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The word "animal" comes from the Latin word animale, neuter of animalis, and is derived from anima, meaning vital breath or soul. In everyday colloquial usage, the word usually refers to non-human animals. The biological definition of the word refers to all members of the Kingdom Animalia. Therefore, when the word "animal" is used in a biological context, humans are included.
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Komodo Dragon / Varanus Komodoensis

Posted by WishbonE at 12:29 AM

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Komodo Dragon / Varanus Komodoensis

The Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) are the world's heaviest living lizards. Reaching 10 feet (3 meters) in length and more than 300 pounds (136 kilograms), Komodo dragons are the heaviest lizards on Earth. Females are usually under 8 feet and weigh about 150 lbs. (68 kg.). They have long, flat heads with rounded snouts, scaly skin, bowed legs, and huge, muscular tails.
This species inhabit the islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang, and Gili Dasami, in central Indonesia. Komodo dragons have thrived in the harsh climate of Indonesia's Lesser Sunda Islands for millions of years, although amazingly, their existence was unknown to humans until about 100 years ago. The natural habitat of Komodo dragons is extremely harsh by human standards. These arid volcanic islands have steep slopes and little available water most of the year. A short monsoon season often produces local flooding. The average annual temperature at sea level on Komodo island is 80F. degrees. Dragons are most abundant in the lower arid forest and savanna.

Komodos are part of the awesome monitor lizard family. They can see up to 300 metres and their eyes are better adapted to seeing movement than stationary objects. Komodo dragons were initially thought to be completely deaf, however more recent research has shown that they can hear, albeit in a restricted frequency range. The Komodo dragon does not have a particularly acute sense of hearing, despite its visible earholes, and is only able to hear sounds between 400 and 2000 hertz.

Komodo Dragons are carnivores and their main hunting sense is that of smell. The lizard samples the air with its tongue then returns the two tongue tips to the mouth where the air is "analysed". A Komodo dragon can sense the smell of carrion up to four kilometres (two and a half miles) away. As the dominant predators on the handful of islands they inhabit, they will eat almost anything, including carrion, deer, pigs, smaller dragons, and even large water buffalo and humans. When hunting, Komodo dragons rely on camouflage and patience, lying in wait for passing prey. When a victim ambles by, the dragon springs, using its powerful legs, sharp claws and serrated, shark-like teeth to eviscerate its prey.
Given their size, Komodo dragons are not built for a long chase - however they can sprint at up to 20 kilometres per hour (12 miles per hour) for short periods of time. Their preferred hunting strategy to get food is thus to sit quietly in one spot waiting for something big and tasty to come near. Komodo dragons have also been observed knocking down large pigs and deer with their strong tail. Animals that escape the jaws of a Komodo will only feel lucky briefly. Dragon saliva teems with over 50 strains of bacteria, and within 24 hours, the stricken creature usually dies of blood poisoning. Dragons calmly follow an escapee for miles as the bacteria takes effect, using their keen sense of smell to hone in on the corpse. A dragon can eat a whopping 80 percent of its body weight in a single feeding.

There is a stable population of about 3,000 to 5,000 Komodo dragons on the islands of Komodo, Gila Motang, Rinca, and Flores. However, a dearth of egg-laying females, poaching, human encroachment, and natural disasters has driven the species to endangered status.

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