Varanus Acanthurus Subspecies

There are three known Varanus acanthurus subspecies: acanthurus, brachyurus, and insulanicus. Due to strict Australian animal export laws, nearly all ackie monitors outside of Australia are captive-bred. Although they are generally advertised as either “red” or “yellow” ackies, these titles are more relevant to the animal’s color rather than its genetics, and it’s quite possible that most ackies in the hobby are hybrids.

Distribution information sourced from Monitor Lizards: Natural History, Captive Care & Breeding” by Bernd Eidenmüller, page 40.

Physical descriptions sourced from VivaCura (site no longer available).

Varanus acanthurus acanthurus

V. a. acanthurus is native to northern Australia, from Broome on the west coast, through the Kimberley and the Top End, to the Gulf of Carpentaria. It bears the characteristic ackie pattern of rings and stripes, and generally has a red base color with cream-yellow rings. This subspecies has the longest tail and legs of the three (“Neue Schlangen und Echsen aus Zentralaustralien,” p.78).

Varanus acanthurus brachyurus

V. a. brachyurus is native to the center, western, and eastern parts of the ackie monitor’s total range, as far west as Carnarvon and as far east as Mt. Isa. This gives it the largest distribution of the three subspecies. It bears the characteristic ackie pattern of rings and stripes, and generally has a yellow or reddish-brown base color with yellow-brown rings. This subspecies is noted to have a shorter tail and legs.

Varanus acanthurus insulanicus

V. a. insulanicus is the easiest to identify of the three. It’s found strictly on Groote Eylandt and the Wessel Islands, and has a high-contrast pattern with irregular markings on its back. Coloring is generally dark brown/black as a base color with a yellow to red pattern. This subspecies is extremely rare in captivity.

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