Monitor lizards are large reptiles famous for their thick bodies, long necks, long tails, and well-developed legs. They look like crossbreeds between snakes and crocodiles and can be considered as dangerous as the duo. According to the Guinness World Records, these large lizards range in size from the smallest, the short-tailed pygmy monitor, which can reach 9.8 inches long, to the largest, the popular Komodo dragon.
According to the Honolulu Zoo, Komodo dragons can grow between 7 to 10 feet long and can weigh up to 364 pounds (165.11 kilograms), more than twice the weight of the average human. Upon first encounters with monitor lizards, they are perceived as capable hunters with long claws, tails, and strong sharp teeth. Are monitor lizard teeth sharp, many, or more powerful than those of crocodiles or bulldogs? This article will tell you everything you need to know.
What Kind Of Teeth Do Monitor Lizards Have?
Lizard teeth are mostly categorized into acrodont and pleurodont types. Monitor lizards are the latter. Their teeth are often blunt, and a large part of a tooth’s length is beneath the surface and firmly fitted into the reptile’s jawbone. This means that such teeth are stronger than the acrodont types found on lizards, such as chameleons.
Monitor lizard teeth are often pointed, uniformly recurved, and laterally compressed, according to research. This dentition allows the monitor lizards to tear off chunks of meat from their captured prey. Throughout their lives, adult monitor lizards develop wider and blunter posterior teeth, allowing them to effectively crush prey.
How Many Teeth Do Monitor Lizards Have?
According to a 2008 study, large monitor lizards like Nile monitors and Komodo dragons have about 60 teeth, consisting of 9 premaxilla teeth and about 10 maxilla teeth. Size and diet choices are major factors in the teeth variations in the monitor lizard species.
Monitor lizards have been compared to crocodiles for their looks and habitat choices which include marine areas, swamps, and jungles. A significant difference between the monitor lizard and the crocodile is their respective teeth. Unlike a crocodile, monitor lizard teeth do not show when they close their mouth.
How Do Monitor Lizards Use Their Teeth?
Monitor lizards are mostly carnivores that include animals such as deer, crustaceans, and snakes in their diet. A few of the reptile species are omnivores and can eat fruit. Their strong teeth and ecology enable them to choose various diet options. However, besides the obvious use of teeth to chew and consume meat, monitor lizards use their teeth to hunt and mate.
Monitor lizards employ several ways to hunt food, but their primary method is using their teeth. Size is a factor in the prey choice for most animals, including reptiles. Monitor lizards go after prey smaller or proportional to their sizes. Smaller lizards do not have very strong teeth and do not need to. Large lizard species, like the Komodo dragon and water monitor, need larger prey to survive and stronger teeth to capture prey. Despite the range of teeth size, monitor lizard teeth are mostly similar.
After chasing or cornering a prey, monitor lizards move to hold down prey and bite, releasing venom and bacteria. These lizards hold onto prey with a side of their teeth and move their snouts in an arc-like fashion to repeatedly drive their bowed teeth into the flesh until they rip off meat. These lizards swallow smaller prey like fish whole and tear off chunks of meat from larger prey to better swallow.
Female monitor lizards are both sexual and asexual because they possess male and female chromosomes. During mating season, male lizards fight off competition for the chance to mate the female. However, this courtship could either go smoothly with the female yielding or a little hostile with the male having to fight and restrain the oviparous female to mate lest she injures him. Both parties use teeth and claws to subdue the other.
Do Monitor Lizards Regrow Their Teeth?
The monitor lizard’s pleurodont teeth are regrown after loss. According to reports, monitor lizards uniquely grow new teeth as the emerging teeth do not grow out of the old gaps but emerge between mature teeth.
Do Monitor Lizards Bite People?
Monitor lizards are typically shy animals and would only bite humans when provoked or threatened. These lizards are mostly encountered in parts of Africa, Asia, and Australia. Smaller species like Ackie’s dwarf, Nile, and savannah monitors can be kept as pets, while bigger species like the Komodo dragon can be more aggressive and unpredictable.
According to news reports, a Komodo dragon was responsible for the death of a kid on Komodo Island in Indonesia in 2007. A more recent human fatality was reported in 2009. While attacks are quite rare, fatality is much rarer.
Based on account of the National Parks, carcass meat in monitor lizard teeth contain loads of bacteria and can cause infection to bite wounds. Though the venom in the large tropical lizard’s saliva is not fatal for humans, they have other undesirable side effects such as swellings and blood clot inhibition.
Bites from the crocodile monitors with serrated teeth could lead to stitches or surgery. Another way that monitors can attack people is with their tails. If you get bitten by any monitor lizard, it is best to seek medical attention immediately.
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- National Parks, Available here: https://www.nparks.gov.sg/nparksbuzz/issue-39-vol-4-2018/conservation/crocodile-vs-monitor-lizard
- Science Direct, Available here: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/varanus
- NBC news, Available here: https://www.nbcnews.com/id/wbna29848167