Komodo Dragon is also known as the Komodo Monitor. To the natives o Komodo Island, it is referred as Ora, Buaya Darat (land crocodile)or Biawak Raksasa (giant monitor).
In the wild, an adult Komodo Dragon usually weighs around 70 kilograms, although captive specimens weigh more . According to the Guinness Book of World Records, an average adult male will weigh 79-91 kilograms and measure 8.5ft, while an average female will weigh 68-73 kilograms and measure 7.5ft. The Komodo Dragon has a tail as long as its body, as well as about 60 frequently- replaced, serrated teeth that can measure up to 1 inch in length. Its saliva is frequently blood-tinged, because its teeth are almost completely covered by GINGIVAL TISSUE that is naturally lacerated during feeding. This creates an ideal culture for the bacteria that live in its mouth. It has a long, yellow, deeply-forked tongue. Komodo Dragon skin is reinforced by armoured scales, which contain tiny bones called OSTEODERMS that function as a sort of natural chain-mail. This rugged hide makes Komodo Dragon skin poorly suited for making into leather.
Komodo Dragons have only a single ear-bone, the STAPES, for transferring vibrations from the tympanic membrane to the cochlea. This arrangement means they are restricted to sounds in the 400-2,000 hertz, compared to humans who hear between 20 and 20,000 hertz. The Komodo Dragon can see objects as far away as 300 metres, but because its retinas only contain ‘cones’, it is thought to have poor night-vision. The Komodo Dragon is able to see in colour, but has poor visual discrimination of stationary objects.
It uses its tongue to detect, taste and smell stimuli, as with many other reptiles. With the help of a favourable wind and its habit of ‘swinging’ its head from side to side as it walks, a Komodo Dragon may be able to detect carrion from 4-9.5 kilometres away. It only has a few taste buds, in the back of its throat. Its scales, some of which are reinforced with bones, have sensory PLAQUES connected to nerves to facilitate its sense of touch. The scales around the ear, lips, chin and soles of the feet may have 3 or more ‘sensory plaques.’
The Komodo Dragon prefers hot and dry places, and typically lives in dry, open grassland, savannah and tropical forest at low elevations. It is most active in the day, although it exhibits some nocturnal activity. Komodo Dragon are solitary, coming together only to bred and eat. They are capable of running rapidly in brief sprints up to 20 km/h, and climbing trees proficiently, when young, through use of their strong claws. To catch out-of-reach prey, the Komodo Dragon may stand on its hind legs and use its tail as a support. As it matures, its claws are used primarily as ‘weapons’, as is size makes climbing impractical.
For shelter, the Komodo dragon digs holes that can measure from 3-10ft wide with its powerful forelimbs and claws. Because of its large size and habit of sleeping in these burrows, it is able to conserve heat throughout the night and minimize its basking period, the morning after. It hunts in the afternoon, but stays in the shade during the hottest part of the day.
They are carnivores. Although they eat mostly carrion, they will also ambush live prey with a stealthy approach, and then suddenly charge at the animal and go for the underside or the throat. They have been observed knocking down large pigs and deer with their strong tails. It eats by tearing large chunks of flesh and swallowing them whole. Copious amounts of RED SALIVA, the Komodo Dragon produces, helps to lubricate the food, but swallowing is still a long process (15-20 minutes to swallow a goat) After eating 80% of its body weight in one meal, it drags itself to a sunny location to speed digestion, as the food could rot and poison the dragon, if left undigested. Because of their slow metabolism, large dragons can survive on as little as 12 meals a year. It drinks water by sucking water into its mouth via BUCCAL PUMPING, lifting its head and letting the water run down its throat. The Komodo dragon possesses a ‘venomous bite’.
Komodo Dragons were first documented by Europeans in 1910. It is a vulnerable species and is on the IUCN Red List. There are about approximately 4,000-5,000 living Komodo Dragons in the wild. Their populations are restricted to the islands of Gili Motang (100), Gili Dasam (100), Rinca (1,300), Komodo(1,700) and Flores (perhaps 2,000). However, there are concerns that there may presently be only 350 breeding females. To address this concern, the Komodo National Park was founded in 1980 to protect the Komodo Dragon population on islands including Komodo and Rinca. They avoid encounters with humans. If cornered, they will react aggressively by opening their mouth, hissing and swinging their tail.
The Komodo Dragons have long been great zoo attractions. They are, however, rare in zoos, because they are susceptible to infection and parasitic disease, if captured from the wild, and do not readily reproduce. As of May 2009, there were 13 European, 2 African, 35 North American, 15 Singaporean and 2 Australian institutions that kept the Komodo Dragon.