The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), also known as the Komodo varan or varanus, is one of the most fearsome and deadly animals on earth.

To understand why, just find it in front of you: a lizard three meters long, covered by scales, with long claws and forked tongue that darts from the mouth, capable of attacking prey as big as a buffalo. Or a man.

The Komodo dragon looks like a mix between a creature of medieval legends and a dinosaur. A ferocious predator that dominates forests and river areas of the Indonesian island of Komodo, from which it takes its name, and of the other islands of the Sonda archipelago. Here are some interesting facts about him.

How much do komodo dragons weigh?

From a scientific point of view it is the largest of the saurians (suborder which includes lizards, geckos, iguanas). It reaches 3 meters in length, but it is easier to see examples of 2 meters. The weight is also considerable: an adult is around 80 kg, rarely more than 100 kg .

Size and appearances must not deceive. The Komodo varans are agile and fast animals, able to attack preys of 450 kg.

Video: Komodo dragons from Komodo National Park

The speed of the Komodo dragon

It is perhaps the most active among the predatory reptiles, it can cover up to 10 km a day in search of food, and even if it generally moves slowly, at 5 km / h, it can take lightning fast shots and reach speeds of 18-20 km / h. For this reason, approaching less than 10 meters is very, very dangerous.

Komodo National Park - Komodo Dragon The varano runs with the body well raised off the ground. It arrives at 20 km / h, even if for short distances. |

How it attacks. The secret weapon of the Komodo dragon is the bite, which injects a lethal mix of bacteria and poison into the victim. Its hunting technique is very effective: it attacks wild boars, deer, buffaloes, human beings. It lies in wait, camouflages itself, waits and approaches slowly, then snaps and grabs its prey by a paw. His sharp, serrated teeth are made to tear the flesh.

He drops the victim, then jumps around her neck, pierces her abdomen. And he begins to devour her greedily, tearing her to pieces, clenching his jaws and giving her head a hard jerk: the Komodo dragon can consume 80% of its own weight in one meal. Nothing will be left of the carcass, not even bones and hooves.

Slow death. Even if the prey manages to escape, it is enough for the dragon to be able to bite it in order not to let them escape. In the lizard's saliva, in fact, there are 50 strains of bacteria that, in 1-2 days, poison the victim's blood until it is killed. So the varans follow the fugitive for miles until the bacteria do their duty. Or they continue to attack, even for days.

Komodo National Park - Komodo Dragon The Varanus darts the forked tongue to look for food: the tongue feels the molecules of odorous substances in the air. Thus the chestnut finds, for example, the carcasses of dead animals. At night, it shelters in underground dens. And in a nest in the ground the female lays her eggs. |

Cannibals. Komodo dragons are so ravenous that they attack even the youngest specimens of their own species. And they don't dislike dead animals: they are the "scavengers" of their environment. The sense of smell guides them on food: they smell the meat 5 km away, exploring the air with the forked tongue that detects the odorous substances. Sometimes the varans venture into the villages: they look for goats and cattle, in some cases they have also attacked the man. Not surprisingly, in the past the natives spoke of them as dragons devouring men and animals: at the beginning of the 1900s, the European colonists spread the legend of the "monster". In 1912 the scientists were able to examine the first specimen. But not to take away the sinister fame that surrounds him.

Look: how was the myth of the dragons born? Komodo National Park - Komodo Dragon The Komodo Varanus is the largest of the saurians (suborder which includes lizards, geckos, iguanas). Only 5, 000 remain. Today they are protected from hunting, but remain at risk for the destruction of their environment and the decrease in their prey. | Contrast

How Komodo dragons live. They move through weeds, woods (the young remain in the trees to avoid being eaten by adults) and rivers (Komodo dragons can also swim, to refresh their bodies).

At night, Komodo dragons take shelter in underground dens. And in a nest in the ground the females lay eggs.

They live a long time, up to 65 years, even if from "elders" they have a sedentary lifestyle: they always seem half asleep, they mainly eat carrion and it is easy to defend themselves from their attack.

Komodo Dragons are at risk of extinction.

The varans live not only in Komodo, but also in Flores, and on some others of the Lesser Sunda Islands, in Indonesia. In all there are less than 5, 000 specimens and the species is defined as vulnerable and is included in the IUCN Red List.

The species is considered to be at risk because the females able to reproduce are only 350. To safeguard the dragon on 6 March 1980, 37 years ago, the Komodo National Park was established, or Komodo National Park.

Look: The real dragons of the animal kingdom

Parthenogenesis. Other curiosities concern reproduction. The Komodo dragon is one of the reptiles in which the females can give birth to the children without mating. When it happens, however, only males are born. And it usually happens in captivity. In general, however, mating takes place between May and August and the eggs are laid in September. The latter, about twenty, are laid in abandoned megapod nests, birds that build large nests with piles of rotting vegetation, or in cavities dug specifically.

The young Komodo dragons are very vulnerable and for this reason they spend most of their time in trees, until around the age of three, safe from predators and cannibal adults.

Antibiotics. But the most curious aspect of the Komodo dragon lies in its blood. A recent study by George Mason University in Virginia (USA), published in The Journal of Proteome Research, found that the blood of these saurians is rich in compounds that could be used as antibiotics.

As mentioned, their saliva is a mix of poison and deadly bacteria. Curiously though, Komodo dragons seem to resist the bites of other dragons. Many animals, not just Komodo dragons, have proteins known as antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) that act as weapons against infections. But if the Komodo dragon AMPs are so strong as to protect them from the bacteria of other dragons, they must be particularly powerful. And they could be a promising source of active ingredients on which to build new and effective antibiotics.