The predatory ecology of Varanus komodoensis (Komodo Dragon) has been a subject of long-standing interest and considerable conjecture. Here, we investigate the roles and potential interplay between cranial mechanics, toxic bacteria, and venom. Our analyses point to the presence of a sophisticated combined-arsenal killing apparatus. We find that the lightweight skull is relatively poorly adapted to generate high bite forces but better adapted to resist high pulling loads. We reject the popular notion regarding toxic bacteria utilization. Instead, we demonstrate that the effects of deep wounds inflicted are potentiated through venom with toxic activities including anticoagulation and shock induction. Anatomical comparisons of V. komodoensis with V. (Megalania) priscus fossils suggest that the closely related extinct giant was the largest venomous animal to have ever lived.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America Vol. 106, Issue 22, p. 8969-8974