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The Komodo dragon is the world's biggest lizard and a fierce predator. This solitary meat-eater is a reptile, a cold-blooded animal. It is diurnal, most active during the day. The Komodo dragon is a fast runner; it can run up to 11 mph (18 kph). It is also a good tree climber and swimmer.

The Komodo dragon's scientific name is Varanus komodoensis (genus and species). It is in danger of extinction due to loss of habitat. Its life span is about 20 years.

Habitat: Komodo dragons live on islands in the country of Indonesia, including the island of Komodo. They live in hot, humid, grassy lowlands and in rainforests. They sun themselves to increase their body temperature.

Anatomy: The Komodo dragon averages almost 9 feet (2.8 m) long, but can get up to 10 feet (3 m) long and weighs up to 300 pounds (135 kg). The Komodo dragon has four short legs and five-toed feet with sharp claws. The tail is longer than the body. It has sharp teeth in large jaws, but it has a weak bite. The Komodo dragon senses chemicals with a long, yellow, forked tongue. There are large venom glands near the mouth.

Diet: The Komodo dragon is a carnivore (meat-eater). It eats almost anything that it can catch or find, including goats, deer, wild boars, other lizards, and carrion (dead meat that it finds). It used to be thought that the Komodo dragon had disease-ridden bacteria in its mouth, and, after biting its prey, the victim sickened and died from blood poisoning within a day or two. In 2008, Australian scientists discovered that the Komodo dragon is venomous -- when it bites prey, the Komodo dragon injects the victim with a venom that prevents blood clotting and widens the blood vessels, causing a drop in blood pressure in the victim, which soon goes into shock and is helpless against the Komodo dragon. Komodo dragons have been known to kill people.

Reproduction: The female digs a hole in the ground, lays 20-40 eggs, and then covers them up with dirt. The eggs hatch in about 7 months. Hatchlings eat mostly insects and live in trees.

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