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Why did the Komodo Dragon survive the Pleistocene extinctions of the megafauna?

A new paper by Shine and Somaweera (2019) seeks to understand why much of the world's terrestrial megafauna went extinct within the last 50,000 years, by looking at the exceptions: large-bodied species that avoided that fate. The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is tenfold heavier than almost any other surviving lizard species, it is restricted to small islands, and relies on scavenging as well as predation – attributes that doomed other megafaunal taxa to extinction. How did these giant reptiles persist? The authors suggest that the Komodo dragons' survival reflects general attributes of ectotherms (low energy demands; an ability to reduce mean adult body sizes during resource shortages) coupled with features of varanid biology (behavioural and ecological flexibility that allowed utilization of marine subsidies; salt tolerance), the habitat (a fragmented arid landscape better-suited to reptiles than to humans; and with substantial spatial and temporal variation in rainfal…

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