Could Dragons Have Existed?


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As an avid Game of Thrones fan and a lover of all Arthurian legends, I've always been surrounded by dragon lore.  Theses mythical worlds and tales of legends past both include these mystical creatures called dragons, large reptilian creatures that can fly, breathe fire, and have armored skin. While it's a truth almost universally acknowledged that dragons don't exist, it's an interesting idea to look and see that if evolutionary circumstances were different, could dragons have existed?

DRAGONS-GAME-OF-THRONES_610.jpg
Dragons from Game of Thrones

According to an article from Popular Science, with a few fairly far-fetched turns, it may have been possible.  Some of the most prevalent characteristics of dragon lore such as armored skin,  large leathery wings, and the ability to spit fire, are found in other species on Earth.  For example, armored skin is found on reptiles such as alligators.  Their skin is made of a bone-like material that can deflect musket balls.  This level of protection would hypothetically be equivalent to that of what a dragon would have.  
Large leathery wings on the other hand, turn out to be a little more difficult to find in nature, but as it turns out, turning back the clock may be the solution.The large leathery wings of a dinosaur called a pterosaur are the only wings that could even begin to be able to lift a dragon.  But, pterosaurs are significantly smaller than dragons and therefore, there may be some issues with flight.  
Finally, comes breathing fire.  Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it), there is no species on the planet Earth that has the capability to produce fire.  The closest thing found is a type of beetle which is able to expel chemicals that can burn a human's skin. This is where Dr. Peter John Hogarth, a senior lecturer in Biology at University of York, and expert for the Animal Planet documentary Dragons: A fantasy Made Real, comes in.  Dr. Hogarth proposes that dragons have Hydrogen sacs in their bodies, as well as access to Platinum Powder from within them to act as a catalyst to ignite the Hydrogen-Oxygen mixture, creating the effect of fire breathing.  In addition to aiding with fire breathing, the Hydrogen sacs would also provide a way to help the dragons fly by making them lighter despite their considerable size.  This is based off of the air sacs that modern birds have in their lungs to assist them in flying.

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Dragon from Merlin, based on the Arthurian legend.

So, final conclusions?  While there is some evidence that had more evolutionary factors lined up correctly, and while there may be a possible way to scientifically explain their ability to fly as well as breathe fire (even if it is a hypothetical), I just can't believe that dragons would have been able to exist.  

Despite everything though, the sci-fi loving, Daenerys Targaryen in me, still holds on to a little thread of hope that maybe, just maybe, it were possible...

2 Comments

This is very cool to think about it, even if it is unlikely to have happened. The one factor that seems to be over looked is if there were dragons how could they become extinct. The theory of natural selection would not work because there is no other predator that could kill them. They have armored skin to defend against bites, the ability to spit fire, and can fly away. Famine would not make sense because the dragons could fly to some place that had better food sources. The only possible explanation for their extinction would be a natural disaster, and one of that magnitude would probably have been discovered by now.

This topic actually made me start thinking if we could possible create a dragon during this time and age. We have many new technologies of combining different DNA's with other animals, so is it possible to make a hybrid similar to a dragon? This link talks about how scientists are trying to create dragons using virtual cell biology. So it is possible to create a dragon but will scientists do such a thing?

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