If you were to adventure into the backcountry of Australia, you might happen across cave paintings made by the early Aboriginals. There would likely be many different stories painted on these walls, but one of the most fearsome would be that of a giant goanna (the native term for an Australian monitor lizard).
The goanna portrayed on the cave walls is massive compared to the average human and would have been considered to be a fearsome predator. Many who have studied these drawing feel that they have identified the inspiration for the paintings – the Megalania Prisca. This creature is the largest known terrestrial lizard known to have existed. It was thought to have originated about 2 million years ago and died out nearly 23,000 years ago which would have coincided with the arrival of the early Aboriginals. Experts claim the creature went extinct long ago– but many who live in Australia claim to have seen the mighty lizard in modern times.
What is a Megalania
Megalania Prisca (also called Varanus priscus) is a giant monitor lizard that is thought to have once roamed the wilds of Australia. This creature was giant in size and is thought to belong to the Toxicofera clade. This means that it likely had venomous glands inside its mouth that it was able to use to help it capture prey. The Megalania is known to be a carnivore and had large, serrated teeth inside its mouth that would have made it a fearsome opponent. It is known to have powerful muscles and would have been able to accelerate to impressive speeds, though it is doubtful that the creature would have been able to keep up with animals that were equipped for running long distances on land.
In spite of this, it is likely that the Megalania didn’t struggle to find prey. The lizard is known to be enormous. It is thought that the average Megalania could have easily reached 15 to 20 feet in length and is speculated that the largest Megalania could have reached 35 feet or more in length! This means the Megalania could have weighed up to 8,300 pounds when it was full grown. Any animal this size would have been a sight to behold, but the powerful build of the Megalania and its carnivorous status would have made this creature one of the most fearsome predators that early humans would have encountered.
Megalania According to Legend
In many Aboriginal stories that have been handed down through oral record and cave paintings that have been discovered, it is suggested that some of these reptiles were capable of bringing fire and other destruction along with them. Additionally, the fossils of these creatures suggest they were not purely terrestrial creatures, but may also have aquatic abilities. This thought is supported by an Aboriginal tale that speaks of a Megalania Prisca who wandered into the ocean.
The story claims that the Megalania Prisca happened to wander into the ocean and began to swim. While in the ocean, it was attacked by a Great White Shark and the two creatures began to fight each other. The Megalania was able to overcome the shark and dragged the carcass of the Great White back to shore. The story ends with the depiction of the Megalania feasting on the carcass of the shark.
The above story is apparently relatively fresh among the Aboriginal peoples (within a few hundred years) which leads many people to believe the Megalania has yet to go extinct. What’s more is that there are supposed sightings of the creature dating from the 1800s all the way up to present day. These stories have brought excitement among cryptozoologists who believe that it is only a matter of time before the carcass of one of these beasts is found and able to be studied.
Megalania in Modern Day
Despite these stories and supposed sightings, however, the majority of experts who don’t recognize cryptozoology maintain that the Megalania died in the Ice Age along with many other terrifying Australian creatures. These experts believe the stories of giant lizard attacks are much more likely to be Komodo Dragons or some other related monitor lizard species.
Still, there remains a significant number of Australians who believe the Megalania still exists and is just as deadly as it was some 20,000 years ago. There are also stories among locals that suggest the Megalania might not be confined to Australia alone. One story from a French priest traveling New Guinea in the 1960’s suggests that the Megalania’s existence may have a much farther reach than the continent of Australia.
There continues to be much debate over the possibility of Megalania surviving into modern times, though several theories have been proposed for how the beast could have survived undetected.
Megalania is most notably known to be a reptile that was terrifying in size. The creature is thought to have averaged lengths between 15 and 20 feet while the biggest of its kind could have been up to 35 feet in length. There is, however, some debate over the size of the Megalania. Some scientists believe the creature couldn’t be any more than 11 to 15 feet at its largest size. This argument has been largely contradicted by fossil findings, though no concrete answer to how big the Megalania Prisca grew has been settled on.
