Komodo Dragons Kill With Venom, Researchers Find

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What is surprising, Fry said, is Komodo dragons' elaborate venom-delivery system.

"It's the most complex duct system described in reptiles to date," he said.

Snakes typically have a single venom duct that leads to their fangs. But Komodos have multiple ducts located between their teeth.

However, this means Komodo dragons don't deliver their venom as efficiently as snakes, Fry said.

Rather than injecting venom directly via a forceful bite, the dragons use a specialized bite-and-pull motion to ooze the toxin into wounds during a sustained, frenzied attack.

(Related: "Komodo Dragon's Bite Is 'Weaker Than a House Cat's.'")

The combination of venom and multiple lacerations from the lizards' sharp, serrated teeth is what makes the dragons so deadly.

"They're not like the cobra, where venom is the only game in town. Komodos have a combined arsenal," Fry said.

The findings suggest that the Komodo's ancient relative, the Megalania, used a similar venom-plus-wounding approach.

The giant lizard, which roamed Australia about 40,000 years ago, measured about 13 feet (4 meters) long.

Fry's work, published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could mean that the Megalania was the largest venomous animal to have ever lived.

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