For various reasons, Komodo Dragons or Komodos Varanus komodoensis, are definitely high up on the list when it comes to the animal world’s weirdest creatures. Of course, they’re not actual dragons and are part of the animal world’s reptile family. However, due to their nature, they might just as well be, sans the fire breath. That’s because of one thing, they have a really unusual cardiovascular system.
Furthermore, they have an incredibly unique and powerful sense of smell, capable of tracking prey for miles on end, waiting for them to make a wrong move or simply just die. This sense of smell is used to find mates as well. Their saliva is also teeming with bacteria and blood-thinning chemicals, so much that it’s essentially acidic and touching it can sear your skin. And in the most oddball of abilities, they can survive their own deadly bites even when it came from another Komodo dragon.
And now, thanks to history’s first-ever sequencing of the reptile’s genome, scientists now understand how they are able to do this.
Oddball reptile, master lizard
To get to the bottom of what makes Komodo Dragons so unusual and unique, a team of scientists gathered data and sequenced the genomes of four chosen Komodo dragons from four different zoos for eight years. The evolutionary history of these reptiles was then mapped, with their genomes being compared to four mammals, 15 reptiles from the Varanidae family, and three birds.
Out of the results, 201 genes then stood out. These genes include their ability to use pheromones while hunting, as well as those that enhanced their metabolism. This explains how they can hunt for hours on end (Komodos usually poison their prey with a bite, and stalk them for days while waiting for them to die). The scientists also found the gene coding for haemostasis, which is the blood-clotting process that Komodos use to survive bites from other Komodos.
According to the scientists, they’re hoping that this research can lead to a better understanding of not just of Komodo dragons, but their close relatives in the reptile family. They also hope that this can serve as a template as to why conserving these lizards are important.
The Komodo dragon may be our greatest hope in battling against antibiotic resistance bacteria. Photo Courtesy of Pixabay