Saturday 16 May 2009

Here be Dragons

Komodo dragons have lived in Indonesia's Lesser Sunda Islands for millions of years, yet their existence was unknown to humans until about 100 years ago.

They grow to over 10 feet (3 meters) in length and weigh more than 300 pounds (136 kilograms). With their long, flat heads with rounded snouts, scaly skin, bowed legs, and huge, muscular tails, they are an impressive sight.Their saliva teems with over 50 strains of bacteria, and within 24 hours, anything bitten by them usually dies of blood poisoning.

So where did they come from?
The Komodo Dragon ,as with all modern reptiles, with the exception of turtles, is a distant descendant of the subclass Diapsida that emerged some 300 million years ago. Around 250 million years ago, Diapsids divided into Archosaurs, the descendents of the Dinosaurs, and Lepidosaurs, the precursors to snakes and lizards. The Komodo descended from this species and evolved to its present form over four million years ago.The Komodo Dragon is the biggest of the Monitor lizards , not a relative of the legendary Dragons as the name would suggest.

Most of the World was unaware of the Komodo Dragon before 1912. In 1910, after hearing about "land crocodiles", Lieutenant van Steyn van Hensbroek, of the Dutch colonial administration in Indonesia, searched for the Komodo and sent the skin of a 2.1 meter (about 6.5 feet)specimen, along with photographs to the Zoological Museum and Botanical Gardens at Bogor (Java, Indonesia).
The Director of the Museum, then employed a collector to obtain further specimens. The Director classified it as a member of the Varanidae (Monitor Lizard) family, naming it Varanus komodoensis in his scientific paper of 1912 which announced the Komodo Dragon to the world's scientific community. Further expeditions went in search of the Komodo including one expedition by W. Douglas Burden from the American Museum of Natural History in 1926 which captured 27 Komodo Dragons and examined as many as 70 others.

There is a stable population of about 3,000 to 5,000 Komodo dragons on the islands of Komodo, Gila Motang, Rinca, and Flores. They have a keen sense of smell and have been known to seek out carrion. up to 5 miles (8.5 kilometers) away. The Komodo is fast moving and agile and can climb trees and swim. So a fearsome predator to man or beast, having teeth that are laterally compressed with serrated edges like a shark. They regularly kill prey as large as pigs and small deer, and have been known to bring down an adult water buffalo. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything they can overpower including other dragons and humans.

They live on the arid volcanic islands where there is little water most of the year. The monsoon season often produces local flooding. The average annual temperature at sea level on Komodo island is 80F. degrees. So a survivor in harsh conditions. The dragons are under threat and are on the list of species that could become endangered. These are truly magnificent animals who were once cryptozoological unknowns.

For those disappointed this wasn’t about fire breathing dragons for information of the history of legendary dragons go here:

For more information on Komodos:

Stop press Update on dragons :,27574,25503172-421,00.html

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