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ANIMAL
OF THE WEEK
In order to maneuver in its rocky, forested habitat the Amur leopard can leap up to 20 feet across and ten feet up or down. read more >

Komodo dragon

Scientific name: Varanus mertensi


CLASS: Reptilia
ORDER: Sauria
FAMILY: Varnanidae

FEEDING TYPE: Carnivore
STATS: Weight: 150–350 lbs., Length: 7.5–10 ft.


DESCRIPTION:
Komodo dragons are the world’s largest lizard. It has scaly skin in some dark hue of green, black, brown, or gray with patches of yellow-brown or white. Its legs are small and sprawling. Each foot has five toes and five large claws on each toe. The tail is longer than the body. Its eyes are large as is its mouth.

RANGE:
Indonesian islands of Komodo, Flores, Gili Motang, and Rinca.

HABITAT:
Dry, tropical savannah and scrub forest

ADAPTATIONS:
Komodo dragons have flat, serrated teeth specially adapted for tearing meat. The teeth are laterally compressed and are similar to the teeth of carnivorous sharks. It has up to 50 different kinds of bacteria in its saliva so that when it bites its prey, it quickly causes infection. A Komodo dragon may bite its prey and then track it for up to several days as infection sets in and leads to the death of the animal.

Due to the physiology of lizards, it is hard to run and breathe at the same time. Komodo dragons have adapted a gular pouch under their chin. They fill the pouch with air and pump it down into their lungs, allowing them to chase down prey at speeds up to 20 mph.

Komodo dragons can consume up to 80 percent of their body weight in one meal, so they have developed jaws, throats, and stomachs that are highly elastic and can expand to swallow large chunks of food.

REPRODUCTION/GROWTH:
Sexual maturity is reached between seven and nine years old. Breeding occurs between May and August. Males fight for the right to breed by grappling each other on their hind legs until one of them is pinned to the ground as the loser. The female lays eggs between six and eight weeks later. Eggs take eight to nine months to hatch. The size of the clutch is generally between 15 and 30 eggs.

PREY/PREDATOR:
Prey to man and other Komodo dragons. Predator to all animals it can catch.

WILD DIET:
Carrion, anything they can catch.

STATUS:
Listed as CITES Appendix 1 and as Vulnerable with IUCN due to the small size of its range.

SPECIAL NOTES:

  • There are at least three documented cases of Komodo dragons killing humans. This problem has increased because tourists are being encouraged to bring carcasses to viewing sites to attract the dragons and as a result the dragons are losing all fear of man.
     
  • They have also been known to be parthenogenic. This is when the female lays fertile eggs without the presence of a male. Sedgwick County Zoo was the first zoo outside England to hatch parthenogenic Komodo dragons and is only the third documented case in the world.
     

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

  1. Mattison, Chris. Lizards of the World. Blandford Press, 1989.
  2. Halliday, Tim and Kraig Adler. Firefly Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. New York. Firefly Books Ltd, 2002.
  3. The World Book Encyclopedia, J-K Volume 11. World Book Inc, 2005
  4. CITES. Varanus komodoensis.
  5. Murphy, James and Ciofi Claudio. Komodo Dragon. Smithsonian Institute Press, 2002
  6. IUCN Redlist June 5, 2008
     

 Published: October 2008

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*The Zoo will be closed one day only, September 9, 2017 to facilitate the preparation of the annual Zoo fundraiser, Zoobilee.
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