sticky saliva, allows to catch insects and to draw them in mouth. Saliva also involves by taste and smell some ants, which get on tongue when lizard pushes it in their nest. Teeth of this reptile are considerably reduced; they are small and sharp, located only in forward part of jaws. Thick scaly skin protects body from stings which are put to monitor lizard by insects, furiously protecting ravaging nests. Head of this monitor lizard is covered from above with almost continuous corneous armour. On back of ant-monitor there are sticking up enlarged scutes also used as passive protection. They form cross belts on all back of the reptile, representing reliable protection against medium-sized predators.
In case of danger the ant-monitor protects itself by impacts of tail, on which end some rows of pointed scales were developed, and also by big powerful claws, making aggressive lunges aside the enemy.
Colouring of body is soft: from yellowish-grey to dark brown tones (there are individual deviations in color), lighter yellowish strip through lateral part of neck and shoulders serves for recognition of neighbours. For strengthening of contrast with colouring of body it is shaded from above and from below with darker strips. Color of this strip directly depends on physical condition of animal. At meeting two reptiles of this species turn heads aside, showing this strip and estimating thus physical opportunities of each other.
The basic food of ant-monitor is social insects. This monitor lizard feeds with them as in nests (destroying them with strong claws), as on their tracks or in thickets. Perhaps, only soldier ants devouring all alive on their way, represent the certain danger for it, but their more peaceful neighbours frequently become its food. In searches of insects ant-monitor is able to rise of hinder legs, and base by forepaws against trees trunks, surveying bushes and branches in searches of insect nests. But because of massive armour this reptile does not differ in abilities of tree-climber. Also this reptile can feed on ground, digging out underground nests of insects, or eating underground larvae of beetles and cicadas.
Ant-monitors are single animals, but in areas of dense settlements of social insects they keep by groups of 3 – 5 individuals. Usually these reptiles constantly wander in savanna, not being late for a long time in any place.
Males at this species are larger than females. Ant-monitor lays eggs (up to 20 ones) to unusual incubator: into termitarium. After all clutch is laid, female leaves it, and termites repair the damaged wall of nest. Eggs appear in very favorable conditions, and besides, they get a smell of termitarium. Therefore practically nothing threatens to clutch and young ant-monitors, and the first time they grow in environment of own food. The adult female, contrary to habits of majority of lizards, does not leave nest at all. It marks termitarium becoming an incubator for its clutch, and also remarkable objects in its vicinities with musk liquid from glands opening on hips, and keeps beside. It will drive off adult neighbours from nest during all term of incubating, but approximately when the young growth hatches from eggs, it leaves a post. The first ant-monitor, destroying termitarium in searches of food, involuntarily releases young growth from imprisonment.
Young ant-monitors have brighter and contrast colouring, than adults. Primary color of their body is yellow, on it brown cross strips pass. Stomach is white; along neck and on shoulder brown strip passes. Later colouring changes: strips on body disappear, and strip at shoulder becomes brighter: on it light stains appear, merging at the adult reptile to continuous strip.
Young ant-monitors are still too weak to break open nests of termites independently. Therefore they keep near to adult reptiles, and feed after them at cracked termitariums. They will reach the size of adult animal approximately to 6 - to 7 years, though they’ll become able to breed already at 3-rd - 4-th year of life.

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