It's a boy! It's a girl! It's ... 22 baby Komodo dragons?
Big news for endangered, giant reptile enthusiasts: 22 Komodo dragons have hatched at the L.A. Zoo since Aug. 8, all offspring of a single female.
Lima, the babies' mother, laid 23 eggs in January. This is the first time the L.A. Zoo has successfully bred Komodo dragons, and it's one of only a handful of zoos in North America that has managed to do so. The hatchlings aren't currently being exhibited for the public, but the zoo expects to eventually move some of them to its Winnick Family Children's Zoo. Eleven of them will eventually move to Ohio's Columbus Zoo, a zoo curator told the Associated Press, and experts with the Assn. of Zoos & Aquariums' Species Survival Plan program will determine where the rest of the babies end up.
Komodo dragon hatchlings typically measure between 14 and 20 inches in length and weigh between 3 and 4 ounces. As adults, they'll weigh up to 200 pounds and can measure as long as 10 feet!
The species is native to a few islands in Indonesia, notably (and perhaps unsurprisingly) Komodo Island. They're extremely effective predators that can fell even a huge water buffalo with their serrated teeth and run up to 13 miles per hour in short bursts. These are important skills for a giant reptile to have, since they can eat 80% of their body weight in a single sitting.
Last year, a research team using magnetic resonance imaging scans discovered that Komodos produce a powerful venom that prevents the blood of a bitten animal from clotting properly. That typically sends the animal into shock and hastens its death, if the force of the Komodo's bite doesn't kill it first. The venom, one expert told the Times of London, makes the Komodo "an amazing killing machine." It also makes it an animal you don't want to run into in a dark alley -- one of the best reasons, in our opinion, to never move to Komodo Island, where you might actually run into one.
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-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: Two of the 22 recently hatched Komodo dragons at the L.A. Zoo. Credit: Associated Press