Ngarara

Mystery LIZARD of Australasia.

Etymology: Maori (Austronesian), used for both "reptile" and "monster." Variant names: Narara, Narrara. Physical description: Enormous reptile. Dark color. Serrated dorsal crest. Projecting upper lip. Large teeth.

Habitat: Riverbanks, caves. Behavior: Eats roots and small birds. Makes gutteral sounds.

Distribution: New Zealand. Possible explanations:

(1) Delcourt's giant gecko (Haplodactylus delcourti), a short-headed, bulky lizard measuring 2 feet long and known only from one specimen of uncertain provenance.

(2) The Tuatara (Sphenodon punctatus), a 2-foot long, burrow-dwelling, rhynchocephalian reptile with a high head and crest. The term Ngarara was used for the Tuatara as early as 1842.

(3) The Otago skink (Oligosoma otagense), a heavy-bodied animal that grows up to 12 inches long.

Sources: John Carne Bidwell, Rambles in New Zealand, 1839 (Christchurch, New Zealand: Pegasus, 1952), p. 27; Julius Von Haast, Report ofa Topographical and Geological Exploration of the Western Districts of the Nelson Province, New Zealand (Nelson, New Zealand: C. and J. Elliott, 1861), p. 50; J. W. Stack, "On the Disappearance of the Larger Kinds of Lizard from Northern Canterbury," Transactions of the New Zealand Institute 7 (1875): 295-297; Margaret Orbell, The Natural World of the Maori (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.: Sheridan House, 1985), p. 163; H. W. Orsman, ed., The Dictionary ofNew Zealand English (Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 535.

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