If you think of dragons as supersize reptiles with a nasty bite, the Komodo dragon is the real deal. Up to 3m long and weighing as much as 70kg, they are the world’s biggest lizards.
They can’t breathe fire, but they kill pigs, deer and water buffalo with their mouths. In the past it was assumed that bacteria in their saliva caused blood poisoning. But in 2009 scientists discovered that Komodo dragons have venomous saliva that floods the wounds inflicted by their razor-sharp teeth.
The tale of how the dragons earned their nickname is suitably legendary. In 1926, W. Douglas Burden, grandson of a wealthy railway magnate, set off to the Lower Sunda Islands of Indonesia to capture a dozen giant lizards for the American Museum of Natural History.