Dragons walk the earth. Komodo dragons, that is. Thought to be the source behind the fire-breathing mythical creatures, Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizards. They’re ancient reptile species with ancestry that dates back more than 100 million years. Unknown to western scientists till 1912, they were discovered by scientists following rumors of large, dragon-like lizards in the lesser Sunda islands. They’re found in a limited range of around 1000 kilometres, encompassing the Komodo National Park and the islands of Flores. The Komodo national park includes the islands – Komodo, Rinca, Gili Montang, Gili Dasami. In fact, Komodo dragons have the smallest home range of any large predator in the world!
Physical Features and Characteristics
Komodo dragons are large, heavy lizards, with toughened skin that protects them from bites and scratches. A full grown adult maybe around 9 ft long and weigh around 70 -90 kg although, captive dragons have been found to be heavier. The heaviest recorded specimen was 10 ft long and weighed 136 kg! They range from black to yellow-gray in color, depending on their location.
Komodo dragons have muscular tails almost as long as their bodies and long, powerful claws. They also have shark-like teeth and long, yellow, forked tongues that are chock full of deadly bacteria.
Komodo dragons also have 60 shark-like teeth that they use to tear apart their victims. Each of these teeth is around 2.5 inch long and are frequently replaced.
Heavy though they are, they’re also incredibly fast and can run at a speed of 11 mph!
Komodo Dragon Habitat
Komodo dragons are interesting creatures, who like hot and humid weather. They sometimes dig burrows to sleep in at night, but they aren’t very territorial about their burrows – they have been known to sleep in burrows dug by other lizards. In fact, some of them even prefer abandoned human dwellings on the islands!
Komodo dragons grow throughout their lifespan, which can be up to 30 years. They have a fairly easy-going lifestyle, with loads of sun-basking and naps thrown in.
Komodo dragons are also cannibalistic, which is why baby dragons quickly scurry off to live in trees, where the adults can’t reach them. They only come down when they’re around 4 years old, by which time they’re around 4 ft long.
What does the Komodo Dragon like to eat?
They are carnivores, and although their primary prey is the Timor deer, they also eat any other meat they get.
Komodo dragons employ ambush tactics for their agile prey, and also use their forked tongues to track their prey. The saliva of Komodo dragons contains over 50 strains of bacteria that makes it a lethal weapon in itself. They use it to weaken prey that is too strong for a dragon to overpower in direct combat. Quite often, a dragon marks its prey with its saliva, and calmly tracks it, while waiting for it to die.
The younger dragons while living on trees eat whatever fits into their mouth, such as grasshoppers, birds, and other lizards.
Are Komodo Dragons endangered?
The population of Komodo dragons has been more or less stable on the islands, that is around 3000-5000. However, in recent times, illegal hunting and poaching, human encroachment and natural disasters have driven the species to endangerment.
Komodo Dragon Fact
It is thought that the legend of fire-breathing dragons was inspired by the forked yellow tongues of the Komodo dragons.