- Not Exactly Rocket Science
The Myth of the Komodo Dragon’s Dirty Mouth
In 1969, an American biologist named Walter Auffenberg moved to the Indonesia island of Komodo to study its most famous resident—the Komodo dragon. This huge lizard—the largest in the world—grows to lengths of 3 metres, and can take down large prey like deer and water buffalo. Auffenberg watched the dragons for a year and eventually published a book on their behaviour in 1981. It won him an award. It also enshrined a myth that took almost three decades to refute, and is still prevalent today.
Auffenberg noticed that when large animals like water buffalo were injured by the dragons, they would soon develop fatal infections. Based on this observation, and no actual evidence, he suggested that the dragons use bacteria