Monitors use their feet to walk, dig, climb and occasionally tear apart food that is too large to swallow. Species that climb well tend to have flexible toes equipped with long, very thick, sharp, curved claws. The toes permit the claws to swivel and in some larger arboreal species are equipped with a locking mechanism which enables them to support their entire weight with just one of the strong claws if needed. To descend they fall through trees with the claws held back wards, so that they drag through the vegetation and thus slow descent. In this way even very large monitor lizards are able to descend rapidly from the branches of tall trees. The massive claws can provide support both on thin branches and on vertical surfaces (Menens1942, Landsmeer 1981, Auffenberg 1988). In captivity the illustrious tree crocodile can climb vertical surfaces and remain there holding on with its hind feet alone, whilst the front legs reach out for a higher purchase. The front claws can also be used to tear holes in plaster walls and burrow through hard packed substrates. The delightful Australian rock goan nas also have long curved daws and exceptionally long toes enabling them to climb high cliffs and make rapid progress over slippery rocks. Unfortunately there are very few documented observations of these very fast and agile little gems in their natural habitats (Horn & Schurer I 978).
Attribution / Courtesy: Daniel Bennett. 1995. A Little Book of Monitor Lizards. Viper Press U.K.
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