Boney armor protects Komodo dragons in battle

Share this
Article

You might be free to share this text beneath the Attribution four.zero Worldwide license.


The boney armor that Komodo dragons have simply beneath their scales helps defend the dominant predator from different Komodo dragons, researchers report.

Tiny bones cowl the dragons from head to tail, making a “chain mail” that protects them, however researchers hadn’t recognized what the world’s largest lizards would wish safety from.


The scientists got here to their conclusion through the use of computed tomography (CT) expertise to look inside and digitally reconstruct the skeletons of two deceased dragon specimens—one grownup and one child. The grownup was well-equipped with armor, however it was fully absent within the child. It’s a discovering that implies that the bony plates don’t seem till maturity. And the one factor grownup dragons want safety from is different dragons.

A komodo dragon pokes its head out from behind some leaves, looking over its shoulder(Credit score: Jerry Bowley/Flickr)

“Younger komodo dragons spend fairly a little bit of time in timber, and after they’re giant sufficient to return out of the timber, that’s after they begin getting in arguments with members of their very own species,” Bell says. “That may be a time when additional armor would assist.”

Many teams of lizards have bones embedded of their pores and skin referred to as osteoderms. Scientists have recognized about osteoderms in Komodo dragons since at the least the 1920s, when naturalist William D. Burden famous their presence as an obstacle to the mass manufacturing of dragon leather-based. However for the reason that pores and skin is the primary organ eliminated when making a skeleton, scientists shouldn’t have a lot details about how they’re formed or organized contained in the pores and skin.

The researchers had been capable of overcome this subject by inspecting the dragons on the Excessive-Decision X-ray Computed Tomography Facility, which Jessica Maisano, a scientist within the College of Texas Jackson College of Geosciences, manages. The lab’s CT scanners are just like a medical CT scanner however use higher-energy X-rays and finer detectors to disclose the interiors of specimens in nice element.

Because of dimension constraints of the scanner, the researchers solely scanned the top of the almost 9-foot-long grownup Komodo dragon, which the Fort Price Zoo donated when it handed away at 19½ years outdated. The San Antonio Zoo donated the 2-day-old child specimen.

The CT scans revealed that the osteoderms within the grownup Komodo dragon had been distinctive amongst lizards in each their variety of shapes and sheer protection. Whereas the heads of different lizards the researchers examined for comparability often had one or two shapes of osteoderms, and typically giant areas freed from them, the Komodo had 4 distinct shapes and a head virtually totally encased in armor. The one areas missing osteoderms on the top of the grownup Komodo dragon had been across the eyes, nostrils, mouth margins, and pineal eye, a light-sensing organ on the highest of the top.

“We had been actually blown away after we noticed it,” Maisano says. “Most monitor lizards simply have these vermiform (worm-shaped) osteoderms, however this man has 4 very distinct morphologies, which may be very uncommon throughout lizards.”

The grownup dragon that the researchers examined was among the many oldest recognized Komodo dragons dwelling in captivity when it died. Maisano says that the superior age might partially clarify its excessive armor; as lizards age, their bones might proceed to ossify, including an increasing number of layers of fabric, till dying. She says that extra analysis on Komodo dragons of various ages may help reveal how their armor develops over time—and should assist pinpoint when Komodos first begin to put together for battle with different dragons.

The analysis seems within the Anatomical Document. Further coauthors got here from the College of Texas at Austin and the Fort Price Zoo. The Nationwide Science Basis funded the analysis.

Supply: UT Austin