Komodo dragons are the largest and heaviest lizards on the planet. Their counterparts, the crocodiles, are the most sizable aquatic reptiles in the world. Who would win a fight between these two voluminous species?
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The Komodo dragon, also known as the Komodo monitor, is a large lizard with a flat head, bowed sturdy legs, and a long, muscular tail. Belonging to the family of Varanidae, Komodos come in an assorted mixture of colors including blue, green, black, gray, and even orange with forked, yellow tongues. Their teeth are sharp and serrated. They have rough, durable skin supported with bony plates known as osteoderms and long powerful claws for digging and climbing.
Crocodiles are colossal legendary reptiles with powerful jaws supplemented with many conical teeth, thick plated skin, and short legs that have clawed webbed toes. They have a long robust tail and their eyes, ears, and nostrils are located on top of their head enabling them to hide from their prey in the water but not fully submerged. They have a long snout that varies considerably in shape and proportion. Crocodiles are believed to coexist with the dinosaurs during the Cretaceous era and are the only animals thought to have survived the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaur population.
Komodo monitors can grow up to 10 feet (3meters) in length and attain a weight of about 300 pounds (135kg). Newly hatched young ones are usually about 18 inches (45cm) long and live in trees for several months. However, adults cannot climb trees due to their size.
There are 23 species of crocodiles in the world and just like their number, so are their sizes divergent. The smallest is the dwarf crocodile which only grows to about 5.6 feet (1.7meters) in length and 15 pounds (7kg) of weight. The largest of the species is the saltwater crocodile with its largest member recorded to weigh 2000 pounds (907kg) and reach a length of 20.24 feet (6.17meters).
Ancient history records Komodo dragons to be an evolved species of a dragon-like creature that lived on the Indonesian island of Komodo. Among large predators on the planet, this dragon has the smallest home range. Komodos are spread within the four islands in Komodo National Park, that is, Komodo, Rinca, Gili Montana, and Gili Dasami. These habitats are covered with forest and savanna grassland. They are hot, particularly during the dry season, and often reach 35˚C with 70% humidity. They thrive in the harsh climate with the help of fat stored in their tails that are a source of metabolic water.
Crocs are versatile reptiles primarily found in the lowlands and humid tropics of the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Of the family Crocodylidae, they are largely distributed in Africa south of the Sahara, Madagascar, India, Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, the East and West Indies, northern Australia, Central America, and Mexico. They normally live near lakes, rivers, wetlands, and saltwater regions. Crocodiles can live in the sea too.
Komodo lizards are generally solitary except for the mating season. They can dig burrows as deep as 29.5 feet (9 meters) to lay their eggs but use shallow ones to rest in at night or cool themselves from the day’s heat. They lead leisure lives by basking in the morning to warm up and then set off to find breakfast. In the afternoon, a nap in the shade would be preceded by a noon meal after which the Komodo is ready for bed and awaits a new day.
Although most crocodile species are social creatures, sharing basking spots and food, salties are rather territorial and less tolerant of their kind. Mature males would share territories with females but consider other males as rivals. They release heat through their mouths as you would often see a crocodile with its mouth open. Four species of freshwater crocodile tend to climb trees to bask in areas lacking a shoreline.
Komodo dragons can make loud hissing sounds, often as a warning to other dragons, or sometimes humans, to back off. This frequently happens when males wrestle to earn mating rights.
Adult and adolescent crocodiles can growl, hiss, bellow, or roar. Crocs growl when they feel threatened and want to be left alone. Like their counterparts, hissing sounds are generally made to ward off rivals and intruders. Loud bellowing sounds are used during the mating season and often come as a means to establish private territory.
Komodo dragons are sometimes cannibals, where large adult dragons can feed on much smaller ones or their offspring. Otherwise, they are not picky about who to prey on. Among their targets are deer, pigs, or even water buffalos. They also feed on carrion. How Komodo dragon kills is entirely bizarre. Damned with venomous glands, camouflaging ability, and vast patience, they are ideal predators in their habitats and more often than not successful on their target. They also have an excellent sense of smell allowing them to spot their prey long before the prey is aware of them.
As their habitat suggests, crocodiles feast on fish, frogs, birds, and crustaceans. These formidable predators also prey on wild animals such as buffalo, wildebeests, and zebras at river banks. Unlike the natural way, their jaws cannot move sideways and therefore make them unable to chew their food. Instead, crocs clump down their prey with their massive jaws, crush it and then swallow whole or rip into chunks for larger prey. Crocodiles can live without food for months due to their slow metabolisms, which they counteract by swallowing small stones that grind up food in their stomachs and help with the digestion process.
The killing power of the Komodo dragon is mainly fueled by their venom, potent enough to make a water buffalo drop dead. They possess six venom glands and inject the venom through cavities distributed between their teeth. However, they have a relatively weak bite of 39 newtons of force despite their preference for large prey.
Unlike the dragons, crocodiles are damned with a tremendous bite force that varies among the species. The strongest bite force recorded was of the saltwater crocodile whose jaws can slum shut with 16,460 newtons, which corresponds to a bite force of 3700 psi. Their tooth pressures are quite enormous as well and recorded to be 350000psi for a 17-foot salty.
Komodo monitors can reach sprinting speeds of 12mph (20kph). Compared to the average human who sprints at 15mph (24kph), it would be quite hard to outrun one. However, in case of an encounter, it is advised that you run in zig-zag motions as the Komodo cannot keep up the pace in this style.
Well, the case is different for crocodiles who are rather slow on land but quick in the water. They can only achieve speeds of 7-8 miles per hour (12-14 kph) on land in short bursts, which is slower than a fit human. On the contrary, they are very fast swimmers with up to 20mph (32kph) hence the ability to catch prey easily. Moreover, crocodiles can hold their breath underwater for about an hour.
Attack and Defense
Komodo lizards lie in wait for passing prey or use their senses of smell and hearing to track them down. Once in sight, the dragon springs and uses its sharp claws and shark-like teeth to deliver huge gaping wounds loaded with toxins that lower blood pressure, cause massive bleeding, prevent clotting, and sends the prey into shock and eventual death. This lizard would then home in on the corpse using its keen sense of smell.
Crocodiles are ambush predators that often sneak up on their victims. They stealthily creep their way while underwater until the prey is close enough and burst out delivering a formidable bite. They would then drag the victim into the water and drown them before devouring their meal. However, crocodiles do not feast while underwater for this would open the flab at the base of their mouth when swallowing causing them to drown.
Who would win?
A fight between these two legendary animals would favor the crocodile whose powerful traits outweigh the dragons. Even so, the Komodo dragon could easily take on an adult dwarf crocodile but would not stand a chance against a salty.
Nonetheless, let’s break it down. If the combat were to happen on land, the Komodo dragon is much faster than the croc, therefore able to evade a potential bite. The dragon’s agility and ease of movement could come in handy to deliver a well-targeted venomous bite that would slowly drive the crocodile into shock and render him powerless, becoming a well-served meal.
However, the tables turn in the water. Other than the size advantage, the crocodile would also have the bite force and speed advantage. The crocodile would catch the dragon in its numerous jaws, crushing it to death with only a single bite, hence winning the match. Alternatively, perhaps the dragon managed to sneak a bite before its inevitable demise during the struggle which would consequently kill the croc. If this were the case, both the komodo dragon and crocodile would be fighting a lost battle.