Facts about Varanus Priscus, an extinct prehistoric animal

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Dinosaur Jungle   >   Other Prehistoric Animals   >   Varanus Priscus

Varanus Priscus



Scientific Classification
  Kingdom Animalia
  Phylum Chordata
  Class Sauropsida
  Order Squamata
  Suborder Scleroglossa
  Infraorder Platynota
  Superfamily Varanoidea
  Family Varanidae
  Order Varanus
  Species Varanus priscus
Varanus priscus (almost always known as "Megalania", although this is not the correct scientific name - see below) was a giant monitor lizard that lived in Australia, between about 1.6 million and 40,000 years ago. It may well have been encountered by early aboriginal people when they first arrived in Australia.

No complete fossil skeletons of Megalania have yet been found, so there is still considerable debate about the animal's size. Some estimates say the largest individuals could have been 23 feet (7 meters) long, whereas others put an upper limit of around 15 feet (4.5 meters). In any case, Megalania is the largest terrestrial lizard known, and probably fed on animals such Diprotodon.

The name "Megalania" was chosen by Sir Richard Owen in 1859, he called the species "Megalania prisca" which means "ancient great roamer". However today, "Megalania" is considered to be a synonym for "Varanus" (the genus containing monitor lizards), and because "Varanus" was coined first, this name takes priority. Additionally, since "Varanus" is masculine, whereas "Megalania" is femine, the word "prisca" needs to change to "priscus", and thus the correct name of the species is "Varanus priscus".

Although Megalania is generally considered to be extinct, some cryptozoologists (people who search for rumored animals whose existence is uncertain), claim that it is possible that there might be a small surviving population in the wilderness areas of New Guinea or Australia.

Varanus Priscus Timeline:



Varanus priscus were giant monitor lizards that lived in Australia between 1.6 million and 40,000 years ago

Varanus priscus were giant monitor lizards that lived in Australia between 1.6 million and 40,000 years ago


Related Information & Resources


See Also

Megalania Books


Here are some books from Amazon.com:

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Dragons in the Dust: The Paleobiology of the Giant Monitor Lizard Megalania
By Ralph E. Molnar

Indiana University Press - Indiana University Press
Released: 2004-03-30
Hardcover (224 pages)

Dragons in the Dust: The Paleobiology of the Giant Monitor Lizard Megalania
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Product Description:

Just 50,000 years ago the world was filled with fabulous creatures that are now forever gone. Australia’s giant lizard, Megalania, was one of those. These frightful beasts could reach 19 feet in length and weigh as much as a polar bear. On their home turf they were top dog, and it was the rare animal that dared to challenge them. Dragons in the Dust tells the story of these amazing lizards and the world in which they lived. The book explores the Pleistocene, the time of the ice ages. While mammals ruled elsewhere, in Australia reptiles held their dominance. Large monitor lizards survive to this day, but the discovery of fossil remains of Megalania revealed that their ancestors were true giants and formidable predators. How scientists have reconstructed the way these animals lived and what factors encouraged their evolution make up part of the story. What caused their extinction remains a mystery, and one that makes an intriguing conclusion to this portrait of a true dragon of the past.

MEGALANIA (The Sparks Series Book 1)
By Travis Kerr

Released: 2014-04-09
Kindle Edition (516 pages)

MEGALANIA (The Sparks Series Book 1)
 
Product Description:
A strange, eerie silence has fallen over the rainforest. The local men speak of it in whispers. The animals have fled their hidden homes, searching for safer haunts. For Jerry Sparks and his anthropology class, however, the chance to travel through a virtually unexplored region of the rainforest is too good to pass up. They have no idea that the unnatural hush that follows them is anything out of the ordinary. Something that has remained concealed for countless generations waits, watching them with unseen eyes. As the unsuspecting group passes by, it begins the hunt.

Megalania offers a frightening beginning to the Sparks Series, following cryptozoologist Max Sparks and his adventures, searching for creatures science has yet to acknowledge.
Megalania (Vile Beasts Series)
By Robert Forrester

Best of Both Worlds
Released: 2015-01-15
Kindle Edition (266 pages)

Megalania (Vile Beasts Series)
 
Product Description:
Research scientist Suzanna Howard has reached one of the most unexplored regions on Earth, only to find a mining corporation has beaten her to it.

But more than gold has been unearthed in the interior of Papua New Guinea.

Animals thought extinct for over 10,000 years have been living undisturbed.

Until now.

When the creatures attack the intruders in their domain, Suzanna finds herself allied to the very people she despises. As she battles to protect a species once thought extinct, she soon realizes the Megalania are not the ones on the endangered list.
IMMUNITY
By STEPHEN DEDMAN

Megalania Books
Released: 2018-06-11
Kindle Edition (444 pages)

IMMUNITY
 
Product Description:
When Nick Horne, police crime scene examiner turned science journalist, hears rumors of a leak at Helikal's genetic engineering lab in Western Australia's wheatbelt, he tries to contact geneticist David Mora for details. After learning that Mora has disappeared, Horne realizes that someone is trying to stop him investigating Helikal. He reluctantly teams up with Tom Purdy, a US defense attache with diplomatic immunity who is also looking for Mora and fears that he may have given a bioweapon to a terrorist group threatening to unleash it on America. Soon, Horne is not only fighting for his life, but must make decisions that can affect the world - but first, he has to decide who he can trust.
Description of some Remains of a Gigantic Land-Lizard (Megalania Prisca, Ow.) from Australia. A rare original article from the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1857.
By Professor R. Owen.

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1857, Vol 9.
Paperback

Description of some Remains of a Gigantic Land-Lizard (Megalania Prisca, Ow.) from Australia. A rare original article from the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, 1857.
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Giant Ripper Lizard (Extinct Monsters)
By Carol K. Lindeen

Brand: Capstone Press
Library Binding (32 pages)

Giant Ripper Lizard (Extinct Monsters)
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Product Description:
Imagine a lizard as long as a truck! The Megalania was an ancient Australian terror that could smell a rotting body from miles away. Check out the monster that ripped its supper to shreds.
40,000 years ago: The hunt for Thylacoleo
By James Buntine

Released: 2013-01-30
Kindle Edition (63 pages)

40,000 years ago: The hunt for Thylacoleo
 
Product Description:
After being taunted by two other boys from his tribe Barega sets out on the journey of a lifetime across ancient Australia in search of the giant lizard Megalania, the ancient bird Genyornis and the mysterious Thylacoleo - the legendary Australian Marsupial Lion. Will he find the mysterious beast? Will he survive this perilous journey?
The Crocodile That Wasn't: An eyewitness account of an extinct monster by Australia's Aboriginal people
By Peter Hancock

Released: 2004-11-02
Kindle Edition (62 pages)

The Crocodile That Wasn t: An eyewitness account of an extinct monster by Australia s Aboriginal people
 
Product Description:
Thousands of years ago something momentous happened on the south-west coast of Australia - something so important that the Aboriginal people preserved it in a traditional Dreaming story and named landmarks around the mouth of the Swan River as a vast natural monument to it. Research by journalist and historian Peter Hancock reveals that hidden behind the folklore is an eyewitness account of an encounter with one of prehistory's most fearsome monsters - a gigantic carnivorous lizard called megalania that once roamed Australia and shared the bush with Aboriginal people. His investigations also bring another important prehistoric event to light - the coming of the dingo to south-west Australia. This book takes the reader on a fascinating journey of discovery into the distant past, unveiling an important piece of prehistory preserved in Aboriginal oral traditions. As featured on The History Channel's 'Monster Quest' series.


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