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Teeth-Venom Combination Key to Lethality of Komodo Dragon Bite

A new study has shown that the effectiveness of the Komodo Dragon bite owes to a combination of highly specialized serrated teeth and venom. The authors dismiss the widely accepted theory that prey die from septicemia caused by toxic bacteria living in the dragon's mouth. Using sophisticated medical imaging techniques, an international team led by Dr. Bryan Fry from the University of Melbourne has shown that the Komodo Dragon has the most complex venom glands yet described for any reptile. The researchers conducted a comprehensive study of the Komodo Dragon bite, employing computer techniques to analyze stress in a dragon's jaws, and compared the results to those obtained for a crocodile. The dragons were found to have much weaker bites than crocodiles, but magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of a preserved dragon head revealed complex venom glands and specialized serrated teeth which create deep lacerations for entry of the venom. "These large carnivorous reptiles are known to bite prey and release them, leaving the prey to bleed to death from the horrific wounds inflicted. We have now shown that it is the combined arsenal of the Komodo Dragon's tooth and venom that account for their hunting prowess," said Dr. Fry. "The combination of this specialized bite and venom seems to minimize the Dragon's contact with its prey and this allows it to take large animals." Komodo Dragons are native to the islands of Indonesia, with adult males weighing over 100 kg, and exceeding 3 meters in length. They have approximately 60 highly serrated teeth which are frequently replaced during their lifetime. The new research was published in the June 2 issue of PNAS. [Press release] [PNAS abstract]