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Komodo Dragon- the world's heaviest living lizards

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Description

  Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) are the world's heaviest living lizards on Earth and it can grow 10 feet long and have a weight of over 150 pounds, with an average length of 8 feet (2.5 meters) and weight of 200 lbs (91 kg.). Usually females are under 8 feet and weigh about 150 lbs. (68 kg.), making them the largest lizard around today and is also known as Varanus komodoensis.


Komodo_dragon_Varanus_komodoensison_island

Main Physical Characteristics of Komodo Dragon :

Weighs from 250lbs to 356lbs
Heaviest lizard on earth
Scaly skin 
Dominant predators
Long necks
Venomous bite 

They are ferocious, rapacious carnivores who can ambush and bring down a water buffalo with their jagged teeth and huge claws. It’s not even enough that their toothy mouths are awash with both venom and a soup of bacteria that almost always causes serious or fatal infection in bite wounds. It is able to see as far away as 300 metres (980 ft), but because its retinas only contain cones, it is thought to have poor night vision. 

The Komodo dragon is able to see in color, but has poor visual discrimination of stationary objects. The Komodo dragon uses its tongue to detect, taste, and smell stimuli, as with many other reptiles, with the vomeronasal sense using the Jacobson's organ.


komodo-dragon-mouth

With the help of a favorable wind and its habit of swinging its head from side to side as it walks, Komodo dragons may be able to detect carrion from 4–9.5 kilometers (2.5–6 mi) away. The dragon's nostrils are not of great use for smelling as the animal does not have a diaphragm .It only has a few taste buds in the back of its throat. Its scales, some of which are reinforced with bone, have sensory plaques connected to nerves that facilitate its sense of touch. The scales around the ears, lips, chin, and soles of the feet may have three or more sensory plaques.

 

Habitat

This ferocious lizard lives on the Indonesia Islands – Komodo, Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Gili Dasami. It lives in hot dry conditions with not much vegetation. The Komodo Dragons live near the ocean on the islands because they can swim from one island to another. 
komodo_dragon_actual_habitat

To build shelter, Komodo Dragons dig burrows in the dirt to sleep in at night. These islands are the only place the Komodo Dragon is found in the world The natural habitat of Komodo dragons is extremely harsh by human standards.   

These arid volcanic islands have steep slopes and little available water most of the year. Recent research suggests that the large size of komodo dragons may be better understood as representative of a relict population of very large varanid lizards that once lived across Indonesia and Australia, most of which, along with other mega fauna, died out after the Pleistocene. Fossils very similar to V. komodoensis have been found in Australia dating to greater than 3.8 million years ago.

 komodo_dragon_detailed_actual_habitat

Evolution The development of the Komodo dragon started with the Varanus genus, which originated in Asia about 40 million years ago and migrated to Australia. Around 15 million years ago, a collision between Australia and Southeast Asia allowed the varanids to move into what is now the Indonesian archipelago, extending their range as far east as the island of Timor. 

The Komodo dragon was believed to have differentiated from its Australian ancestors 4 million years ago. However, recent fossil evidence from Queensland suggests that the Komodo dragon evolved in Australia before spreading to Indonesia. Dramatic lowering of sea level during the last glacial period uncovered extensive stretches of continental shelf that the Komodo dragon colonized, becoming isolated in their present island range as sea levels rose afterwards.

 

Diet

Komodo dragons are carnivores. Although they eat mostly carrion they will also ambush live prey with a stealthy approach. Their diet consists of carrion, deer, pigs, and smaller dragons. 

Komodo_dragon_eating

Komodo Dragons have even been known to prey upon and eat humans. When suitable prey arrives near a dragon's ambush site, it will suddenly charge at the animal and go for the underside or the throat. It is able to locate its prey using its keen sense of smell, which can locate a dead or dying animal from a range of up to 9.5 km (6 miles). 
 
Komodo dragons have been observed knocking down large pigs and deer with their strong tail. The way they catch their prey is they sit motionless for hours on end until a small animal walks by then the Komodo Dragon snatches them with his mouth or claws. The Komodo is carnivorous and cannibalistic and it has a prodigious appetite They are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything they can overpower including small dragons and small or injured humans (dragons make up to 10% of their diet).

An eyewitness account revealed that a 101 lb (46 kg.) dragon ate a 90 lb. (41 kg.) pig in 20 minutes.  As a comparison, a 100 lb. person would have to eat 320 quarter pound hamburgers in less than 20 minutes to keep up with the dragon Komodo dragons eat by tearing large chunks of flesh and swallowing them whole while holding the carcass down with their forelegs. 

Dragon-comodo-photo-ile-komodo

For smaller prey up to the size of a goat, their loosely articulated jaws, flexible skull, and expandable stomach allow it to swallow its prey whole. The vegetable contents of the stomach and intestines are typically avoided..Copious amounts of red saliva that the Komodo dragons produce help to lubricate the food, but swallowing is still a long process (15–20 minutes to swallow a goat). A Komodo dragon may attempt to speed up the process by ramming the carcass against a tree to force it down its throat, sometimes ramming so forcefully that the tree is knocked down. To prevent itself from suffocating while swallowing, it breathes using a small tube under the tongue that connects to the lungs. 

