A new Australian National University study has uncovered the extraordinary reproductive history of Komodo Dragon, the world’s largest living lizard.
The Komodo dragon is known for its size and hunting skills, reaching three meters in length and feeding on buffalo, deer and even humans from time to time. But don’t put it all aside.
Although the new study had its home in Indonesia, the Komodo dragon may have appeared in Australia, as predicted by earlier fossils. There it bred with a type of lizard that was the ancestor of the sand monitor.
Carlos Bowen Vasquez, the lead author of the study, said that this was the first clear evidence of this type of breeding known as hybridization in wild monitor lizards.
“This study shows that hybridization can have a lasting effect. In this case, it happened millions of years ago, but the signals are still under sand tracking. They are more in common with the Komodo dragon than you might expect.” Pawan Vasquez said in a statement.
“Sand monitors are found only in Australia and southern New Guinea, while the Komodo dragon is only found on a few islands in Indonesia. If they are to be intercepted, they must have lived together in the past.
“Our data supports the fact that Komodo dragons appeared in Australia and then became extinct in Indonesia before becoming extinct in Australia,” he explains.
Pawan Vasquez said that with previous fossil evidence from Queensland, this changes what we know about the biology of Komodo dragons. “The Komodo dragon was previously considered by biologists to be an excellent example of what is called the island rule.
“We also showed how to use different types of data to identify hybrids. This is very important because it was difficult to find when it happened millions of years ago. Now we can tell by looking at the morphology and genetics of the animal.”
Pawan Vasquez said that if we knew more about the biology of the Komodo dragon, we could protect it from future and human and environmental threats.
The study was published in the journal Systematic Biology.