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Such jokers, those Komodo dragons

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9:14am, August 1, 2002

From Bloomington, Ind., at a meeting of the Animal Behavior Society

A young Komodo dragon will spontaneously mouth and paw at a Frisbee and make other gestures that "would be considered play in a dog or cat," says Gordon Burghardt of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Behaviorists wrestling with the problem of describing and explaining play haven't paid much attention to reptiles, Burghardt says. Yet for decades, observers have recorded anecdotes of young Komodo dragons doing things that lack obvious utility and suggest whimsical antics. When a Komodo dragon egg hatched at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., Burghardt jumped at the chance to make systematic observations as the youngster grew up.

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