Lizard Life

by Hannah Hauenschild | Jun 1, 2024 | 0 comments

Komodo dragon with island scenery
Komodo dragon. Photo © Sergey Uryadnikov|

Basking under Indonesia’s morning sun, the largest lizard alive lay still. Because the cold-blooded reptile had slept all night in his cool burrow, he needed the sun’s rays to warm his body. His dull, dust-colored pebbled coat effortlessly absorbed the heat. Once his body reached the right temperature, the lengthy lizard was ready for the day’s activity.

Slowly he advanced on all four sensitive-soled feet along the sandy beach, his yellow forked tongue flicking in and out of his mouth, which appeared shut. A nearly invisible notched opening allowed his tongue to collect information for his mouth to interpret.

Following his familiar footpath toward the island’s hills, the lizard paused. The left fork of his tongue detected molecules emitted by carrion about a mile off. The lizard turned, letting his tongue direct his steps.

When he reached the odoriferous object, the lizard noted happily that he need not share today. Occasionally he feasted with others of his kind. But too often a feast led to a fight because the food did not satisfy every appetite. Since the lizard ate infrequently, one meal had to fuel him for weeks. Filling his stomach was difficult enough without warding off attacks from greedy relatives. Thus, the lizard preferred eating in peaceful privacy.

Indeed, it was better that no one observed the lizard. His manners were atrocious. For one thing, he swallowed each big bite whole. His sharp, curved teeth were designed for slicing meat, not masticating it. For another thing, the lizard regurgitated indigestible bits of victuals. Lastly, he needed to wash his face or, at least, wipe his mouth. Thick saliva, reddened by blood from his gums, covered his chin at the end of the lizard’s repast.

Weighed down by the spread, the lizard’s belly nearly touched the ground. Sluggishly he dragged himself back to the spot where he had sunned earlier. The heat would speed digestion. As the temperature climbed to nearly 100° F (38° C), the lizard began to pant.

Suddenly the lizard spotted two men heading his way. One, obviously a native of Komodo, grasped a long stick in one brown hand and pushed wavy black hair from his eyes with the other. Beside him stepped a sun-burned American carrying a camera. The tourist had decided traveling to Indonesia to see one of God’s rare creations in its natural habitat was better than visiting a zoo.

“That ora is even larger than the last one. I wish I could measure it. It looks like it could be 10 feet (3 m) long. It must weigh at least 300 pounds (135 kg), maybe more if it just ate,” exclaimed the American, lifting his lens.

“Do not step closer,” warned the guide. “Our dragons are not only carnivorous and cannibalistic, but are also dangerous and can be deadly.

Hearing the two men talk, the lizard moved toward the sea. A swim would be better than listening to people who had no tails to propel them swiftly through water. He headed toward the neighboring island of Rinca. Within minutes the Komodo dragon’s powerful frame was hidden by waves reflecting the afternoon light.

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