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Interesting facts about the Komodo dragon

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We found 14 interesting facts about the Komodo dragon

The largest lizard in the world

The Komodo dragon is a large species of reptile in the monitor lizard family, endemic to the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia. This is the only modern species of monitor lizard that is a large predator.

The discovery of the Komodo dragon, which dominates the islands of Indonesia, is causing admiration and respect among scientists and nature lovers around the world.

This extraordinary species, reaching such an impressive size, has become one of the largest reptiles on our planet. The characteristic scaly skin, sharp claws and extraordinary ability to hunt various types of animals make it a true predator of the Komodo.

The Komodo dragon is not only a powerful body and dangerous jaws. His life and behavior are equally interesting. It amazes not only scientists, but also attracts tourists from all over the world who want to see this extraordinary specimen up close, study its natural history, biology, behavior and learn about modern problems associated with its survival.

1

The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), also known as the Komodo dragon, is by far the largest living lizard.

It is a species of reptile from the monitor lizards (Varanidae), a group of carnivorous and frugivorous (Varanus olivaceus and Varanus bitatawa) lizards that includes the modern genus Varanus and a number of extinct genera.

Monitor lizards differ from other lizards in the structure of their tongue, which consists of two parts: a fleshy, thick sheath, which is the basis of the tongue, and a long, thin tactile part that extends from it, split at the end, the so-called Jacobson's Organ.

They live in a wide variety of ecological environments; some live only in trees, others are terrestrial, others are amphibians (they swim and dive well), and the gray monitor lizard (Varanus griseus) lives in the desert. Among reptiles, they stand out for their intelligence - they can distinguish their owners from other people and understand simple commands.

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2

The Komodo dragon was discovered in 1910.

The first rumors of a “land crocodile” reached Lieutenant Stein van Hensbroeck of the Dutch colonial administration (the Dutch East Indies was a Dutch colony consisting of what is now Indonesia).

The first description of the lizard was made in 1912 by the then director of the Zoological Museum in Bogor, Java, Pieter Owens, who received photographs and the skin of an adult from Lieutenant van Hensbrouck, and two other specimens from a collector.

The first two living specimens of the Komodo dragon arrived in Europe, at London Zoo, in 1927. Some of the earliest observations of these animals in captivity were made, and the findings were presented at a scientific symposium of the Zoological Society in London in 1928.

3

In 1926, an expedition by American naturalist and film director William Douglas Burden took place on Komodo Island, the goal of which was the Komodo dragon.

Burden, his first wife Katherine and a group of companions set out in search of the Komodo dragon, which the New York Times called "a ferocious direct descendant of the dinosaur." Using wood traps baited with bison meat, he was able to catch giant lizards weighing 350 pounds (about 159 kilograms) and about 10 feet (about 3 meters) long. 

Of the three Komodo dragons they caught, two were donated to the Bronx Zoo, but they soon died and, after undergoing taxidermy, were taken to the American Museum of Natural History, where they can still be seen today.

In 1927, Burden wrote a book about the Komodo expedition called The Komodo Dragon Lizards. The expedition also inspired the 1933 film King Kong. It was thanks to Burden that the common name for this dragon was created - “Komodo Dragon”.

4

The Dutch administration of Komodo Island, aware of the limited number of dragons in the wild, banned hunting of these animals and severely limited the number of individuals selected for scientific research.

Scientific expeditions to Komodo were suspended with the outbreak of World War II and only resumed in the 50s and 60s. The research carried out at that time concerned the nutrition, reproduction and general life of these animals.

In 1969, an expedition by Walter Auffenberg took place, during which Komodo dragons were studied for breeding in captivity.

5

The Komodo dragon's range is limited to some of the Lesser Sunda Islands in Indonesia.

Endemic to the islands: Komodo, rinca, Flowers, Gili Motang i Gili Dashami, where about 6 individuals live.

In 2019, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the Komodo dragon on its Red List of Threatened Species. The main threats these animals currently face are habitat fragmentation or loss and, above all, the decline in the population of animals that Komodo dragons mainly feed on (maned deer, wild boar, water buffalo). Poaching, fires and deforestation also pose threats to the dragon population.

6

In 1980, Komodo National Park was created to protect the Komodo dragon.

Also created Vae Vuul Nature Reserve in the west of Flores I Volo Tado Nature Reserve in the north of the island. In Indonesia, these animals are strictly protected. The Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, in the case of the Komodo dragon, states that any trade in live dragons or their body parts (such as skins) is prohibited without special permits.

