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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Jun 2;106(22):8969-74. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0810883106. Epub 2009 May 18.

A central role for venom in predation by Varanus komodoensis (Komodo Dragon) and the extinct giant Varanus (Megalania) priscus.

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  • 1Venomics Research Laboratory, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3010, Australia.


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.

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