Monitor lizards are very large reptiles that can vary in size and aggressiveness. At present, the Komodo dragon is the largest extant lizard on the planet today. It is capable of preying on deer and has even attacked humans. However, they were not always the largest lizard to walk the planet. In the not-too-distant past, a monstrous monitor lizard 10x bigger than a Komodo dragon roamed the Earth, and it may have lived alongside humans.
Let’s examine the massive reptile known as Megalania (Varanus priscus) and see how large it was when it lived, and what drove it to extinction!
What Was the Lizard 10x Bigger Than a Komodo Dragon?
Based on the data gathered from fossils, it’s hard to determine the lizard’s size with any certainty. One paleontologist named Ralph Molnar believes that Megalania could have grown anywhere between 11.5ft and 23ft long and weighed up to 4,277lbs. Others say it was perhaps 18ft long and at least 1,260lbs or more. No matter how we look at this reptile, it was very large.
However, there is a lot of room for error in those estimates as the available fossils are described as fragmentary.
The Megalania is often depicted as being very similar to and larger than the Komodo dragon. The average Komodo dragon weighs about 150-300lbs and grows about 6.6ft long, including their powerful tails.
So, not only was this lizard 20x heavier than the average Komodo dragon, but it was also 10x bigger than the largest Komodo dragon that weighed 365lbs and grew over 10ft long!
The Megalania could have been a massive, terrifying creature that would move surprisingly fast on land. Komodo dragons can move at about 11 mph. If the Megalania could move at that speed, it would have been capable of swift, brutal attacks. However, some studies suggest that its max speed was closer to 7 mph. That was enough to hunt some creatures, but not enough to conquer them all, as we’ll show you.
How Was Megalania Similar to Modern Monitor Lizards?
As we’ve already said, scientists believe that Megalania was very similar to the Komodo Dragon. If that is true, we can glean a fair amount of information about the lizard. For one thing, Komodo dragons use a unique form of salivary venom that helps exsanguinate and induce shock in prey.
The venom from a Komodo dragon is not the same as snake venom. They don’t bite foes once and wait for them to die. Instead, Komodo dragon venom results in anticoagulation, increasing the blood loss of foes. Their attacks still necessitate a vicious assault by the lizard to be effective. Nevertheless, it seems likely that the Megalania used the same attacking methods as its modern family member.
Komodo dragons often creep up close to prey and then attack. They will use a brutal combination to kill their foes. Often, Komodo dragons use their incredibly sharp albeit short teeth to rip open their prey. These lizards don’t have a powerful bite, but they can use a hold and pull technique to bite and tear their prey even without a strong jaw.
If we applied these concepts to a much larger monitor lizard, these attacks would become even more potent and frightening. Such a lizard would have an even longer, heavier tail to drive prey to the ground. Also, the Megalania would have a larger body with which to pin creatures while delivering vicious bites.
All told, the Megalania was an even more terrifying version of the Komodo dragon. There’s also some evidence that it had encounters with humans many years ago.
Did Megalania Live with Humans?
The fossils of Megalania were found in eastern Australia, not too far from the Indonesian islands where Komodo dragons live today. The interesting thing about these fossils is their age. Instead of being millions of years old, the youngest Megalania fossils show that the lizards roamed Australia as few as 50,000 years ago.
Interestingly, the first human fossils that have been found in Australia are believed to be anywhere between 47,000 and 60,000 years old. That means that Megalania and other megafauna lived on the continent at the same time as the earliest humans.
As the humans migrated to this part of the world, they would have been greeted by some of the most dangerous animals that live in Australia. They would have also had to contend with massive animals like Megalania, Diprotodon (a large marsupial), and the Thylacoleo (a marsupial lion).
Megalania likely had encounters fed on some of these animals along with smaller mammals, birds, and other wildlife. Given the Megalania’s size, aggressiveness, and proximity to humans, the lizard 10x bigger than the Komodo dragon could have killed humans.
Why Did the Lizard 10x Bigger Than a Komodo Dragon Go Extinct?
Humans most likely played a larger role in making the Megalania go extinct. While evidence of humans killing these animals is sparse, the truth is that many of the megafaunas that roamed Australia started disappearing at the same time that humans arrived.
Early Australians may have encountered these animals and recognized them as a threat. It’s even possible that humans were killed by this great lizard. Human beings are great at recognizing threats and coming up with ways to kill them, and that’s probably what happened in this case.
Either humans started to wipe out their major sources of food by hunting, or they hunted down the lizard. Whether they did this solely to eliminate a threat or to eat the Megalania is unclear. However, armed humans could outrun and outlast these creatures on land, giving them an advantage if they were careful during the hunt.
The largest monitor lizard to live in Australia was similar to a Komodo dragon but also much larger. We don’t know for certain how large it was, but we do know that it was powerful, potentially venomous, and probably killed off in some way by early Australians.
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