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126

Komodo dragon

OLogy Series
animal
card
126

Komodo dragon

OLogy Series
animal

The Komodo dragon lumbers through the forest on its thick, stocky legs. It sways its head back and forth, flicking its long tongue as it searches for a daily meal. With its sharp teeth and surprising speed, the Komodo dragon is a top predator on the Indonesian islands where it lives. It might seem like a ferocious "dragon," but it's actually the world's largest lizard.

The Komodo's Struggle for Survival
Once, Komodo dragons roamed many Indonesian islands. But since humans discovered them in 1912, their populations have quickly diminished. Today, fewer than five thousand remain, and those are found on only a few islands. Humans are the number one threat to the rare Komodo dragon. People hunt the lizards for sport, for collections, and for their skins. Komodo dragons are even poisoned by local villagers who believe the lizards might hurt their children and animals. People are also responsible for taking away the dragon's main prey and habitat. They overhunt island deer, the Komodo's main source of food, and clear woodlands where Komodos live. Tourists who came to the Indonesian islands to see this famous lizard ended up disturbing the Komodos' habitat. Now the Indonesian government makes sure that their habitats are protected from curious visitors.

Komodo dragons use their long, yellow forked tongues to:

put their prey in a trance

scare away other Komodo dragons

"taste" the air and follow the scent of their prey

Are you right?

Correct!

Like many other species of reptiles, Komodos use their tongues and a special organ in their palate called the Jacobson's organ to "smell" the air for animals that would make a delicious meal.

Chris Raxworthy

These giant monitors give us a glimpse into the world before the age of the reptiles -- when powerful fast lizards were the "top-dogs" of the forest.

Komodo dragons have bacteria in their mouths that give them bad breath!

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

A Komodo dragon's bite is not only powerful, it's toxic! It can take up to a few days, but one bite is all it takes to kill its prey.

Baby Komodo dragons ride on their mother's backs until they are big enough to hunt for food on their own.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

Baby Komodos live among tall trees and grasses as protection against predators. They must also hide from adult Komodo dragons, because the adults eat baby Komodos, too!

Komodo Dragon
Scientific name: Varanus komodoensis
Size: 150 to 200 pounds (about 7 to 9 feet long)
Habitat: dry grasslands and forests of Indonesia
Diet: wild animals like deer, goat, wild boar, snakes, birds, and even smaller lizards
Characteristics: dark, gray or brown stocky body,
sharp teeth, and strong legs
Threats: habitat destruction and the overhunting of deer (the Komodo's prey)

Image credits: courtesy of Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences; Chris Raxworthy: courtesty of AMNH.