National Geographic : 2014 Jan
Komodo Dragons 101 Dragons put in a good 30 to 50 years, most of the time solo. Meanwhile their window on the world is mighty small: They’re found on just a few islands in Southeast Asia, all within the Indonesian archipelago. Jutting abruptly from the sea, these rugged volcanic lands have palm savannas and grasslands. Up higher are rings of forest. But much of the year the dragons’ habitat is dragon brown, with monsoon season a brief green reprieve. The earliest record of this extraordinary lizard is likely the three words “Here be dragons” embla- zoned on ancient maps of the region. And surely the first humans who saw the animals would have added: Beware! An avid hunter, the Komodo dragon can hit 12 miles an hour in short bursts. The reptiles ambush their prey, ripping open the softest flesh, typically the belly, or maiming a leg. As a backup, dragons do, in a way, breathe fire. Their mouths drip with venomous saliva that keeps blood from clotting—so bite victims bleed out quickly. A wounded victim that gets away is likely to pick up pathogens from watering holes, resulting in infection. Either way, death is almost certain. And dragons can be very patient. Saliva dangling, a dragon shows off its wide strut on Rinca at low tide. The lizard’s spit is venomous, but prey usually die from being torn apart—or, if they are bitten but manage to escape, from infection of their wounds.