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Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis)

komodo dragon

The Komodo Dragon

The Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis), also known as the ora or the Komodo Monitor Lizard, is the largest living lizard on the planet with its roots going all the way back to the dinosaurs. Because of their large size and fierce personalities, Komodo Dragons are surrounded by myth and legend. They are currently listed as endangered with their greatest enemy being volcanic activity and fire, but they are also threatened by forest clearing and tourism.

Komodo Dragons are found on small islands, including Komodo, in Indonesia. The Komodo National Park was created to protect these species, and it covers the islands of Komodo, Gili, Montang, Rinca, and Padar. They are also found on the Flores Island, but it doesnít fall into the protected area. Their natural home is among the rocks or in tropical rainforest areas. They are very solitary animals, sleeping in underground lizard-sized burrows overnight. Males are very territorial and fiercely defend their claimed territories. The only time a male dragon will let another male cross his territory is when hunting - they often share feeding areas. There are estimated to be 3000-5000 dragons currently living on these islands.

Komodo Dragons are very large, sometimes weighing as much as 300 pounds (135 kg) and reaching staggering lengths of up to 10 feet (3 meters). The female dragons are smaller, reaching maximum lengths of 8 feet (2.4 meters) and weighing in at 150 pounds (68 kg). Komodo Dragons are low to the ground with short, bowed legs. They are covered with grayish-brown, scaly skin with a very long tail. They have jagged, serrated teeth, positioned much like a sharkís, and a yellow tongue.

Did You Know: Many of the stories of mythological dragons may have come from the Komodo Dragon? Their yellow tongues and foul breath gave the impression that they could breathe fire and could be the inspiration for our own stories of fire-breathing dragons.

Komodo Dragons are carnivores, carrion-feeders, and cannibals. They donít seem to be particularly picky with what they eat, and it is estimated that 10% of a Komodo Dragonís diet consists of other dragons. They can move very quickly when they need to and are very good swimmers. They will bite their prey and then let the poisonous bacteria in their mouths take over, slowing the animal to the point that it cannot run any longer. The Komodo Dragon will track the animal, using their enhanced sense of smell and tongue, and then will eat once the animal is subdued. They will eat dead animals when they find them, keeping their islands tidy.

Komodo Dragons reach sexual maturity at about 5-10 years old, and they are reported to live over 50 years. The mother dragon will make a nest to lay eggs into, and she can lay over 30 at a time. It takes about nine months until the eggs hatch, and then the young dragons will scurry into the treetops where they will live until they are big enough to take care of themselves. This keeps them from being hunted and eaten, mostly by other Komodo Dragons. They usually live up in the trees until they are about four years old.

Further Information on the Komodo Dragon:

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Monitor (lizard). Encarta Encyclopedia, © 2000.
Komodo Dragon. Accessed on August 14, 2004 at http://www.honoluluzoo.org/komodo_dragon.htm.
AMNH - Expedition: Endangered. Accessed on August 14, 2004 at http://www.amnh.org/nationalcenter/Endangered/ora/ora.html.
Animal Bytes: Komodo Dragon. Accessed on August 14, 2004 at http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-komodo.html.

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