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NOVA: Lizard Kings

Airs Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: This program follows monitor lizards, the largest lizards to walk the planet, and looks at what makes these tongued reptiles such unique survivors. Pictured: Perentie (Varanus giganteus) with “Lizardcam.”

Wild Lizard Chase

In this slide show, producer Gisela Kaufmann illustrates the challenges of filming monitors, the planet's wiliest lizards.

A lizard's smarts are tested in an "IQ Lab."
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Above: A lizard's smarts are tested in an "IQ Lab."

Renowned herpetologist and evolutionary ecologist Dr. Eric Pianka.
Enlarge this image

Above: Renowned herpetologist and evolutionary ecologist Dr. Eric Pianka.

Though they may look like dragons and inspire stories of man-eating, fire-spitting monsters with long claws, razor-sharp teeth and muscular, whip-like tails, these creatures are actually monitor lizards, the largest lizards to walk the planet.

With their acute intelligence — including the ability to plan — these lizards are a very different kind of reptile, blurring the line between reptiles and mammals. And even though these bizarre reptiles haven’t changed all that much since the dinosaurs, they are a successful species, versatile at adapting to all kinds of settings.

“Lizard Kings” looks at what makes these tongued reptiles so similar to mammals and what has allowed them to become such unique survivors. But while the creatures can find their way around many different habitats, finding them is no easy task. Natural loners, and always on guard, they sense anything or anyone from hundreds of feet away.

This program follows expert lizard hunter Dr. Eric Pianka as he tracks the elusive creatures through Australia’s heartland with cutting-edge “lizard cam” technology for an unparalleled close encounter with these versatile “living dragons.”

This episode originally aired in 2009.

Past episodes of NOVA are available for online viewing. NOVA is on Facebook, and you can follow @novapbs on Twitter.

Lizard Kings - Preview

NOVA follows expert lizard hunter Dr. Eric Pianka as he tracks the elusive monitor lizards through Australia's heartland with cutting-edge "lizard cam" technology for an unparalleled close encounter with these versatile "living dragons." 7/27/11

Video

Video Excerpt: NOVA: Lizard Kings

Above: "NOVA: Lizard Kings" follows monitor lizards, the largest lizards to walk the planet, and looks at what makes these tongued reptiles such unique survivors.

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