Sand goannas are active predators. Their constant tongue flicking during hunting allows them to detect the scent of hidden or buried prey. The females lay their eggs in the centre of an active termite mound and the resident termites keep the temperature and humidity just right for egg development.
Scientific name: Varanus gouldii
The sand goanna has to be tough to survive in Australia's deserts.
The sand goanna is also known as the racehorse goanna because of the speed with which they run over the red sands of the Australian desert. Reptiles like these are more successful at living ihere than mammals because they require less food. Meals can be scarce in the desert so the sand goanna will even eat scorpions if they can. Goannas do get stung in the process but they appear to be immune to scorpion venom. To protect its eggs from the harsh desert climate, the goanna lays them inside a termite mound to incubate. After nine months they are ready to hatch. When they do, they emerge from the eggs as fully-formed miniature adults. One by one they will climb out of the termite mound to enter one of the toughest habitats on earth.
Species range provided by WWF's Wildfinder.
The Sand goanna can be found in a number of locations including: Australia. Find out more about these places and what else lives there.
The following habitats are found across the Sand goanna distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.
Discover what these behaviours are and how different plants and animals use them.
Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web
The Sand goanna is a large Australian monitor lizard - also known as Gould's monitor, the Sand monitor, or Racehorse goanna.
In some Aboriginal languages, the sand goanna is called Bungarra, a term commonly used by non-aboriginal people in Western Australia, too.
The name sand monitor can be used to describe various other species. The Gould's monitor is a terrestrial or "ground-dwelling" reptile that excavates large burrows for shelter. Rock escarpments and tree hollows are also suitable dwellings. Varanus gouldii inhabits a vast range throughout Australia. The Gould's monitor reaches an average length of 140 cm (4.6 ft) and can weigh as much as 6 kg (13 lb). They can be found in Northern and Eastern Australia where they inhabit open woodlands and grasslands. Varanus flavirufus, a subspecies resides in Australia's interior. There are some places however where the ranges of Gould's, Flavirufus and Argus monitors overlap. The similarities between the species and their close proximity frequently cause confusion.
The Sand monitor is a relentless forager. It is diurnal meaning most of its activities take place during the day. Anything smaller than itself will be eagerly devoured. The diet of hatchlings and juveniles often consists mostly of insects and small lizards but generally varies more with age. Adult monitors will prey on mice, large insects, small agamids and geckoes, smaller varanids, snakes, and carrion. Gould's monitor does consume smaller species of monitor. Ackies, Rock Monitors and other dwarf species are often found and eaten. It is common to see a Gould's disturbing rock piles in an attempt to flush out any odatria. It lays it eggs in termite mounds to protect them from the harsh desert climate.
Goannas, like snakes, have forked tongues which they regularly flick side to side near the ground or amongst leaf litter and are thought to looking for olfactory clues to prey.
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