Life Span: 30-40 years
Weight: Average is 70kg
Speed: Up to 18km/hr (briefly)
World’s heaviest lizard: Komodo Dragons are the world’s heaviest lizard, averaging around 70kg in the wild and even more in captivity. The largest on record weighed 166kg and was 3.13m long.
Young tree-dwellers: When young Komodo Dragons hatch they will spend the first 5-6 years of their lives living in trees. This is to avoid being predated on by adult Komodo Dragons.
Tongue: Komodos have a forked tongue which, like snakes, allows them to track the direction their prey has travelled. Their Jacobsen’s organ allows them to pick up the scent of rotting flesh from up to 4km away with the right wind.
Hunting and venom: Komodos hunt by ambushing their prey using their powerful forearms and teeth to bring the animal to the ground before overpowering and killing them. While their patience and camouflage are excellent, their attacks are often unsuccessful with their prey often getting away. However, even if the prey does escape the initial attack, it is doubtful that it will survive more than a few days due to the extent of its injuries and a combination of septic bacteria and venom in the Komodo’s bite.
It was only discovered by scientists in 2005 that Komodo dragons are venomous. Unlike venom in snakes, Komodo dragons secrete venom from glands in their lower jaw which is then mixed with their saliva. The venom is therefore diluted substantially. Symptoms of this venom include rapid swelling, shooting pains and blood loss. Research has traced this venom back to 200 million years ago when the Komodo shared a common ancestor with venomous snakes. Komodos also share a more recent common ancestor with the two well-known venomous lizards, the Gila Monster and Mexican Beaded lizard.
Over a dozen human deaths are said to have been caused by the dragon’s bite, with most resulting in septicaemia.
Eating: Komodos cannot chew and instead tear off pieces of meat, throwing them back into their mouths and swallowing.
Parthenogenesis: Komodo dragons are capable of parthenogenesis. If they cannot find a male to mate with they will produce eggs asexually. This means a female can give birth without the presence of a male. Unlike many animals that breed via parthenogenesis, the offspring of asexually produced komodo dragons are all male due to the genetic process. Sexual reproduction is still necessary in order to maintain genetic diversity.