These giant reptiles have been around for millions of years, but scientists didn't study them until about a hundred years ago. Wild Komodo dragons are found only on Indonesia's Lesser Sunda Islands.
They are powerful-looking reptiles with wide, flat heads, rounded snouts, bowed legs, and huge, muscular tails. They have a clumsy, back-and-forth walk, and their yellow tongues flick in and out constantly.
The dominant predators on the islands where they live, Komodo dragons will eat almost anything they find, including already dead animals, deer, water buffalo, pigs, smaller Komodo dragons, and occasionally humans! When hunting, Komodo dragons rely on camouflage and patience, lying in bushes or tall grasses until a victim passes by. They pounce on their prey with powerful legs and sharp claws, then sink their jagged, sharklike teeth in.
An animal that escapes the jaws of a Komodo won't feel lucky for long. Dragon saliva contains large amounts of bacteria, which poisons their victims, usually within 24 hours. Dragons will calmly follow their bitten prey for miles, using their keen sense of smell to find the corpse. They have huge appetites and have been known to eat up to 80 percent of their body weight in a single feeding.
Female Komodo dragons lay up to 30 eggs, which they will guard for several months. Babies are greenish with yellow and black bands but become solid gray to reddish-brown as they age. Young dragons will stay in the trees until they are about eight months old to avoid predators, which include larger dragons.