The Komodo dragon is the largest true lizard that is alive today. Related to monitor lizards, they can reach up to 3 metres in length. Also known as the Komodo monitor, the Komodo dragon lives exclusively on the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rintja, padar, Flores, Gili Mota and Owada Sami to the north of Australia.
These small islands are all quite hilly and sparsely covered in rainforest. However, Komodo Dragons prefer hot, dry places, and typically live in dry, open grassland, savannah and tropical forest at low elevations.
As an ectotherm - an animal which gains its heat from its surroundings, it is most active in the day, although it exhibits some nocturnal activity. Komodo dragons are solitary, coming together only to breed and eat.
In common with most other reptiles, the Komodo dragon sleeps through the night, resting among tree roots or in sheltered caves or hollows among rocks. As the sun rises and and warms its blood, the Komodo dragon becomes more active and sets out in search for food.
Despite its great size, the Komodo dragon is an agile creature and moves quickly over the ground. It can out-pace a human in thick cover.
The Komodo dragon can sometimes take to the trees where it grips the the trunk and branches with its strong claws. The Komodo dragon likes water, and swims with forceful strokes of its long tail.
Despite being a solitary creature most of the time, when two Komodo dragons do meet, they follow an established pecking order, with a smaller dragon giving precedence to a larger and more aggressive one.
Komodo dragon facts
1. An adult Komodo dragon can eat most of a deer in one go. After which it will then sleep for a week in order to digest it.
2. A young Komodo dragon emerges from a leathery, goose-sized egg as a small, but fully formed version of its parents.
3. The Komodo dragon was officially named in 1912. earlier reports had described it simply as a 'land crocodile'.
4. The Komodo dragon's tail accounts for half of its total length.
5. Like a snake, a Komodo dragon is able to 'taste' the air with its forked tongue.
6. As a punishment, criminals were once taken to the Komodo Islands, where they were left to defend themselves against the dragon.
7. The Komodo dragon is the largest living lizard. The largest verified specimen reached a length of over three metres and weighed 166 kg.
8. The Komodo dragon can run briefly at speeds up to 13 mph.
9. Komodo dragons are venomous and is the only lizard species to hunt and kill prey larger than itself. Dragons kill large prey by rushing from ambush along game trails, biting at legs and tendons, maiming the animal and then trailing the injured animal until the venom or septicaemia sets in and kills it.
10. Komodo dragons sometimes eat their own young. To avoid being eaten, baby Komodo dragons hide up in trees or may even roll in faecal matter to assume a scent the adults avoid.
Komodo dragon reproduction
The larger and better placed the territory, the more likely that a female will wander into it.
When a female does appear, the victorious male licks her head and neck, before clambering onto her back and gently bite her.
Five weeks after mating, the female digs a hole in the warm, moist soil in which to lay her eggs. the number of eggs laid increases with the age and size of the female.
About eight months later, the juvenile Komodo dragons hatch and struggle to the surface. barely 20 cm long, the young lizard is now at its most vulnerable. Why? Because almost every predator on the island - from snakes and birds of prey, to larger Komodo dragons - will happily snap it up!
Those that survive will grow quickly. After three years the Komodo dragon is nearly 1 metre long, and more than a match for all predators - except for larger Komodo dragons. After five years it will reach a length of about 2 metres and will at this point begin to fill out become thick and heavy bodied.
After about 6 years, both male and female Komodo dragons will reach full maturity and be able to breed themselves.
Komodo Dragon Conservation
However, there are concerns that there may presently be only 350 breeding females. To address these concerns, the Komodo National Park was founded in 1980 to protect Komodo dragon populations on islands including Komodo, Rinca, and Padar. Later, the Wae Wuul and Wolo Tado Reserves were opened on Flores to aid with Komodo dragon conservation.
For related articles click onto the following links:
KOMODO DRAGON FACTS
THE JESUS CHRIST LIZARD
THE LEAF-TAILED GECKO
WHAT DO KOMODO DRAGONS EAT?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ALLIGATORS AND CROCODILES