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Varanus komodoensis

(Komodo Dragon)


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Endangered : The largest threat is volcanic activity, fire and subsequent loss of its prey base . Currently habitat alteration , poaching of prey species and tourism may have the most pronounced effect. Commercial trade in specimens or skins is illegal under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES ).Wild Population: 3,000 to 5,000.


Threat status

Interesting Facts

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Common Names

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Click on the language to view common names.

Common Names in English:

Komodo Dragon, Komodo Island Monitor, Komodo Monitor, Ora

Common Names in French:

Dragon Des Komodos, Varan De Komodo

Common Names in Spanish:

Varano De Komodo


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Physical Description

Species Varanus komodoensis

Komodo dragons are the world's heaviest living lizards. They can grow to a length of 10 feet (over 3 meters), with an average length of 8 feet (2.5 meters) and weight of 200 lbs (91 kg .). Females are usually under 8 feet and weigh about 150 lbs. (68 kg.).

The Komodo dragon's keen sense of smell, if aided by favorable wind, enables it to seek out carrion up to 5 miles (8.5 kilometers) away. Despite its size, the Komodo is fast moving and agile. They can climb trees and like all monitor lizards they are good swimmers.

Their teeth are laterally compressed with serrated edges , resembling those of flesh-eating sharks . They have about 60 teeth that they replace frequently and are positioned to cut out chunks of its prey . The highly flexible skull allows it to swallow large pieces of its food. The Komodos mouth is full of virulent bacteria and even if its prey survives the original attack, it will die of infection later.

Young dragons up to 29 inches (.75 meters) live in trees and eat insects, birds, eggs , small mammals and other reptiles . They will descend from the tree for carrion.

Komodo monitors have a tongue like a snake , forked at the end and very sensitive to taste and scent. Jacobson's organ , a pit in the roof of the mouth, is used to analyze scent molecules collected on the tongue. Comparison of the concentration of molecules on the left and right tip combined with moving the head from side to side, can be used to accurately locate the source of the scent. Komodos can detect carrion at distances up to 4 km .

Its legs are large and powerful and it can run up to 20 kph per hour for shout distances. They are also good climbers . However, these big monitors are most effective as ambush hunters, and most monitor attacks do not result in an immediate kill. The bite of a monitor, however, can be deadly due to the presence of many bacteria in the mouth. A monitor bite turns septic and the victim dies in a few days.

Its large mouth, strong jaws and big stomach allow monitors to consume food equal to up to 80% of its body weight at a single feeding.


Adults are usually dark grey-brown with patches of yellow, white, green, and black. Juvenile dragons are brighter, with black and yellow spots or bands and reddish spots.


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 .

Biome: Terrestrial [1].


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Juveniles : insects and small lizards.

Adults: birds, rodents, snakes , fish, crabs, snails, and mammals including goats, deer, wild boar and even water buffalo. Much of their food is consumed as carrion .

The Komodo is carnivorous and cannibalistic and it has a prodigious appetite. They regularly kill prey as large as pigs and small deer, and have been known to bring down an adult water buffalo. They are opportunistic feeders and will eat anything they can overpower including small dragons and small or injured humans (dragons make up to 10% of their diet ).

An eyewitness account revealed that a 101 lb (46 kg .) dragon ate a 90 lb. (41 kg.) pig in 20 minutes. As a comparison, a 100 lb. person would have to eat 320 quarter pound hamburgers in less than 20 minutes to keep up with the dragon.


The life expectancy of a Komodo is between 20 to 40 years. As noted above, Komodo dragons are generally solitary animals, except during the breeding season .

The male Komodo dragon presses his snout to the female's body, and flicks her with his long, forked tongue to obtain chemical information about her receptivity. He then scratches her back with his long claws , making a ratchet-like noise. If unreceptive, she raises and inflates her neck and hisses loudly.

Komodos mate from May to August. Males engage in mating combat in which they rear up on their hind legs and wrestle each other. The loser runs or simply gives up. The males court females using mating rituals like as tongue touching, snout nudging, biting, and scratching. Fertilized eggs may be retained in the female until September, when the weather is cooler, and then laid on the ground or in a ground nest "borrowed" bird. The female wild dragons will often use the nest mound of a brush turkey in which she will lay a clutch of up to 30 eggs.

The female remains with the eggs until they are hatched, but the babies are on their own and many are lost to predators , including other komodos. Since monitors avoid eating feces , young monitors can protect themselves by rolling in feces. Komodos may live for 30 years.

