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Anatomy of a Dragon by arvalis Anatomy of a Dragon by arvalis
Big Gif file, please allow a few moments to see the animation. 

I've been wanting to do a quick mockup of dragon anatomy for a long time. I finally had the opportunity to put this together. I wanted to play with some ideas for how a hexapod could reasonably function. Unlike a lot of other artists I placed the wing arms in front of the walking arms. I thought this would allow for better range of motion for the wings, might be a good thing to have for flight haha. I played primarily with archosaur anatomy forms here. Obviously the wing bones are inspired by birds, however they have cartilaginous struts that extend from the metacarpals to create a more classical dragon webbed wing. The shoulder girdle/keel is fused with the scapulocoracoid of the second arm set, so the entire chest is very rigid. As such the secondary arms would have less rand of motion and this guy would run on his hind legs using his wings for balance in order to move faster along the ground and for takeoff. Also notice how much the keratin extends the claws and horns. 

Hope you guys dig it and please let me know if you have any questions. 


Still Images: 
Rjpalmer Dragon Anatomy 001 by arvalis  Rjpalmer Dragon Anatomy 002 by arvalis  Rjpalmer Dragon Anatomy 003 by arvalis  Rjpalmer Dragon Anatomy 004 by arvalis 

    

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Add a Comment:
 
:icontyrantkingx9:
TyrantkingX9 Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2019
I love this design. It looks so different then what I've seen before. Specifically how the wing is structured and it's membrane. Love it. Now here is a question for ya.  Could this bad boy be able to support a human while in flight? I mean, the only thing better than a dragonslayer is a dragonrider, right?
Reply
:iconmiss-tbones:
Miss-Tbones Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2018  Hobbyist Photographer
Soo awesomely cool!:clap::wow:
Reply
:iconprimeshift01:
PrimeShift01 Featured By Owner Oct 11, 2018
Wow.
Reply
:iconfinelineme:
finelineME Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2018
This is very impressive!
Reply
:iconthimdk:
ThimDK Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
With logical sense, the skeleton alone must weigh a crazy amount, how would it even lift from the ground?
Reply
:iconshockalocker:
shockaLocKer Featured By Owner Jan 24, 2019  Hobbyist General Artist
Screw weight. I'm more concerned about the aerodynamics in the design.
Reply
:icontinycat000:
TinyCat000 Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Probably the same way a Brachiosaurus supports the weight of it's own neck, the bones are "hollowed," filled with air and weigh very little
Reply
:iconlittleakaiko:
LittleAkaiko Featured By Owner Oct 6, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
like in birds way
Reply
:iconnorthwyrm:
NorthWyrm Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2018
LOVE THIS
Reply
:iconsommy-of-brero:
SOMMY-OF-BRERO Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
I absolutely love the way you've handled the chest, the whole shared shoulder blades thing has always bothered me but how you've fused it to the keel and put the pecs in front of the front legs is super cool.
Reply
:iconexaltedserpent:
ExaltedSerpent Featured By Owner Oct 7, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I gave a RJ a round of applause sitting in front of my computer when I read he came up with a solution to the hexapod issue
Reply
:iconcyansky95:
Cyansky95 Featured By Owner Sep 18, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
I like seeing a speculation with the more fin-like wings, and love that head too, solid reconstruction!
Reply
:iconsunima:
Sunima Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2018  Professional General Artist
:heart:
Reply
:iconnight-anders:
Night-Anders Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2018  Student General Artist
I absolutely love the overall design, specially the face shape(it's always a relief to see a dragon concept that doesn't stick to crocodilian features). It's such a beautiful dragon! It looks bulky and powerful, yet incredibly elegant for such a big beast. I also really like that you didn't make it unrealistically big for a dragon.

