Behold the Living Dragon, the Komodo Dragon. Living on a tiny island called Komodo, the ancestors of these giant lizards were walking the earth in prehistoric times as long as 40 - 60 million years ago. While they can not fly or breathe fire, Komodo Dragons can grow up to ten feet long and weigh as much as four hundred pounds. Armed with razor sharp teeth, the real-life dragon is capable of swalowing up to 80% of its own body weight in one meal. Read on to learn more about the Komodo Dragon.
"[He] approached step by step, the great bulk of his body held clear of the ground...the black beady eyes flashing in their deep sockets... A hoary customer, black as dead lava... Occasionally, ..he stopped and raised himself on those iron forelegs to look around. ...
Nearer he came and nearer... with grim head swinging heavily from side to side. I remembered all the fantastic stories I had heard of these creatures attacking both men and horses, and was in no way reassured. Now listening to the short hissing that came like a gust of evil wind, and observing the action of that darting, snake-like tongue, that seemed to sense the very fear that held me, I was affected in a manner not easy to relate. ...
The creature was now less than five yards away, and its subtle reptilian smell was in my nostrils. Too late to leap from hiding-if I did, he would surely spring upon me, rendering me and devouring my remains as he had devoured the dead deer. Better to take my chances where I lay, so I closed my eyes and waited."
William Douglas Burden (1927)
Surrounded by swift currents, and man-eating sharks, the Komodo Island is located in the middle of 17,000 islands between the Pacific and Indian oceans, known as Indonesia. Read More about the Komodo Island
Size: Males are 2.1m long, females 1.8m long; weight about 70kg. There are records of a captive male dragon growing to 3.13 meters and weighing 166 kg.
Lifespan: 20-40 years.
Babies: 20-25 eggs are laid, incubation 8-9 months. Maturity in 5 years.
Social life: Solitary, although several may gather at a large carcass.
Distribution: The Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca and Flores, which lie about 450km east of Bali. The Komodo dragons have the smallest range of any of the world's large carnivores.
Habitat: Dry rocky areas.
Classification: It is a member of the monitor lizard family Varanidae, which today have only one genus Varanus . The residents of the island of Komodo call it the ora , buaya darat (land crocodile), mbou and biawak raksasa (giant monitor).
The longest lizards: The Komodo may be the largest but it is not the longest. The longest lizard is a monitor lizard found in New Guinea, the Varanus salvadorii . Known as the Papua monitor, this is the longest lizard, measuring up to 4.75 meters. The bulk of the length, about 70%, is made up of a long, whip like tail which helps the lizard balance in trees.
The Komodo dragon is totally carnivorous and eat anything they can overpower. While smaller Komodos have to be content with eggs, lizards, snakes and rodents, the larger ones hunt deer, wild pigs, water buffalos and even horses. Komodo dragons are cannibalistic, and adults will prey on young ones as well as old and sick dragons. Other dragons may make up to 10% of a dragon's diet. There are few verified accounts of dragons actually attacking living humans to eat them, although like any other animal, they will attack in self-defense.
The mating habits of the dragons are not fully understood. The mating season for dragons is in the middle of the dry season from May to November. As the dragons are normally solitary and territorial, courtship often occurs when the dragons gather at a carcass to feed. Large evenly matched males compete in fierce battles for the attention of the females . Reminescent of snakes, they wrestle upright, using their tails for support, grabbing each other with their front limbs, snapping at each other, attempting to throw their opponent to the ground. The loser is the first one to fall. Blood is usually drawn in these battles. The loser either runs off or lies prone and motionless.
The 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, it 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 behaviour could be associated with the slower egg laying.