You don’t have to be a Mother of Dragons to appreciate how cute baby Komodo dragons are. Three recently hatched in an Australian zoo and are winning hearts with their frisky behavior and striped snouts. Mother Daenerys and father Kraken are the first successful breeding pair of Komodo dragons in Australia. Their babies represent new hope for the future of this endangered species. And also bless our social media feeds with adorable content.
The Australian Reptile Park in New South Wales documented the whole journey. Every step, from narrated footage of Daenerys and Kraken mating to a real-time video of the first baby hatching.
Keepers monitored Daenerys and Kraken’s first meeting. Komodo dragons are solitary in the wild, only coming together to mate or if there’s a big enough meal to share. They had been able to smell each other and were eager to meet. They mated and Daenerys laid eggs in her enclosure. The keepers uncovered the eggs and kept them in an incubator until they were ready to hatch.
There’s still a lot to learn about Komodo dragons. The first scientific expedition to study them was in 1926 and is thought to be the inspiration for 1933’s King Kong. Scientists and zookeepers only recently learned that Komodo dragons can also lay eggs without mating. Called parthenogenesis, this process doesn’t require fertilization by a male. Female dragons in captivity sometimes reproduce this way, as do other isolated species. As part of the cell division process, all of the babies born are males.
This endangered lizard species can use all the help it can get. They live on Indonesian islands, mostly in Komodo National Park. Human poaching of both the dragons and their prey threaten the population. Sea level rise due to climate change puts them at further risk. With only about 100 in captivity around the world, and roughly 1,400 in the wild, every new addition helps the survival of the species.
Melissa is Nerdist’s science & technology staff writer. She also moderates “science of” panels at conventions and co-hosts Star Warsologies, a podcast about science and Star Wars. Follow her on Twitter @melissatruth.