Lizard Kings

TV Program Description
Premiere Broadcast on PBS: October 20, 2009

They look like dragons and inspire visions of fire-spitting monsters. But these creatures with their long claws, razor-sharp teeth, and muscular, whip-like tails are actually monitors, the largest lizards now walking the planet. With their acute intelligence, these lizards—including the largest of all, the Komodo dragon—are a very different kind of reptile, blurring the line between reptiles and mammals. Thriving on Earth essentially unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs, they are a very successful species, versatile at adapting to all kinds of settings. This program looks at what makes these long-tongued reptiles so similar to mammals and what has allowed them to become such unique survivors.

While monitors 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. NOVA follows expert lizard hunter Dr. Eric Pianka as he tracks the elusive creatures, including the six-foot-long perentie, through Australia's forbidding outback. (See a slide show by producer Gisela Kaufmann.) We watch as Pianka and his colleagues experiment with cutting-edge "lizardcam" technology. With dramatic footage shot by cameramen and lizards, "Lizard Kings" offers an unparalleled close encounter with these amazingly versatile "living dragons."

Program Transcript
Program Credits

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perentie monitor lizard

Monitor lizards, like this perentie from Australia, are amazingly "switched on." Such crafty alertness is a hallmark of this kind of lizard, of which there are more than 60 species worldwide.

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