African lizard fossil linked to modern-day Komodo dragon in Indonesia

Friday, November 19, 2010

WASHINGTON - A new research has found a mysterious link between the bones of ancient lizards found in Africa and the biggest, baddest modern-day lizard of them all, the Komodo dragon, half a world away in Indonesia.

The research, conducted by University of Alberta biologists Alison Murray and Rob Holmes, says that 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. It’s definitely from the lizard genus Varanus and there are more than 50 species alive today, including Komodos and other large lizards,” said Holmes.

Holmes also noted that 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,” he said.

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.

Murray said 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. (ANI)

Filed under: World

will not be displayed