Komodo Dragons: The Life of Giants!

Contributor: Jay Gregorio. Lesson ID: 13221

Have you ever seen a lizard large enough to eat a deer? No gecko could do that! The Komodo dragon is a unique and deadly reptile facing extinction. Learn all about its history and how to help!


Life Science

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Take a look at the picture below. These may look like mythical creatures, but they are actually lizards! They are Komodo dragons!

Komodo dragons

Lizards are one of the biggest groups of reptiles on earth. There are over 4,600 different species of lizards across all continents of the world, but Komodo dragons are special.

While geckos can grow up to 10 inches, Komodo dragons can reach up to 10 feet long! It is no wonder that this beast doesn't satisfy itself with insects for food. Instead, Komodo dragons devour deer, pigs, and water buffalo.

These interesting creatures were one of the first land animals on earth, but they now face extinction. In this lesson, we will discover the history of Komodo dragons and how they are unique.

  • Are you ready to embark on this gigantic journey to explore the world of Komodo dragons?

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The Komodo dragon, or Varanus komodoensis, is the largest lizard on earth. The genus name, Varanus, is the Latinization of the Arabic word waran, which means monitor. The Egyptians believed that these lizards served as monitors, alerting people to the presence of crocodiles!


Tracing the origin of the Komodo dragon takes us to the beautiful island of Komodo in Indonesia, for which they are named.

Komodo dragon

In 1910, Lieutenant van Steyn van Hensbroek, who was a member of the occupying Dutch colonials, traveled to Komodo island after hearing stories about giant reptiles. There, he killed one and sent the skin and several photographs to the director of the Zoological Museum and Botanical Garden at Bogor, Java.

Fossils indicate that ancestors of the present-day Komodo dragon originated in Australia before migrating to Indonesia. They may also share a common ancestor to the dinosaur.


The average adult Komodo dragon is 8.5 feet long and weighs 150-200 lbs. They have sharp, curved claws and approximately 60 curved, pointed teeth. The sharp points in their teeth help Komodo dragons tear large prey into smaller pieces.

Komodo dragon

Explore the physical and behavioral characteristics of Komodo dragons with the table below:

Characteristics Description
  • Adults are grey or clay-colored.
  • Young are more colorful with brighter, speckled skin.
  • Females and males are similarly colored, although females have more red color on their flanks.
  • It is their primary food detector.
  • They can detect the decaying flesh of dead animals from as far as 3 miles away.
  • The forked tongue collects scent particles from the air and brings them to the rook of the mouth, where signals are generated and sent to the brain.
  • Their eyes can detect color but are weak in dim light.
  • They can see as far as 300 meters, which is helpful when hunting because they can detect motion.
  • They do not rely on sound as much as smell.
  • They can only hear a small range of frequencies.
  • They live on five islands in southeastern Indonesia, including Komodo.
  • They usually live in rocky valleys just above sea level.
  • They occupy regions between the tropical monsoon forest and the savanna.
  • They are quadrupedal, or four-footed.
  • They can walk and run up to 12 miles per hour over short distances.
  • They are strong swimmers.
  • At an early age, they are also good climbers.
  • They eat decaying animals.
  • Large Komodo dragons hunt animals like wild boar, deer, water buffalo, snakes, and smaller dragons.
  • They hunt by stealth and patience rather than by chasing down their prey.
  • They prefer to be alone, meeting only to reproduce.
  • They occasionally gather around dead remains of other animals.
  • They hiss as a defensive behavior during attacks, and females sometimes hiss while mating.
  • The female digs a hole in the ground and lays 15 to 30 eggs.
  • The young immediately move to trees, where they live until maturity, because adult Komodo dragons cannot climb to eat them.


Komodo dragon

Silent but Deadly

Unlike other predators, Komodo dragons do not run around and chase their prey. They are quiet, patient, and strategic. Prey who run fast enough to escape the jaws of a Komodo dragon may feel lucky.

However, if the Komodo dragon managed to inflict a wound, it will slowly kill the prey. This is due to the strong venom that quickens the loss of blood and sends the animal into shock.

As the prey dies, the Komodo dragon follows using its sense of smell. A Komodo dragon can feed on about 80% of a deceased animal in one sitting!

Watch The Real Way Komodo Dragons Kill Prey, from the Smithsonian Channel, to see how they hunt:

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If you would like to see more Komodo dragons, watch the BBC Earth video below.

Largest Lizard on Earth | The Komodo Dragon | Deadly 60 | Indonesia | Series 3 | BBC:

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When you are ready, move on to the Got It? section to test your new knowledge about Komodo dragons!

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