One of the most notable features that has been gleaned from the discovered Megalania fossils is the impressive jaws of the beast. The serrated teeth would have easily sliced through skin and would have caused impressive damage to animals with soft and largely unprotected skin. It is also hypothesized that the sharpness of the teeth, combined with the crushing power of the jaw muscles would have had little problem slicing through bone.
There is also evidence in the creature’s mandibles that the lizard may have also had some sort of venomous glands inside its mouth that helped it take down prey more easily. It is thought that this venom acted very similarly to that of the Komodo Dragon. This would mean that the toxins would have acted as an anticoagulant which would have caused their prey to bleed out faster.
Little else is known about the creature from fossils alone other than its sheer size. From what we know of the fossil record of the Megalania, the creature would have towered over the average human and may have reached lengths comparable to modern day school buses. At its largest size, the Megalania could have reached lengths up to 35 feet in length and could have weighed as much as 8,300 pounds.
There are also features of the Megalania fossils that suggest the creature might not have been a purely terrestrial creature. Some features of the skeletal structure suggest that the creature may have had some aquatic capabilities as well.
Much of the information that has been gathered through eye witness accounts suggests the creature to be just as fearsome in physical appearance as it is in the fossil record. One account by a group of teenagers suggests that the creature may have scales that resemble an armored pattern to serve as skin. Information gathered from multiple accounts suggests that the beast is rather bland in color and can easily be mistaken for fallen trees and other dark debris.
The lizard is thought to be able to reach fairly impressive speeds, though if its anatomy remains similar to other monitor lizards, it is unlikely that the creature could maintain a long distance chase. It is much more likely that the Megalania would prefer to lay in wait for its prey and capture it with sudden and definite movement.
The Megalania is known to be a rather fearsome carnivore and would have served as an incredibly difficult adversary to overcome.
There is a story of the Megalania that tells of the creature’s encounter with a Great White Shark. The Megalania came out on top and then proceeded to drag the shark carcass to shore and feast on the remains. This would suggest that the Megalania was an extremely aggressive creature and likely considered to be one of the great apex predators of its time.
Based on the perceived anatomical structure of the creature and our knowledge of modern day monitor lizards, it is unlikely that the creature would have been able to sustain a long distance chase despite its ability to accelerate quickly. This suggests that while aggressive, the Megalania would be more likely to lie in wait for its prey and then ambush it quickly.
Giant Lizard in Euroa
In 1890, there were apparent sightings of a large reptile (supposedly a lizard) that terrorized the town of Euroa, Australia. There were many eyewitnesses that claimed they saw a large lizard raiding farms and killing livestock. The consensus among the eyewitnesses was that the creature was at least 30 feet in length and had an intimidating anatomical structure.
French Priest in New Guinea
In the 1960’s a French Priest reportedly ventured into the wilds of New Guinea with a Native to spread the teachings of Christianity. While traveling on the river, he spotted a giant lizard laying on a fallen tree. He asked the Native tour guide to stop, but being frightened the guide continued past the creature in great haste. The curious priest returned to the site the next morning to measure the tree. To his shock, the tree was 40 feet in length and the lizard had been almost identical in length.
Normanby Range Sighting 1968
There are stories of a soldier who came forward to report a sighting of what appeared to be Megalania tracks during a training exercise he and his unit completed in the Normanby Range in 1968.
Part of their training exercise required them to traverse through a perilous section of swamp area. While hiking through the swamp, they found drag marks that eventually led them to the carcass of a cow. The cow appeared to have been killed somewhere else and dragged a considerable distance before being viciously torn apart and devoured. After a quick search, the unit found lizard tracks nearly 2 feet in size and tail markings that appeared to come from a reptile. They hastily left the area, as it appeared the cow had not been there long.
