Upon first glance, you might not think that Komodo dragons could move fast on land or in water. They are large, oddly-shaped lizards that look like they would rather spend all their time lounging in the sun than going for a swim or a run, but their athletic abilities may surprise you. So, how fast can a Komodo dragon swim? How fast can they run? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more.
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Can Komodo Dragons Swim?
So, before addressing how fast Komodo dragons can swim, perhaps we should discuss whether or not they can swim in the first place.
Komodo dragons don’t look particularly athletic, but they are, in fact, excellent swimmers. Their swimming ability is what originally allowed them to expand from their native Australia to the Lesser Sunda Islands, where they are found today.
Komodo dragons can easily swim 1,000 feet without resting. Their bodies seem made for the water, though this may not be obvious at first glance–with their long tails swishing through the water and their strong limbs paddling like oars, they are able to glide somewhat like fish with the added benefit of limbs to help them move even faster.
Komodo dragons are cold-blooded reptiles, so too much time in the water can cause them to become chilled, which may in turn slow their metabolism and ability to move. That said, the waters of the south Pacific are warm enough that they don’t immediately become chilled even after significant periods of time in the water, and their skin is thick and adds a solid layer of protection against the cold.
Again, Komodo dragons appear as natural in the water as they do on land, if not more so. Their smooth patterns and bursts of speed give them a reputation as excellent swimmers.
Check out this video of a Komodo dragon swimming at Komodo National Park in Indonesia.
How Fast is a Komodo Dragon in the Water?
The exact speed a Komodo dragon can reach while swimming is currently unknown. Scientists have not been able to time enough of swimming Komodo dragons to get an accurate number on their average swimming speed.
It is generally believed that Komodo dragons swim more slowly than they can run, but while this thought may be true, it can also be a bit misleading. Komodo dragons can reach decent speeds for short bursts while running, but unless they are actively hunting or fleeing from predators, they typically move much more slowly on land than they do while in the water.
The smoothness of their swimming patterns allow them to cover surprising distances while they are swimming. They don’t move quite so smoothly while on land so, though they can move fast when they need to, they often move even faster when they are in the water.
Again, though, no one knows exactly just how fast Komodo dragons can swim. They were first identified by scientists in 1910 and, though many facts about them have since been discovered, their top swimming speeds remain unknown.
How Fast is a Komodo Dragon on Land?
Though they often appear to move slowly and deliberately while on land, Komodo dragons are actually capable of surprising bursts of speed. This is especially true when they are on the hunt or attempting to escape predators that are hunting them.
So, just how fast can they run? Has their top speed on land been measured?
According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Komodo dragons are capable of short bursts of speed ranging from 10 to 13 miles per hour.
By comparison, the average human has a running speed of 5 to 6 miles per hour. The fastest humans can run up to 23 miles per hour for short bursts.
While you wouldn’t expect speeds of up to 13 miles per hour from the bulky lizards, Komodo dragons are much faster than their appearance would suggest. They can be especially quick when they are hungry and on the hunt for fresh meat.
When Komodo dragons run, their bodies rock from side to side as they move first one front leg and the opposite back leg, then the other front leg and its opposing back leg. Their running style is oddly similar to that of a trotting horse.
Check out this short video of a Komodo dragon chasing a deer. Though the deer manages to get away, the video gives you an idea of just how fast a Komodo dragon can run over short distances.
Komodo dragons are excellent swimmers, though no one knows exactly how fast they can swim. They can run up to 13 miles per hour when hunting or escaping predators, and it is likely that their top swimming speed is somewhat slower.
That said, their smooth movements in the water make them look like natural swimmers and help them cover surprising distances even while in the water. In fact, it is their swimming ability that allowed them to reach the islands they now occupy.