The perentie is the largest lizard in Australia. They grow up to 2.5m (8.2ft) long though an average individual typically measures 1.7-2m (5.6-6.6ft). An average weight for the perentie is 15kg (33lbs).
Their large body and the legs are coloured brown or blackish. This is heavily patterned with rows of large yellow spots with a dark brown or black outline. The throat is yellow or whitish and patterned with black lines that form patches. The throat is distinctive due to the loose skin which hangs down. Their underside is white and features similar patterning of black stripes to the throat.
At the end of the body is a long tail which comes to a ridge at the top. The end of this tail is yellow.
The perentie is a carnivore. They will feed on most prey items which are small enough for their mouth including mammals, birds, insects and other reptiles. In addition to this they eat eggs. They are also capable of eating venomous snakes.
They assist with controlling populations of introduced species such as rabbits and the house mouse.
Prey is caught in the mouth and then shaken till it is dead. Once this is complete they will swallow their food whole.
Australia is the native home of the perentie. Here they are found mostly in the arid centre with their range extending to the coast in Western Australia. They are also found in the states of Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory.
Perenties make their home in arid areas such as desert or clay pans where there are rocky outcrops. To shelter they will find a deep crevice or they may use their strong legs to dig a burrow under a rock. These burrows are often large with many avenues of escape which they can use.
Breeding takes place for the perentie in spring and early summer.
Following mating the female will lay between 6 and 12 eggs in to a termite mound. Termite mounds provide a stable temperature for the incubation once sealed so are ideal for the eggs. They may also be laid in a tunnel dug by the female under large objects such as boulders.
Incubation is highly variable and may be as short as 3 months or as long as 9. At birth the young have a more pronounced pattering than the adults with their spots being better defined and contrasting highly against the dark background colour.
Juvenile perenties may be eaten by snakes and other large goannas.
Like many lizards the perentie smells with the help of their tongue. Their tongue is forked and this pushes different smells in to their mouth where it is processed by the jacobson’s organ. This assists them with finding food.
During the day they will bask in the sun. This is important as they are ectothermic and cannot generate their own body heat.
Predators and Threats
If threatened by a predator the perentie does a threat display during which they raise their body and expand the throat. While doing this they hiss and exhale noisily.
Their strong tail is also used for defense. If a predator approaches they may swing this in to them and cause injury.
Recent studies have found that the perentie has the remains of a venom gland. This does not appear to affect humans much. It may lead to an increase in healing time if bitten by them.
Humans pose little threat to this species. They are hunted in small numbers for food and the pet trade.
The monitor family which perenties are part of is one of the world’s oldest lizard families and as such they are believed to be highly intelligent.
They are the fourth largest lizard species on Earth.
Used under license
Swanson, S. and Parish, S., 2011. Field Guide To Australian Reptiles. 2nd ed. New South Wales: Pascal Press.
Alice Springs Desert Park. 2020. Perentie. [online] Available at: <https://alicespringsdesertpark.com.au/connect-with-nature/animals/animals/perentie>[Accessed 23 June 2020].
Genomics.senescence.info. 2020. Perentie (Varanus Giganteus) Longevity, Ageing, And Life History.
[online] Available at: <http://genomics.senescence.info/species/entry.php?species=Varanus_giganteus> [Accessed 23 June 2020].
Australia Zoo. 2020. Perentie - Australia Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.australiazoo.com.au/wildlife/our-animals/perentie/> [Accessed 23 June 2020].
PerthZooWebsite. 2020. Perentie. [online] Available at: <https://perthzoo.wa.gov.au/animal/perentie>
[Accessed 23 June 2020].
Oakvale Wildlife. 2020. Perentie | Our Animals | Oakvale Wildlife. [online] Available at: <https://oakvalewildlife.com.au/explore/our-animals/perentie> [Accessed 23 June 2020].
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