Australia's Vanished Beasts

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Megalania prisca

Giant Goanna
Megalania prisca
You would not want to have run into a hungry giant goanna. For one thing, its kind was huge: experts have estimated that the largest M. prisca for which there is some fossil evidence was 23 feet long and weighed about 1,350 pounds. That's about eight times the mass of the living Komodo dragon, which the giant goanna may have resembled in basic ecology and behavior. Like the Komodo, it may have lurked in undergrowth before ambushing prey—such as the diprotodontid downed at a waterhole in this illustration—then ripped apart its victim with its large, serrated teeth. (Its genus name means "great ripper.")

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