Varanus prisca or giant monitor lizard is an extinct member of the monitor lizard family (Varanidae).
The giant monitor lizard was the largest lizard ever to live on land. Fossils of Varanus prisca have only been recovered from eastern Australia, from Pleistocene deposits (between 2.6 million years and 10,000 years ago).
The giant monitor lizard is thought to have become extinct due to effects of climate change.
Varanus prisca shares numerous features in common with Komodo dragons, especially in the
Varanus prisca was originally described in a separate genus (Megalania) but is now recognised as a close relative of the living Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis).
Read about the taxonomy of Varanus prisca, including how it is similar to and can be distinguished from other lizards.
Learn more about the the evolutionary tree of Varanus prisca and the similar features it shares with Komodo dragons and other monitor lizards.
Find out size estimates for Varanus prisca and what it used its sharply serrated teeth for.
Get reference material for Varanus prisca.
Mounted full-sized reconstruction of the skeleton of Varanus prisca on display in Melbourne Museum (Museum Victoria), Australia. © Melbourne Museum
Skull of Varanus prisca, the extinct giant monitor lizard. © Boston Museum
A Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) - the closest living relative of Varanus prisca and a likely model for its biology and behaviour.
The braincase of Varanus prisca (NHM 39965) from Pleistocene deposits near Gowrie, on the Darling Downs, Queensland, Australia.