While some assume that dragons exist only as a fairy tale, or a figment of imagination, komodo dragons are very much a nonfictional creature. Komodo dragons may not have giant wings and be able to soar great distances, or breathe fire from their mouths, but the reptilian carnivores, discovered in 1910 by western scientists, still reside on planet earth.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Varanus komodoensis live in the harsh, volcanic lands of Indonesia’s Lesser Sunda Islands. This tropical paradise, provides the komodo dragons with a sufficient food source. The beasts are carnivores, meaning they eat meat, or other living creatures. Their diets consist of almost anything they can get their forked tongues around because they are the dominant predators in their food chain. They eat animals like deer, pigs, smaller komodo dragons, and even in extreme cases, water buffalo and, unfortunately, humans. They hunt by blending into the forest and waiting to ambush their kill. They spring upon their victims with their powerful hind legs, and use their razor sharp claws and teeth to devastate and kill their prey. Even if the animal escapes the grasp of the dragon, they will not stay healthy for much longer. Komodo dragon saliva is fill of bacteria, and if the bite has pierced the skin, then the victim will likely die of blood poisoning. The dragon will then follow the victim as it scampers away, and as it dies, the dragon is there to feast. Its keen sense of smell enables it to follow and devour. Shockingly, a komodo dragon can eat up to eighty percent of its body weight in a single meal.
Dragons aren’t exactly small beasts either. Komodo dragons are the largest species of lizard in the world. They are usually 10 feet long and 330 pounds. The largest verified individual was 10.3 feet long, and weighed 366 pounds. They can usually, if left undisturbed, live up to 30 years. However recent activities have put komodo dragons on the verge of endangerment. Poachers may be after the kill to establish that they have killed a dragon. Humans have also destroyed much of their habitat as the human population expands. The decline in their food source has also hurt them, as more and more deer are killed off in the area. Also, small closed populations leads to a decline in genetic variations, causing the genome to be more likely to be susceptible to disease. Fortunately there is still hope for the dragon. Efforts have been made to keep the population prosperous; a Komodo National Park was established in 1980 to study, as well as protect the beasts from illegal poachers, and farmers who want to get rid of them, similar to how American farmers would want to get rid of Coyotes. Komodo Dragons have lived on planet Earth for millions of years, and it would be a shame to see such a beautiful creature gone. Fossils of ancestors and relatives of komodo dragons date back up to 95 million years ago. Fossils like these have been found in Australia, Europe, Asia, and even Africa.
The fact that komodo dragons and their ancestors have been around for so long begs the question: did dragons from the myths and fairytales once exist? Are the rumors based on evidence? While it is unlikely, the idea of a dragon has spanned several continents. The Dragon is in the Chinese Culture, yet the Komodo dragon resides far south of China. The elusive ancient fire-breathing dragon may be a myth, but the Komodo dragon lives on, alive and well.