BY BRIANA MAGISTRO
SC Staff Writer
Nearly everyone has heard of Godzilla, the enormous lizard that ravages a Japanese city—or New York City in the 1998 American film Godzilla.
Although a reptile of such size has not existed since the Cretaceous Period, between 145.5 and 65.5 million years ago, there is another large lizard living today whose bite packs a deadly punch.
The Komodo dragon is a resident of smaller islands in Indonesia, including Komodo, from which it gets its name.
A relative of the Asian water monitor, the Komodo dragon is the largest living terrestrial lizard, growing up to ten feet long and weighing up to 150 pounds.
Like other reptiles, the Komodo dragon’s body is covered in scales. However, its scales also contain osteoderms, which are small bones that lie between layers of skin.
This gives the lizard extra protection against prey that may fight back. Komodo dragons are the top predators in their habitat, allowing them to grow more massive than other species.
The Komodo dragon’s mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria. Its warm, wet climate allows innumerable bacteria to culture.
During feeding, the Komodo dragon’s teeth tear at a thin layer of its gum line, supplying the area with a source of nutrient-rich blood.
Bacteria such as E. coli and Staphylococcus are dangerous to mammals, and they can cause an inability for blood to clot properly, making an animal sick.
The Komodo dragon’s saliva contains not only dangerous bacteria, but also toxins which break apart proteins in prey.
After being bitten by a Komodo dragon, a large deer will die within three days from constant blood loss, sickness, and muscle degradation.
Komodo dragons will also eat birds and small insects, especially when they are not fully grown.
Komodo dragons mate during the summer, and the eggs typically hatch in mid-Spring.
Sometimes, a mating couple will become monogamous and mate for life, a rare happening for reptiles, but a common occurrence in birds.
This mating pair will take care of a clutch together.
Young Komodo dragons live in trees during the first stages of their lives. While young, the lizards are lighter and faster, and living in trees helps them to avoid predators such as adult dragons and large birds.
Although they are not an endangered species, Komodo dragons are considered vulnerable due to extended habitat loss and natural disasters, such as earthquakes and volcano eruptions in the Indonesian islands.
Poaching is also becoming an issue, and an increase in tourism to the area has not helped to preserve the dragon’s slowly dwindling habitat.
Komodo dragons are powerful and deadly lizards. However, they are not dangerous if given sufficient space. Look for one the next time you go to the zoo.
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