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Komodo Dragon

Appearance

The Komodo dragon is the world’s largest living lizard. They grows to 3 metres (9.8ft), on average for males and 2 metres (6.6ft) for females. Most Komodo dragons weigh in the region of 70kg (154lbs). The largest Komodo ever to have been recorded was 166kg (366lbs) and measured 3.1m (10.8ft) long.

The Komodo dragon has skin which contains armoured scales. These scales contain osteoderms which are small pieces of bone. The osteoderms function as a sort of natural chain mail. The Komodo’s tongue is yellow and has a large fork in its end. They have a grey through to a clay colouring.

Diet

Komodo dragons are entirely carnivorous. Komodo’s are opportunistic feeders finding carrion to eat where possible. Adult Komodo’s can take down prey as large as a deer or a boar. They will eat one of these large prey items once a month and then supplement their diet with smaller animals (i.e. Rats). Smaller prey items are swallowed whole. These animals can achieve this thanks to their ability to loosen their jaw and having a expendable stomach. Digestion takes 26 hours if the body is maintained at its optimal body temperature. It may last up to 5 days though if it is a cold part of the year.

Hatchlings will eat exclusively invertebrates such as beetles and grasshoppers. When they grow up into small Komodos they begin to eat smaller lizards, some birds and eggs as well as insects. A medium Komodo will expand its diet to include geckoes, small snakes, skinks and rodents such as shrews and rats.

komodo dragon

Scientific Name

Varanus komodoensis

Conservation Status

Vulnerable

Length

Males 3m (9.8ft)

Females 2m (6.6ft)

Weight

70kg (154lbs)

Lifespan

50 years

Diet

Carnivorous

Range

Komodo dragons are restricted to just 4 islands in Indonesia. These are Komodo, Flores, Rinca and Giili Motang.

Habitat

The komodo dragon prefers to live in savannas, open grasslands and also tropical rainforests. They favour hot and dry habitats.

Reproduction

Mating will usually take place between May and October but has been observed as early as January in some zoos and in the wild.

Komodo’s have no territories and mating will usually take place near carrion. Their eggs are laid in nests which they dig themselves or steal off mound building birds (megapodes). 1-30 eggs will be laid in one clutch around July to September. Eggs can incubate for anywhere from 2.5-8 months. Incubation in captivity usually lasts 220 days. In the wild the length of this process can depend on temperature and soil conditions. The young are born in April and May and hatch weighing 80 grams (2.8oz) or so.

Komodo dragons reach sexual maturity between 5 and 7 years. Females stop reproducing around 30 years of age.


Komodo dragons have also been found to be cable of parthenogenesis. This means the females can lay fertile eggs without the presence of a male. These eggs will all hatch to be males though. It is believed that this would allow Komodo’s to establish on new islands.

Behavior

The Komodo dragon spends the first few years of its life in the trees. This protects them from being eaten by other predator’s especially cannibalistic adult Komodo’s. They need to spend the morning basking as they are ectotherms. This means that they cannot regulate their own body temperature. They hide during the warmest portions during the day and enjoy hunting in the late afternoon. Their nights are spent sleeping in burrows which they dig.

Like most monitor species they are very effective swimmers and can use this as an efficient means of escape from predation. The longest known distance swum by a komodo was ¼ mile( 450m). They will spend on average 26 days on the hunt of a prey item in between feeds. After this they rest for 5-6 days while digestion takes place. They use vocalisations ,mainly a hiss. This is used as a defensive signal and is used during feeding, attacks and by females when mating.

Quick facts

The Komodo dragon is also known as the Komodo monitor and is known as buaya darat (land crocodile) and also biawak raksasa (giant monitor) by the locals of Komodo Island.

The Komodo dragon was first described to the Western World in 1910.

References

World Conservation Monitoring Centre. 1996. Varanus komodoensis. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: e.T22884A9396736. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.1996.RLTS.T22884A9396736.en. Downloaded on 26 April 2020.

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