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KatePfeilschiefter's avatar

Anatomica Draconis

Anatomy of the Western Dragon 2.0 (for a BIO class) My pride and joy.
This time heavily inspired by Todd Lockwood's DND Dragon Anatomy Painting

I'll probably work on this more in the future, but for now I'm done with it.
This design is based around the idea that a dragon is not a reptile, rather it belongs to a unique scientific class of hexapodal homeothermic creatures, perhaps possessing dolphin/elephant level intelligence in the higher species.

(Download for a larger view)

Some of this may be quoting John Conway's pterosaur research: The Pulmonary SASS (Subcutaneous air sac system) are a complex system of air sacs located beneath the skin that act as bellows for the lungs as well as to pneumatisize bones -filling them with air, meaning the bones can be bigger without being heavier or weaker. To be specific, they have post-cranial skeletal and soft-tissue pneumaticity; meaning there are hexagonal (honeycomb structured) spaces and pneumatic foramina filled with air within the bone and some tissue. The pneumatisation in the wings perhaps being fueled by the SASS. The air sacs may have have played a structural role in holding wing shape and posture, as they do in some birds. This feature aids in the oxygenation of the muscles, and unidirectional flow of oxygen in the lungs. Their large lungs, coupled with their efficiency of exacting oxygen from the air serve to support their size and powerful flight muscles. The SASS would also allow the animal to control the mechanical properties of the wing, perhaps even allowing the inflation to be used in display as it does in some birds.
Also from pterosaurs- the top layer of the wing is the actinofibrils, which help give shape and support to the wing.

About necks ((Knut Schmidt-Nielsen's “How animals work”, page 49 (1972))-
Long necks developed in dragons as well as in some birds and pterosaurs to allow ease of breath. