“Halitosis” Killing Devil Dragon on the Deserted Island? You blamed them wrong

Speaking of “comodo dragon”, people who like to watch nature documentaries will not be unfamiliar. The Snake King Austin’s documentary once filmed intense scenes of the Komodo dragon fighting during estrus. Two giant beasts in the flying sand and rocks roar and bite at each other, standing upright and swaying strong forelimbs… this is the largest in the world. The official Chinese name of the lizard should be called the Komodo dragon (also known as the Komodo dragon). The largest individual is about 3 meters in length and weighs close to 100 kg. It is the top predator in its distribution area.

At present, the Komodo dragon is only distributed on Komodo Island, Rinca Island, and Flores Island in Indonesia (the Komodo dragon on Gili Motan Island has been extinct due to human activities).

As early as the Pliocene 3.8 million years ago, the ancestors of the Komodo dragon appeared in Australia, mainly feeding on the large warm-blooded animals such as kangaroos, emu, and diplopods that coexisted with them. Until 1.5 million years ago, due to plate drift, the Australian mainland and Southeast Asia’s island chains met; and due to the advent of the ice age, the sea level dropped exposed a large area of ​​land, and part of the Komodo dragon naturally spread from the Australian mainland. To the islands of Southeast Asia. A large-scale climate change in the late Pleistocene caused a heavy blow to Australia’s large fauna. The large-scale hunting of Homo sapiens after they came to Australia made the situation worse.

However, just as the Australian Komodo dragons were extinct with the extinction of the large fauna, the Komodo dragons that spread to the Indonesian islands have escaped the climate change and humans because of the isolated environment. The slaughter has survived so far, and it has become one of the few “living fossils” of Australia’s giant fauna.

“Dragons” in “Dwarves”
The adult Komodo dragon is a powerful predator, hunting large mammals such as hyenas, Malay boars, crab-eating macaques, and even huge Asian buffaloes. It also eats carrion, picks up fish and other marine animals that have been washed ashore on the beach, and sometimes even preys on smaller species.

However, most of these large cloven-hoofed animals, which are the staple food of modern Komodo dragons, are not the “indigenous people” of the Lesser Sunda Islands, but the foreign households brought to the island by European colonists; then these spread during the Pleistocene. What does the Komodo dragon on the island chain in Southeast Asia feed on? In the Asian continent from the Miocene to the Pleistocene, there is a huge herbivorous mammal: sabertooth. Like the existing Asian elephants and two types of African elephants, the saber-toothed elephants are also good swimmers. Like the Komodo dragons, they have spread to the island chains in the South China Sea, in Sulawesi, Timor, and Flores in Indonesia. And Sumba Island, Luzon and Mindanao in the Philippines, as far as Taiwan Province of my country and even Japan, sabertooth fossils have been found.

Due to the limited living space, food, and fresh water resources on the islands, these sabertooth populations that have spread to the islands have experienced an “island dwarfing” phenomenon. It is speculated that the Komodo dragons that lived on the island of Flores at that time mainly lived by preying on the sabertooths of Flores; they relied on their keen sense of smell and vibration receptors to track the ambush prey, by tearing the prey’s legs, abdomen and throat. The hunting methods that make the prey lose the ability to move, and eventually die from excessive blood loss, poisoning (the Komodo dragon lizard belongs to the subgenus Real monitor lizard, and the lower jaw has venomous glands) and infection (this situation is actually very rare). The hunting of the Flores saber-toothed elephant was “tailor-made”.

It is often assumed that bacteria in the Komodo dragon’s mouth will kill its prey from infection. But the oral bacteria of the Komodo dragon is no more dangerous than other carnivores. If the prey is not killed on the spot, a giant beast such as an adult buffalo may die from a bacterial infection from the outside world. But it is a bit wrong to blame the monitor lizard for its “bad breath”.

At that time, in addition to the Flores sabertooth, there were two kinds of rodents the size of rabbits. The giant bald stork was 1.8 meters tall and weighed 16 kilograms. The most amazing was a kind of similar to the “small” in fairy tales. Prehistoric humans like dwarves-this genus discovered in 2004 was named Flores, whose ancestors were Homo erectus. Also due to the dwarfing of the islands, their body size is much smaller than that of modern Homo sapiens. Adults are usually no more than 1.1 meters tall and weigh only about 25 kilograms; although as members of the Homo genus, the Flores already possess a certain degree of manufacturing and use. The ability of the tool may even use natural fire, but the “petite” body size and the brain capacity of only 380-400 ml make them almost encounter fire-breathing evil when facing the fierce Komodo dragon lizard. The villagers attacked by the dragon were equally helpless.

