Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

Komodo Dragon Is All Australian

Newspaper article Gympie Times, The Qld.

Komodo Dragon Is All Australian

Article excerpt

NEW scientific research reveals the world's largest living lizard species, Indonesia's Komodo dragon, most-likely evolved in Australia three to four million years ago.

Queensland Museum Senior Curator of Geosciences Scott Hocknull and colleagues from Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia authored the research paper released this week by PLoS ONE, challenging the long-held scientific hypothesis that the Komodo dragon evolved from a small ancestor in isolation on the Indonesian islands.

Mr Hocknull said the evidence suggests that the largest ever land-dwelling lizard species evolved on mainland Australia and at least two of them dispersed westward to the islands of Timor, Flores and Java over the last million years.

"The fossil record shows that over the last four million years Australia has been home to the world's largest lizards, including a five metre giant called Megalania (Varanus prisca)," he said.

"Now we can say Australia was also the birthplace of the three-metre Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis).

"Over the past three years, we've unearthed numerous fossils from eastern Australia dated from 300,000 years ago to approximately four million years ago that we now know to be the Komodo dragon.

"When we compared these fossils to the bones of present-day Komodo dragons, they were identical."

The paper also references independent genetic research that shows the Komodo dragon's closest living relative is the Australian lace monitor (Varanus varius), leading Mr Hocknull to describe Australia as a hub for lizard evolution.

"These discoveries show the Komodo dragon most-likely evolved on mainland Australia around three to four million years ago, and then dispersed west to Indonesia, finding a home on the smaller island of Flores around 900,000 years ago," Mr Hocknull said.

"We have dispelled the idea that the Komodo dragon evolved to its large size in Indonesia because of a specialised diet of dwarf elephants. …

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