Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon
Pronounced: Vayr-a-nus kom-o-do-en-sis Order: Squamata
Kingdom: Animalia Family: Varanidae
Phylum: Reptilia Genus: Varanus
Class: Mammalia Species: Komodoensis

Found on Komodo and a few of the Lesser Sundra Islands of Indonesia, this is the largest living lizard on Earth, growing up to 300 pounds (135 kg) and 10 feet (3 m) long. They evolved about 40 million years ago.
They live in low, dry forests or savannah areas of these islands. They build burrows in the ground which help them to regulate their body temperatures – they can go into the shade to cool off or stay in the sun to warm up. Adults can swim from island to island, but they rarely do.

Females will dig a nest with her powerful claws or use the nest of a Brush Turkey in which to lay its eggs. She lays about 30 eggs. When they hatch, young Komodos make a dash for the nearest tree to avoid being eaten by other Komodo Dragons. They will stay in the trees for up to a year before they are large enough to take their chances on the ground. Males are larger than females, but coloration is similar. They can live up to 50 years in the wild.

Despite their size, they prefer to wait for prey to come near them, then they lunge with powerful legs and bite, with sharp teeth and strong jaws. They have about 60 teeth, which fall out occasionally when they are biting bones and meat, but which they can regrow. They do not inject a toxin into their prey, but their saliva is so full of bacteria and viruses that their prey, if it escapes their initial bite, usually dies from blood poisoning soon after being bitten. They will eat anything that moves – from mice to deer, pigs, water buffalo, carrion, other Komodo dragons, and even humans. They can eat up to 80% of their own weight in a single meal. Their excellent sense of smell helps them find prey up to 5 miles away. Although hunting is usually done alone, a meal may be shared with many Dragons.

They are endangered due to volcanic activity on their islands as well as urbanization and hunting. They are protected as an eco-tourism attraction, but there are still only an estimated 3 – 5000 individuals left.


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