The Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis) is Jurisdynamics' holiday-season taxon.
Averaging two to three meters in length, the Komodo dragon is the world's largest lizard. A member of the monitor lizard family, Varanidae, the Komodo dragon is endemic to the islands of Komodo, Rinca, and Flores in the Lesser Sunda archipelago of Indonesia. The following video, courtesy of Arkive.Org's zoological video library, shows the Komodo dragon in its native environment:
Of late the Komodo dragon has made two prominent contributions to biological knowledge. BioLaw has documented the dragon's recently discovered capacity for parthenogenesis. A recent study of the Komodo dragon's venomous nature holds even greater significance for taxonomy. The discovery of venom-producing genes in the Komodo dragon, see Bryan Grieg Fry, Nicolas Vidal & Janette A. Norman, Early evolution of the venom system in lizards and snakes 439 Nature 584-58 (2006), has led to the proposed reclassification of many reptiles within the so-called "venom clade," Toxicofera. The common ancestral species that first developed venom within Toxicofera's "venom clade" are thought to have lived 200 million years ago, approximately 100 million years before snakes evolved. This ancient clade's venomous propensities makes its members primary targets for pharmaceutical research.