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Komodo Dragon

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A Komodo dragon photographed at Houston Zoo in Texas

About the Komodo Dragon

Komodo dragons have thrived in the harsh climate of Indonesia's Lesser Sunda Islands for millions of years.

Size and Weight

Reaching 10 feet in length and more than 300 pounds, Komodo dragons are the heaviest lizards on Earth. They have long, flat heads with rounded snouts, scaly skin, bowed legs, and huge, muscular tails.

Diet

As the dominant predators on the handful of islands they inhabit, they will eat almost anything, including carrion, deer, pigs, smaller dragons, and even large water buffalo and humans. When hunting, Komodo dragons rely on camouflage and patience, lying in wait for passing prey. When a victim ambles by, the dragon springs, using its powerful legs, sharp claws and serrated, shark-like teeth to eviscerate its prey.

Feeding

Animals that escape the jaws of a Komodo will only feel lucky briefly. Dragon saliva teems with over 50 strains of bacteria, and within 24 hours, the stricken creature usually dies of blood poisoning. Dragons calmly follow an escapee for miles as the bacteria takes effect, using their keen sense of smell to hone in on the corpse. A dragon can eat a whopping 80 percent of its body weight in a single feeding.

Population

There is a stable population of Komodo dragons on the islands of Komodo, Gila Motang, Rinca, and Flores. However, a dearth of egg-laying females, poaching, human encroachment, and natural disasters have threaten the species' population.


WATCH: Living Among Ancient Dragons

These big, scaly predators seem like relics of an earlier time. For her article in National Geographic magazine, Jennifer S. Holland spent time among Komodo dragons, learning about their lifestyle and the ways they bring down prey.