Our research led to the discovery of a new species of goanna in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The challenge

Gathering information on our wildlife

Documenting our native animals is an essential step towards ensuring their long-term conservation and protection.

In Australia, we have hundreds of species of mammals, reptiles and frogs that are still yet to be researched and described.

Yet, DNA studies have revolutionised the study of animal diversity.

Now that DNA testing is cheaper, faster and more accessible, we can expect to find even more new species of Australian wildlife.

Our response

Discovering a new goanna species

Using new techniques at the Australian National Wildlife Collection, one of our wildlife researchers helped to describe a new species of goanna.

In the past, specimens of the Pilbara goanna were confused with two other similar goannas – the stripe-tailed goanna (Varanus caudolineatus) and Gillen's goanna (V. gilleni).

When we tested DNA samples and compared the body shapes of the three types of goanna, the Pilbara goanna stood out as a separate species.

The results

The Pilbara goanna

The Pilbara goanna can climb trees and retreats to rock piles and hollow trees in mulga and eucalypt woodland.

The new goanna species is named Varanus bushi after Brian Bush, a naturalist and educator who has contributed enormously to knowledge of the reptiles of Western Australia and the Pilbara region in particular.

Goannas are very popular pets overseas. Some collectors have almost every species of Australian goanna as pets.

In most Australian states you need a licence to keep a goanna, and it is illegal to take them from the wild.

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