thesealhunter asked: paxon, tell me this; how is it that everyone thought the komodo dragon had deadly bacteria in its saliva when it has the biggest fucking venom glands of any living animal? like, did they just not bother to look before or something?
Komodo Dragons Are Venomous?
Okay so, I had to gather myself and go back through the literature on this. The idea that Komodos kill their prey with a concoction of virulent bacteria they gain from eating carrion goes back to a paper written by Dr. Walter Auffenberg in 1981. No one man has done more research or known more about monitor lizards than Dr. Auffenberg, and he’s sort of a giant in herpetology. However, this idea was just accepted and not enough research was done to actually prove that the bacteria in Komodo Dragon’s mouths (which research did show to be particularly nasty) was what was killing their prey the majority of the time.
Besides the lack of extensive enough research evidence to support this theory, there was also the fact that many other wild animals that occasionally eat carrion and/or prey on live prey also have rather strong bacteria loads in their mouths. I believe lions and hyenas have rather septic mouths as well, and no one posits the theory that they use sepsis as a mechanism for predation.
So along comes Dr. Bryan Fry, a man who has already done ground breaking research to show that lizards across several families actually have venom of one sort or another which they use for defense and to subdue prey (here’s an article about his earlier research). Fry has believed for a while that komodos might actually use venom, as his research has shown that other Varanoid lizards have venom components to their saliva or outright venom. In 2009, he published a paper based on various evidence that Komodos are venomous, mainly because he found a large venom gland in the lower jaw which has some chemical components that stop/slow blood clotting and cause severe hypertension. Though there are critics that say that “these could be used for other things we don’t understand”, it really is fairly suggestive that this animal has a functional venom.
What Fry’s critics would point to is that: a) he has not clearly documented that this “venom” is a killing or slowing mechanism during predation (in other words, that this is actually how these oral chemicals are being used) and b) that he is too immediately dismissive of the idea that virulent strains of bacteria in Komodos mouths do play a role in predation. I think his critics are too quick to dismiss how strong his evidence is, and that the science press is too quick to accept this as the “new truth”. As per usual, I think its more complicated.
Probably, this animal has a strong venom which is used to slow and subdue prey, and it also has a concoction of carrion sourced bacteria (which changes from individual to individual) that helps to speed the onset of infection and death in large prey that get away from the komodo and are not sufficiently envenomated or wounded to fall immediately (ie. water buffalo and large deer).
You better know how much i like you if i sat down and wrote you a fucking essay just now ;)