Megalania, giant ripper lizard
When the first people reached Australia, they encountered the largest lizard that had ever lived.
Body length: 5.5m; Weight: 400kg.
The giant ripper lizard is a varanid lizard or goanna like the living Komodo dragon. It looked very similar to the Komodo, but was more robust and had a proportionally shorter tail. Its serrated teeth were more widely spaced and more curved than those of a Komodo. It had very large claws on its feet.
Fossils have been found in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.
They lived in open woodland and grassland.
They were carnivores. It is likely that giant ripper lizards both caught their own prey and scavenged, as the Komodo dragon does today. Extrapolating from the habits of the Komodo, it could easily have caught prey of twice its own weight, and could have tackled animals of up to 10 times its own weight. A fully grown giant ripper lizard would be able to tackle even the largest Diprotodon.
Giant ripper lizards were most likely ambush predators.
They laid eggs as all varanid lizards do, but so far none have been found as fossils.
Giant ripper lizards are extinct.
A complete skeleton of a giant ripper lizard has never been found.
At 5.5m long, they are the largest lizards to have ever lived.
Best place to see
Giant ripper lizard fossils and reconstructions are on display at Monash Science Centre, Monash University, Clayton in Victoria State, Australia; and the Wonambi Fossil Centre, Naracoorte Caves National Park, South Australia.
The perentie or gigantic lace lizard (Varanus giganteus).