The youngest occurrence of a monitor lizard from Europe

In a new study published recently in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, Georgios Georgalis from the University of Fribourg and his colleagues described new remains of monitor lizards (Varanidae) from the Middle Pleistocene locality of Tourkobounia 5, near Athens, Greece.

The new Greek fossils have been assigned to Varanus and represent the youngest occurrence of a monitor lizard from the European continent, as they were previously thought to have become extinct during the late Pliocene. This material further adds to our knowledge of the skull anatomy of fossil monitor lizards, as it ranks among the few skull elements known for this squamate clade.

According to its anatomy, the Athenian Varanus seems to have more affinities with the large monitor lizards that widely inhabited Europe during the Miocene. Its rather small size could probably represent an adaptation to the Pleistocene climatic conditions, although it cannot be excluded that the specimens belong to a young individual.

Featured image © Nobumichi Tamura.

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