After eating up to 80 percent of its body weight in one meal, it drags itself to a sunny location to speed digestion, as the food could rot and poison the dragon if left undigested for too long. Because of their slow metabolism, large dragons can survive on as little as 12 meals a year. After digestion, the Komodo dragon regurgitates a mass of horns, hair, and teeth known as the gastric pellet, which is covered in malodorous mucus. After regurgitating the gastric pellet, it rubs its face in the dirt or on bushes to get rid of the mucus, suggesting that it, like humans, does not relish the scent of its own excretions.

 

Breeding

Mating occurs between May and August, with the eggs laid in September. During this period, males fight over females and territory by grappling with one another upon their hind legs with the loser eventually being pinned to the ground. These males may vomit or defecate when preparing for the fight. The winner of the fight will then flick his long tongue at the female to gain information about her receptivity.


Females are antagonistic and resist with their claws and teeth during the early phases of courtship. Therefore, the male must fully restrain the female during coitus to avoid being hurt. Other courtship displays include males rubbing their chins on the female, hard scratches to the back, and licking. Copulation occurs when the male inserts one of his hemipenes into the female's cloaca.Komodo dragons may be monogamous and form "pair bonds", a rare behavior for lizards.
The female lays her eggs in burrows cut into the side of a hill or in the abandoned nesting mounds of the Orange-footed Scrubfowl (a moundbuilder or megapode), with a preference for the abandoned mounds. Clutches contain an average of 20 eggs which have an incubation period of 7–8 months. Hatching is an exhausting effort for the neonates, who break out of their eggshells with an egg tooth that falls off soon after. After cutting out the hatchlings may lie in their eggshells for hours before starting to dig out of the nest. They are born quite defenseless, and many are eaten by predators. 

Young Komodo dragons spend much of their first few years in trees, where they are relatively safe from predators, including cannibalistic adults, who make juvenile dragons 10% of their diet. According to David Attenborough, the habit of cannibalism may be advantageous in sustaining the large size of adults, as medium-sized prey on the islands is rare. When the young must approach a kill, they roll around in fecal matter and rest in the intestines of eviscerated animals to deter these hungry adults. Komodo dragons take about three to five years to mature, and may live for up to 50 years.

Population Size: There are only around 3,000 to 5,000 Komodo Dragons left in the wild.

Other lizards from same  Family: Komodo Dragons are part of Agmids family.They  are usually known as dragons or old world iguanas.  Some related lizards are:  the Chameleon Dragon, the Bearded Dragon, and Thorny Devils.

According to  a BBC article (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/8056040.stm), Komodo dragons HAVE a venomous bite! “Previously it was thought the Komodo's mouth harboured virulent bacteria that quickly infected and subdued prey. But an analysis of Komodo specimens has shown a well-developed venom gland with ducts that lead to their large teeth.


Komodo_dragon_Varanus_komodoensis

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences report shows that rather than using a strong bite force, Komodos keep a vice-like grip on their prey. In this way, the venom can seep into the large wounds they make with their teeth. The work is a follow-up to a 2006 study by Bryan Fry of the Australian Venom Research Unit at the University of Melbourne. The study showed that known venomous lizards, such as the Gila monster of the south-western US, were in the same lineage as Komodo dragons. It went on to describe how the venom systems in the lizards and snakes actually came from a common ancestor. Members of the same team have now used a computer simulation to model the skulls of Komodo dragons. They found that their bite was only one-sixth as strong as that of the Australian saltwater crocodile, which has a similarly-sized skull. Instead, Komodo skulls seem optimized to withstand stress along their length - that is, to resist prey that is pulling away. Further, the team took MRI scans of Komodo heads, identifying a large venom gland and ducts that lead to spaces between the animals' teeth “

 

Interesting Facts

 - Recently was discovered that Komodo dragons HAVE a venomous bite! Komodo dragons may be better understood as representative of a relict population of very large varanid lizards that once lived across Indonesia and Australia, most of which, along with other mega fauna, died out after the Pleistocene.
  - A dragon will allow other dragons to cross its territory ONLY when they are on a food run. 
  -  Dragons maintain burrows within their core ranges and occasionally males will swim from island to island over long distances.
  - They regulate their body temperature (thermoregulation) various physiological responses to controlling body temperature.
 -  Komodo Dragons have developed a forked tongue to be able to detect the smell of decaying flesh kilometers away from where it is. They have adapted to be able to eat 60% of their body weight in one sitting because sometimes they don’t get meals very often and they can extract 80% of the water they need from their prey in times of drought on the island. 
 -  They are capable of running rapidly in brief sprints up to 20 kilometers per hour (12.4 mph), diving up to 4.5 meters (15 ft), and climbing trees proficiently when young through use of their strong claws. To catch prey that is out of reach, the Komodo dragon may stand on its hind legs and use its tail as a support


 

 

 



 

Sources 
www.animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/.../komodo-dragon/
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Komodo_dragon
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/24/man-mauled-death-komodo-dragon
http://freewallpaperspot.com/wallpapers/a1-komodo-dragon-wallpaper-3.jpg http://my.opera.com/rezalisni/albums/showpic.dml?album=5464522&picture=82306032 (Reza Lisni's Photography) http://www.randomrambler.com/travel/komodo-dragons-rinca 
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