It's very interesting to see such an unique dragon design portrayed in this realistic way. I have a headworld where most of the fauna is hexapodal, and therefore there multiple dragon species have evolved. Although I've played with the idea of placing the wing musculature in front of the legs, I never really gave it much thought and simply stuck to the torso placement. Musculature and skeleton have always been my biggest weaknesses when it comes to biology, so I don't have the knowledge to experiment too much with it and prefer to stick to the little things I'm familiar with. Would you say this kind of anatomy design is unpractical for a realistic dragon?
Reply
:iconbutiliketauneutrino:
ButILikeTauNeutrino Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2018
Take a look at that breast! Them's some big pecs
Reply
:iconhyjalhaven:
HyjalHaven Featured By Owner Sep 15, 2018
it is so real
Reply
:iconalienator65:
alienator65 Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I can't stop looking at this!
Reply
:iconcynicalescapist:
CynicalEscapist Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018
Always amazing to see you do dragons! I love the realistic (not just detailed!) style you have and looove realistic depictions of dragons. Is this dragon reptile? I always wanted to design a realistic mammal dragon but I'm not so good at art. Also what was the reasoning for fusing the shoulder to the arm?
Reply
:iconskypotatofire:
SkyPotatoFire Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2018
Awesome idea here for a dragon.
Reply
:iconlaska-eira:
Laska-Eira Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Finally I'm not alone in putting wing muscles in front of the legs on dragons! The design here is awesome! 
Reply
:iconpoisonbite01:
poisonbite01 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
THIS IS SO COOL!!!!
Reply
:iconpallavp:
PallavP Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This is simply brilliant! 
Reply
:iconfenixportopontes:
FenixPortoPontes Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2018
Using cartilage instead of the phalanges was genious, really creative. In your typical "ocidental dragon" in the dragon series I found the fish-like wings awesome as well. Do You think this dragon would still be capable of slashing with its front claws like a feline despite of the limited motion range?
Reply
:iconarvalis:
arvalis Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2018  Professional Digital Artist
Probably, although it may need to rear up for that. I was figuring it would grasp prey with its secondary hands, hence the very sharp claws up front. 
Reply
:iconfenixportopontes:
FenixPortoPontes Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2018
I can see the difference in curvature of the front claws comparing to the rear ones now heheh. So many details, I didn't notice it earlier xD. Awesome reptiles and in your realistic pokemon series you show so much skill with mammals fur and birds feathers. Wishing you all the best and I hope you get a lot of jobs!
Reply
:iconkaze26:
kaze26 Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2018
Awesome
Reply
:icondeadcobra:
DeadCobra Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2018
Cool
Reply
:iconassink-art:
Assink-art Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2018
Just dived into animal anatomy recently. I'm curious why you made such long transverse processes in the caudal/ tailvertebrae. Is it to give the tail more strength or is it for the wide form? Just curious.
Reply
:iconirbisty:
Irbisty Featured By Owner Sep 12, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Oh, that's so sweet :-D 
Reply
:iconldn-rdnt:
LDN-RDNT Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Professional General Artist
This is amazing man. This is such a master's piece and thanks for sharing. I love the cartilaginous structure and makes a lot of sense.

I am now more appreciative of anatomy. I am currently enrolled in a creature anatomy online course. I will also check out the your tutorials and the stuff you are selling in the Art Station marketplace.
Reply
:iconkaxanthedragon:
KaxantheDragon Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow! the kind of skill, anatomy knowledge, and patience to put something like this together is truly amazing!
Reply
:iconrealadamsandler:
RealAdamSandler Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Professional Filmographer
big file crashed my pc thx
Reply
:iconworkowatywilczek:
WorkowatyWilczek Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Fabulous
Reply
:iconthepondduck:
ThEpOnDdUcK Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
this won't be able to fly, would it?
i mean the whole thing is a fantasy animal ok - but it just looks like it has way too much mass to fly.
maybe that is why it has four legs to walk with
just for the torso and tail it would probably need double the muscle strength for them wings
a human i think would need 2x 4m wings and huge muscle bulk to fly properly if i remember correctly.

