Basic Komodo dragon facts:
The Komodo dragon is the largest and most powerful living lizard.
It has a long, flat head with a rounded snout, scaly skin, bowed legs and a huge, muscular tail.
Ferocious hunters and part of the monitor lizard family, Komodos can grow to a length of 10 feet (3 meters) and can weigh as much as 200 pounds (90 kilograms). They may live about 30 years in the wild, and can climb trees and swim.
Komodo dragons will eat just about anything and they often attack deer, goats, pigs, dogs and, occasionally, humans. They also sometimes attack one another.
The lizard uses its long, forked tongue, with which it can both smell and taste, to sense chemicals in the air. While hunting, Komodo dragons rely on camouflage and patience, lying in wait for passing prey. When a victim ambles by, the dragon springs, using its powerful legs, sharp claws and 60 serrated, shark-like teeth to eviscerate its prey.
Animals that escape the jaws of a Komodo will only feel lucky briefly. Dragon saliva teems with over 50 strains of bacteria, and within 24 hours, the stricken creature usually dies of blood poisoning. Dragons calmly follow an escapee for miles as the bacteria takes effect, using their keen sense of smell to hone in on the corpse. A dragon can eat a whopping 80 percent of its body weight in a single feeding.
Komodo dragons mate between May and August and females lay about 30 eggs each in September. The hatchlings are small and defenseless — they weigh less than 3.5 ounces (100 grams) are only 16 inches long (40 centimeters). They face a tough world: Young Komodo dragons spend much of their first few years in trees, where they are relatively safe from predators, including cannibalistic adults Komodos, who make juvenile dragons 10 percent of their diet.
The lizards are generally solitary outside of mating season. Males maintain and defend a territory and patrol up to 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) per day. Dragons maintain burrows within their territorial ranges and occasionally males will swim from island to island over long distances. They regulate their body temperature by using a burrow.
Komodo dragon habitat
While a few Komodo Dragons live in zoos, the lizard's native habitat is the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Flores, Padar and some of the Lesser Sunda islands (part of the Malay Archipelago).
Conservation Status: Vulnerable
Komodo dragons are endangered due in part to their limited range. They have been hunted (legally and illegally) over the years, but not to the extent of wiping out the population.
In Indonesia, Komodo National Park, established in 1980, has helped protect the dragons. There are approximately 4,000 to 5,000 living Komodo dragons in the wild, but conservationists are concerned that there may be only 350 breeding females.
Volcanic activity, earthquakes, loss of habitat, fire, loss of prey due to poaching, tourism and illegal poaching of the dragons themselves have all contributed to the lizard's vulnerable status.
Odd facts about Komodo dragons:
The lizards can see objects as far away as 300 meters (about 980 feet), so vision does play a role in hunting, but they mainly use their keen sense of smell to locate and hunt down prey.
Strangely, the Komodo bite is not deadly to another Komodo. Dragons wounded in battle with their comrades appear to be unaffected by the otherwise deadly venom. Scientists are searching for antibodies in Komodo blood that may be responsible for saving them.
After a meal, the lizard's stomach expands easily. Komodos can throw up the contents of their stomachs when threatened to reduce their weight in order to flee.
Komodos eat much more efficiently than other large carnivores, forsaking only about 12 percent of the prey — lions, in comparison, leave 30 to 35 percent of a prey animal behind. Komodos eat bones, hooves and swaths of hide.
More komodo dragon info
- National Zoo Fact Sheet – Komodo Dragons
- IUCN Red List: Komodo Dragon
- National Geographic: Komodo Dragon
- American Museum of Natural History: Komodo Dragons
- Honolulu Zoo – Komodo Dragon