monitor, any of various, mostly tropical lizards. A monitor lizard has a heavy body, long head and neck, long tail that comes to a whiplike end, and strong legs with sharp claws. Its slender, forked tongue is protrusible. Monitors range in size from the 8-in. (20-cm) short-tailed species of W Australia to the 10-ft, 300-lb (3-m, 136-kg) Komodo dragon, the giant among living lizards, that lives on the small Indonesian island of Komodo and some smaller neighboring islands. Some monitor species spend their lives in trees, and others inhabit lakes and rivers; they can be found on the oceanic islands and continents of the Eastern Hemisphere in all types of warm habitats, from tropical forest to desert. They feed on various kinds of animal matter, including eggs, rats, frogs, and decaying meat. The larger species will attack small deer and pigs. They often tear the prey with claws and teeth, but generally swallow it whole or in large chunks. Monitors lay from 7 to 35 leathery eggs, usually in holes in the ground or in trees. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Reptilia, order Squamata, family Varanidae, genus Varanus.
monitor, type of turreted warship (no longer used) carrying heavy guns, having little draft, and lying low in the water. Monitors were so called from the first of the class, the Monitor, built for the Union navy in the U.S. Civil War by John Ericsson. Launched in Jan., 1862, the Monitor was 179 ft (55 m) long, of 41.5-ft (13-m) beam, and weighed 1,200 tons. A revolving turret, protected by 8 in. (20.3 cm) of iron armor and containing two 11-in. (27.9-cm) smooth-bore guns, was its main feature. The sides were covered by iron plates from 3 to 5 in. (7.6-12.7 cm) thick, with about 27 in. (69 cm) of wood backing, and the deck, only 18 in. (46 cm) above water, was shielded with 1-in. (2.54-cm) armor. The ship was moved by steam power, with a screw propeller. (See Monitor and Merrimack for more information.) Monitors were used extensively in the Civil War, but the type had limitations—it was too heavy to navigate the oceans—and was eventually abandoned. However, they were used by the British navy in World War I.
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