Hatchlings are about 15 inches (40 centimeters) and weigh 3.5 ounces (100 g.).

Juveniles are multi-hued, (yellow, green, grown and gray); with a speckled and banded skin . Adult colors vary from earthen red to slate gray and black.


In the wild, Komodo dragons are generally solitary animals, except during the breeding season . Males maintain and defend a territory and patrol up to 1.2 miles (2 km .) per day. Territories are dependent on the size of the dragon. Feeding ranges extend further and may be shared with other males. A dragon will allow other dragons to cross its territory when they are on a food run.

Like all reptiles , Komodo Dragons spend much of their day basking in the sun up on rocks, or in clearings in the brush . If they get too warm, they move into the shade. Dragons maintain burrows within their core ranges and occasionally males will swim from island to island over long distances . They regulate their body temperature (thermoregulation) by using a burrow.


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Varanus komodoensis — Ast 2001 • Varanus komodoensis — De Lisle 1996: 130 • Varanus komodoensis — De Rooij 1915: 150


Name Status: Accepted Name .

Comment: This is the largest lizard known. Some claim that the largest specimen ever recorded was 10 feet 2 inches long and weighed 365 lbs! Pathenogenesis has recently been reported for this species.

Similar Species

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Members of the genus Varanus

ZipcodeZoo has pages for 55 species and subspecies in this genus:

V. acanthurus (Spiny-Tailed Monitor) · V. albigularis (White-Throated Monitor) · V. albigularis albigularis (White-Throated Monitor Lizard) · V. baritji (Black-Spotted Ridge-Tailed Momitor) · V. beccarii (Black Tree Monitor) · V. bengalensis (Bengal Monitor Lizard) · V. bogerti (Bogert's Monitor) · V. brevicauda (Short-Tailed Pygmy Monitor) · V. caerulivirens (Turquoise Monitor) · V. caudolineatus (Line-Tailed Pygmy Monitor) · V. doreanus (Bluetail Monitor) · V. dumerilii (Dumeril Monitor) · V. eremius (Rusty Desert Monitor) · V. exanthematicus (Savannah Monitor Lizard) · V. finschi (Finsch's Monitor) · V. flavescens (Calcutta Oval-Grain Lizard) · V. giganteus (Perentie) · V. gilleni (Pigmy Mulga Monitor) · V. glauerti (Glauert's Monitor) · V. glebopalma (Black-Palmed Rock Monitor) · V. gouldii (Sand Goanna) · V. griseus (Desert Monitor) · V. griseus griseus (Desert Monitor) · V. indicus (Indian Monitor Lizard) · V. indicus rouxi (Indian Monitor Lizard) · V. jobiensis (Peach-Throated Monitor) · V. keithhornei (Nesbit River Monitor) · V. kingorum (Pygmy Rock Monitor) · V. komodoensis (Komodo Dragon) · V. mabitang (Panay Monitor Lizard) · V. mertensi (Mertens's Water Monitor) · V. nebulosus (Clouded Monitor) · V. niloticus (Nile Monitor) · V. olivaceus (Gray's Monitor) · V. panoptes (Argus Monitor) · V. panoptes panoptes (Yellow-Spotted Monitor) · V. pilbarensis (Pilbara Rock Monitor) · V. prasinus (Green Tree Monitor) · V. primordius (Northern Blunt-Spined Monitor) · V. rosenbergi (Heath Monitor) · V. rudicollis (Roughneck Monitor) · V. salvadori (Crocodile Monitor Lizard) · V. salvadorii (Crocodile Monitor) · V. salvator (Common Water Monitor) · V. salvator salvator (Common Water Monitor) · V. salvator togianus (Common Water Monitor) · V. scalaris (Banded Tree Monitor) · V. salvator subsp. salvator (Common Water Monitor) · V. spenceri (Spencer's Monitor) · V. spinulosus (Solomon Island Spiny Monitor) · V. storri (Storr's Monitor) · V. timorensis (Spotted Tree Monitor) · V. tristis (Black-Headed Monitor) · V. varius (Lace Monitor) · V. yemenensis (Yemen Monitor)

More Info

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Further Reading

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Data Sources

Accessed through GBIF Data Portal February 27, 2008:



  1. World Conservation Monitoring Centre 1996. Varanus komodoensis. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. <>. Downloaded on 05 February 2012. [back]
Last Revised: 2014-05-23