20 julio, 2024

Komodo Dragon: Characteristics, Speed, Habitat, Behavior

He Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is a reptile that belongs to the Varanidae family. This lizard is the largest of all those currently living on Earth. Its body can measure up to three meters and it has a muscular and strong tail, almost the same size as its body.

The speed of the Komodo dragon can reach 20 kilometers per hour, being one of the fastest reptiles. When running, they keep their tails off the ground and keep their bodies rigid. Also, they are skilled swimmers.

The extremities are robust and on the head there is a rounded snout with sharp teeth. It has two venom glands, located in the lower jaw. As for the skull, it is flexible and, although it is not adapted to provide a strong bite, it does resist high tensile loads.

Thus, when the Komodo dragon bites its prey, it bites deeply and tears the skin, making it easier for the venom to enter the animal’s bloodstream. In this way, soon after, it dies due to the anticoagulant action of the toxic substance and the abundant loss of blood.

Regarding its distribution, it lives in Indonesia, on the Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang, Komodo and Gili Dasami islands. In these regions, it inhabits warm areas such as dry deciduous forests, savannahs, and open grasslands.

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Evolution

The evolutionary development of Varanus komodoensis starts with the genus Varanus. This originated in Asia, around 40 million years ago. Later it migrated to Australia, evolving into larger forms, such as the Varanus megalaniarecently extinct.

15 million years ago, members of the genus Varanus arrived in the Indonesian archipelago. This occurred after the landmasses of Southeast Asia and Australia collided.

Some experts say that the largest monitor lizards returned to Indonesia at that time. Four years later, the Komodo dragon diverged from these Australian ancestors. However, recent fossils found in Queensland suggest that the Varanus komodoensis it evolved in Australia, before reaching Indonesia.

In the last glacial period, the dramatic drop in sea level exposed large areas of the continental shelf, which were colonized by the Komodo dragon. In this way, the reptile was isolated in its current range, as sea levels gradually increased.

Komodo Dragon Characteristics

Size

The Komodo dragon is one of the largest lizards. Also, males are larger than females. Thus, an adult male weighs between 79 and 91 kilograms and measures an average of 2.59 meters.

In relation to the female, it has a body mass of 68 to 74 kilograms, with a body length of approximately 2.29 meters. However, researchers have reported species up to 3.13 meters, with a weight of 166 kilograms.

Mouth

The jaws have about 60 serrated teeth, which are frequently replaced. These measure up to 2.5 centimeters. The teeth are covered with gingival tissue. Due to this, when the animal eats, it usually hurts said tissue, causing bleeding.

This is why their saliva is usually tinged with blood. On the other hand, the tongue is long, deeply forked, and yellow in color.

Fur

the skin of Varanus komodoensis it is tough and covered in armored scales. They have small bones, known as osteoderms. These structures vary in shape and are more ossified, as the animal ages.

On the other hand, osteoderms are not present in hatchlings or juveniles. This indicates that this natural armor develops as the Komodo dragon matures.

As for the coloration, the young are green with black and yellow bands. Adults are dull and uniform in hue, varying from greyish-red to brown.

speed and locomotion

This quadruped animal moves at an approximate speed of 4.8 km/h. However, you can run short distances between 14 and 20 km/h in short distances. When walking, the body, head, and tail sway from side to side.

On the other hand, while running, the hind legs move in a wide lateral arc and the tail is raised off the ground. This species is an excellent swimmer and juveniles are good at climbing. However, when they grow up, they become heavy and cannot climb trees.

Senses

In the Komodo dragon’s auditory system, the stirrup is the structure responsible for transferring vibrations from the tympanic membrane to the cochlea. This could imply that the auditory field is restricted to sounds that are in the range of 400 to 2,000 hertz, while, comparatively, the human hears between 20 and 20,000 hertz.

Regarding the sense of sight, this animal can distinguish those objects that are at a distance of 300 meters. They can distinguish colors, but because they only have cones, their night vision is probably poor.

Like other reptiles, it uses the Jacobson’s organ to detect olfactory stimuli. For this, it uses its tongue, which it sticks out, while it walks and moves its head from side to side. Thus, it can pick up the smell of carrion, even though it is up to 9.5 kilometers away.

