Imagine being looked in the face by a mighty prehistoric-looking beast – the words largest venomous living reptile on earth. A meat eating monster, growing up to impressive lengths of 10 feet long is the renowned giant – the Komodo dragon.
Long flat heads, rounded snouts, keen eyes, scaly skin, bowed legs and muscular bodies, welcomes the image of these mighty beasts. With an average weight of 60kg and a maximum of 80kg makes this big bodied dragon the heaviest lizard of them all. This impressive reptile only occurs in Komodo and its few smaller outlying islands of Australia, making it a prime example of one of the largest, dangerously evolved endemic species in the world.
Komodo dragons ( Varanus komodoensis) are carnivorous – not only eating on carrion these giants will ambush other reptiles, small mammals, goats and deer. Equipped with large sharp, segregated teeth for cutting and tearing their prey, spiked with a secret hidden bite full of deadly bacteria is what make these dragons so fearsome.
Komodos rely on their impressive camouflaged dark bodies, waiting patiently in the Indonesia lands for passing prey. When a possible victim is near, the Komodo leaps up and sinks its teeth into the prey. With large powerful legs and strong claws, Komodos are able to hold down their victims whilst they tear off large chunks of flesh.
Remarkably, the forked tongue and teeth of the Komodo dragon is home to over 50 species of pathogenic bacteria. Any unfortunate animal that is bitten by this deadly trap but manages to escapes still usually dies from blood poisoning and infection. This works exactly to the lizard’s advantage –the komodo uses its acute sense of smell to detect the scent of the dying animal up to 6 miles away. This prevents any mouthful of deposited saliva becoming wasted as escaped prey are always back tracked and engulfed – a remarkable super-efficient adaptation for scavenging.
Chillingly portrayed by BBC’s Life shows the non-stop predatory obsession over a previously bitten Water Buffalo. Sitting and waiting over 6 long weeks, watching the life slowly draining from the Buffalo as a result of their venomous bite shows the keen, unstoppable desires of these monsters waiting for death to deliver them their reward. This unnerving video shows their clever tactics of bringing down prey ten times their size and stripping the Buffalo to the bone in 4 hours.
A slow Digestion…
Swallowing prey for the Komodo can be a very slow process and faces the risk of suffocation. In order to prevent this, a breathing tube under their tongue connects directly to their lungs, allowing an easy by pass of oxygen. Consisting of a loosely hinged lower jaw, and elastic stomach – meals of up to 75% of their own body weight can be consumed. Like almost all reptiles, to accelerate such a large digestion the giant will bask in the sun after a victory kill or trace of carrion.
A Trace of the Past…
Despite being the giant in today’s competition, the Komodo is only a pygmy compared to one of its mainland ancestors. In Australia, there once existed a true giant – a 23 ft monster monitor Megalania prisca, which became extinct 40,000 years ago.
But with clever tactics, an acute sense of smell and potent features we can understand how these dominating giants have been able to thrive in the harsh climate of the Indonesian Islands for millions of years. Tackling prey as large as water buffalo shows no weakness or end to the remaining reptile rulers of Komodo.