Imagine yourself wandering in tropical Savanna forest where two sturdy cacao-coloured animals were wrestling to blood for female's approval to mate. This picturesque scene is due to roll from May to August and the female will have a role to lay 30 eggs in the next 9 months. Komodo dragons are the given name to these reptiles residing in the largest lizard island on earth, Komodo.
Riding on the pink oceanic crust, Pulau Komodo (Indonesian) houses the population of 2,000+ and serves as a natural habitat for these dragons to play-fight. The history of this island is said to be discovered by Dutch voyagers in the early 1910s. The dragons were first noted as a creature that ‘breathes fire’ and the report went through Lieutenant Steyn van Hensbroek who took the animal for documentation. Research results came out in 1912. Three years later; laws follow to protect the animal’s significance to the island.
Indulging on carcasses of deers and snakes, Komodo dragons are measured to be 70 kg in size, possessed the ability to stretch itself out to 3.13 meters with the weight of 166 kg. Eating 80% of its own body weight, the great dragon haunts on stealth and power, lurches on its prey at the speed of 16 to 20 kph. The Komodos can distinguish colours through their retina but only under poor vision in low light. Slimy venom in the dragon’s tongue can poise its preys to their deathbed in the next several days. When threatened, the dragon can throw up the contents of its stomach to lessen its weight and flee for safety.
What’s even more fascinating about this resident of Komodo is its powerful gift to new antibiotics discovery. Antimicrobial peptides, infection defense protein, are built in the dragons letting them accomplish an immune wall to the bites of other terrestrial animals. These findings may be also curb everyday problems such acne and pneumonia. Next, we’ll take a look at how reproduction work for the dragons.
Sexing Komodo is a challenge as they themselves still have trouble identifying who is male and female. Female Komodo can reproduce through an asexual process called parthenogenesis meaning no males are participated. The normal mating call would involve in males using their tongue as sensory experience to female's receptivity. After the female is impregnated, Komodo dragons are ready to bond as parents and grow a monogamous relationship.
Komodo younglings spend 7-8 months in shell before breaking into the world through special baby egg-tooth. The dragons then become exhausted and take a rest for a long time to prepare themselves against a treacherous playground where cannibalism is likely to exist! The defense is that these offsprings will have to seek solace in adults or spend a certain pace of their lifetime to camouflage. Komodo reptiles are expected to roam earth for as long as 50 years.
In January 2020, Komodo island is closed to visitors to preserve the animals’ habitat. The announcement to shut down were made by the officials of East Nusa Tenggara, Indonesia’s southernmost province after the news of nine men arrested for smuggling 40 komodo dragons under ‘$35,000/each.’.
Komodo dragons are as cool as dogs with their long tongue that can both scares you off or invite you for further observation.
By Chhem Sreynet