No Ears to Hear

Chien C. Lee, Wild Borneo Photography, via Wikimedia Commons


by Inspector Barry Mins on July 26, 2022

Hey kids, welcome back to our series on the mysteries of created kinds.

This week, we leave the seas behind and move inland to the large southeast Asian island of Borneo. Instead of big, winged birds, we are looking for some earless lizards.

Two by Tuesday

This week’s kind is incredibly cryptic, with specimens of the single species only showing up periodically. After its discovery, it was nearly another 100 years before it was seen again, and a further thirty after that before the next specimens were found.1 This kind hides in remote creeks and along the banks in leaf litter and other debris.2 They like to submerge themselves in the water with their eyes covered with a goggle-like transparent eyelid they use to see while still protecting their eyes.3 Their diet is unknown in the wild, but they readily take frog meat and live frogs in captivity, indicating they likely feed on them in their natural stream habitats as well.4

Despite the paucity of information on this kind, there are already several disputes about its rarity and its potential toxicity. Due to salivary secretions, this lizard had been thought venomous. However, recent studies do not support this argument.5 There is also a difference of opinion over just how rare this species is. In interviews conducted on four different groups of Indonesian residents, the majority in two groups considered it common, while the other two groups considered it rare.6

Has anyone figured it out yet? Given the little information that exists on this kind, I would not be surprised if no one did. This week’s kind is the Lanthanotidae—the earless monitor kind. Stay with us for next week when we fly across the world to Central and South America, looking for birds that get their name from their love of insect meals.

Try out this fun crossword puzzle!


Here is your clue for next week:

This kind mates for life and takes its name from a species habit of following swarms of army ants.

Ask a Question

Have you ever had a question about created kinds but didn’t know who to ask? Have you ever wanted to learn more about your favorite kind? Well, now you can! You can ask me, Inspector Barry Mins, a question! Have your parents help you fill out this form, and you might get your question answered in my column! If you have any questions about created kinds, feel free to send them my way!


  1. C. Langner, “Hidden in the heart of Borneo-shedding light on some mysteries of an enigmatic lizard: first records of habitat use, behavior, and food items of Lanthanotus borneensis Steidachnher, 1878 in its natural habitat,” Russian Journal of Herpetology 24, no. 1 (2017): 1–10.
  2. B. Yaap, G. D. Paoli, A. Angki, P. L. Wells, D. Wahyudi, and M. Auliya, “First record of the Borneo earless monitor Lanthanotus borneensis (Steindachner, 1877) (Reptilia: Lanthanotidae) in West Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo),” Journal of Threatened Taxa 4, no. 11 (2012): 3067–3074.
  3. Langner, “Hidden,” 2017.
  4. E. Arida, A. N. Arroyyan, and N. F. Firdhausi, “First report on the feeding behavior of earless monitor Lanthanotus borneensis and its predation on rice field frog Fejervarya limnocharis in a captive environment,” Treubia 48, no. 2 (2021): 103–116.
  5. D. Mebs, B. Lomonte, J. Fernandez, J. J. Calvete, L. Sanz, K. Mahlow, J. Muller, G. Kolher, and M. Zollweg, “The earless monitor lizard Lanthanotus borneensis-A venomous animal?” Toxicon 189 (2021): 73–78.
  6. Yaap et al, “First record,” 2012.