What creature is named after a fictional animal, has venomous properties, and is the ruler of five islands?
The Komodo Dragon!
The Top Lizard
Komodo Dragons are actually lizards (despite their dragon-like features). But not just any lizard- the biggest lizard on Earth! They can reach the size of a small car, and their average weight is 154 pounds. They have even been observed to weigh as much as a panda bear- up to 295 pounds!
Komodo Dragons are the top predators on the five Indonesian islands they inhabit. They do not exist anywhere else in the world. These lizards’ appetites are enormous (like everything else about them), which means they need to eat. A lot. They eat an array of prey, including carcasses and human corpses, deer, pigs, water buffalo, and young Komodo Dragons.
On top of Komodo Dragons’ huge bodies, and a tail strong enough to take down a deer, these reptiles can climb, run fast, and swim. They can run about 12 miles per hour and can swim miles offshore- enough to reach the other islands they inhabit.
With all these skills, they can compete in their own triathlon!
The Top Hunter
Camouflage, venom, smell, and patience. These are the ingredients of a Komodo Dragon’s successful hunt.
The massive lizards wait in bushes or tall grasses until they spot potential prey. Once the prey is identified, Komodo Dragons leap onto the victim and hang onto them with their large, sharp claws until the prey is subdued.
If this method does not prove successful, Komodo Dragons have a Plan B. When they bite down, they excrete venom through special ducts located inside their mouths. This venom takes up to 24 hours to take effect. If a prey does manage to fight off the Komodo Dragons’ ambush, they will eventually die from this poison. Komodo Dragons know this, so they patiently stalk their prey until the victim finally collapses, and that is when they finish their meal.
If the Komodo Dragon loses a visual on the prey, which is possible considering the reptile’s poor hearing and vision, they can easily find a corpse using their keen sense of smell. Like other reptiles, Komodo Dragons smell through their forked tongues rather than through their noses. They are able to identify a meal from 2.5 miles away.
How are human activities impacting Komodo Dragons?
Since Komodo Dragons are only found on five islands, their population size is smaller compared to other reptiles. Poaching has led to a decline in eggs and egg-laying females which poses a problem for future Komodo Dragon generations. Climate change may lead to a decline in their habitat due to the islands’ susceptibility to flooding.
Thankfully these creatures are protected, and conservationists are beginning to study them more thoroughly in hopes of finding ways to ensure this magnificent species’ survival.