Regarding the scales, they have sensory plates, which are connected to the nerves. Around the lips, ears, chin, and soles of the feet they have 3 or more sensory plates. In this way, they can capture some tactile stimuli, to which they are exposed in their habitat.

antibacterial immune factor

Scientists have succeeded in isolating from the blood plasma of the Varanus komodoensis a powerful antibacterial peptide, VK25. Taking this compound as a base, they synthesized DRGN-1, which has been used against pathogens resistant to various drugs.

Preliminary results show that DRGN-1 is effective in killing some fungal species and various bacterial strains. In addition, it contributes to the healing of wounds, even if they are infected.

Poison

In 2009, researchers proved that the Komodo dragon has a venomous bite. This reptile has two glands in the lower jaw, which secrete various toxic proteins.

These work by inhibiting blood clotting and lowering blood pressure. This causes muscle paralysis and hypothermia, bringing the body into a state of shock. This discovery refutes the theory that the bacteria are responsible for the death of the prey of the Varanus komodoensis.

However, some evolutionary biologists maintain that this reptile can use the venom for other biological functions than killing the prey. This is based on the fact that blood loss and shock are only primary factors, product of the action of the toxic substance. In the following video you can see the morphology of this species:

taxonomy

-Animal Kingdom.

-Subkingdom: Bilateria.

-Filum: Chordate.

-Subphylum: Vertebrate.

-Infraphylum: Gnathostomata.

-Superclass: Tetrapoda.

-Class: Reptile.

-Order: Squamata.

-Suborder: Autarchoglossa.

-Family: Varanidae.

-Genus: Varanus.

-Species: Varanus komodoensis.

Habitat and distribution

Distribution

The Komodo dragon is distributed on five Indonesian islands. One of these is the island of Flores, and the remaining four, Rinca, Komodo, Gili Dasami and Gili Motang, are located within the Komodo National Park.

Today, on the island of Flores, the Varanus komodoensis is threatened with extinction. Its population density is considerably less than on Komodo and the small neighboring islands. Studies indicate that communities are probably shrinking north of Flores.

Thus, its distribution in Flores is restricted to the western region of Manggarai, specifically in the area that includes Labuan Bajo. Also, it extends to the southeast and south, towards Nanga Lili and on the Sanga Benga mountain.

In the late 1970s, V. komodoensis it became extinct from the small island of Padar, located between Rinca and Komodo. This was due to reduced populations of deer, their main food.

On the other hand, this species has been sighted on the island of Sumbawa, specifically on the south coast of the island. However, it is currently unknown if this is really a stable population.

Habitat

These island territories have a volcanic origin. They are mountainous and rugged, being covered in savannah grasslands and forests. In these there are two seasons, one of moderate winter, from January to March, and a long summer.

He Varanus komodoensis It inhabits from tropical dry forests to savannahs or deciduous monsoon forests. One of the main characteristics of these regions is the high daytime temperature, which occurs during the summer. In general, the average is 35 °C, with a degree of humidity close to 70%.

The Komodo dragon lives in rocky valleys, between 500 and 700 meters above sea level. This reptile prefers dry and warm regions, such as open grasslands and lowland areas, with an abundance of shrubs and tall grasses. However, it can be found in dry riverbeds and beaches.

Some species dig shallow burrows, although you can also use one vacated by another lizard. The animal goes to this space with the intention of resting and keeping warm at night. During the day, the shelter remains cool, so the animal uses it to reduce the heat of the day.

State of conservation

The populations of the Varanus komodoensis They are decreasing as they are affected by various factors, both natural and those associated with human actions. Communities remain relatively stable on larger islands, such as Rinca and Komodo.

However, on the smaller islands, such as Gili Motang and Nusa Kode, they are gradually declining. In Padar, until 1975 there was evidence of the presence of this species, which is why this ancient population in that insular territory is considered extinct. This situation has caused the IUCN to catalog the V. komodoensis as a species vulnerable to extinction.

Among the threats are the eruption of volcanoes, forest fires and earthquakes. In addition, it is affected by tourist activities in the area, the loss of the prey that forms its diet, and illegal hunting.

Actions

The Komodo dragon is listed on Appendix I of CITES. In this group are those species that are in danger of becoming extinct, so their international trade is not allowed. Importation is only authorized when it is not for commercial purposes, such as for scientific research.

Due to the rapid decline of the populations, in 1980 the Komodo National Park was created. The fundamental purpose of said ecological reserve is the creation of a protection area, where actions are promoted to preserve this species in its natural environment.

Subsequently, the Wolo Tado and Wae Wuul Reserves were opened in Flores. In…

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