Komodo Dragon

Komodo Dragon

Reptiles

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: Komodo dragon
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Reptilia
ORDER: Squamata
FAMILY: Varanidae
GENUS SPECIES: Varanus (monitor lizard) komodoensis (belonging to Komodo)

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: Terrestrial multi-hued lizard with dark yellow, green, brown, and gray scales in years 1-5; adults generally are earthen red to gray and nearly black in various species; have short, powerful limbs and tail; sharp claws
SIZE:  
MALE 2.5-3.18 m (8½-10½ ft) total adult body length
FEMALE 1.8-1.96 m (6-6½ ft.) total adult body length
WEIGHT: 164.25 kg (365 lbs) maximum
MALE 90.9-135 kg (200-300 lb.)
FEMALE 34-56.8 kg (75-125 lb.)
DIET: Carnivore; boar, deer, water buffalo, civet cats, rats, birds, fish, snakes, chickens, goats, eggs, carrion; up to 10% of adult diets consist of smaller komodo dragons
INCUBATION: 8-8.5 months
CLUTCH SIZE 2-30 eggs
SEXUAL MATURITY: 5-7 years
LIFE SPAN: 15-20 years; possibly longer
RANGE: Sunda Islands of Indonesia
HABITAT: Mainly forest and savanna, but also mangrove swamps, open beach, steppe, and thickets
POPULATION: GLOBAL No data
STATUS: IUCN Endangered
CITES Appendix I; numbers in decline due to habitat destruction
USFWS Endangered

FUN FACTS

1. Komodo dragons are found on only four islands in Indonesia with a total area approximately the size of Rhode Island!
2. After hatching, the young immediately climb trees to avoid being eaten by their cannibalistic elders.
3. Komodos are opportunistic carnivores whose saliva contains several strains of virulent bacteria which in turn causes severe infection that can lead to blood poisoning and death in 1-5 days.
4. Komodos have been known to dig up freshly buried humans and eat the remains. Their sense of smell is so keen they can detect the scent of carrion 5 miles away! They have also been known to hunt in large packs and bring down large prey.
5. They are excellent swimmers and can cross great distances and strong ocean currents just to raid neighboring islands where the only available food source is domestic animals.
6. Larger dragons eat first, while smaller dragons get what's left over. They have been known to eat up to 80% of their body weight in one meal.
7. They communicate through body language: hissing loudly and inflating their throat. At times, their tails are used to swipe the feet out from under prey.
8. Fat stored in their tail can provide dragons with metabolic water in times of drought, enabling them to go for 1 to 1½ months without eating or drinking.
9. These members of the lizard family Varanus, have a forked tongue that collects scent molecules for analysis. Molecular analysis is conducted by the Jacobson's Organ in the top of the mouth.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

The komodo dragon has the smallest range of any of the world's large carnivores, found only on the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Gili Motang, and Flores. It is also the primary predator of these islands and therefore serves a vital role in nature. Zoologists have shown that island species are more likely candidates for extinction than mainland species because of increased vulnerability to disease, competitors, and natural disasters. On the islands, threats from farmers clearing land for agriculture and killing komodos to protect livestock add to the plight of the dragons. A conservation program is an essential element to the survival of this species.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Auffenberg, Walter. The Behavioral Ecology of the Komodo Monitor. University Press of Florida, University of Florida, Gainesville. 1981.

Lutz and Lutz. Komodo, The Living Dragon. Dimi Press. Salem, Oregon. 1997.

Walsh, T., R. Rosscoe, and G.F. Birchard. "Dragon Tales: The History, Husbandry, and Breeding of Komodo Monitors at the National Zoological Park". Vivarium 4(6):23-26. 1993.