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I think you may find that comes from old maps. If I remember rightly, it was used to signify areas that had not been explored properly. On sea maps it was common to see "Thar be whales".
LeeE - that wouldn't explain why dragons are depicted as being largely the same from all around the world
The fire-breathing aspect of dragons is very interesting, although once again, I believe that this isn't universal in all dragons. My best guess at this comes down to trying to portray a noxious, but not necessarily flaming, breath.... What would then be interesting is to know why it was thought that dragons had bad-breath?
Komodo dragons also possess virulent bacteria in their saliva, of which more than 28 Gram-negative and 29 Gram-positive strains have been isolated. These bacteria cause septicemia in their victim... There is no specific antidote to the bite of a Komodo dragon, but it can usually be survived by cleansing the wounded area, and treating the patient with large doses of antibiotics. If not treated promptly, gangrene can quickly develop around the bite, which may require amputation of the affected area. Because the Komodo dragon appears immune to its own microbes, much research has been done searching for the antibacterial molecule in the hopes of human medicinal use