As if life wasn't hard enough during the last Ice Age, research led by the University of Queensland has found Australia's first human inhabitants had to contend with giant killer lizards.
UQ vertebrate palaeoecologist Dr Gilbert Price said researchers working in Central Queensland were amazed when they unearthed the first evidence that Australia's early human inhabitants and giant apex predator lizards had overlapped.
"Our jaws dropped when we found a tiny fossil from a giant lizard during a two metre deep excavation in one of the Capricorn Caves, near Rockhampton," Dr Price said.
"The one-centimetre bone, an osteoderm, came from under the lizard's skin and is the youngest record of a giant lizard on the entire continent."
Dr Price and his colleagues used radiocarbon and uranium thorium techniques to date the bone as about 50,000 years old, coinciding with the arrival of Australia's Aboriginal inhabitants.
"We can't tell if the bone is from a Komodo dragon -- which once roamed Australia -- or an even bigger species like the extinct Megalania monitor lizard, which weighed about 500kg and grew up to six metres long," Dr Price said.
"The find is pretty significant, especially for the timeframe that it dates."