Saturday, 9 May 2009

Megalania The Aussie Dragon

I'm now the owner of my very own Aussie dragon; his name is now Gibbs and he's (gender not confirmed, it'll be Doris if she's a girl!) a bearded dragon. Which sort of got me thinking about my favourite Aussie cryptid. Forget about the yowie, don't even bother with the bunyip. Megalania is where it's at!

Not only is megalania a real prehistoric creature. But it is possible it survived (officially) until sometime around 40,000 years ago. The earliest evidence for human habitation of Australia is from 40,000 years ago. It's a possibility that megalania and man met face to face.

So what is a megalania?

Megalania (Varanus priscus) was the largest terrestrial lizard known to science. It was probably about 3.5 metres (11 ft) long on average and weighed about 97–158 kilograms (210–350 lb). Basically; it was really very big. It was probably at the very top of the food chain, preying on creatures large and small.

So there's the "science". But what makes it worthy of our attention? Well... some say megalania is not extinct and still prowls the outback of Australia.

In July 1979, Rex Gilroy investigated supposed megalania footprints left in a recently plowed field. . About thirty tracks were in the ground, but unfortunately Gilroy was only able to make a cast of one due to rain. There's a picture here. A megalania big enough to leave a footprint that big would be quite a fearsome beast!

More famously later in 1979, Frank Gordon (claimed by sources to be a herpetologist but I cannot independently locate him or his trade), while doing field work in the Wattagan Mountains, started the engine in his vehicle and a nearby 'log' scampered off. What he had thought was a log was actually a lizard about thirty feet in length.

There are also a few other sightings recorded here. And alas this is where we must awake from our daydreaming of giant monsters for something worrying here raises it's head. In my research I've found NO story that doesn't in some way lead back to Rex Gilroy. His own websites show he is a very prolific research of all many of fortean curiosities in Australia, which is nothing in itself worrying. But why are there no independent stories and sightings?

I enjoy wondering if "recently" extinct creatures might just have survived into the modern age. People sometimes forget how big the world is, and how little of it humans see. My own personal experiences of moving to London has found most city folk don't even know what a cow is like let alone a wild animal. So I can believe in the survival of many creatures. BUT until I can see some other sources of sightings of the megalania I have to think it might just be too much a case of one man's quest and less about the truth (no aspersions on Mr Gilroy's character meant, I don't think he is intentionally lying or misleading).

Further Reading

Dragons in the Dust: The Paleobiology of the Giant Monitor Lizard Megalania - Ralph E. Molnar (US Amazon, UK Amazon)

This blogger works for nothing but the joy of writing but always appreciates things bought from his wishlist

No comments: