The latest of Hopf's animal biographies makes a fairly interesting story out of a female komodo dragon's life from shortly after hatching until the hatching (unattended by the mother) of her own eggs. The komodo begins life timidly, seeking out food with her ""smelling"" tongue and scuttling back to her tree; she ends up, with her mate, the largest dragons on the island. (A komodo's only enemies, reports Hopf, are larger dragons, who will eat their own kind.) Meanwhile she progresses to larger prey and takes a more prominent place at feasts on dead animals. She pairs off when she follows a male her age to a nearby island that smells of goat (one is jarred, however, by Hopf's reference to a ""native canoe,"" rather than a ""humans' canoe,"" encountered in crossing). She experiences flood and earthquake and a rainy season and the fearsome proximity of a 9-foot, 200-pound male--but he is captured for a zoo while she is off on the goat island, leaving her and her mate, on their return, top dragons. A stark life, eventfully reconstructed without sensation or softening.