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Concept: Dragon

178

Somatic growth patterns represent a major component of organismal fitness and may vary among sexes and populations due to genetic and environmental processes leading to profound differences in life-history and demography. This study considered the ontogenic, sex-specific and spatial dynamics of somatic growth patterns in ten populations of the world’s largest lizard the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis). The growth of 400 individual Komodo dragons was measured in a capture-mark-recapture study at ten sites on four islands in eastern Indonesia, from 2002 to 2010. Generalized Additive Mixed Models (GAMMs) and information-theoretic methods were used to examine how growth rates varied with size, age and sex, and across and within islands in relation to site-specific prey availability, lizard population density and inbreeding coefficients. Growth trajectories differed significantly with size and between sexes, indicating different energy allocation tactics and overall costs associated with reproduction. This leads to disparities in maximum body sizes and longevity. Spatial variation in growth was strongly supported by a curvilinear density-dependent growth model with highest growth rates occurring at intermediate population densities. Sex-specific trade-offs in growth underpin key differences in Komodo dragon life-history including evidence for high costs of reproduction in females. Further, inverse density-dependent growth may have profound effects on individual and population level processes that influence the demography of this species.

Concepts: Demography, Population, Population density, Squamata, Komodo dragon, Lizard, Dragon, Monitor lizard

26

Komodo dragons are the largest living lizards and are the apex predators in their environs. They endure numerous strains of pathogenic bacteria in their saliva and recover from wounds inflicted by other dragons, reflecting the inherent robustness of their innate immune defense. We have employed a custom bioprospecting approach combining partial de novo peptide sequencing with transcriptome assembly to identify cationic antimicrobial peptides from Komodo dragon plasma. Through these analyses, we identified 48 novel potential cationic antimicrobial peptides. All but one of the identified peptides were derived from histone proteins. The antimicrobial effectiveness of eight of these peptides was evaluated against Pseudomonas aeruginosa (ATCC 9027) and Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC 25923), with seven peptides exhibiting antimicrobial activity against both microbes, and one only showing significant potency against P. aeruginosa. This study demonstrates the power and promise of our bioprospecting approach to cationic antimicrobial peptide (CAMP) discovery and it reveals the presence of a plethora of novel histone-derived antimicrobial peptides in the plasma of the Komodo dragon. These findings may have broader implications regarding the role that intact histones and histone-derived peptides play in defending the host from infection. Data are available via ProteomeXChange with identifier PXD005043.

Concepts: Immune system, Bacteria, Mass spectrometry, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Komodo dragon, Antimicrobial peptides, Dragon, Monitor lizard

13

Camera trapping has greatly enhanced population monitoring of often cryptic and low abundance apex carnivores. Effectiveness of passive infrared camera trapping, and ultimately population monitoring, relies on temperature mediated differences between the animal and its ambient environment to ensure good camera detection. In ectothermic predators such as large varanid lizards, this criterion is presumed less certain. Here we evaluated the effectiveness of camera trapping to potentially monitor the population status of the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), an apex predator, using site occupancy approaches. We compared site-specific estimates of site occupancy and detection derived using camera traps and cage traps at 181 trapping locations established across six sites on four islands within Komodo National Park, Eastern Indonesia. Detection and site occupancy at each site were estimated using eight competing models that considered site-specific variation in occupancy (ψ)and varied detection probabilities (p) according to detection method, site and survey number using a single season site occupancy modelling approach. The most parsimonious model [ψ (site), p (site*survey); ω = 0.74] suggested that site occupancy estimates differed among sites. Detection probability varied as an interaction between site and survey number. Our results indicate that overall camera traps produced similar estimates of detection and site occupancy to cage traps, irrespective of being paired, or unpaired, with cage traps. Whilst one site showed some evidence detection was affected by trapping method detection was too low to produce an accurate occupancy estimate. Overall, as camera trapping is logistically more feasible it may provide, with further validation, an alternative method for evaluating long-term site occupancy patterns in Komodo dragons, and potentially other large reptiles, aiding conservation of this species.

Concepts: Reptile, Squamata, Komodo dragon, Dragon, Monitor lizard, Megalania, Komodo National Park, Komodo

0

Chinese dragon’s blood has been used to treat blood stasis for thousands of years. Its total phenolic extract (Longxuetongluo capsule, LTC) is used for the treatment of ischemic stroke; however, its protective effect against atherosclerosis remains poorly understood. This paper aims to investigate the antiatherosclerotic effect of LTC and the underlying mechanisms in high-fat diet (HFD)-induced ApoE(-/-) mice.

Concepts: Atherosclerosis, Blood vessel, Stroke, Thrombosis, Endothelium, Dragon, Chinese mythology, Chinese dragon

0

Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) are large lizards known to take down prey even larger than themselves. They rarely attack humans. A 38-year-old woman was bitten by a Komodo dragon on her hand while cleaning its enclosure. She was transiently hypotensive. The wounds were extensively cleaned, and she was started on prophylactic antibiotics. Her wounds healed without any infectious sequelae. Komodo dragon bites are historically thought to be highly infectious and venomous. Based on a literature review, neither of these are likely true. As in any bite, initial stabilization followed by wound management are the main components to therapy.

Concepts: Reptile, Squamata, Komodo dragon, Lizard, Dragon, Monitor lizard, Varanidae, Megalania

0

Ontogenetic allometries in ecological habits and niche use are key responses by which individuals maximize lifetime fitness. Moreover, such allometries have significant implications for how individuals influence population and community dynamics. Here, we examined how body size variation in Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) influenced ecological allometries in their: (1) prey size preference, (2) daily movement rates, (3) home range area, and (4) subsequent niche use across ontogeny. With increased body mass, Komodo dragons increased prey size with a dramatic switch from small (≤10 kg) to large prey (≥50 kg) in lizards heavier than 20 kg. Rates of foraging movement were described by a non-linear concave down response with lizard increasing hourly movement rates up until ∼20 kg body mass before decreasing daily movement suggesting reduced foraging effort in larger lizards. In contrast, home range area exhibited a sigmoid response with increased body mass. Intrapopulation ecological niche use and overlap were also strongly structured by body size. Thus, ontogenetic allometries suggest Komodo dragon’s transition from a highly active foraging mode exploiting small prey through to a less active sit and wait feeding strategy focused on killing large ungulates. Further, our results suggest that as body size increases across ontogeny, the Komodo dragon exhibited marked ontogenetic niche shifts that enabled it to function as an entire vertebrate predator guild by exploiting prey across multiple trophic levels.

Concepts: Ecology, Squamata, Komodo dragon, Lizard, Dragon, Monitor lizard, Varanidae, Megalania

0

Komodo dragons (Varanus komodoensis) are the world’s largest lizards, known for killing prey that exceed their body mass. Reports of bites to humans in the popular press suggest high degrees of morbidity and mortality. Reports in the medical literature are lacking. We describe the case of a zookeeper who was bitten by a Komodo dragon, with a resultant mallet finger. We further discuss the various potential mechanisms of Komodo dragon lethality, including sepsis and venom deposition theories that are useful in guiding management.

Concepts: Reptile, Squamata, Komodo dragon, Lizard, Dragon, Monitor lizard, Varanidae, Megalania