Captive breeding can also be used to protect the species. The first Komodo dragon offspring to be brought into human care outside of Indonesia occurred in 1992 at the Smithsonian's National Zoo (located north of Washington, D.C., and one of the oldest zoos in the United States).

In 2004, the first offspring of the European Komodo dragon were bred at the Gran Canaria Zoo.

7

Komodo dragons also live in Polish zoos.

They can be seen in the Old Zoo in Poznań (one of the oldest zoos in the world, founded in 1871), where they have lived since 2005, and in the Zoo in Wroclaw, where they have lived since July 2014 (the oldest zoo in Poland, opened on July 10 1865).

8

Komodo dragons are apex predators and dominate the ecosystem in which they live.

Due to their size, they have no natural predators and are at the top of the food chain. Komodo dragons living in the wild typically weigh around 70 kg and are 2,5-3 m tall. Captive dragons often weigh more.

The largest specimen confirmed in captivity was 3,13 m long and weighed 166 kg (including undigested food). The largest wild specimen was 3,04 m long and weighed 81,5 kg (excluding stomach contents).

9

The Komodo dragon has a tail that is half the length of its body.

It has a large wide head, a thick massive neck, a barrel-shaped body and a long tail. Its skin is covered in scales containing tiny bones called osteoderms, which act as a kind of natural chainmail. Osteoderms are absent only around the eyes, nostrils, edges of the mouth, and the parietal eye (third eye), the parietal opening in the skull and vestigial eye.

The Komodo dragon hears in the range from 400 to 2000 hertz. It was once believed that these animals were deaf, but research has refuted this point of view. However, he can see objects up to 300 m away, although his vision is poor at night. It sees colors but does not react to stationary objects.

Like other reptiles, the Komodo dragon primarily uses its tongue (Jacobson's organ) rather than its nostrils to detect, taste, and smell. Thanks to a fair wind and the habit of shaking its head from side to side while walking, it can detect carrion at a distance of 4-9,5 kilometers.

10

This lizard has about sixty frequently replaced serrated teeth, which can be up to 2,5 centimeters long.

A monitor lizard's saliva is often tinged with blood because its teeth are almost entirely covered by gum tissue, which is naturally damaged by eating. The abundance of this saliva makes it easier for him to swallow food.

11

Komodo dragons are predators.

Although they are thought to feed primarily on carrion, they often attack live prey by surprise. The monster attacks him at high speed and hits him in the lower body or throat, killing the victim in a matter of seconds. Komodo dragons tear their prey into large pieces and swallow it whole. In the case of smaller prey, such as a goat, they can swallow it whole (this takes them 15-20 minutes). Sometimes these animals try to speed up the swallowing process by pressing the prey against a tree so that it gets into the throat faster. Sometimes they ram the tree so hard that it falls.

A small tube under the tongue that connects to the lungs allows them to breathe while swallowing food.

12

The diet of the Komodo dragon is varied.

These include invertebrates, other reptiles including smaller Komodo dragons, birds, bird eggs, small mammals, monkeys, wild boars, goats, pigs, Javan deer (Axis kuhlii), horses, water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis).

Although Komodo dragons avoid confrontation with humans, they sometimes attack them. When cornered, they react aggressively by opening their mouths, hissing, and placing their tails in a warning position to strike.

There have been reports of isolated cases of people being attacked, killed and even eaten. However, it is believed that such events can only be attributed to a few abnormal individuals who lost their fear of humans and became very aggressive.

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13

They live in hot and dry places in open grasslands, savannas and tropical forests.

They are active during the day and spend the night in burrows they dig, ranging from 1 to 3 m wide. They dig these burrows with the help of their powerful forelimbs and claws. They hunt during the day and remain in the shade during the hottest part of the day. Resting areas are devoid of vegetation and marked with feces.

They are solitary animals that congregate only during mating season (May to August) and when feeding.

14

They have sexual dimorphism.

Mating occurs from May to August, and females lay eggs in September. Komodo dragons can be monogamous and form bonds with selected partners, a rare behavior among lizards.

A clutch contains an average of 20 eggs, the incubation period of which is 7-8 months. Young lizards spend most of their first year of life in trees, where they protect themselves from predators (including adult lizards, for which young lizards make up about 10% of the diet).

Young monitor lizards mature in 8-9 years, and their life expectancy in the wild is about 30 years.

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