Monitor Lizard vs Komodo Dragon: What’s the Difference?

Written by August Buck
Published: February 5, 2022
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Monitor lizards and Komodo dragons are very similar creatures. In fact, Komodo dragons are a type of monitor lizard- but there are many different species of monitor lizards other than the Komodo dragon. To clear up any confusion, Komodo dragons are called Varanus komodoensis. Monitor lizards are from the Varanus family exclusively. However, there are more differences between these lizards.

If you are here to learn about monitor lizards vs komodo dragons, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll discuss the differences between a komodo dragon and a standard monitor lizard in detail so that you can learn how to identify them. Let’s dive in and compare these monster lizards now.

Comparing Monitor Lizard vs Komodo Dragon

Monitor Lizard vs Komodo Dragon
Komodo dragons ar ethe largest species of monitor lizards

A-Z-Animals.com

Monitor LizardKomodo Dragon
Size 8 inches to 6 feet7-10 feet long
Appearance Tan, green, or gray in appearance, forked tongues, short legs, long necks and legsBowed legs, flat head, long tail and claws; rough skin ranging from black to tan
Diet Insects, snakes, birds, small mammalsDeer, goats, pigs, other lizards (including komodos)
Lifespan 8-25 years20-30 years
Habitat Jungles, aquatic areas, desertsIndonesia; tropical forests and islands
Behavior Shy of humans, docile and alertActive in the day; avoids humans but can be aggressive

The Main Differences Between Monitor Lizard vs Komodo Dragon

Komodo dragon hunting
A Komodo dragon hunts its prey

There are many key differences between the average monitor lizard vs Komodo dragons. Komodo dragons live longer than the average monitor lizard. Additionally, Komodo dragons are only found in a specific area of Indonesia; other types of monitor lizards are found around the world. While Komodo dragons are a type of monitor lizard, not all monitor lizards are considered Komodo dragons. There are many smaller breeds of monitor lizards, while Komodo dragons are the largest species of monitor lizard.

But this is just where the differences begin. Let’s dive in and learn even more about these lizards now.

Monitor Lizard vs Komodo Dragon: Appearance

The first difference between a monitor lizard vs Komodo dragon lies in their appearances. Komodo dragons are inherently larger than all other species of monitor lizard, as Komodo dragons are the largest possible species of monitor lizard overall. Given this size difference, the average Komodo dragon can reach up to 300 pounds and over ten feet long, while most monitor lizard species average 3-7 feet long.

Komodo dragons also have a more fearsome appearance than the average monitor lizard, given their large size. The Komodo dragon’s neck and tail are extremely powerful and thick, while some monitor lizard species will have an average-sized tail and neck.

Monitor lizard vs komodo dragon
Given this size difference, the average Komodo dragon can reach up to 300 pounds and over ten feet long, while most monitor lizard species average 3-7 feet long.

Monitor Lizard vs Komodo Dragon: Habitat

Another key difference between monitor lizards and Komodo dragons lies in their habitat preferences. Komodo dragons are only found in Komodo, Indonesia, while many other species of monitor lizard are found around the world. Wild Komodo dragons are only found in Komodo or four surrounding islands nearby. Wild monitor lizards are everywhere.

This leads to another difference in their habitat preferences as well. Komodo dragons enjoy semi-tropical islands and warm weather, while some monitor lizards are more aquatic and can handle cooler temperatures than the average Komodo dragon.

Monitor lizard vs komodo dragon
 Komodo dragons are only found in Komodo, Indonesia, while many other species of monitor lizard are found around the world.

Vladislav T. Jirousek/Shutterstock.com

Monitor Lizard vs Komodo Dragon: Diet

Monitor lizards vs Komodo dragons can have a very different diet. Given the size of the average Komodo dragon, their preferred prey is much larger than the average monitor lizard’s daily meal. Even though both lizard types are carnivorous, Komodo dragons take down deer and goats, while smaller monitor lizard species prefer to eat birds and snakes.

Komodo dragons have even been known to eat one another. Many species of monitor lizards would never consider doing this. However, all monitor lizards, including Komodos, prefer meat over plant material. Insects are another common food source for smaller monitor lizards, though Komodo dragons need much larger prey in order to survive.

Monitor Lizard vs Komodo Dragon: Lifespan

Another difference between monitor lizards and Komodo dragons lies in their overall lifespan. Komodo dragons can live an average of 20-30 years, if not longer, while the average monitor lizard lives anywhere from 8-20 years, depending on the species.

Lizards living in the wild tend to live less time than lizards in captivity. However, even wild Komodo dragons and monitor lizards live long and healthy lives. Komodo dragons live longer lives than any other species of monitor lizard. This is a common occurrence in just about any type of animal: the bigger you are, the longer you live.

monitor lizard vs komodo dragon
Even though both lizard types are considered carnivorous, komodo dragons tend to take down deer and goats, while smaller monitor lizard species prefer to eat birds and snakes.

Sergey Uryadnikov/Shutterstock.com

Monitor Lizard vs Komodo Dragon: Behavior

A final key difference between monitor lizards and Komodo dragons lies in their behavior. There are many monitor lizards that are capable of being kept as pets in an average household. This is not the case with Komodo dragons. Komodo dragons are endangered and wild lizards that are meant to stay in the wild, while some species of monitor lizards make ideal pets.

Komodo dragons are one of the most dangerous reptiles on the planet. This isn’t true of all monitor lizard species. However, this is why Komodo dragons are best left alone if you happen to stumble upon one while in Indonesia. These carnivorous lizards are highly adept hunters, and they can even exhibit aggressive behavior toward humans. Monitor lizards are more likely to leave human beings alone!

Animals that reproduce asexually – Komodo dragon
The Komodo dragon is one of the more dangerous Asia animals you may encounter.
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About the Author

I am a non-binary freelance writer working full-time in Oregon. Graduating Southern Oregon University with a BFA in Theatre and a specialization in creative writing, I have an invested interest in a variety of topics, particularly Pacific Northwest history. When I'm not writing personally or professionally, you can find me camping along the Oregon coast with my high school sweetheart and Chihuahua mix, or in my home kitchen, perfecting recipes in a gleaming cast iron skillet.

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