An international study has revealed Indonesia's Komodo dragon has a bite as weak as a domestic cat, but is so cleverly engineered it can slay a water buffalo many times its own weight.
The secrets of the killing machine of Indonesia's eastern islands have been unlocked by a team of Australian scientists at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, using engineering principles usually applied to crash test vehicles.
They found the huge monitor lizard does not rely on brute force, but an efficiency of design which allows it to kill with the minimum of effort.
Dr Wroe said the Komodo dragon's killing technique was similar to that of Australia's feared Great White Shark. The Great White needs to strike only once when hunting seals, then hangs back to lets its prey die, without expending any further energy.
The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is a member of the goanna family with ancestors dating back more than 100 million years. It inhabits the central Indonesian islands of Komodo, Rinca, Flores, Gili Motang and Gili Dasami and shares the feeding and dental characteristics of extinct dinosaurs, sabre-toothed cats and some sharks.
The Komodo dragon grows to an average length of two to three metres and can weigh up to 70 kilograms. The reptile's unusual size is attributed to island "gigantism"; as they have no natural predators in their island habitats they dominate the ecosystems in which they live. Although Komodo dragons eat mostly carrion, they will also hunt and ambush prey including invertebrates, birds, and mammals, including water buffalo.
A nine-year-old boy was mauled to death on Komodo Island last year. However, despite the lizard's vicious image fatal attacks on human are rare. About 2,500 Komodo dragons live in the national park on Komodo Island, but a group of seven were relocated following last year's attack.