Class: Reptilia (Reptiles)
Length: males—up to 10 feet (3 meters); females—up to 8 feet (2.4 meters)
Weight: up to 176 pounds (80 kilograms)
Life span: over 50 years
Number of eggs laid: 15 to 30
Incubation: 8 to 9 months
Size at hatching: 12 inches (30 centimeters)
Age at maturity: 5 to 10 years
Conservation status: endangered
In the wild, there are four times as many
male dragons as there are females.
Inside a dragons mouth are about 60 short, sharp teeth designed to cut and tear flesh.
A dragon will go through four or five sets of teeth in a lifetime.
This meat-eating lizard can consume up to 80 percent of its body weight during one meal.
Helping Wildlife: Slaying Myths, Saving Dragons
Reptiles: Komodo Dragon
King of the lizards
There are over 3,000 lizard species, but the Komodo dragon wins the prize for being the biggest living lizard in the world! It is a type of monitor lizard, an ancient species of reptile with ancestors that date back more than 100 million years. These large lizards have stubby, bowed legs, clay-colored, scaly skin for great camouflage, and a huge, muscular tail. The yellow color of the Komodos long, forked tongue reminds people of mythical dragons that spit fire!
Most lizards are omnivores, but not Komodo dragons. Meat is what they seek. Dragons use their long tongues to pick up smells in the air, even if theyre a mile (1.6 kilometers) away! They arent too picky about their food, and will eat wild pigs, deer, wild buffalo, snakes, and fish that wash up on the shore. An adult dragon will hide along a trail and wait for an unsuspecting creature to walk by. Then, with long claws and short, sharp teeth, the dragon attacks. If the prey escapes, the dragon will simply follow it at a leisurely pace. Thats because the dragons bite contains deadly bacteria that will eventually kill its intended meal. Soon other dragons will join in on the feast, fighting over the best pieces. The dragons at the San Diego Zoo are fed a mixed diet of mice, rats, and ground turkey mixed with vitamins and calcium.
A day in the life
An adult dragon leads a life of leisure. It will emerge from its burrow in the ground to look for a sunny spot to warm up. Then its off to find breakfast, followed by a nice long nap in the shade during the hottest part of the day. After a late afternoon meal, the dragon is ready for bed, sleeping soundly in its burrow until a new day begins. It is a solitary creature that lives and hunts alone.
I cant wait to grow up!
Life for a young dragon is not so easy. As soon as the baby hatches, it scrambles out of the nest dug by its mother and scurries up the nearest tree so it wont be eaten by the adults. Thats rightadult dragons think of the hatchlings as easy meals! Fortunately for the babies, the adults are too heavy to climb trees. Youngsters live in the trees eating eggs, grasshoppers, beetles, and geckos. When they are about 4 years old and 4 feet long (1.2 meters) they are ready to try life on the ground.
Status in the wild
The magnificent Komodo dragon is endangered. Humans disturb more and more of its natural habitat and hunt the same food dragons need to survive. Yet dragons play an important role on the islands. Because they eat dead animals, they help to keep the islands free of rotting carcasses. People need to learn more about these huge lizards and take steps to help preserve their small habitat.
Newly discovered "mini-dragons"
In November 2002, a research team visited a small island in Indonesia and found the Komodo dragons there to be much smaller and lighter. In fact, the largest dragon on the island measured 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) long and weighed only 47 pounds (21 kilograms)! Perhaps the small body size allows these dragons to survive on smaller prey, including insects, lizards, birds, and rats, without having to rely on larger species that are rare on such a small island. Further research is currently underway.