Thursday, 11 September 2014
I've just got back from a holiday in Indonesia, where I've seen the biggest monitor lizards on the planet - Komodo dragons. These may well have led to the idea that dragons really existed, as they will eat anything, including human beings given the chance. They live on Rinca, Komodo and Flores islands.
It used to be thought that they killed their prey (mainly deer and buffalo) by biting them on the hind leg, and waiting for the bacteria in their mouths to cause septicaemia. The recent discovery that they secrete toxic proteins from glands in their jaws means that the bite is even more deadly, although it doesn't take effect for some time.
Female dragons lay their eggs in the abandoned nests of megapode birds - mounds of earth into which they dig holes. These nests are then guarded by the female for many months until the babies hatch. That's when it gets really gory - the mother hasn't waited to see them safe, she's there for a quick snack. The youngsters have to find a tree to climb, and fast, before they get eaten by their cannibal parent. Out of the 20-30 eggs, only 5 or 6 babies will make it.