(De)Extinction Files: Megalania

Posted: November 13, 2014 in (de)extinction files
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Megalania (Megalania prisca or Varanus priscus) is an extinct very large goanna or monitor lizard. They were part of a megafaunal assemblage that inhabited southern Australia during the Pleistocene. They seem to have disappeared between 40,000 and 30,000 years ago. The first aboriginal settlers of Australia might have encountered living Megalanias.

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For thousands of years people lived with Australia’s strange and ferocious megafauna like the six metre giant lizard megalania and the marsupial lion. But all these beasts went extinct during the last ice age. In Australia sea levels dropped to 130m below today’s level and deserts spread from 60% to 90% of the continent. Temperatures were 6 degrees colder, it was dry and windy and lasted over 10,000 years. It was the biggest drought ever by experienced by people.

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A New South Wales clan tells of Mungoon-gali, the giant goanna, which ambushed people near waterholes. Central Desert tradition has it that Koockard the goanna killed two boys who had teased him, and in the Balgo region of Western Australia’s north they have a story about a goanna that fought a crocodile – and won.” In his book, “The Crocodile that Wasn’t”, Hancock describes a tale from the Nyungar people of southwest Australia that he thinks is about Megalania. In the story, a giant lizard terrorizes a village. The people pray for a solution and 7 dingoes arrive and attack the creature. One bites off its tail and the lizard flees the land. But could this have been Megalania? Megalania is thought to have died out no later than 45,000 years ago. Dingoes are believed to have come to Australia 3,500 years ago. Whether the story is true or not, I’m sure most people today are glad it’s extinct.

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Author and Cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy believes that the stories are fresh with the Aborigines because Megalania Prisca has not gone extinct. He relates the story of how the Australian town of Euroa was terrorized by a giant lizard in 1890. The story tells of a 30 foot reptile raiding farms and killing livestock. Many eyewitnesses reportedly saw the creature before it retreated back into the bush.

Prsca

It has been suggested that, if one were to reconstruct the ecosystems that existed before the arrival of the humans on Australia, it would be desirable to introduce Komodo dragons to represent megalania.

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