Some researchers believe that prey are killed by pathogenic bacteria in the dragons' mouths but the new research – published in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences – shows that the combination of the reptiles' teeth and venom likely accounts for their hunting prowess.
"The view that the Komodo routinely kills using dirty oral bacteria is wrong," says research co-author, Dr Stephen Wroe from the University of New South Wales, Australia. "The dragon is truly poisonous. It has modified salivary glands that deliver both hypertensive and anti-blood-clotting agents, which, in combination with lightweight but sophisticated cranial and dental adaptations, allows it to kill large animals through rapid blood loss."
The researchers used computer modeling to analyse the Komodo dragon bite and found that dragons have much weaker bites than crocodiles of a similar size. However, magnetic resonance imaging revealed the dragons have complex venom glands as well.
After surgically excising the glands from a terminally ill dragon in a zoo, the researchers used mass spectrometry to obtain a profile of the venom, finding that the toxin was similar to that of the Gila monster and many snakes. The venom causes a severe loss in blood pressure by preventing blood clotting and widening blood vessels, thus inducing shock in a victim.
The researchers also examined fossils of the giant extinct dragon relative Varanus megalania and determined that this seven-metre-long lizard was one of the largest venomous animals to have ever lived.
A member of the goanna family with ancestors dating back more than 100 million years, the Komodo dragon is the world's largest living lizard and inhabits the central Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Gili Dasami. It grows to an average length of two to three metres and weighs around 70 kilograms. The reptile's unusual size is attributed to a phenomenon known as island gigantism, since there are no other carnivorous mammals to fill the niche on the islands where they live.
The lizards are apex predators and dominate the ecosystems in which they live. Although Komodo dragons eat carrion, they also hunt and ambush prey including invertebrates, birds, and mammals.
The dragon's large size and fearsome reputation has made it a popular zoo exhibit since Western scientists first brought it to world attention in 1910. In the wild its total population is estimated at 4,000 to 5,000. Its range has contracted due to human activities and it is listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
Dr. Steve Wroe | EurekAlert!
Further reports about: > Komodo > Komodo dragon bite > Varanus komodoensis > Varanus megalania > anti-blood-clotting agents > blood vessel > carnivorous reptiles > cranial and dental adaptations > goanna family > magnetic resonance imaging > pathogenic bacteria > reptiles' teeth > seven-metre-long lizard
Toward a 'smart' patch that automatically delivers insulin when needed
18.01.2017 | American Chemical Society
127 at one blow...
18.01.2017 | Stiftung Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig, Leibniz-Institut für Biodiversität der Tiere
Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...
Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.
While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...
Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales
Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...
Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.
As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...
At TU Wien, an alternative for resource intensive formwork for the construction of concrete domes was developed. It is now used in a test dome for the Austrian Federal Railways Infrastructure (ÖBB Infrastruktur).
Concrete shells are efficient structures, but not very resource efficient. The formwork for the construction of concrete domes alone requires a high amount of...
10.01.2017 | Event News
09.01.2017 | Event News
05.01.2017 | Event News
18.01.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
18.01.2017 | Materials Sciences
18.01.2017 | Life Sciences