A visit to Komodo Dragons on Komodo Island Indonesia
Check out the Smithsonian magazine of February 2013 for more information on the Dragons.
Some information on the Dragons-Taken from Wikipedia
The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), also known as the Komodo monitor, is a large species of lizard found in the Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Padar. A member of the monitor lizard family (Varanidae), it is the largest living species of lizard, growing to a maximum length of 3 metres (10 ft) in rare cases and weighing up to around 150 kilograms (330 lb). Their unusual size has been attributed to island gigantism, since no other carnivorous animals fill the niche on the islands where they live.
However, recent research suggests the large size of Komodo dragons may be better understood as representative of a relict population of very large varanid lizards that once lived across Indonesia and Australia, most of which, along with other megafauna, died out after the Pleistocene. Fossils very similar to V. komodoensis have been found in Australia dating to greater than 3.8 million years ago, and its body size remained stable on Flores, one of the handful of Indonesian islands where it is currently found, over the last 900,000 years, “a time marked by major faunal turnovers, extinction of the island’s megafauna, and the arrival of early hominids by 880 ka.”
As a result of their size, these lizards dominate the ecosystems in which they live. Komodo dragons hunt and ambush prey including invertebrates, birds, and mammals. Their group behaviour in hunting is exceptional in the reptile world. The diet of big Komodo dragons mainly consists of deer, though they also eat considerable amounts of carrion. Komodo dragons also occasionally attack humans in the area of West Manggarai Regency where they live in Indonesia.
In the wild, an adult Komodo dragon usually weighs around 70 kg (150 lb), although captive specimens often weigh more. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, an average adult male will weigh 79 to 91 kg (170 to 200 lb) and measure 2.59 m (8.5 ft), while an average female will weigh 68 to 73 kg (150 to 160 lb) and measure 2.29 m (7.5 ft). The largest verified wild specimen was 3.13 m (10.3 ft) long and weighed 166 kg (370 lb), including undigested food. 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 2.5 cm (1 in) 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 also 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.
The Komodo dragon does not have an acute sense of hearing, despite its visible earholes, and is only able to hear sounds between 400 and 2000 hertz.
The Komodo dragon uses its tongue to detect, taste, and smell stimuli, as with many other reptiles, with the vomeronasal sense using the Jacobson’s organ, rather than using the nostrils. With the help of a favorable 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 km (2.5–5.9 mi) away. It only has a few taste buds in the back of its throat. Its scales, some of which are reinforced with bone, have sensory plaques connected to nerves to facilitate its sense of touch. The scales around the ears, lips, chin, and soles of the feet may have three or more sensory plaques.
The Komodo dragon prefers hot and dry places, and typically lives in dry, open grassland, savanna, and tropical forest at low elevations. As an ectotherm, it is most active in the day, although it exhibits some nocturnal activity. Komodo dragons are solitary, coming together only to breed and eat. They are capable of running rapidly in brief sprints up to 20 km/h (12 mph), diving up to 4.5 m (15 ft), 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 its great size makes climbing impractical.