The Komodo dragon is the largest living lizard. Its natural habitat is located in Indonesia, specifically on the following islands: Flores, Komodo, Gili Motang and Rinca. They seek shelter in holes they dig with their claws and forelimbs, called burrows. These burrows have a large diameter ranging between 1 to 3 meters (3 to 10 feet). The Komodo dragon sleeps in a burrow, basking in the sun, being a cold-blooded creature called: ectoderm. The slow metabolism of this large reptile needs to lie in the sun to save some energy and facilitate digestion. Such burrows are located in the tall grass of a savanna, at low sea level.
This large lizard is most active during the day, although some activity is also occurring at night. This carnivore is known to feed on carrion (dead creatures) but is also able to attack live preys such as: birds, pigs, goats, deer, water buffalo and even juvenile Komodo dragons which represent 10% of an adult Komodo dragon's diet. When hunting, this lizard will wait for the prey, hiding in the tall grass. Then it will use its long tail for support and leap towards its throat where it will bite the victim.
It will swallow large chunks of its prey and will swallow them. If the prey is the size of a goat or smaller, it will swallow it whole, sometimes forcing it down by ramming into a tree. The force used can be so strong that it can even break the tree. Swallowing can take 15 to 20 minutes. Then, the Komodo dragon will bask into the sun to increase the speed of the digestive process. In order to avoid choking, the dragon breath by using a tube located under his tongue. This process avoids the food to rot and cause blood poisoning, killing the Komodo dragon as a result. A large dragon can eat up to 80% of its body weight in one meal, which is why it can survive on as little as 12 meals per year.
Although humans are not part of its usual diet, the Komodo dragon has been known to attack humans or dig shallow graves to feed on the corpses, prompting villagers to protect graves by piling up stones over them.
Usually, the Komodo dragon lives alone unless it is mating or feeding time. During feeding time, the largest dragon will feed first, followed but dragons of decreasing sizes. They are mostly following a hierarchy unless two dragons of the same size face each other. In this case, they will fight each other. The loser can either back off, leave or be eaten by the victor.
The Komodo dragon has a tail as long as its body. This enormous lizard reaches an average length of 2 to 3 meters (6.6 to 9.8 feet) and a weight of 70 kg (150 lb). Its body is covered with scales, some of them bony, which are sensitive to the touch due to the presence of sensory plaques. Some of these plaques are also located on various body parts. Despite the presence of ears, the Komodo dragon does not hear very well. In fact, experts suggest they can only hear sounds ranging from 400 to 2000 hertz. It also has a poor vision, especially with non-moving objects or creatures as well as in darkness due to the sole presence of cones on their retina.
Most of the stimuli are detected; smells and taste are identified by the use of its tongue. In fact, a Komodo dragon can detect a corpse from a distance of 4 to 9.5 km (2.5 to 6 miles).
This lizard is also known for its saliva as it contains as much as 57 types of bacteria that can be transferred to victims, causing the lack of blood clotting, infection, blood poisoning, low blood pressure, hypothermia and causing the body of the prey to go into shock. Most victims end up dying within 24 hours of being bitten by a dragon.
The mating of the Komodo dragon occurs between May and August. The female lays a clutch of 20 eggs in an abandoned nest. The incubation lasts approximately 7 to 8 months. Once the babies hatch, they hide in trees and bushes, away from predators. The juvenile dragons will adopt this behavior for the first 3 to 5 years of their life, until they reach adulthood. Females are also known to have babies without male fertilize the eggs. This phenomenon is called: parthenogenesis.
Unless born in captivity, the Komodo dragon's life expectancy is not nearly as long as it is in the wilderness, where it can reach up to 50 years. This species is vulnerable. Its low population is predicted to be ranging between 3,000 and 5,000 individuals. Protective laws have been established by the Indonesian government to protect the Komodo dragon. It is believed that only 350 females are left, representing a serious threat to the survival of this species. Other causes responsible for the depletion of the population of the Komodo dragon are: poaching, human civilization and natural disasters.
The Komodo dragon is an amazing creature! Let's protect it from extinction!
Here are some resources linked to the Komodo dragon.