A Real Life Dragon! [Courtesy of Wiki]

12 Nov

Komodo Dragon Facts:

Their fossils have been found in Australia dating 3.8 million years ago–they are real live dinosaurs!

The Komodo is the largest living species of lizard, averaging 9.8 feet long and 150 pounds.  The largest recorded was 10 feet 3 inches!  I would FREAK out if I ever came across a huge lizard in the wild.  As a North American, the largest lizard I’m used to seeing is the horny toad.

The Komodo can only hear sounds between 200 and 4000 Hertz, but can see as far as 980 feet away.  Except it can’t see stationary objects very well and it cannot see at night since it has no cones in its eyes.  Even so, the Komodo can detect a carrion (deer) from 2.5-5.9 miles away.  Wow!  Can the big cats and bears say the same?  I’ll have to look up how far away they can detect prey. . .

Aside from eating carrion, the big guys eat invertebrates, birds, eggs, moneys(!), boar(!!), geckos, insects, horses(!!!), water buffalo(!!!), dwarf elephant(!!!!), humans and human corpses, and other Komodo Dragons.  Exclamations courtesy of me, and based on my own amazement levels.

They are capable of running rapidly in brief sprints up to 12 mph, diving up to 15 ft, and climbing trees proficiently when young through use of their strong claws.  Again, I am glad I don’t just stumble across these guys.  If they wanted to eat you–there wouldn’t be a lot you could do about it. . .

They have 60 teeth that measure 1 inch.  Wha?  That’s almost like a shark-yipe.

These teeth are covered by gingival tissue, which is lacerated as they chew normally.  [I wonder why they would be designed like this???] This creates an ideal environment for bacteria.  Auffenberg [some scientist guy?] described the Komodo dragon as having septic pathogens in its saliva (he described the saliva as “reddish and copious”), specifically the bacteria: E. coli,  Staphylococcus  sp.,  Providencia  sp.,  Proteus  morgani and P. mirabilis. And I’m not sure why mirabilis doesn’t get it’s own Wiki page.

Here’s another blog that addresses the Komodos, but especially pathogens in their mouth:

http://thewrittenblit.com/2012/09/23/inside-the-bite-komodo-dragon/

He noted that while these pathogens can be found in the mouths of wild Komodo dragons, they disappear from the mouths of captive animals, due to a cleaner diet and the use of antibiotics.This was verified by taking mucous samples from the external gum surface of the upper jaw of two freshly captured individuals.

Saliva samples were analyzed by researchers at theUniversity of Texas who found 57 different strains of bacteria growing in the mouths of three wild Komodo dragons includingPasteurella multocida.  Now THAT is a dirty mouth!  

The rapid growth of these bacteria was noted by Fredeking: “Normally it takes about three days for a sample of P. multocida to cover a petri dish; ours took eight hours.  OMG–that is disgusting.  So if the Komodo didn’t eat you for some reason–you would die of blood poisoning.  Awesome.

We were very taken aback by how virulent these strains were”.[30] This study supported the observation that wounds inflicted by the Komodo dragon are often associated with sepsis and subsequent infections in prey animals.[29] How the Komodo dragon is unaffected by these virulent bacteria remains a mystery.[30]  How cool that all these bacteria live in their mouth, the bacteria multiply rapidly, and yet the lizaed is fine.  . .

Copious amounts of red saliva that the Komodo dragons produce help to lubricate the food, but swallowing is still a long process (15–20 minutes to swallow a goat). A Komodo dragon may attempt to speed up the process by ramming the carcass against a tree to force it down its throat, sometimes ramming so forcefully that the tree is knocked down.  Jesus!  Can you imagine?  These suckers are CRAZY!

Komodos eat 80% of their body weight in a single meal.  Time for some math:  What is 80% of 150 (pounds)?  120 (pounds) I think.  That means the Komodo Dragon could eat my entire body at one sitting–and still be hungry!  Watch out!

Because of their slow metabolism, large dragons can survive on as little as 12 meals a year.  Well, at least that’s something.

So the Komodo is one of my new favorite animals because it hunts as cool as a big cat, runs and climbs and swims as expertly as a large bear, AND because of the bacteria in its mouth–no one else in the animal kingdom has that.  This is not to say I ever want to meet one (outside of my Starbucks cup) face to face.

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