arvalis's avatar
Anatomy of a Dragon
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By arvalis   |   Watch
Published: September 10, 2018
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 



Image size
2000x1845px 22.55 MB
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Jubatian's avatar
JubatianHobbyist General Artist
Neat take on the classical dragon design, I like the description, how you experimented with a variety of sources for composing this!

Just some, eh I say, ramblings. I just do similar stuff, actually for some sci-fi ideas, and of course for the huge flying beast, I rather use the four limb form. When considering the six limb anatomy (that's not something impossible if one doesn't assume strict Earth biology as base) the placement of the "engine" is the problem, those massive flight muscles. This creature seems to be aerodynamically sound with the wing surface and balance, however the proportion of wing muscle mass is just too small.

I mean even if I assumed much stronger muscles for an unit of weight than terrestrial animals have, this feels off to me, as then the tail and probably even the hind legs would feel vastly overpowered. Of course the classical six limb western dragon is often portrayed like that, with a massive and heavy hindpart. Slender designs which look dragon enough are more or less possible I think.

Actually pterosaurs carry some hints towards a potentially more dragon-like creature, I mean those ridiculous ornaments. If the creature had a tail with a somewhat similar wing aspect ratio to a typical large pterosaur, it needs to have a lot of mass of anything on the front to have good balance. An elegant powerful dragon head and neck could also do the job.

Anyway, the construction is nice and is an interesting unique design with all the details thrown in!
Pendragon276's avatar
Would the anatomy of this animal allow for efficient gliding similar to Disney’s gargoyles or Hang gliders?
Jubatian's avatar
JubatianHobbyist General Artist
The problem is often something like early medieval era "inventors" faced when they attached wings to their arms and jumped off some precipice (... splat). Some structure is necessary even to hold the wings in position. Imagine gymnastic, bars, and trying to hold yourself up on a pair of them spaced about one and a half meter apart, your arms stretched horizontally. Possible? Probably. What about doing so for ten minutes? Half an hour?

Anyway, this is a very neat design here for the fun of it. I have no idea either how a six limb dragon could be made (at least sort of) functional with real-world physics hurled against it.
TyrantkingX9's avatar
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?
Miss-Tbones's avatar
Miss-TbonesHobbyist Photographer
Soo awesomely cool!:clap::wow:
finelineME's avatar
This is very impressive!
ThimDK's avatar
ThimDKHobbyist Digital Artist
With logical sense, the skeleton alone must weigh a crazy amount, how would it even lift from the ground?
shockaLocKer's avatar
shockaLocKerHobbyist General Artist
Screw weight. I'm more concerned about the aerodynamics in the design.
TinyCat000's avatar
TinyCat000Hobbyist 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
LittleAkaiko's avatar
LittleAkaikoHobbyist Digital Artist
like in birds way
SOMMY-OF-BREROHobbyist 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.
ExaltedSerpent's avatar
ExaltedSerpentHobbyist 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
Cyansky95's avatar
Cyansky95Hobbyist General Artist
I like seeing a speculation with the more fin-like wings, and love that head too, solid reconstruction!
Sunima's avatar
SunimaProfessional General Artist
Night-Anders's avatar
Night-AndersStudent 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?
ButILikeTauNeutrino's avatar
Take a look at that breast! Them's some big pecs
alienator65's avatar
alienator65Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I can't stop looking at this!
CynicalEscapist's avatar
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?
SkyPotatoFire's avatar
Awesome idea here for a dragon.
LaskaEira's avatar
LaskaEiraHobbyist Digital Artist
Finally I'm not alone in putting wing muscles in front of the legs on dragons! The design here is awesome! 
poisonbite01's avatar
poisonbite01Hobbyist Traditional Artist
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