Fossil hints early Australians lived alongside giant lizards

Outdoor adventures in Australia require a special sort of bravery, as the nation's land is inhabited by a wide array of frightening creatures. Early Australian inhabitants didn't have it any easier — in fact, a newly discovered fossil indicates they have had much bigger wildlife problems. Namely, giant killer lizards. Evidence indicates early inhabitants and these gigantic predators lived at the same time.

The research comes from the University of Queensland; researchers there were working in central Queensland when they discovered a fossil belonging to the giant lizard during a Capricorn Caves excavation. According to Dr. Gilbert Price, this was a jaw dropping discovery.

The fossil was a small one, measuring only a centimeter or so in size – it is called an osteoderm, and it now has the distinction of being the youngest bit of evidence of Australia's big predatory lizards. Through uranium thorium techniques and radiocarbon dating, the researchers estimate the bone is 50,000 years old, which times it around the same period as the region's Aboriginal inhabitants' arrival.

Which lizard, exactly, the bone came from is unknown — it may have been a Komodo dragon or something larger that is now extinct. One possibility is the Megalania monitor lizard, the adults of which weighed about 500kg and were around 6m in length. That's contrasted with Australia's largest modern day lizard, which tops out at around 2m in length.

SOURCE: EurekAlert