Komodo Dragon

The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is a lizard species that is found on the islands (particularly the Komodo Island) in central Indonesia. The komodo dragon is a member of the monitor lizard family and is the largest living species of lizard. Because of their size and because there are no other carnivorous animals, these apex predators dominate the ecosystem in which they live.

Komodo Dragon.

Description

Komodo dragons are large lizards with long tails, strong and agile necks, and sturdy limbs. Their tongues are yellow and forked. Adults are an almost-uniform stone color with distinct, large scales, while juveniles may display a more vibrant color and pattern.

The muscles of the Komodo’s jaws and throat allow it to swallow huge chunks of meat with astonishing rapidity. Several movable joints, such as the intramandibular hinge opens the lower jaw unusually wide. The stomach expands easily, enabling an adult to consume up to 80 percent of its own body weight in a single meal, which most likely explains some exaggerated claims for immense weights in captured individuals. When threatened, Komodos can throw up the contents of their stomachs to lessen their weight in order to flee.

Although males tend to grow larger and bulkier than females, no obvious morphological differences mark the sexes. One subtle clue does exist a slight difference in the arrangement of scales just in front of the cloaca. Sexing Komodos remains a challenge for human researchers; the dragons themselves appear to have little trouble figuring out who is who.

Size

The Komodo dragon is the largest living lizard in the world. These wild dragons typically weigh about 154 pounds (70 kilograms), but the largest verified specimen reached a length of 10.3 feet (3.13 meters) and weighed 366 pounds (166 kilograms). Males tend to grow larger and bulkier than females.

Habitat

Komodo dragons have thrived in the harsh climate of Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands for millions of years. They prefer the islands’ tropical forests but can be found across the islands. Though these athletic reptiles can walk up to seven miles per day, they prefer to stay close to home—rarely venturing far from the valleys in which they hatched.

Komodo Dragons.

Social Structure

Because large Komodos cannibalize young ones, the young often roll in fecal material, thereby assuming a scent that the large dragons are programmed to avoid. Young dragons also undergo rituals of appeasement, with the smaller lizards pacing around a feeding circle in a stately ritualized walk. Their tail is stuck straight out and they throw their body from side to side with exaggerated convulsions.

Reproduction

Once a year, when they’re ready to mate, female Komodo dragons give off a scent in their feces for males to follow. When a male dragon locates a female, he scratches her back and licks her body. If she licks him back, they mate. Males also sometimes wrestle with one another to earn mating rights. Pregnant females then lay about 30 eggs, which they bury in the earth until they hatch eight months later.

When there aren’t any males around, female Komodo dragons have other means of reproducing: As they have both male and female sex chromosomes, female dragons can reproduce asexually in a process called parthenogenesis.

Komodo Dragons.

Diet

As the dominant predators on the handful of islands they inhabit, Komodo dragons will eat almost anything, including carrion, deer, pigs, smaller dragons, and even large water buffalo. When hunting, Komodo dragons rely on camouflage and patience, lying in wait for passing prey. When a victim ambles by, the dragon springs, using its sharp claws, and serrated, shark-like teeth to eviscerate its prey.

Venom

The Komodo dragon has venom glands loaded with toxins that lower blood pressure, cause massive bleeding, prevent clotting, and induce shock. Dragons bite down with serrated teeth and pull back with powerful neck muscles, resulting in huge gaping wounds. The venom then quickens the loss of blood and sends the prey into shock.

Animals that escape the jaws of a Komodo will only feel lucky briefly. Dragons can calmly follow an escapee for miles as the venom takes effect, using their keen sense of smell to home in on the corpse. A dragon can eat a whopping 80 percent of its body weight in a single feeding.

Komodo Poison.

Sleep And LifeSpan

They escape the heat of the day and seek refuge at night in burrows that are just barely large enough for them. Komodo dragons live about 30 years in the wild.

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