Perentie Facts: Discover The Largest Lizard In Australia (And The Fourth-Largest Lizard In The World)

Perentie facts, pictures and information. The perentie is a species of monitor lizard native to Australia. It is Australia’s largest lizard, reaching lengths of over 2 metres.

This fearsome reptile is seldom encountered in the wild, as it inhabits remote areas well away from human habitation.

Read on to find out more about this awesome Australian reptile…

Perentie Facts at a Glance

  • Other Name(s): Monitor, goanna
  • Scientific name: Varanus giganteus
  • Type of Animal: Reptile
  • Animal Family: Varanidae
  • Where Found: Australia
  • Length: Up to 2.5 m (8.2 ft.)
  • Weight: Up to 15 kg (33 lb)
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern

Meet the Perentie: Introduction


The perentie is the largest lizard in Australia and the fourth largest in the world; only the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), Asian water monitor (Varanus salvator) and crocodile monitor (Varanus salvadorii) are larger.

The perentie is rarely encountered by humans; it is shy and mostly inhabits areas far from human habitation.

You can see amazing footage of wild perenties in the video below.

What Does The Perentie Look Like?

Compared to other large lizard species, the perentie has a fairly slender body. It has a long neck, a flattened head with a long snout, a forked tongue, and teeth that are sharp, slightly curved and backwards-pointing. Its tail and legs are strong, and each limb has 5 clawed toes.

The coloration of the perentie ranges from dark brown to light brown, with the upper parts of the animal's body and limbs being speckled with dark spots. Large cream or pale yellow bands with dark edges adorn the tail and the back.

The large blotches on the lizard's throat form a unique pattern that can be used to distinguish individuals.

Juveniles are more brightly-coloured than the adults.

perentie close up

Where Is The Perentie Found?

The perentie is native to Australia. The species occurs mainly in the arid interior of the country, but its range stretches from the central coast of Western Australia, through both the Northern Territory and South Australia, to the Great Dividing Range in western Queensland.

The species also occurs on Barrow Island, which lies 50 km (30 mi) northwest of the Pilbara coast of Western Australia.

Perentie Habitat

The perentie is most commonly found in arid and semi-arid regions. Typical perentie habitat features hard-packed soil, loose stones and rocky outcroppings and gorges.

Perentie Facts: Behaviour

perentie largest lizard in Australia
Perenties use their forked tongues to 'taste' the air..

The perentie is a burrowing animal. Using its powerful front limbs and strong claws, it excavates holes in the sandy soil. Perentie burrows can be extensive, with several exits. They provide the lizard with shelter both from poor weather and from predators. The lizard will also shelter in caves and rock crevices.

Being a cold-blooded reptile, the perentie relies on external conditions to attain a suitable body temperature. It warms itself up by basking in the sun, and may lay on top of rocks to absorb their heat.

The perentie can sometimes be seen with just its head outside of its shelter, presumably in order to minimise exposure to danger. In winter when the temperatures drop, the species tends to be inactive and remains inside its burrow.

When the perentie feels threatened it will either lie motionless with its body pressed flat against the ground, or attempt to flee from danger. If cornered, the lizard defends itself with its teeth, claws and whip-like tail.

During aggressive encounters, the perentie may perform a threat display that involves inflating the throat and hissing, and sometimes lunging forward with an open mouth.

The perentie may also stand upright on its hind legs to appear more threatening. It will also do this in non-threatening situations simply to scan its surroundings for potential danger (a behaviour known as 'tripoding').


perentie face close up
The perentie is capable of running at high speeds. It can also climb trees.

The perentie is an extremely fast runner and can reach speeds of about 40 km/h (25 mph). The lizard's great speed is partly due to the animal's ability to expand and contract the sides of its neck like bellows. This pumps a large volume of air into the lungs while the perentie is running.

The perentie is also able to climb trees using its long claws.

Perentie Life Cycle

The perentie mates in spring or early summer. Males are territorial and fight over access to females. Fighting involves adopting an upright stance, grasping at the opponent and trying to push them to the ground.

During courtship, the successful male approaches the female and may lick or nuzzle her. The pair will mate several times over a period of a few days.

After mating, the female lays a clutch of 6 to 12 eggs. She will only lay one clutch of eggs per year.

The eggs are often deposited in a termite nest. Here the insect’s activity keeps the temperature and humidity optimal for incubation. Eggs may also be laid in soil.

The eggs take around 220 days to hatch.

Steve Irwin Meets A Perentie

In the video below Australian wildlife expert Steve Irwin comes face to face with a perentie...

Perentie Diet: What Do Perenties Eat?

The perentie is a carnivore. It feeds on a wide range of prey animals, including insects, small mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. It will also eat turtle eggs and carrion.

Large perenties may prey upon animals as large as wombats and small kangaroos. In addition, there is evidence that cannibalism occurs among perenties.

The perentie uses both its keen eyesight and its tongue (which picks up chemicals from the air) to locate its prey. The lizard is usually an active hunter, but occasionally will wait in hiding and ambush its prey.

Prey is shaken vigorously until it stops moving, then swallowed whole.

Is The Perentie Dangerous To Humans?

A bite from a perentie can cause severe pain, swelling, and dizziness, with symptoms lasting several hours. It was once believed that these symptoms were caused by bacteria in the lizard’s saliva.

It is now thought that perenties and other monitor lizards possess venom glands, and that it is venom present in the lizard’s mouth secretions that cause the relative severity of the symptoms.

Because the perentie’s venom is mild, and the effects of a bite are not long-lasting, the species is not considered a threat. It is rarely encountered by humans.

Is The Perentie Endangered?

The perentie is rated 'Least Concern' by the IUCN.

Although the perentie is not common, it is found across a wide area and the population is considered stable. No major threats to the species are currently identified.

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