3. How do Dragons Breathe Fire? (and) How do we know they’re real?

  1. How do Dragons Breathe Fire?

Well, technically, they don’t…

Ok, so deep breath here – I’m about to say something really contentious…

Dragons are a lot like lizards.  They are also quite a lot like crocodiles…

The following statements got a lot of people in the cryptozoology world REALLY upset.

It is thought that dragons may be the pre-existing, linking species between crocodiles and lizards . Over the last 4,000,000 years, climatic conditions have altered, and with them, so have habitats.  These  changes forced physical specialization; lizards and crocodiles separated into their respective species and evolved to their present day condition. The assumption was that dragons became extinct.

Lizards and dragons have similar digestive systems and skeletal structure, but the physiology they share with crocodiles, are the lungs.

The lungs of a crocodile are larger than in many reptiles. Human lungs are two sacs that fill with air and then empty on exhalation. Crocs fill the left side of each lung, storing the air before it moves into the right-hand side; then expel the air into the esophagus, and out through the mouth. Dragons have an extra chamber on each side, at the base of each lung, where air can be stored at great pressure. The more a dragon breathes in, the more pressure that chamber withstands. As with all gases, when pressure is increased, the air molecules get more tightly packed together and the temperature increases. This means that dragons can create immensely strong gusts of air that they expel at temperatures (we think) of up to 2500 Celsius.

The flames come from a volatile liquid (very acidic, therefore very poisonous) that sits in pouches on either side of the cheeks, close to the front of the mouth cavity. When in states of anxiety or anger, dragons breathe in and heat their stored air, and then squirt the flammable liquid out into the super-heated air stream just beyond the mouth opening, so that neither the teeth nor lips/mouth get burnt.

So, the answer is that they don’t breathe fire. They breathe out incredibly hot air, that ignites a flammable liquid, which creates a stream of flames that look like they come from the dragon’s mouth.

All of which is immaterial if you’re stood in front of one, because by then, you are literally toast.

 

How do we know Dragons are Real?

Back in 1964, in the state of Coahuila, Mexico, close to where many other dinosaur fossils have been found, three paleontologists with an interest in crypto-zoology (the study of strange and mythical beasts) discovered a partial fossilized skeleton; two thirds of a Pterosaur (a fossilised dragon). It was amazing… unlike anything they had ever seen.  It’s body was roughly the size of a British double decker bus (61′ long and 30′ high) with a tail that extended another 40′ behind and from the one partial ‘arm’ that was preserved, they estimated a wingspan of over 150′.

Seriously, this thing was enormous.

Being the only scientists at the dig that afternoon, the three of them spent a couple of hours re-burying their find before rushing back to base.  There followed an evening of anxious phone calls to  the University’s research funding department, urgently requesting additional monies for the retrieval of their once-in-a-lifetime find.

After much skullduggery, and many machinations, the team (Professor Jones, Dr Belloq and his assistant Doug) managed to get their discovery back to the State University facilities and began to work on the remains in secret.

Well, almost.

Asking an academic not to share their findings is a bit like asking a cow to eat grass and not produce methane. It’s not what either were built for and if required to hold it all in for too long, both will (probably) explode. So it was with Dr B. Some have ascribed his loose talk to a collegiate sense of fair play, wanting to share his discovery with his academic peers. Others speak of an ego the size of a planet. Either way Belloq let the cat (well, dragon) out of the bag one night over a game of pool and several whiskey chasers.

Bingo! Within 12 hours, 274 crypto-zoologists had descended on the small inner-state campus and the world’s gaze turned in their direction.

Professor Jones was apoplectic; the dean of the university was delighted; Dr B was out on his ear; Doug stayed quiet and kept his head down.

That night, with all 276 scientists (Dr B was already dismissed) sitting in the students’ food hall, there was a heated discussion. Not one of those present wanted the world in on their good news. It must remain a secret. Otherwise, every school kid who could buy a bus ticket or lift a spatula would be down in Mexico digging around, messing up any new finds that there might waiting for the community.

They chose to make the ultimate sacrifice (in academic terms). They would tell the world that this was just an April Fools’ joke, and apologize for the fact that it was late – the date being April 5th.

Any of the world still watching raised one eyebrow, emitted half a chuckle and nodded  – that would be right, bloody academics; can’t even do an April Fools’ joke on time.

Since then, this group of dragonologists, have met in secret, in Iceland (a long, long way from Mexico) every decade or so (because there really isn’t enough news to keep getting together on an annual basis) to compare notes on the re-re-re-analysis of their one dragon-find.

What came out of the study of “Balloq’s Demise” also known as “Bertha” was a set of answers about what dragon’s were or were not and how they might have lived. Roughly summed up this translates into:

  1. Dragons are real – we know this, because we found one
  2. They look like enormous flying lizards (see the Horned Marsh Dragon) and share many features, not least the feet with other lizards, but also pterodactyls and birds,
  3. They were carnivorous (from the teeth)
  4. They can’t have breathed fire – Bertha’s teeth showed no heat damage
  5. The lung cavity was huge though, so perhaps the lungs were working like another reptile, such as a crocodile (does this mean dragons could swim?)
  6. They produced offspring through eggs – Bertha was pregnant. She had been carrying three eggs inside her when she died.

Of course, fifty years on, after the discovery of the dragon fossil, and there was nothing to suggest that dragons hadn’t simply disappeared along with all the other dinosaurs.

News of recent events in the Himalayas hadn’t spread.  All the authorities knew was that a calamity had occurred on or near to Annapurna II. There had been a catastrophic avalanche that three teams of locals were currently trying to dig through, so they could work out what had happened.  The mayday signal from the base camp had been garbled. Frankly, the army staff who had been on duty at 5am on that November morning in 2017, had found it difficult to follow what was being said.  They got a shock when the line cut out and sent an armed response, just to be on the safe side.  But all of this was localised and the Nepalese authorities had no desire to let any negative publicity get into the news.

On social media, there had been a set of shares of a strange, fantastical beast that was making the rounds of trekkers’ family and friends. The images were a bit hazy and badly back lit, or had a lot of light distortion in them.  A couple of conspiracy theorists had whipped up a small frenzy about how there were aliens whose presence was being kept quiet, but this storm died down pretty quickly in the absence of any evidence.

One of the trekkers at the base camp that morning, Jon Reed, a 34year old physicist from Cambridge had messaged his girlfriend, Stacey, telling her that he loved her and tried to describe what he was seeing.  Given the time difference between Nepal and home, it would be another 5 hours before she woke up to hear his final words.  Stacey tried to contact state authorities, got a petition going on Facebook and did her best to energise an investigation into what had happened to her boyfriend, from whom she’d heard nothing since.  Likewise, other relatives of the missing westerners in the US, other parts of Europe and Australia were trying to connect with officials and find some answers.  All of them operating in the hope that their loved ones were ok.

What was that animal/beast in the pictures?  Where had it come from? And, where was it now?

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