The Komodo dragon’s sense of smell is their primary method of detecting food. Using their forked tongues, they test the air for the scent of warm-blooded animals. They have a Jacobson’s organ on the roof of the mouth that analyzes the information from the tongue and signals the direction of potential prey. Their sense of smell is so acute, they can detect the smell of dead or dying animals up to five miles away.
All the Better to Eat You With…
Komodo dragons have 60 razor sharp teeth up to one inch (2.5 cm) long. Lost or damaged teeth are constantly replaced. Dragons can go through four or five sets of teeth in their lifetime. Their teeth allow dragons to tear off large chunks of flesh which they swallow whole. Their sharp claws are used to attack and hold prey.
Beware the Bite
Many lizards eat plants but Komodo dragons are carnivores and mainly eat carrion, but also ambush large prey. They use a stealthy approach when hunting prey, using their long claws and sharp teeth to attack the unwary animal as it passes by. If the prey does not die from the initial attack, the dragon follows the injured animal until it dies due to blood loss or infection. Komodo dragon saliva contains 50 different strains of toxic bacteria that cause deadly infections in the prey animal. Attracted by the smell, several dragons converge on dead or decaying animals. The largest male dragons eat first, followed by smaller males and females, and finally by the juvenile dragons that descend from the safety of the trees to eat whatever remains.
IUCN Status – Vulnerable.
The entire range of Komodo dragons is close to areas of volcanic eruption that could decimate the entire remaining population of 3,000-5,000 animals. They are also vulnerable due to earthquakes, loss of habitat, fire, loss of prey, tourism and poaching.