The Nile monitor is dark brown-black with pale to yellow bands and spots forming broken cross bands on the body. They have strong jaws and muscular bodies.
Monitors are carnivorous and will devour anything they are capable of dismembering and gulping down. The claws of monitors are long and sharp. The jaws are very strong. Once they bite something it is very difficult to get them to let go. Monitors do not divest themselves of their tails, like some other lizards. Once lost, the tail of a monitor does not grow back. There is little or no sexual dimorphism.
They are mostly terrestrial, but many are agile climbers and good swimmers. Monitors threaten by opening the mouth, inflating the neck and hissing. The ribs may spread, flattening the top of the body, or the body may just expand slightly. This makes the monitor look larger than it actually is. It often rises up on its hind legs just before attacking. The tail delivers a well-aimed blow.
Monitors tend to swallow their prey whole, like snakes. Monitors are daytime lizards and most species actively search for food. Some species eat carrion, giant land snails, grasshoppers, beetles, whip scorpions, crocodile and birds; eggs, crabs, fish, other lizards, snakes, nestling birds, shrews and squirrels.
Combat between males is frequently observed during the breeding season in some species. Monitors lay 7 to 35 soft-shelled eggs, usually deposited in holes in riverbanks or in trees along water courses. The Nile monitor often lays its eggs in termite nests. Eggs are 2 inches long with leathery shells. Incubation is 8 to 10 weeks. The young use an egg tooth to emerge.
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