Facts about the animal kingdom

Are Komodo Dragons Venomous?

Janhvi Johorey
By Janhvi Johorey, Psychologist specialized in animal therapy. Updated: May 27, 2020
Are Komodo Dragons Venomous?

Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) use sharp teeth to destroy their prey, which they occasionally swallow whole, and their venomous glands. Or do they? The jury is still out on whether Komodo dragons actually kill using venom. Although there is a common belief that toxic bacteria in the Komodo dragon's mouth are the reason prey become incapacitated and die, and that therefore they kill through blood poisoning, this theory has been discredited.

However, there are doubts that Komodo dragons use their venom to kill, or that they are dangerous for that reason, which is what "venomous" usually implies. So, are Komodo dragons venomous? Stay with us at AnimalWised and find out!

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  1. What is a Komodo dragon?
  2. Are Komodo dragon's venomous?
  3. Are Komodo dragon bites dangerous or deadly?
  4. How does the Komodo dragon attack?

What is a Komodo dragon?

The Komodo dragon can be found in five volcanic islands in South-East Indonesia: Flores, Gili Motang, Komodo, Padar and Rinca. The Komodo dragon is a monitor lizard, a type of large lizard which lives in tough, rugged terrain, teeming with grassland and forest cover.

They are the largest lizard species on Earth, as they can reach 3 m (10 ft) long and 70 kg (150 lb) in weight. As they are at the top of the food-chain and the pecking order, Komodo dragons are usually apex predators in their ecosystem. Whether or not this is because they are poisonous dragons is unsure. What is sure is that they can be ferocious, have very tough skin (literally and figuratively) and a varied diet, meaning most animals in their habitat will be scared of them.

They are carnivores, feeding both on carrion and large prey such as deer, water buffaloes or goats. They are stealthy hunters, catching their prey unawares. Komodo dragons swallow their prey whole and digest it for days, which allows them to feed about only fifteen times a year.

Are Komodo dragon's venomous?

Recent research has shown that Komodo dragons are like other monitor lizards in that they secrete venomous proteins in their mouths. Therefore, their saliva is venomous to some degree. However, Komodo dragon venom is unlike cobra venom, which can kill prey in a matter of minutes.

Scientists have long observed the Komodo dragon, native to Indonesia. They have found that it does secrete venom in its mouth. This venom lowers blood pressure and expedites blood loss, sending the victim into shock and making it to weak to fight back. They are not the only venomous lizards. In fact, snakes, other monitor lizards and even iguanas also share this trait.

Some scientists hold that the saliva combines with bacteria to cause blood loss and infections to weaken and finally kill the prey. Different accounts state that a Komodo dragon's saliva includes a mixture of 53 strains of bacteria. However, Komodo dragons take good care of their oral hygiene, and other scientists argue that their saliva is not particularly infectious or venomous.

In 2005, University of Melbourne researchers noted localized swelling, redness, bruising and affliction at the place where the dragon bites. Low blood pressure, muscle paralysis, hypothermia are some of the symptoms associated with the Komodo dragon's bite, but whether it proves the lizard is venomous cannot be decided. Scientists wonder whether that substance has other biological functions beyond weakening prey; if so, it wouldn't simply be "venom".

There us a distinction between venomous Komodo dragons and poisonous dragons. The distinction is that venomous animals inject their toxins via a bite or sting, whereas poisonous animals are those which release them when eaten or touched.

Are Komodo Dragons Venomous? - Are Komodo dragon's venomous?

Are Komodo dragon bites dangerous or deadly?

The use of antibiotics and clean environment ensures that the bacteria is lost, so bites by captive Komodo dragons are usually quite harmless. Although if you are bitten by a Komodo dragon you should look for treatment even in the safest of situations.

Even in the case of wild Komodo dragons, the theory of septic bacteria that kills through blood poisoning has been disproved. An attack from this lizard is dangerous, but that is because of its strength and viciousness, not because of its venom.

How does the Komodo dragon attack?

Komodo dragons can smell prey at a distance of up to 4 km (2.5 mi) Their large size makes killing prey cumbersome, but with a top speed of around 18 km/h (11 mi/h) Komodo dragons move quickly enough to bite and wait for the meal to succumb.

As we pointed out, their victims die not because of blood poisoning but because of fast blood loss - enhanced by the venom - and occasional infections due to other reasons, such as running to dirty water to take shelter.

According to the Smithsonian Zoo website, the teeth of a Komodo dragon are its most powerful weapon. Serrated, curved and large, they can rip and tear flesh with ease. Once the prey is incapacitated, the dragon uses its teeth to launch the final attack and begins to feed, being strong enough to tear the animal apart.

Are Komodo Dragons Venomous? - How does the Komodo dragon attack?

To sum up, Komodo dragons have venomous glands and secrete venom, but scientists are not sure whether they should be classified as venom because the function of the secretions has not yet been clarified.

Do you want to learn more about dangerous wildlife and reptiles? Check out the following articles if so:

If you want to read similar articles to Are Komodo Dragons Venomous?, we recommend you visit our Facts about the animal kingdom category.

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I read this post as a student studying zoology. It has some helpful information that aids me in finishing my project. I appreciate you sharing such helpful information. Please elaborate on Does Bearded Dragons Bite for us
I am a zoology student and I read this post. It contains a piece of useful information that helps me in my project. Thanks for sharing such kind of useful information. Please share about How Strong Are Raccoons
M.J. Leger
I think the jury is still out on whether a komodo dragon is venomous or not. It does NOT have hollow fangs or a venom gland connected to the fangs with which to inject venom into a bite like venomous snakes. But it does have proteins in its saliva that may be hemotoxic in a way, to prevent blood clotting and may be part of the factors in its victim's death. We know there are 50 plus different pathogens/bacteria in its mouth, probably partly from its preference for carrion to eat, which is rotten and rapidly grows bacteria in the carcass. It will take more scientific research to see if the dragon is venomous in the true sense of the word or just has a filthy mouth with very harmful bacteria!
I don't think there is any doubt they actually have venom glands in their mouths that secret venom. No, they are not hypodermic through the teeth any more than a gila monster or beaded lizard (though these do have grooves which allow the venom to trickle down more efficiently. The old belief that their prey died from bacteria is pretty much disproven. They likely don't die from the venom either but they are disabled by it which is enough when a K-dragon wants to eat you.
Lilan bell
Hi, there the reason I ask is I got scratched by one and this thing was huge , you see on that day I was looking for my brother's cat Leeroy ,and I got worried that something happened to him, so I went out to see if I could find him, I think I saw him for the last time he got killed, but with the bruise that the Komodo dragons bacteria 's mouth, and so often I can still feel the pain from that. Is that normal?
Administrador AnimalWised
Hi Lilian,

Did you get scratched or bitten? Did they break the skin? If the Komodo broke the skin then there certainly is a risk of infection. If it is just a bruise, then it is unlikely. If you are completely unsure, then you will need to seek a doctor's advice.
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Are Komodo Dragons Venomous?