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Temporal range: Late Pleistocene
Varanus priscus Melbourne Museum.jpg
Megalania skeletal reconstruction on Melbourne Museum steps
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Varanus priscus
Owen 1859

Megalania (Varanus prisca) was a giant monitor lizard that lived in southern Australia. It was part of a species of megafauna that lived during the Pleistocene, and appears to have disappeared around 40,000 years ago. The first Aboriginal settlers of Australia may have encountered living Megalania.[1]

Megalania is the land-based lizard known to have existed. Judging from its size, Megalania would have fed mostly upon medium- to large-sized animals, including any of the giant marsupials like Diprotodon .

Size[change | change source]

Megalania skull, about 74 cm (29 in) long, at Museum of Science, Boston

Ralph Molnar in 2004 determined a range of possible sizes for Megalania. He did this by scaling up from dorsal vertebrae, after he determined a relationship between dorsal vertebrae length and total body length. If it had a long thin tail like the Lace monitor (Varanus varius), then it would have reached a length of 7.9 metres (26 ft). If its tail-to-body proportions were more similar to that of the Komodo dragon, then a length of around 7 metres (23 ft) is more likely. Using 7 m as the maximum length, Molnar estimated the average weight of the lizard at 320 kilograms (710 lb), and 1,940 kilograms (4,280 lb) as the maximum.[2]

This is twice the length of their closest living relative, the Komodo dragon of eastern Indonesia.[3]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Megalania, giant ripper lizard". BBC Science & Nature. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
  2. R. E. Molnar (2004). Dragons in the dust: the paleobiology of the giant monitor lizard Megalania. Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253343741.
  3. R. E. Molnar (2004), "History of monitors and their kin", in E. R. Pianka; D. King; R. A. King (eds.), Varanoid lizards of the world, Indiana University Press