Today, 23 April, is St George’s Day – a day in which England’s patron saint (St George) is remembered on the anniversary of his death. Whenever St George is mentioned, it’s common to think of the legendary battle he is said to have had with the dragon that ate humans. To mark the day here at Chloe May Writes, lets take a look at the dragons that continue to roam our planet today… and they’re not all reptiles either!
So, let’s start with the obvious one first. The very, very first animal that sprung to mind when thinking about dragons is, of course, the Komodo dragon.
Found on the Indonesian island of Komodo (hence the name), these impressive reptiles can grow up to three metres long and weigh roughly 70kg when fully grown. So it should come as no surprise to find out that Komodo dragons are the heaviest lizard in the world! Far from fussy eaters, these ginormous dragons have an exceptional sense of smell that allows them to sniff out decaying remains from as far as five kilometres away. Throughout their lifetime, a Komodo dragon’s prey ranges from snakes and rodents, to deer and water buffalo.
We share the planet with approximately 5,000 species of dragonfly, which can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Dragonflies are arthropods (invertebrates that have exoskeletons, segmented bodies, and jointed legs), that sport a pair of unusually large eyes at the top of their heads. According to the British Dragonfly Society, around 30 species of dragonfly can be found in Great Britain and Ireland, such as the Common Hawker, the Emperor dragonfly, and the White-faced Darter.
Relatives of seahorse, seadragons are often described as the more flamboyant of the two animals. Unlike the 46 recognised species of seahorse found in our world’s waters, there are only three recognised species of seadragon: the weedy seadragon, the leafy seadragon, and the ruby seadragon (which was only discovered in 2015). These unique-looking creatures are more mobile than seahorses and tend to occupy a more horizontal position in comparison to the upright angle their cousins take.
Although they don’t have ‘dragon’ in their name like the species above, this 35cm long cave-dwelling salamander was once believed to be the offspring of dragons! Olm spend their entire lives in darkness, which not only makes them incredibly difficult to photograph (this image is of a model olm that is on display in Slovenia’s Postojna Cave) but it also means that they have no use for eyes… yep, this salamander is completely blind! Although born with eyes, when they are around four months old, skin begins to grow over them.
Then, of course, there’s the real fire-breathing dragons that live deep in some of the planet’s densest forests. I’m only kidding! But other species with dragon in their name and, in some cases, in their nature (just without the fire-breathing) include:
Dragonfish – looking like something straight out of a fairytale (well, a dark one) with their long spiky bodies and fang-like teeth, these deep-sea fish live in the Atlantic Ocean as far as 2,000 metres below the surface.
Dragonsnake – a native species of Malaysia and Indonesia, this particular snake has rows of spiky black scales down ridges on the snake’s body.
Blue dragon nudibranch – this beautiful sea slug gets around by floating on its back on the water’s surface, and going wherever the wind takes it. This incredible species may be pretty but has the ability to paralyse fish thanks to their prey, the Portugese Man o’War.
Bearded dragon – there are eight known species on our planet, all of which originate in central Australia. They get their name from their “beard”, a spikey throat that they can puff out or change colour in times of stress, aggression, or courtship.
Shocking pink dragon millipede – found throughout South East Asia, they get their name from the pink, armour-like spikes that line their backs and legs. Randomly, this species smells of almonds, which may sound nice but is actually a signature scent of poison.
Flying dragon – one of the closest creatures we’ll get to a mythical dragon, these flying lizards use their aircraft style wings to glide from the tops of the tropical trees in South East Asia.