London: In a new study, scientists have revealed that the unlikely secret of the incredible killing power of the Komodo Dragon is down to poor dental hygiene.
The Komodo is the world’s largest lizard, and can grow to 9ft long. On the five small Eastern Indonesian islands it is found, the lizards can kill animals far larger than themselves, including water buffalo, pigs and Timor deer.
Researchers now believe one of the keys to their killing ability is down to infectious bacteria in their saliva, which can kill prey.
However, the researchers now believe that the bacteria actually spreads from lizard to lizard as well, making the entire community more lethal as their bacteria spread to each other.
“The model proposes that bacteria spread epidemically among lizard mouths via prey that escape an initial attack,” the Daily Mail quoted the researchers from the University of Texas as saying.
“Escaping, infected prey thus serve as vectors to spread the infection among lizard mouths,” they said.
IN the study, the researchers found that on average 58 species of bacteria were present in Komodo saliva, 93 percent of which are classified as potentially pathogenic.
They even found one species, called Pastuerella multocida, killed mice injected with Komodo dragon saliva containing it.
They now believe the key to the bacteria spreading is the communal feeding on large dead animals, where dragons pass bacteria to each other through the meat, or through animals that are not killed outright during attacks but then are eaten by another dragon.
“Dragon life histories prove remarkably consistent with the model, especially that multiple, unrelated lizards feed communally on large carcasses and that escaping, wounded prey are ultimately fed on by other lizards,” they added.
First Published: Friday, June 01, 2012, 10:49