Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Would you believe?

Or rather, did you believe the cockamamie theory about Komodo dragons that the bacteria in their mouths was what killed people?

Well, believe no more. Auntie Beeb has the details.

The Komodo dragon has a bite tinged with a deadly venom, according to researchers.

Previously it was thought the Komodo's mouth harboured virulent bacteria that quickly infected and subdued prey.

But an analysis of Komodo specimens has shown a well-developed venom gland with ducts that lead to their large teeth.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences report shows that rather than using a strong bite force, Komodos keep a vice-like grip on their prey.

In this way, the venom can seep into the large wounds they make with their teeth.


Members of the same team have now used a computer simulation to model the skulls of Komodo dragons. They found that their bite was only one-sixth as strong as that of the Australian saltwater crocodile, which has a similarly-sized skull.

Instead, Komodo skulls seem optimised to withstand stress along their length - that is, to resist prey that is pulling away.

Further, the team took MRI scans of Komodo heads, identifying a large venom gland and ducts that lead to spaces between the animals' teeth.

Dissection of the duct showed toxins that are known to lower blood pressure and act as anti-coagulants - causing prey to go into shock and bleed to death.


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