Fossil discovery in Indonesia reveals ‘lost world’ of beasts
As recently as a few thousand years ago, the Indonesian island of Sumba was home to miniature elephants, giant rats and dragons, according to fossil discoveries reported in a scientific journal last month.
The expedition marks the first discovery of a Komodo dragon fossil outside the islets off of Flores, an island east of Bali, prompting one scientist to wonder if the creatures might be reintroduced in Sumba.
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The report, published last month in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, described fossils of dwarf elephants (Stegodon florensis insularis), rodents as big as cats, and the world’s largest living lizard, the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), the only one of the group that still exists.
Some of these species are estimated to have inhabited Sumba as recently as 12,000 years ago, according to the paper.
The expedition took place in 2011 and 2014 when scientists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) collected fossils from several deposits on Sumba, part of a group of islands tucked between the continental shelves of Asia and Australia.
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