The local aboriginal people have this legend: the evil “dwarfs” who stole the villagers’ poultry, livestock and even babies were driven by the villagers to a cave in the forest and burned to death. Previous studies have suggested that Homo sapiens (that is, our existing humans) may coexist with the Flores, but recent studies have shown that the “dwarves” may have become extinct before Homo sapiens arrived 50,000 years ago.

13,000 years ago, the giant bald stork became extinct, and 12,000 years ago, the Flores sabertooth also became extinct. Although the Komodo dragon on the island of Flores relied on its omnipotent feeding habit from carrion to rats, as a top predator, it persisted until the modern age after the large fauna it relied on was extinct, but its size is larger than that of the Komodo. The compatriots on Modo Island and Rinca Island who swallowed deer and swallowed pigs are much smaller, and it is difficult to reproduce the Pleistocene glory.

The truth about the legend of the dragon
The discovery of the Komodo dragon lizard by modern science is also a legend. The aboriginal people of Komodo Island in Indonesia have long known about the existence of these huge predatory reptiles. They call them “land crocodiles” or “giant monitor lizards.” Some aborigines regard the Komodo dragon lizards as sacred. Animals think they are the brothers of human beings, and some aboriginal people hate these animals that dig graves and devour corpses.

However, it was not until 1910 that Western academic circles first realized the world’s largest lizard: In that year, Lieutenant Van Stein made the first time to confirm the long-standing rumors about the horrific “evil dragon” living on the desert island of Indonesia. Came to Komodo Island and shot a Komodo dragon, sent its skin and some photos to Peter Owens, director of the Zoological Museum of Bogor, Java, and confirmed the legend in subsequent research The “evil dragon” on the desert island in China is actually a monitor lizard. In 1926, Douglas Burden organized several scientific expeditions to Komodo Island, inspected at least 70 Komodo dragon lizards and brought back 27 specimens; in 1927, the first living animal was exhibited in the London Zoo. Komodo dragon. At this point, the fog shrouded in the Komodo dragon was completely uncovered. This discovery caused a sensation in academia and became the inspiration for the classic monster movie “King Kong” in 1933.

In 1969, the herpetologist Walter Offenberg of the Florida Museum of Natural History marked and studied 50 wild Komodo dragon lizards. The scientific community first began a long-term study on the ecological habits of the Komodo dragon lizard.

Now, we know that the Komodo dragon in reality is not the terrible “dragon” in myths and legends: the adult Komodo dragon is usually only interested in natural prey such as iguanas and Malay boars, although they will enter from time to time. The village steals dried fish dried by the locals, drags away chickens, dogs, goats, etc., and even attacks large livestock like cows, but in general these predators are not interested in humans: the young Komodo dragon Will avoid humans, the giant adult monitor lizards ignore the existence of humans most of the time. Local residents turn a blind eye to the Komodo dragons that often wander in front of and behind their houses. Tourists to the Komodo Nature Reserve can also get close to these fierce predators under the guidance of their guides. The guides only need to bring them. A stick with a forked end, used to push Komodo dragons that are too close when necessary.

Remain in awe of the “dragon”
However, this does not mean that the Komodo dragon lizard is a “good old man” that can be abused by others: in the 38 years from 1974 to 2012, 24 Komodo dragon lizards attacked people in the Komodo Nature Reserve. event. One of the more famous is the Swiss tourist Baron Rudolf Redding von Bibireg disappeared on the island of Comodo in 1974, presumably because he was attacked and killed by a Komodo dragon.

The two most recent attacks occurred in 2017: a Singaporean tourist who traveled to the Komodo Island was seriously bitten by an angry monitor lizard on his left leg because he did not listen to dissuasion and was too close to the Komodo dragon who was eating. ; A worker on Rinca Island was also attacked by a Komodo dragon, and his life was saved after being rescued.

The Komodo dragon lizards raised in the zoo are less aggressive than their counterparts in the wild. They often show amazing learning abilities in captivity and even interact with the keepers in similar game behaviors, but the potential dangers still exist.

In the face of potentially dangerous wild animals like the Komodo dragon, we must correctly recognize them and understand them, and at the same time adopt a cautious and respectful attitude towards nature and wild animals. Give wild animals proper distance and space to get along with these ancient and magical animals.