Fossil Komodo dragon relative discovered

This video from National Geographic in the USA says about itself:

Komodo dragon babies are hatching, and scientists at the Denver Zoo are making sure they get a head start on life.

From ScienceDaily:

Mysterious Link Between Ancient Lizard Fossil in Africa and Today’s Komodo Dragon in Indonesia

(Nov. 17, 2010) — University of Alberta researchers have unearthed a mysterious link between bones of an ancient lizard found in Africa and the biggest, baddest modern-day lizard of them all, the Komodo dragon, half a world away in Indonesia.

Biologists Alison Murray and Rob Holmes say the unique shape of the vertebrae links the 33-million-year-old African lizard fossil with its cousin the Komodo, which has only been around for some 700,000 years.

“The African fossil was found on the surface of a windswept desert,” said Holmes. “It’s definitely from the lizard genus Varanus and there are more than 50 species alive today, including Komodos and other large lizards.”

Holmes says the telltale African vertebrae fossils belonged to a lizard that was about a metre- and-a-half long whose ability to swim may be key to figuring out how more than 30 million years later its ancestors turned up on the other side of the world.

Holmes says the ancient African Varanus specimen was found on land that was once the bottom of a river or small lake. “Whether the animals lived in the water or surrounding land, we don’t know, but we do know that some modern day species of Varanus are comfortable swimming in fresh water.”

The researchers agree that fresh-water swimming wouldn’t get the African lizard all the way to Indonesia. Murray says the mystery of how the animals spread deepens when you consider ancient world geography. “From about 100 million years ago until 12 million years ago, Africa was completely isolated, surrounded by ocean, but somehow they got out of Africa during that period,” said Murray. “That’s why this paper is important because there was no known land connection.”

Murray says one unproven theory of how Varanus moved out of Africa is that over millions of years, small land masses or micro-plates may have moved from one place to another, carrying their fauna with them.

The work of the U of A researchers and various co-authors runs counter to some prevailing theories about the origins of some ancient fossil types found in Africa including Varanus lizards and some fresh-water fish. “The assumption for several types of ancient African fossils is that the animals didn’t originate in Africa but came there from Asia,” says Holmes. “But the fossil record of Varanus shows exactly the opposite path of migration.”

The work of Murray and Holmes and various co-authors was published in the journal Palaeontology.

Komodo dragon eggs in Rotterdam zoo: here.

The world’s largest lizard – the Komodo Dragon – has an astonishingly weak bite, but a new study has revealed that the key to its killing power is a lethal combination of poison, brute strength, razor-sharp teeth and a “can-opener” biting technique: here.

An international team of researchers has found that female Komodo Dragons live half as long as males on average, seemingly due to their physically demanding ‘housework’ such as building huge nests and guarding eggs for up to six months: here.

Artis zoo Komodo dragons: here.

India: Monitor Lizards: Necessary for Our Ecosystem: here.

8 thoughts on “Fossil Komodo dragon relative discovered

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