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Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development

Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis)


Nest construction

  • Females typically digs nests from June-August (Ariefiandy et al. 2015, Purwandana et al. 2016)
    • Excavated in soil or nests of mound-building birds (called megapodes)

Parental care

  • Female guards nest August-December

Courtship and Mating


  • Male courtship behavior
    • Rubs chin on female's back and neck
    • Hard scratches to female's back
    • Tongue-licks area around hind legs, shoulders, neck, and head


  • Mating occurs quickly
  • Male restrain female to mat and avoid injury
    • Female bite and tail-slaps male, if too aggressive
    Mounting occurs several times in each courtship sequence


Sexual maturity

  • Occurs at 5-7 years (both sexes)
    • Females: first reproduction at 7-10 years (data from populations in managed care)

Breeding season

  • Courtship and mating have been observed from January-October (wild and managed care populations)
    • Successful mating from late June-October
  • No breeding territories
    • Courtship and mating take place in small aggregations near feeding sites

Egg laying

  • Most females lay only one egg clutch per year
    • July to early September
  • Clutch size
    • 21 eggs, on average (range: 1-30) (Purwandana et al. 2020)
  • Females may lay one or more eggs, several times during successive days
  • Female breeding ability thought to decline around age of 20 and cease around 30 yrs
  • Incubation period
    • 2.5 - 8 months (influences temperature and soil moisture).
      • About 220 days in managed care
  • Egg description
    • Dimensions
      • Approximately 4 x 2.25 in
    • Soft, leathery shell (like all varanids)
  • Weight at hatching
    • About 80 g (2.8 oz)
  • Size at hatching
    • 4.9 cm (1.9 in), on average
  • Timing of hatching
    • Young hatch February-May

Sex ratios

(Tim Jessop, personal communication, 2017)

  • Sex ratios among age stages not well known for wild populations
    • From hatching until maturity, sex ratios appear to be approximately 1:1
    • Genetic testing used to diagnose sex
      • Morphological approaches (e.g., Auffenburg 1981) are less accurate
        • See Halverson and Spelman (2002)
  • Breeding females experience reproductive costs (Tim Jessop, personal communication, 2017)
    • Reduced life expectancy, leading to a male-biased sex ratio among adult Komodo dragons

Asexual reproduction

  • Parthenogenesis observed in managed care (Sunter 2008)
    • Embryo develops from unfertilized egg when male is not present
    • Offspring always male
    • Impacts managed care breeding populations
      • Reduced genetic diversity
      • Fewer females available for breeding

Hatchling Behavior

  • Young are arboreal their first year (Ariefiandy et al. 2015; Purwandana et al. 2016)
  • Siblings may remain together in small groups for several months after hatching

Typical Life Expectancy

Wild populations

  • Males
    • Most do not live past 30 to 40 years (Tim Jessop, personal communication, 2023)
  • Females
    • Most do not live past 20 years (Tim Jessop, personal communication, 2023)

Managed care

  • Median life expectancy (AZA 2023)
    • Males: 19.5 years
    • Females: 12.9 years

Finding Safety

a young komodo dragon in a tree

In their first year, Komodo dragons live in trees to avoid predators.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Auffenberg (1981)
Judd & Bacon (1977)
Purwandana et al. (2016)

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