EVOLUTION AND ANATOMY

 

Since no modern zoologist has yet been able to capture a living dragon, or even obtain a freshly killed specimen, we must rely on the evidence provided by fossil dinosaurs and dragons to get an idea of their internal anatomy and other structures.

As is well known, the Age of Reptiles, which ended less than one hundred million years ago, was a period when hundreds of species of dragon like creatures stalked the earth. Among the largest and most dangerous were the meat-eating dinosaurs, such as Tyrannosaurus and Allosaurus, which terrorized all the smaller reptiles. Surprisingly, these large and ponderous beasts, although they ruled the land surfaces of the earth, were not the ancestors of the modern-day dragons. This we can know from the fact that all the meat-eating dinosaurs belonged to a group called lizard-hipped reptiles, whose heavy hipbone structure was very different from the birdlike hips of the ancestors of our present-day dragons. Carnivorous dinosaurs also lack the special bone at the tip of the lower jaw that all real dragons have, which serves as a beaklike device for clipping vegetation. A dragon's teeth are small and sharp, designed basically for chewing plants. The bird hipped dinosaurs were often much smaller than the lizard-hipped ones, with slender bodies and long hind legs that allowed them to run very fast. Their forelegs were modified for holding food and, as we shall see, were later converted into winglike structures.

It is obvious that the small wings of these early dragons could not possibly have allowed the animals to take off and instead probably served only as display structures that the animal might have spread to make it seem more ferocious when confronted with a meat-eating dinosaur. With time, the wings grew progressively larger and more useful for short, gliding flights. They evolved to allow true flight in the smaller species. The larger dragons, however, had little or no need to escape through flight. They retained only small wings or, in sortie cases, never evolved wings at all, at least among the females.

Apart from the wings, the skeletons of early dragons such as protodraco of the late Mesozoic very closely resembled those of such contemporary dinosaur as Hydrophodon. They were about five feet long, weighed about one hundred fifty pounds, and had a long tail that provided a counterbalance when they ran. Males of Protodraco had eleven pairs of ribs (females had ten), and in both sexes the teeth were small and ridged for crushing f09d5. Protodraco's wings were about three feet long.feature is that all are basically vegetarians, their teeth designed for clipping vegetation The European dragon, however, has modified its stomach in such a way as to divide it into three separate compartments The first of these is for rapid digestion of starches and sugar-rich foods, which provide quick energy The second is a large compartment for the temporary storage and digestion of cellulose and other woodlike materials that can only be digested by bacteria through fermentation In the course of such inentation, the material releases much methane gas, which is stored in the third stomach compartment Whenever the animal so desires, it can belch this or another stomach gas, producing a vile smell that tends to frighten away other creatures If this is not sufficient to scare off an intruder, the animal quickly gnashes its teeth together so violently that sparks fly, igniting the gas and producing the fire-breathing effect so feared by man Although the American and Oriental dragons also produce methane gas through similar digestive methods, their stomachs lack the third compartment, and they more or less continuously release the gas in a misty stream They are therefore not able to store up enough to produce the overwhelming effects of the European dragon, and they are also unable to ignite the gas.