Temporal range: Pleistocene
|Megalania or Varanus prisca artwork|
|Genus:||†Megalania or Varanus|
|Species:||M. prisca or V.prisca|
Designation is controversial:
Megalania is an extinct large monitor lizard that lived in Australia during the Pleistocene Epoch, about 2.5 million years ago. The massive reptile was about 23 feet (7 meters) long, the size of a Saltwater Crocodile, the largest reptile alive today, making it the largest lizard of its time. It also had a venomous bite just like its relative, the Komodo Dragon.
Sir Richard Owen described the first known remains of Megalania in 1859, from three vertebrae amongst a collection of primarily marsupial bones purchased by the British Museum, collected from the bed of a tributary of the Condamine River, west of Moreton Bay in eastern Australia.
Megalania would normally prey on on Australia's large marsupials, such as Diprotodon and Procoptodon and large fightless birds like Bullockornis and Genyornis and the massive herbivorous turtle Meiolania. It would have used its veneomous bite to take down these large animals. Megalania shared it's habitat and rivaled with the marsupial lion Thylacoleo, crocodiles like Quinkana, snakes like Wonambi, and other monitor lizards. A study of modern-day Monitor Lizards prove that Megalania was most likely very noisy when it walked or moved, so chasing down prey likely wasn't an option. What it most likely did was, like modern lizards, lay in wait for prey to pass by, and then jump out in ambush and bite down using its powerful jaws and venom to take them down.
While modern day Monitor Lizards hunt this way, the Megalania may have also track and stealthily approach their prey like Komodo Dragons. They probably used the same hunting strategy of a Komodo Dragon, ambushing their prey, biting and injecting their venom, and running away and wait till the venom kicks in. Like Komodo Dragons and Lace Monitor, Megalania's venom probably killed its prey by shock, paralysis and coagulation that causes rapid blood loss. These venom acts quickly but its potency through various prey size. Normally a Komodo Dragon venom or bite can kill a medium sized prey like a boar or a deer outright, but will mostly 24 hours to kill a large water buffalo. Megalania's jaws were larger and can secrete more venom than a Komodo Dragon. Unlike monitor lizards, Megalania's teeth were more curved and serrated for better ripping off flesh.
One theory of how Megalania became extinct is that after Diprotodon and Procoptodon died off, there was not enough food to sustain such a large reptile, and slowly the population died to extinction. Another theory is that the first humans who colonised Australia hunted the gigantic lizard to extinction. There's also a theory of the combined two, that early man burned the once plentiful forested areas to protect themselves from this mighty reptile, and doing so not only helped directly kill off Megalania, but also indirectly, since it ran out of places to hide in ambush and the prey animals it once fed on had no more food. There is one last, very unlikely theory that a small population of Megalania still lives on in the outback, stories of cattle savidged in the night by mysterious killers and large footprints in the sand. But as of yet, it cannot be proved and is highly unlikely that Megalania lives on.
In the Media
- Megalania appeared as a Stop Motion Creature in the Documentary Prehistoric Australia.
- Megalania had a large role in Mega Beasts, where they talk about how it might have lived and interacted in its environment, even when early man came into the picture. It shows how it had a venomous bite, how it took down prey like the short-faced kangaroo Procroptodon, Diprotodon, and the marsupial lion. It also shows how it might have gone extinct by early man.
- Megalania also featured in an episode by BBC called Monsters We Met AKA Land of lost Monsters, where it shows how early men in Australia lived alongside this monstrous lizard. It was far too large in the series and is shown with the septic bite Komodo dragons were thought to have, although the mini series was before scientists found out it was venom they had, not bacteria found in carrion. It was shown to have killed an aboriginal, and the tribe, determined to get revenge on the reptile, found out how to use Megalania's cold-blooded nature to their advantage, so they got up early while the lizard was still sluggish, and burned it to death.
- It made an appearance in Jeff Corwin's Giant Monsters, where Jeff was chased around by one.
- It was also in an episode of Lost Tapes, where a herpetologist gets lost in the jungles of Australia and was killed by a Megalania or "Devil Dragon".
- It also appears in the game Jurassic Park Builder as a gold creature in the Glacier Park, even though as a cold-blooded animal that lived in the arrid outback, it would've died in the frozen island off the coast of Patagonia.
- Megalania is in Ark: Survival Evolved.
- It also appears in Prehistoric Assassins: Claws and Jaws killing a Diprotodon.
- Megalania appeared in Jurassic Park: Builder.
- Megalania appeared on the documentary called Death of the Megabeasts.
- Megalania was mentioned on Austin Stevens Snakemaster episode Komodo Dragon.
- Megalania was mentioned on Crikey! It's the Irwins in episode "Robert Trains a Dragon".