Komodo Dragon Hatchling: Big Pic

Ian Recchio/Los Angeles Zoo
DCL

Sept. 27, 2011 -- This baby may look small and harmless, but one day it'll be one of the largest -- and most dangerous -- lizards on the planet. The Los Angeles Zoo welcomed 21 of these Komodo dragon hatchlings into the world between Aug. 3 and Aug. 12.

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Komodo dragons, called "dragon" for their forked tongue which resembles what the mythical beast might have, are notoriously fierce carnivores, made for devouring prey. With a bacteria-filled mouth (or venom, as some scientist speculate) that will eventually poison any animal it bites, the Komodo dragon simply has to stick around long enough for its prey to succumb to septicemia. Then it can use its 60 teeth to chomp into the carcass, or devour it whole. In one meal, a Komodo dragon can consume up to 80 percent of its own body weight, according to the San Diego Zoo.

Before it becomes one of the world's greatest predators, Komodo dragons spend four years living in trees, avoiding becoming someone else's dinner. Baby Komodo dragons are notoriously easy prey for larger Komodo dragons and other predators. Fully grown, the male Komodo dragon can reach up to 10-feet long and 200 pounds, while females can reach up to 8-feet long.

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This is only the second breeding success of Komodo dragons at the Los Angeles Zoo, and there have been less than 10 recorded successful breeding programs in North America, according to the zoo's press release.

Despite their enormous size and ferocious reputation, Komodo dragons are an endangered species in their native Indonesia due to habitat loss and competition with humans.

This is only the second breeding success of Komodo dragons at the Los Angeles Zoo, and there have been less than 10 recorded successful breeding programs in North America, according to the zoo's press release.

But despite their lack of breeding in captivity, Komodo dragons have the unique ability to reproduce asexually via parthenogenesis, without fertilization by a male. This is often referred to as "virgin birth," and has been observed in just a handful of cases -- perhaps adding to the creature's mythical appeal.