The Comeback of the Nearly Extinct Earless Lizard
And the Australian dinosaur boom continues.
By: Kirsten Brooker | July 12, 2023 | 643 Words
Scientists in Victoria, Australia, have discovered a small group of tiny reptiles long thought extinct. The earless lizard, which hasn’t been spotted in over 50 years, was on the critically endangered list. The discovery in February of this year thrilled scientists, who plan to revive the species by breeding them in a protected environment. Additionally, in Australia, paleontologists are unearthing an enormous amount of ancient dinosaur bones in Melbourne, Australia. People travel far and wide, and in large numbers, to visit the site and make discoveries of their own.
The Earless Lizard
Also known as the Victorian grassland earless dragon, the earless reptile is only 15 cm long when fully grown. Unlike other lizard species, the earless lizard has no ear openings on the outside of its body. The tiny energetic creature can travel up to 110 meters (approximately 360 ft) in one day. Being a carnivorous creature, it feeds on grassland invertebrates like beetles, grasshoppers, spiders, and crickets.
The tiny dragon-like animal lives in the Melbourne grasslands of Victoria, Australia, though one had not been spotted since 1969 and was believed to be extinct. In February 2023, 16 earless dragons were discovered in a top-secret area of the grasslands and now the protected breeding grounds for the critically endangered species.
Zoos Victoria, a company dedicated to fighting the extinction of animals in the Australian grasslands, is thrilled about the unexpected discovery. “This is an amazing discovery and offers an opportunity for us to recover a species once thought lost to our state and the world,” said Victorian environment minister Ingrid Stitt.
Now that the animal has been rediscovered, the Melbourne Zoo will work diligently to increase its population and remove it from the endangered species list.
The Dinosaur Boom
Farmers in Australia are uncovering a slew of dinosaur bones, and tourists are going crazy over the discoveries. Australia is not a common place to find dinosaur remains, but since about the turn of the century, ancient fossils have been coming out of the woodwork. In the words of the Australian Age of Dinosaurs Museum curator Matt Hearne, the dinosaur bones are “bloody everywhere.”
Farmer David Elliott was the first to find a dinosaur bone in his field back in 1999. This discovery prompted him to contact a paleontologist, and what came next was unexpected. Remains throughout Australia’s farmland began to be discovered, dubbing the times a “dinosaur boom.”
The findings became tourist attractions for dinosaur lovers everywhere. Many tourists flocked to the area just to volunteer their services to help uncover the ancient bones. The lovers of dinosaurs pay up to $3,700 per week to be a part of the search. Hotels, lodges, and other overnight sleeping areas are often at capacity leaving many of the “diggers” to sleep in their cars. In 2021, over 60,000 people visited the area’s museum and dig sites, boosting the tiny town’s dwindling economy.
One of the findings was part of the outback’s largest dinosaur, the Australotitan cooperensis (also known as the southern titan) and is said to be similar in length to the size of a basketball court. Approximately 30 years ago, diggers unearthed the pelvis of a pterosaur (a close cousin of the dinosaur), a winged reptile that lived during the Mesozoic Era. Scientists have since confirmed that the remains are, in fact, from a pterosaur that flew through the skies around 107 million years ago.
Ph.D. student Adele Pentland said, “Pterosaurs are rare worldwide, and only a few remains have been discovered … so these bones give us a better idea as to where pterosaurs lived and how big they were.
It will be exciting to see what is waiting to be discovered beneath the earth’s surface in Australia.