Dragons aren't real. But Komodo dragons are. And while they may not be able to fly or breathe fire, they are tough reptiles.
And they wear their own armour.
Prove it, you say? Gladly!
Behold! An intricate layer of tiny interlocked bones called osteoderms is found underneath the already tough leathery skin of a Komodo dragon. These x-ray images are a part of a joint study done by researchers at the University of Texas Austin and the Fort Worth Zoo. Really quite amazing, no?
Chain chain chain
These osteoderms are actually very similar to real life armour called chain mail that was worn by knights. Chain mail is made by linking together thousands of small metal rings. In addition to deflecting and stopping blows from swords, it is also pretty lightweight and flexible (at least compared to regular armour).
In short, this armour is a lot more like skin, which is probably why it is such a natural fit on a creature like the Komodo dragon. So it's comfortable. Cool! But why do they need it?
It's not predators I'm worried about... it's you!
Komodo dragons live on isolated islands in Indonesia. They have no natural predators. And thanks to their incredible size, strength, and a bite full of deadly bacteria, they are at the top of their habitat's food chain. Armour does seem a bit unnecessary, doesn't it?
To find out, researchers also scanned a baby Komodo dragon and found that it had no osteoderms. So these interlocking bones grow as the animal becomes an adult. Why might that be?
Scientists believe that it's because older Komodos often fight each other for territory and mates. And what better way to make sure you can endure a scrap with a 3 metre-long (10 ft.), 70 kg- (150 lbs.) lizard than body armour?
So give it up for these creatures: they're like knights of the natural world!