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Animal Profile: Komodo  Dragon

The largest lizards to roam the earth, Komodo Dragons are known for their strength, speed, and predatory dominance in their habitat. Read on for more facts about the powerful Komodo Dragon!

These creatures' large size is attributed to the fact that no other carnivorous animals exist on the Indonesian islands they inhabit, hence allowing Komodo Dragons to completely dominate their local ecosystems. Although they are associated with Indonesia, the dragons actually originated in Australia, with fossil records showing that the Komodo Dragons made their way to the island of Flores around 90,000 years ago.

Flickr | Gary UllahThese muscular creatures will eat almost anything, including deer, pigs and even large creatures such as water buffalos and humans, although the latter case is usually only a defensive mechanism and has rarely occurred. A Komodo’s hunting skill lies in its stealth and camouflage, waiting until its prey walks past. It will then use its powerful legs to spring on its victim and tear it apart with its sharp claws and shark-like teeth. Despite their bulky stature the creatures’ immense muscle mass allows them to reach up to 12 miles an hour during an explosive sprint. Even if a creature is lucky enough to escape a Komodo’s grip, the predator possesses a fool proof back-up plan: a dragon’s saliva holds about 50 strands of bacteria that will eventually cause its victim to die of blood poisoning. It’s an easy game for Komodo Dragons – once they have killed their prey, they can eat up to 80% of their own body weight in a single serving! After eating, the dragons will usually lounge in the sun, during which the heat helps their digestion process. They will also regurgitate a post-meal gastric pellet, which contains bits of prey that cannot be digested, such as horns and teeth.  Because of their enormous appetite and relatively slow metabolism, the creatures can live off one meal a month.

Being an ectotherm, Komodo Dragons are usually active during the day, although they are occasionally observed in nocturnal activity. They are solitary creatures who only come together to eat or breed – interestingly, female dragons can breed asexually if no male is present. If there is a lack of prey, grown Komodo dragons will feed on their young offspring. This is why baby dragons tend to spend much of their time in trees in order to avoid their larger counterparts, or roll in faecal material in order to give off a scent that the older dragons are programmed to avoid. While all this may cast a very negative light on the Komodo Dragon’s behaviour, it’s not all bad – the creatures have also been known to engage in play, interacting with objects such as Frisbees and blankets without signs of aggression or food motivation.

Flickr | JohnBWilsonSadly, the Komodo Dragons ecological dominance has not saved it from being listed as vulnerable by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This is mostly due to destructive and invasive factors such as volcanic activity, earthquakes, loss of habitat, tourism and illegal poaching. They are now protected by Indonesian law, whilst a Komodo national park was founded within the Lesser Sunda Islands in order to aid their protection.  

By Laura Hallensleben - Online Journalism Intern

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