Komodo Dragon / Komodo Monitor / Ora (Varanus komodoensis)
Order: Squamata, Family: Varanidae
Male Komodo dragons typically grow to 7 to 9 feet in length and weigh approximately 200 pounds. However, they can weigh more than 350 pounds and grow to over 10 feet long; females grow to 6 to 8 feet.
Females are olive-brown with yellow patches on the throat; males are much larger and vary in color from dark gray to brick red; young are colorful, with hues of yellow, green and white banding and dots on a dark background.
The Komodo's tail makes up half its body length. It has a long neck; strong, sharp claws; 52 razor-sharp serrated teeth; and a long, yellow tongue.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
- Male Komodo dragons typically grow to 7 to 9 feet in length and weigh approximately 200 pounds. However, they can weigh more than 350 pounds and grow to over 10 feet long; females grow to 6 to 8 feet.
- Females are olive-brown with yellow patches on the throat; males are much larger and vary in color from dark gray to brick red; young are colorful, with hues of yellow, green and white banding and dots on a dark background.
- The Komodo's tail makes up half its body length. It has a long neck; strong, sharp claws; 52 razor-sharp serrated teeth; and a long, yellow tongue.
- Komodo dragons inhabit three small Indonesian islands: Komodo, Rinca and the western end of Flores.
- They live in hot and dry areas, preferring dry open grasslands, savannas and tropical forests at lower elevations.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
- An opportunistic feeder, the Komodo eats deer, goats, wild pigs, macaques, rats and dogs. It also digs up the eggs of mound birds — and will occasionally eat other dragons.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
- The Komodo is active during the day and night; as the sun warms its body temperature, its activity level increases.
- Solitary reptiles, Komodos come together only to breed and sometimes to feed on carrion.
- They're good swimmers.
- The Komodo has a rudimentary sense of hearing; it uses its eyes to locate prey and finds it difficult to see stationary animals.
- It hunts by ambush and seizes prey with its jaws, ripping out the intestines; bacteria in its mouth infects the prey when bitten, usually causing death by blood poisoning — if prey escapes, it will usually die within one to two days. Komodos can track down injured prey for up to four miles.
- When eating, the Komodo takes huge chunks of flesh from the prey's body, using its forefeet to hold it down, then swallows flesh without chewing.
- Males follow a strict hierarchy when feeding; the strongest male eats first and does not allow others to eat until he finishes. Females, however, feed together without any interference.
- For shelter, Komodos dig burrows that measure 3 to 6 feet wide.
- They are sexually dimorphic.
- Males are territorial.
- The Komodo reaches sexual maturity between 3 to 5 years of age.
- Komodos mate between June and July. Males in competition over a female engage in "boxing matches"; during copulation, the male usually scratches the back of the female's neck with his claws, occasionally drawing blood.
- Females dig a hole approximately 40 days after mating and bury up to 25 eggs in moist earth. Incubation lasts six to eight weeks.
- Young dragons are left to fend for themselves, and are sometimes eaten by their parents, who forget they are their young. Komodos have the ability to climb at an early age, and often survive by living in trees and eating insects. They can also move surprisingly quickly, which helps protect them from predators. Their camouflage coloration, slender bodies, long tails and sharp claws help them adapt well to arboreal life.
- Komodos live approximately 25 years.
VI. ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT:
- At night, the Komodo uses its tongue, which contains highly sensitive taste and scent stimuli, to navigate in the dark.
- It can run up to 35 miles per hour for short distances.
- The Komodo has an excellent sense of smell and can detect the scent of rotting meat from five miles away.
VII. POPULATION STATUS:
- Young dragons are prey for birds, snakes and other Komodos.
- The Komodo weeds out sick and weak animals. Also, other predators feed on prey injured by Komodos.
- They are important carrion feeders.
- Komodos provide scientists with an important source of research for saliva study.
VIII. MORE KOMODO DRAGON FACTS:
- Legally endangered, the island-living Komodo is a more likely candidate for extinction than mainland species due to the increased invulnerability for disease, human encroachment, deforestation, competition for food and natural disasters inherent to its limited range.
- Though the Komodo population is stable at 5,000 individuals, scientists are concerned that only 350 are breeding females.
- The Komodo is the largest and most powerful lizard on Earth.
- It was discovered in 1912.
- It is the largest predator on the islands in which it lives — a Komodo can even hunt and overcome a 1,000-pound water buffalo.
- Komodos have been known to eat humans on occasion.
- Scientists have identified over 15 strains of bacteria in the Komodo dragon's saliva.
- Komodos can devour 80 percent of their body weight in one meal (that's the same as a 200-pound human consuming 160 pounds of food in one sitting).