Just 50,000 years ago the world was filled with fabulous creatures that are now forever gone. Australia's giant lizard, Megalania, was one of those. These frightful beasts could reach 19 feet in length and weigh as much as a polar bear. On their home turf they were top dog, and it was the rare animal that dared to challenge them. Dragons in the Dust tells the story of these amazing lizards and the world in which they lived. Dragons in the Dust explores the Pleistocene, the time of the ice ages. While mammals ruled elsewhere, in Australia reptiles held their dominance. Large monitor lizards survive to this day, but the discovery of fossil remains of Megalania revealed that their ancestors were true giants and formidable predators. How scientists have reconstructed the way these animals lived and what factors encouraged their evolution make up part of the story. What caused their extinction remains a mystery, and one that makes an intriguing conclusion to this portrait of a true dragon of the past.
Dragons in the Dust is a fascinating attempt to recover the life and times--4.5 million to about 46,000 years ago--of this giant monitor lizard.--New Scientist, 3 July 2004
Introduction: The Lizard of Aus
1. The Pleistocene World
2. The Pleistocene in Australia
3. The Discovery of Megalania
4. Megalania and Other Varanids
5. The Paleobiology of Megalania
6. Why Megalania?
7. Summary: How a Dragon Came to Be
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Ralph E. Molnar was for many years Section Leader for Vertebrate and Invertebrate Palaeontology and Geology and Senior Curator of Vertebrate Palaeontology at Queensland Museum in Australia. Now retired, he lives in Flagstaff, Arizona.