Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is the largest living lizard in the world. They are identified by their massive size, flat heads, arched legs, and long, thick tails.

The name comes from rumors that a dragon-like creature lived on the Indonesian island of Komodo. No Western scientist had seen a Komodo dragon until 1912, according to the San Diego Zoo. The locals call them «Now»Or«land crocodile«.

The Komodo dragon is said to be the fiercest reptile in existence.

Species

Komodo dragons are a species of monitor lizard, which are large reptiles found in Africa and throughout Asia. The taxonomy of Komodo dragons, according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS), is:

  • Reino: Animalia
    • Subreino: Bilateria
      • Infrakingdom: Deuterostomy
  • Wire: Chordate
    • Subphile: Vertebrates
      • Infrafilo: Gnathostomata
  • Superclass: Tetrapoda
    • Class: Reptile
  • Order: Squamata
    • Suborder: Autarcoglossa
  • Family: Varanidae
  • Genus and species: Varanus komodoensis

Features

Komodo dragons come in a variety of colors, including blue, orange, green, and gray. Their skin is rough and tough, reinforced with bony plates called osteodermos. They have long claws and a large, muscular tail.

The Komodos have good eyesight; they can see objects at a distance of up to 300 meters away, more or less. They are also fast. They can briefly run up to 20 km / h but prefer to hunt on the sly, waiting for hours for prey to cross their path.

However, your sense of smell is your main food detector. Komodo dragons, like snakes, use their forked tongues to test the air and then touch the tongue to the roof of their mouth, where special organs analyze airborne molecules. If the tip of the left tongue has a more concentrated "smell," the dragon knows its prey is approaching from the left.

Size

The average size of a male Komodo dragon is 2,4 to 2,7 meters long and weighs around 90 kilograms, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo, but they can reach a whopping 3 meters long. Females grow up to 1,8 meters.

Behavior

The Komodo sragon is believed to be the most aggressive type of lizard in the world. They will go after other animals as well as after humans. They have amazing power. However, they also have astonishing speed despite their size. They can climb which is very unusual for a lizard that is so large. You may find them near bodies of water and they even go into the water to get prey. Their bodies are designed to make them natural swimmers.

Habitat

The habitat of this large lizard can be anything from a dry tropical forest to a savanna or a deciduous monsoon forest. No matter where they live, Komodo dragons like extreme heat. It is typically around 35 degrees Celsius and 70 percent humidity on the Indonesian islands, according to the San Diego Zoo.

The Komodo dragon has dual-purpose houses. To keep warm at night, they make or find burrows to nest. During the day the same burrow keeps them cool.

Distribution

Komodos are very rare and are only found in the wild on five islands: the Lesser Sunda Islands of Komodo, Rinca, Gili Montang and Gili Dasami, all within the Komodo National Park, and the island of Flores, where the Komodo roam freely.

Food

The Komodo dragons are carnivorous animals, which means they eat meat. They are so ferocious hunters that they can eat very large prey, such as large water buffalo, deer, carrion, pigs and even humans. They will also eat their own species that are smaller. They can eat 80 percent of their body weight in a single meal.

The Komodo dragon has a unique way of killing its prey. First, it gets up and strikes the prey with its massive front legs. They then use their sharp, serrated teeth, which are very much like a shark's, to rip their prey to death. If the prey escapes, it will die within 24 hours of the blood poisoning because Komodo dragons saliva contains 50 strains of bacteria. With its fantastic sense of smell, the Komodo dragon will find the dead animal and finish its meal.

According to the San Diego Zoo, while recent research suggests that Komodo dragons are poisonous due to their saliva, more study is needed before reaching such a conclusion.

Komodo dragons are found on very localized small islands.

Predators

Due to their size, strength, and the venom they produce, the Komodo dragon has no natural predators. However, they have often been caught and killed by humans. There is a strong hatred towards this species of lizards among many of the villagers who live around it. They don't want to risk having them or someone they know killed by one.

The emotion of the hunt is very strong for any athlete. They often travel to remote areas to hunt this lizard. Villagers will accept money in exchange for helping them do so. Despite the fact that this hunt is illegal, it continues. There simply isn't enough law enforcement to prevent it.

Some villagers will actually hunt this lizard in order to offer meat for their families. The larger size of this species means that it can provide a lot of meat. These folks have a good idea where to look for them and those eggs are big enough to make a tasty meal too.

Reproduction

Komodo dragons are generally solitary outside of the mating season. Males maintain and defend a territory and patrol up to 2 kilometers per day. Komodo dragons mate between May and August and females lay about 30 eggs each in September.

Komodo dragon mothers will also build decoy nests to confuse predators and keep their eggs safe. It will then incubate the grapefruit-sized eggs for about three months. This group of eggs is called a clutch.

Female Komodo dragons can have virgin births. This means that they do not need a male to fertilize an egg for it to hatch. Creating offspring without the help of the opposite gender is called asexual reproduction. Komodo dragons can reproduce through sexual and asexual reproduction.

There is no evidence that parents care about newborns from Komodos, according to the Smithsonian Zoo. At birth, baby dragons are only 30 inches long. As soon as they hatch, the young flee and climb trees to avoid being eaten by their mother or other Komodos. When they are 4 years old and about 1,2 m tall, the young Komodo will come down and live on the ground, according to the San Diego Zoo. Those who survive can expect a long life. A Komodo can live for more than 30 years.

The Komodo dragon lives for approximately 50 years.

State of conservation

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, the Komodo dragon is not endangered, but is considered vulnerable. The World Foundation for Animals estimates the number of Komodos in the wild at 6.000. This population is divided between the islands, with 1.700 in Komodo, 1.300 in Rinca, 100 in Gili Motang, and around 2.000 in Flores. They are protected within the Komodo National Park.

Komodo dragons were first born outside of Indonesia in 1992 at the Smithsonian Zoo, according to a zoo fact sheet. The zoo reports that four clutches have hatched and that 55 hatchlings now live in more than 30 zoos around the world.

Evolution

The Komodo dragon is believed to have evolved from large reptiles of the genus Varanus that walked the Earth more than 40 (it said 200) million years ago. Many experts are curious as to why this is one of the only two species that produces poison. Could they be more closely related to snakes than other lizards?

Much about the process of evolution remains a mystery, but there are many theories. It is believed that the Komodo dragon used to be several times larger. Over time it is possible that they adapted and that is why they continued to live as the dinosaurs became extinct.

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