According to researchers, early humans in Australia may have lived alongside giant prehistoric lizards. This was revealed by a team of experts from the University of Queensland (UQ), who discovered a lizard bone dating back to 50,000 years ago, when the first Aboriginal people roamed the continent.
The findings were presented to the public in the journal Quaternary Science Reviews. As scientists explain, the recently unearthed fossil is a 0.4 inch osteoderm bone, which was found lying just 6.5 feet beneath the ground.
The discovery was made in the Colosseum Chamber of one of the Capricorn Caves, near Rockhampton, in northeastern Australia. Millions of other animal remains have been found in the area ever since the beginning of the 20th century.
It is believed that this type of bone, which reinforces reptile scales and is found just underneath the skin, may have belonged to a giant lizard. These apex predators grew to be up to 20 feet long, and traces of their presence in Australia had been found before, but this is the youngest record ever discovered on the continent.
In fact, this discovery suggests that dangerous massive reptiles may have co-existed with early Aboriginals, during the ice age. The fossil was placed in time using uranium thorium dating and carbon dating, and researchers estimate the osteoderm is about 50,000 years old.
According to UQ vertebrate palaeoecologist Gilbert Price, the bone fragment may be the first evidence we’ve ever had that the continent’s initial inhabitants shared their land and resources with giant animals. This left scientists baffled, given the implications of such a co-habitation at the earliest stages of human history.
It had been known that during the last ice age, in the Pleistocene period, 30-long crocodiles and other giant lizards roamed this region. However, it couldn’t be determined how these reptiles eventually became extinct.
Some had speculated that early Aboriginals might have been to blame, while others had been suggesting that climate change had caused the disappearance of all mega fauna, including these giant predators.
“Humans can only now be considered as potential drives of their extinction”, concluded Price.
At the moment, paleontologists can’t determine exactly which reptile species the osteoderm came from. It could be from an ancient Komodo dragon, or from an even larger animal, such as the extinct Megalania Prisca lizard, which weighed around 1,100 pounds and was approximately 20 feet long.
The giant reptile was common in eastern Australia, where it preyed on large mammals, birds and snakes. Nowadays, the largest lizard on the continent is the perentie (Varanus giganteus), which is up to 6.5 feet long.
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