Tracks in Moruya
In the winter of 1979, a farmer in Moruya, Australia reported sighting a giant lizard that he believed to be at least 20 feet in length. Upon investigating, he found tracks that had been left behind and called Roy Gilroy (a cryptozoologist dedicated to exploring the unexplainable in Australia) and had him investigate. Many of the tracks had been damaged or lost, but Gilroy was able to make a mold of one of the tracks that was still intact.
Many years later in the winter of 2008, Gilroy was able to find another similar set of tracks. These tracks were found about 185 miles away from the town of Moruya. He was able to make casts of these tracks as well and found them to be nearly identical to the tracks he had originally casted in 1979.
At some point in the 2000s, a farmer in Central Queensland is reported to have found a cluster of unusual bones on his property. He believed he had made a significant discovery and gifted the bones to a university in Brisbane.
Allegedly, these bones were quickly determined to be Megalania but the discovery was supposedly ‘hushed up’ soon after it had been reported. This is supposedly because the creature’s bones were dated to be no more than 300 years old – a startling discovery.
If the skeleton really was only 300 years old, it would mean that the Megalania survived long after the Ice Age and it wouldn’t be surprising for the creatures to still exist today in the Australian outback.
One of the biggest issues scientists have with the possibility of a Megalania existing in modern day times is the lack of evidence of the creature. Many argue that the Megalania would have to sustain a population size that would have been bound to have been discovered in modern day if they had survived the Ice Age.
However, recent studies of Komodo Dragons may provide an answer for how the Megalania could have continued to survive into modern day. This theory could also explain how the Megalania could have survived with lower population sizes than originally anticipated by scientists.
Parthenogenesis has been observed among Komodo Dragons as a way of preserving the species and avoiding extinction. Through this process, female Komodo Dragons are able to reproduce without having a male fertilize their eggs. This was observed when Komodo Dragon eggs were able to hatch even though no fertilization had occurred.
It is important to note, however, that this process can only happen for one generation. The resulting offspring from parthenogenesis is all male hatchlings which means a female is still necessary to produce eggs. Hypothetically, this time span should be more than enough for the population to grow to a sustainable size again.
Because Megalania is thought to closely resemble the Komodo Dragons of modern day, it is possible that the Megalania is also capable of Parthenogenesis.
Possible Inspiration for Megalania in Modern Day
The Komodo Dragon is a large species of monitor lizard that inhabit the Indonesian islands. It is the largest known species of lizard to survive in modern day times and is known to grow to impressive sizes. The largest Komodo Dragon lizards have been observed to grow up to 10 feet in length and can weigh up to 150 pounds. These lizards are thought to be closely related to megafauna reptiles that died out in the Ice Age.
Some researchers believe the Komodo Dragons and Megalania shared a common ancestor which is why they are so similar in appearance. It is also noted that these lizards mutate and adapt quickly. It is hypothesized that within a few generations, the Komodo Dragon could evolve to a larger size that would closely resemble reports of the Megalania.
Explanation of the Myth
While many people continue to deny the possibility of a Megalania existing in modern day, there seems to be considerable evidence that would support a slight possibility for the survival of the creature. Many people who believe in the Megalania often voice theories like parthenogenesis when discussing ways the creature could have survived into modern day.
There are also people who believe the Megalania could have survived outside of Australia as well. They often point to Indonesia and surrounding islands as a possible answer because many of the islands are uninhabited and largely unexplored.
Others are quick to point out that while Australia has been mapped out in its entirety by aerial shots, there is still much land that hasn’t been explored on foot. Much of this land is largely inaccessible by foot or with machinery, but it wouldn’t be impossible for megafauna like Megalania to exist in these regions.
Regardless of whether Megalania has managed to exist into modern days or, if as experts claim, recent sightings are more likely to be Komodo Dragons or other similar monitor lizards, Megalania continues to be a point of fascination for all. It may be unlikely that the largest terrestrial lizard survived past the Ice Age, but it is undeniable that Australia continues to reveal some of the most terrifying beasts known to man.