The dragons of Komodo Island
SummaryA civil administrator found ‘mythical’ creatures living on a tiny Indonesian island. Could such creatures ever have evolved?
The reports sounded fanciful. Local farmers and fishermen told stories of huge reptiles up to eight metres (26 feet) long living in the dense jungles of a few tiny Indonesian islands.
Some pearl divers said they shot several monsters which were close to this length. These giant reptiles allegedly could kill a wild pig or deer with a few rapid swipes of their tail. But even more unbelievable were the claims that these ‘dragons’ arose from deep under the ground, and that some lived in the trees. Naturalists dismissed the stories as imaginative nonsense.
It wasn’t until 1910, when the civil administrator on one of Indonesia’s islands, Lieutenant van Steyn van Hensbrock, obtained specimens of the ‘dragons’ from the island of Komodo, that the outside world began receiving credible confirmation of the existence of these creatures.
Specimens of these ‘Komodo dragons’ were sent for study to the zoo on the nearby island of Java. Most of the earlier details, which had been thought to be fantastic, turned out to be true.
Investigation of the creatures over subsequent years revealed some amazing characteristics. Komodo dragons bury their eggs as deep as nine metres (30 feet) underground. The mother lays up to 30 huge eggs at a time. When the young dragons hatch, they begin their long journey up to the surface of the ground, then they climb trees—where they live the early portion of their lives.
These characteristics parallel two legendary traits attributed to ‘mythical’ dragons—their reputation for living inside the Earth, and their ability to fly. These qualities led two authors to comment: ‘They cannot spit fire, of course, but no one who has seen a Komodo Dragon can be in any doubt that such legendary beasts (or something like them) could once have existed.’1
Many historians believe that the famous depictions of Chinese dragons were modelled after creatures like the Komodo dragon because its long, forked, yellow-orange tongue looked like wisps of fire.2
World’s largest lizards!
Komodo dragons are found on only four Indonesian islands—Komodo, Flores, Rinja and Padar. Padar is a small mass of volcanic rock on which Komodo dragons survive by digging out sea-turtle eggs.
Young Komodo dragons are skilful and rapid tree-climbers. Often, one- or two-metre-long dragons can be seen perched in trees preying on monkeys.
San Diego Zoo official, Dr John Phillips, once lamented that little help is given to saving reptiles, because they are not cuddly and they are not important for medical research.
Fossil remains of a lizard (Varanus priscus) similar to the Komodo dragon have been found in Australia which reached an incredible nine metres (30 feet)!
Komodo dragons today can grow to three metres (10 feet) long and are the largest lizards on Earth, although the biggest specimens were hunted and killed before the Indonesian Government set up its current protection policy.
Komodos are a species of monitor lizard, which includes the Australian goanna, a lizard similar to the Komodo dragon but which rarely reaches lengths of more than two metres (over six feet).
There were even more colossal specimens in the past. Just as many creatures living in the environment before Noah’s Flood seemed to reach huge sizes, fossils of gigantic monitors have been discovered which show that today’s isolated colonies have come from much larger and more wide-ranging monitors of earlier times.
Fossils of Varanus, the lizard group to which Komodo dragons belong, give no indication that these giant reptiles evolved from any other type of creature. One source says that the group was already ‘differentiated’ from other lizards ‘60 million years ago’.3 Another claims that fossils ‘strikingly similar’ to Komodo dragons have been dated up to ‘130 million years ago’ on the evolutionary timescale.4
Today, Komodo dragons are disappearing. Only a few thousand now survive in Indonesia, and they have become rarer than pandas in the world’s wildlife sanctuaries. In zoos, they have to be kept in special large enclosures, with glazed plastic surroundings that maintain the temperature at 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit).
Even with this special care, a comparative physiologist at San Diego Zoo, Dr John Phillips, once admitted that it is rare to find a zoo dragon living beyond 25 years.5 In the wild, it is possible they live 100 years or more.6
While the alleged evolution of Komodo dragons and other monitors seems fanciful, it should be kept in mind that the supposed evolution of reptiles from amphibians is even more difficult for the theory of evolution to explain.
For a water-loving amphibian to change into a land-dwelling reptile, at least two major life-affecting changes would be needed.
The first has to do with the skin. An amphibian’s skin lacks protective devices to stop it from desiccating, or drying out. This forces it to reside in water or in very humid places. (Some amphibians have a type of scale in their skin, but these are thin, and offer no protection against drying out.) Reptiles have a different type of scale altogether—made of keratin, or horn—which lies in the outer layer of their skin and is tough enough to prevent desiccation.7
There is no convincing evidence from either biology or fossils that such a transformation took place.
The second major barrier to an amphibian’s turning into a reptile has to do with eggs. An amphibian, hatching from an aquatic egg, develops in water in the larval form known as a tadpole. Reptiles, however, are born with all the functioning structures of an adult. This applies even to marine reptiles. They do not develop gills, or the series of sense organs needed by a tadpole, which must be resorbed and reworked into other structures in the transformation to an adult.8
How such remarkable evolutionary changes supposedly took place has never been satisfactorily demonstrated.
It is conceivable that creatures like Komodo dragons, or even some similar-looking types of dinosaurs, were the models for Chinese dragon portrayals. But what is more certain is that there is no indisputable evidence that reptiles, the larger scientific category to which Komodo dragons belong, have evolved from non-reptiles. This makes the alternative explanation—that all groups of reptiles were created by God—the most credible option.
- M. Marten and J. Max, The Book of Beasts, The Viking Press, New York, 1983, p. 110. Return to text.
- B. Dalton, Indonesia Handbook, Moon Publications, Chico (California), 1980, p. 242. Return to text.
- R.P. Mackal, Searching for Hidden Animals, Doubleday and Company, Inc., Garden City (New York), 1980, pp. 91–95. Return to text.
- Same as Ref. 2. Return to text.
- M.W. Browne, ‘The Fierce and Ugly Komodo Dragon Fights On’, New York Times, June 24, 1986, Section C, p. 1. Return to text.
- The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 15th edition, Chicago, 1992, Vol.6, p. 945. Return to text.
- ibid, Vol.26, p. 698. Return to text.
- ibid. Return to text.