THE taxing nature of ''housework'' leaves the female komodo dragon in such poor physical condition her life expectancy is almost half that of male dragons, according to an international team of researchers. They say findings also shed light on why the male komodo dragon is the world's largest lizard.
Researchers from Australia, Italy and Indonesia studied 400 komodo dragons in eastern Indonesia over a decade.
Published in the journal PlosOne, the findings reveal that while male komodo dragons live to about 60 years of age and grow to 160 centimetres and weigh 65 kilograms by adulthood, females live to an average of just 32 years, reaching only 120 centimetres and about 22 kilograms.
The co-author on the paper Tim Jessop said this was because the enormous amount of energy females needed to invest in producing eggs, building nests and guarding their eggs for up to six months while effectively fasting.
Dr Jessop, a zoologist at Melbourne University, said females reached sexual maturity at about eight years of age; males at about 10 to 12 years. The results could also explain why the males are the world's largest lizards, with the females' shorter life span putting pressure on them to increase in size to reproduce successfully.