The Komodo dragon, or Varanus komodoensis, is an endangered species that is native to just four small Indonesian islands: Rinca, Gili Motang, and its namesake Komodo. Males can grow to be over 3 m (10 ft) long and weigh around 90 kg (200 lbs), making it the largest and heaviest living lizard in the world. These apex predators, however, have a modest beginning and are susceptible to predators, even adults within their own species! Keep reading for six facts and six images featuring young Komodo dragons.
1. Komodo Dragons Lay Clutches of Eggs in Nests
In the wild, Komodo dragons lay eggs approximately one month after mating, between the months of July through August. Alternatively, female Komodo dragons have the ability to self-fertilize eggs without the need for a man, a process known as parthenogenesis. (Scientists speculate that this could be an evolutionary adaption that enables solitary females to settle in new areas, like an island that was uninhabited before.)
Averaging 20 to 30 eggs (and sometimes up to 38), the females deposit eggs that resemble grapefruits and have leathery shells. The mother may excavate her own nest on a hillside or in the ground, or she may repurpose an abandoned megapode (a bird that builds mounds) nest. In addition, she builds several dummy nests to ward off predators. Not for the whole incubation period, but for a few months, generally until the rainy season begins in December, the mother watches over the nest.
It’s possible that females take yearly pauses from nesting in order to refuel.
2. Komodo Dragon Eggs Hatch After About 7 – 9 Months
The baby dragons finally hatch a few months after the mother leaves the nest, generally in March or April. They burrow up out of their nest after using a unique egg tooth to rip open their egg.Hatchlings weigh roughly 100 g (3.5 oz) and are typically 40 cm (16 in) long. They emerge at the height of the summer rainy season, when there is an abundance of plant growth for cover and insects for food, which is beneficial to the hatchlings.After hatching, nestmates may continue to live in small groups for several months.
3. Baby Komodo Dragons Are More Colorful Than Older Dragons
Hatchling Komodo dragons are speckled with vivid yellow and orange patterns, in contrast to adult Komodo dragons, which have fairly uniform skin tones in varying degrees of dull earth tones like clay, tan, or green. While the juvenile dragons spend the most of their early life up in the trees, it is assumed that this mottling acts as protective camouflage.
4. Young Komodo Dragons Climb Trees To Avoid Predators — Including Adult Komodo Dragons
Because they are prey to predators, baby Komodo dragons seek safety in a neighbouring tree as soon as they hatch. It’s interesting that cannibalistic adults are one of their main predators! The more nimble young dragons can avoid becoming a snack by keeping high up in the tree canopy until they are mature enough to care for themselves and adopt a more terrestrial lifestyle, while the adults are too massive and heavy to climb trees.
5. Little Dragons Hunt Small Prey
Baby Komodo dragons primarily eat the tiny insects and lizards that are present in the trees that they reside in, but adult Komodo dragons may also take down larger prey like deer and wild boars. As they get bigger, they can hunt on the ground for longer periods of time and go for larger prey, such as birds, rodents, and snakes.
6. Young Dragons Have Weird Tricks To Avoid Being Cannibalized
In addition to lounging in the trees, juvenile Komodo dragons conceal their scent from famished adults by rolling about in the excrement of prey animals or the rejected portions of kills, such as fur or guts. The Smithsonian National Zoo refers to the strange dances that young animals do as “rituals of appeasement.” “They pace around a feeding circle in a stately ritualised walk [while] throwing their body from side to side with exaggerated convulsions,” according to this description.
7. Komodo Dragons Mature Slowly and Have Long Lifespans
Full sexual maturity is typically stated as occurring between the ages of 8 and 10 years, while some sources claim that caged dragons can attain sexual maturity as early as 5 or 7 years. Their lifespan in the wild is likewise estimated to range from 30 to 60 years.According to a 2012 study, this large variation may be caused by men generally having longer lives than women. This in turn is probably brought on by the high energy expenditures involved in producing eggs and building nests.
In mound-like or subterranean nests, komodo dragons deposit clutches of eggs, which are initially protected by the mother for several months. After roughly seven to nine months of incubation, the baby dragons hatch. Hatchlings’ mottled, colourful skin probably helps them blend in while they forage and hide in the tree canopy. One of the main predators of juvenile dragons is an adult dragon. To avoid being eaten, juveniles climb trees, hide their scent, and engage in ceremonial appeasements at feeding circles. As they grow and spend more time on the ground, young dragons eat progressively larger prey, such as insects and small lizards. Male Komodo dragons often grow larger and live longer than females, taking anywhere from 5 to 10 years to mature and 30 to 60 years to reach adulthood.