but very nice that you put thoughts and studies into it. a lot of people be like "dragon" and im like "wtf this couldnt survive"
and yeh you actually have a kinda working one, i think

only thing annoying me about this one is the mass it is carrying.
imagine it wants to fly, that takes a huge effort for this dragon and it would struggle doing hunts (after failed attempt it would have to rest for some time and the prey would be gone)
and what is the long fat tail for? if it would want it to balance flight, a short, light and flat tail would be efficient, like birds have.
i feel like this in the air would be a dead weight and it would constantly be in "liftoff" stage and waste huge amounts of stamina before being able to glide (the tail form seems impractical for anything but gliding and dive-bombs)

anyways im way to nitpicky about this.
ill give u a watch and a fav for that lmao
good work
Reply
:icongoku-san:
Goku-san Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018   Digital Artist
Like Kajenx said. I've seen people give the fire breathing ability a secondary use for creating hot air inside themselves and basically becoming hot air balloons. Or they produce gases inside themselves that give them that lift making them basically a reptilian zeppelin.  The dragon would probably have air sacs and pneumatic bones to lessen weight. 

Nature finds crazy ways for animals to adapt to things that one would think was impossible so maybe classic dragons if they were real animals would have a unique way of flight than birds, bats, pterosaurs or insects do.
Reply
:iconarvalis:
arvalis Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Professional Digital Artist
I mean dude, I think you’re kind of missing the point. The idea was to give it believable anatomy but it still has to look like a classic dragon. What you are describing is just a bird with four legs, which can be cool but is not at all the goal of this illustration. The long tail has patagium all the way down it to give it more surface area. Most of the tail is very slender. Of course this thing has too much mass to fly in real life, but it’s a fantasy animal so some suspension of disbelief is important. If I was going to do a hardcore believable dragon that could fly in our world, it would be much smaller and probably look more like a pterosaur.
Reply
:iconkajenx:
Kajenx Featured By Owner Edited Sep 11, 2018   General Artist
Dragons function like hot air balloons because they have fire inside of them. The long tail is necessary to keep them from spinning around in the air because they're so light--like the tail of a kite.
Reply
:iconthepondduck:
ThEpOnDdUcK Featured By Owner Sep 14, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
i told yall
im too nitpicky

zeppelins are too slow to hunt prey, it would have to trap it or feast on something slower
gliding attack works too for me (loads of birds of prey do so), but would have to regenerate flight functions after that- as it is the apex its not much of a matter tho

idk men
but as said, to me this dragon works as it is, i dont have the wisdom to say its possible or not, using atmosphere gas to get lighter makes sense, fishes do the same in the end

all is good, maybe ill create a own dragon illustration that doesnt make sense if you think about it as i did first...
was my bad to not go behind the mechanical side and think about more advanced physics or chemistry
Reply
:iconherofan135:
herofan135 Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Woah, this is so cool! :wow:
Reply
Flagged as Spam
:iconblueferno:
Blueferno Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is a bot, don't fall for it. Probably a virus link.
Reply
:iconryua:
Ryua Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Hobbyist General Artist
Very cool. I am always in awe of your ability to apply sensible design to fantastical beasts.
Reply
:iconneaganan:
Neaganan Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Hobbyist Artist
Very pretty
Reply
:iconhitmanpac:
HitmanPAC Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018
Uh, wow. This is... Amazing. Holy shit.
Reply
:iconthearcartist:
TheArcArtist Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
So cool!
Reply
:icontales06:
tales06 Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Student Artist
Nice to see a traditional dragon in an age of movie four-limbed movie dragons. 
Reply
:icondblasphemy:
dblasphemy Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Professional Digital Artist
Four limbed dragons look more "natural" to me.   It's strange in nature to find a six-limbed vertebrate.    Dragons, of course, are magical however so anything is possible I guess. 
Reply
:icontales06:
tales06 Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Student Artist
Yeah I've just grown up with traditional dragons and never thought anything unnatural about them. Still don't.
It just seems with fantasy you make your own biology and physics regardless of what our limited reality dictates. 
Reply
:iconsyvaender:
Syvaender Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Not only strange, impossible. There's no six limbed vertebrates c:
Reply
:iconarmandsteven:
armandsteven Featured By Owner Sep 11, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
nice drawing CURSE YOU! CURSE YOU! CURSE YOU! 
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