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Big Bodies

Komodo dragons are considered the largest living lizard species on the planet. Large adult males can weigh more than 200lbs and reach 10 feet in length. These lizards use this size to their advantage when attacking and subduing large prey, as well as when males fight for territory and breeding rights to females. While it may be the largest lizard, the Komodo dragon is not the longest lizard. This honor belongs to the crocodile monitor (Varanus salvadorii), a relative to the Komodo dragon native to Papua New Guinea.

Up in the Trees

When young, Komodo dragons are mostly arboreal, living in trees and large shrubs. This lifestyle allows youngsters to avoid adults, who see them as possible prey. Once they are large enough to fend for themselves, Komodo dragons live a primarily terrestrial lifestyle, hunting and resting mainly on the ground. 

Bacteria and Cocktails

Previous thinking on Komodo dragons was that the lizards used “weaponized bacteria” in their saliva to help subdue prey. While there is, indeed, a lot of bacteria present in a Komodo dragon’s mouth, it is no longer considered to be important to hunting. Current research has discovered that Komodo dragons (along with all monitor lizards) are venomous. They have venom glands that produce a cocktail of proteins that are similar to rattlesnake venom. This venom is not considered deadly or overly potent, but it increases bleeding and decreases clotting at the wound site to allow prey to bleed out quickly. 

Laying Eggs

Female Komodo dragons often lay their eggs in the abandoned nesting mounds of orange-footed scrubfowl. Some mothers may guard their nests for up to three months.

Komodo Dragon

Class: Reptilia

Order: Squamata

Family: Varabidae

Genus: Varanus

Species: Komodoensis

Status: Vulnerable

Length: 7-10 ft.

Diet: Mammals, reptiles, birds, eggs, invertebrates, carrion

Habitat: Grasslands, savannas, monsoon forests

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The Phoenix Zoo is one of the largest non-profit zoos in the U.S., caring for over 3,000 animals, with nearly 400 species represented, including many threatened/endangered species.

Giraffe peeking out