Beasts of science: the Komodo Dragon, bloodthirsty monster or clever little one?

Beasts of science the Komodo Dragon bloodthirsty monster or clever

“Bêtes de science” is like a collection of stories. Beautiful stories that tell the living in all its freshness. But also in all its complexity. A parenthesis to marvel at the treasures of the world. For this new episode, let’s take a look at a lizard not quite like the others: the Komodo Dragon.

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They are generally quite large. They have a long neck. A triangular head. And a language bifid. You know, a tongue that cuts in half at the end. Like the tongue of snakes. Yet the monitor lizards are indeed lizards. The largest of them – and undoubtedly also the best known – is the Komodo dragon. It can be up to 3 meters long and weigh around 90 kilograms.

On the island of Komodo where he lives, he tells himself a beautiful legend that binds him forever to humanity. According to this story, a princess would have given birth to twins one day. A little boy she raised as such. And a female dragon that she hid in the forest. During a hunting trip, the little boy turned young man almost killed his twin sister. But he finally laid down his weapons. Since then, men and dragons have lived in harmony.

Or almost. Since, despite its size, to say the least, which allows it to dominate the regions in which it lives, the Komodo dragon is now considered an endangered species. Its habitat is disappearing and it suffers from a decrease in the number of its prey – invertebrates, birds or small mammals, most of the time -, tourism and poaching. Researchers also estimate that with rising sea levels, no less than 30% of its range could end up underwater before the end of this century.

A not-so-stupid monster

And it is unfortunately not their reputation as a bloodthirsty monster that will help to preserve them. Because it is a fact, the Komodo Dragon is among the most dangerous of lizards. He knows how to be lively. And patient. It even hides, below its jaw, glands with venom. A film released in 1999 also features man-eating Komodo Dragons. Yet in real life attacks on humans – even though they can prove fatal – remain extremely rare. The Komodo Dragon is ultimately rather lazy by nature. He door already on the back a skin made of hard scales. As difficult to wear as a chain mail. You imagine that to save his energy, he prefers … to bask in the Sun !

If the reputation of the Komodo Dragon doesn’t serve him well, maybe his intelligence will she manage to move. In captive specimens, researchers have indeed noted several signs of cognitive development. Kraken, the very first of these lizards born in captivity at the Washington Zoo in 1982, thus showed his attraction to … the game. He liked to push, grab and hold various objects in his mouth. And the researchers were able to show that his games were not motivated by the predatory behavior of the young dragon.

Other researchers have demonstrated the amazing memory for lizards of these funny animals. Still in captivity, they have indeed noted that the Komodo Dragon reacts differently in the presence of its usual healer or a stranger. It even appears that these dragons can develop distinct personalities.

Some of their monitor lizard cousins ​​have shown other surprising abilities. The Nile Varan is a past master in the art of hunting. By dint of cunning. His technique: to attract a female crocodile far from her nest to allow her companion to devour the eggs left defenseless. The Varan variegated, meanwhile, would have a certain awareness of mathematics. This lizard endemicfrom Australia would count! Up to six, only. But for a lizard, admit it’s not that bad already. So the monitor lizards, not so stupid, are they?

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