The Existence Of Flying Dragons

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Pablo Edronkin

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And speaking of dragons, did you know that they do, in fact, exist? We are not talking about airplane-sized reptiles with flamethrowers in the stomach, but it is scientifically correct to say that dragons exist, for there are known specimens and the species has even been classified by zoologists.

Enter the 'Draco volans' or flying dragon, as this Latin name translates into English; this species, found in Asia, between India and Malaysia is the real thing, and drawings made within the context of a variety of cultures carry a striking resemblance to these animals.

But the flying dragon is not the menacing beast that we came to think about in tales and histories; these animals can only glide in leaps of about 30 to 40 metres, they cannot flap their wings and measure about 30 centimetres long. They live in rainforest canopies and once they locate an insect or some small animal, they jump from the canopy heights and glide down to catch their lunch.

Their wings are curios, for they have not evolved as adaptation of their frontal limbs or arms, like in the case of birds, bats and extinct groups such as pterodactyloids. The flying dragons have wings with a folding and unfolding mechanism resembling an umbrella; they are formed by the elongation of some ribs joined together by a skin membrane. So, the animal can roam like any other lizard thorough the tree branches, and when it is ready to fly, just unfolds them and leaps into the air.

Some other reptiles and even squirrels have adaptations to a similar way of life, but they are not exactly like the flying dragon and their wings or natural parachutes are formed a little bit differently. For example, the flying squirrel, which also jumps from trees, has a wing-chute formed by a membranous extension between all four limbs.

The interesting part of all this is that birds seem to have evolved in a similar way, and now there are lots of them in all sizes; so, we can only speculate about the kind of dragons that the world might see in the future.



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