In June 2008, five scuba divers were carried away from their dive boat by strong currents and
stranded. When they finally made it to land after 12 hours adrift in shark-filled waters, they must have thought they were home free.
As it turns out, the land they made it to, was Indonesia's Rinca island, one of the last remaining homes to wild Komodo
dragons, and the divers' relief was short lived.
They spent the next two days throwing rocks and
screaming at a Komodo dragon that appeared on the beach. They successfully kept it at bay until they were rescued from the
nearly deserted island.
The world thought Komodo dragons were mythological until about 1911. During World
War I, a plane crashed near Komodo Island, and the pilot survived to tell the world about the Komodo dragon. He, like the divers, was very lucky.
Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) live up to their fierce reputation. They will attack and devour a human being unprovoked. They're part of a group of lizards known as monitors, and they're the biggest lizards in the world. The largest Komodo ever
measured was more than
10 feet long and weighed 366 pounds. The average size in the wild is about
8 feet long and 200 pounds.
With nearly 60 teeth,
serrated like a shark's and about 0.4 inches (1 cm) long, the Komodo dragon is a
brutal predator. An
animal that doesn't die in the actual attack will almost always die within a few days, as the venom released by the Komodo's bite overwhelms it.
The Komodo waits patiently, following it for miles in a leisurely
fashion, and then locates the dead animal by its smell.
A Komodo can consume about 80 percent of its body weight in 20 minutes. It can swallow huge pieces at a time because its jaw and skull are flexible, like a snake's. Komodo prey includes chickens, wild boar, deer, goats and
animals as big as water
On occasion, it'll take down a human. The Komodo is the only lizard that will attack prey bigger than itself.
It also regularly attacks other Komodo dragons. About one-tenth of the Komodo diet is other Komodos.
There aren't many
animals that can survive a Komodo attack. A human and another Komodo are pretty much the only ones. Still, this endangered
animal, down to about 4,000 in the wild, is at the top of the food chain in its habitat.