Article: Oldest known Varanus (Squamata: Varanidae) from the Upper Eocene and Lower Oligocene of Egypt: support for an African origin of the genus
Robert B. Holmes, Alison M. Murray, Yousry S. Attia, Elwyn L. Simons and Prithijit Chatrath
A large collection of lizard vertebrae from northern Africa represents the oldest unambiguous occurrence of the genus Varanus. The fossils come from late Eocene and early Oligocene freshwater deposits of the Fayum, Egypt, an area noted for many significant primate finds. The recovery and identification of this material indicate that the genus Varanus arose in Africa, before dispersing to Australia and Asia. This dispersal occurred prior to the early to mid-Miocene, by which time fossil Varanus are known from Australia and Eurasia. Although the dispersal route remains unknown, the lizard material reported here supports the hypothesis that a corridor existed allowing freshwater and terrestrial organisms to cross from Africa to Asia.