Study: Komodo dragon native of Australia

Oct. 1, 2009 at 3:39 PM
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BRISBANE, Australia, Oct. 1 (UPI) -- Australian, Malaysian and Indonesian scientists say they've determined the world's largest living lizard species, the Komodo Dragon, is an Australian native.

The research by paleontologists and archaeologists who studied fossil evidence from Australia, Timor, Flores, Java and India, shows Komodo Dragons (Varanus komodoensis) most likely evolved in Australia and dispersed westward to Indonesia.

"The fossil record shows that over the last four million years Australia has been home to the world's largest lizards, including a five-meter giant called Megalania (Varanus prisca)," Scott Hocknull of the Queensland Museum said. "Now we can say Australia was also the birthplace of the three-meter Komodo dragon, dispelling the long-held scientific hypothesis that it evolved from a smaller ancestor in isolation on the Indonesian islands.

"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," he added.

The study is reported in the online journal PLoS One.

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