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Komodo Dragon - Life Cycle

 

 

Life Cycle

 

Baby dragons

Female Komodo dragons lay an average of about 20 to 25 soft, leathery eggs in September. The eggs are about twice the size of a chicken egg, weighing in at about 125g. The eggs incubate for about 8 - 9 months during the wet season. About a quarter to a fifth of each clutch fails to hatch. Wild boar or other Komodos may eat whole clutches. Although parental care after egg laying is minimal or non-existent, in some cases it appears that the female is guarding the nest site prior to egg-laying, protecting it from other females. While some females lay the whole clutch of eggs over a few hours, others are more sporadic and can take several weeks. This nest guarding behavior could be associated with the slower egg laying.

The eggs are laid in depressions dug on hill slopes or pilfered nests of the orange-legged scrub fowl. This bird is about the size of a chicken, and instead of sitting on the eggs to incubate them, it lays them in mounds of rotting vegetation. As the vegetation rots, it creates warmth, which incubates the egg. The Komodo dragon lays its eggs much deeper than the bird does, about 1.5-1.65m from the surface. This is because the temperature needed by the Komodo dragon eggs is lower than that required by the birds. Old, disused nests are preferred, as they no longer generate internal heat.

 

Little Komodos

Komodo hatchlings are on average about 30 - 40 cm long and weigh about 100 grams at birth. They spend their first year in trees. Thus, unlike the mud-colored adults, hatchlings are attractively marked with yellow spots and lines which camouflage them on bark and among branches. They have a long, thin body and a proportionally longer tail than that of adults, an adaptation to living in trees. Living in trees not only keeps them from predators like adult Komodos, which are too heavy to climb trees, but it also avoids competing for the same scarce food resources as adults. Babies start with insects and small reptiles, graduating to small mammals and birds as juveniles. In about a year, they reach about 1m long and then live permanently on the ground. They reach maturity at about 5 years, by which time they can weigh 25kg and reach 2m long.

Social Komodo

Komodo dragons are solitary animals, although they often congregate at large kills. They either have a fixed home range or are wanderers. Komodos start life as wanderers until they find a home range although some may remain as wanderers. The size of the animal's home range depends mostly on food availability and may be up to 500ha. Territories of dragons may overlap each other. A dragon may travel anywhere from 1.8 - 10km a day in search of food, as well as other Komodos.

When the dragons do meet, like around carcasses, social order is quickly established. Chemical signals probably allow individual animals to recognize each other. Visual signals are used around kills. Smaller dragons signal submission by pacing in a circle in a stately ritualized walk with their tails straight out, throwing their bodies side to side in exaggerated convulsions.

If the presence of a larger dragon itself does not intimidate, it adopts a threat posture. As it hisses, it lowers its head holding it at an angle, arching and enlarging the neck, and arching the back and tail. It moves in a slow and stiff legged way. If all this doesn't work, it lashes out with its tail. Attacks can lead to serious wounds or death. Dragons are protected by thick, chain-mail like skin.

 

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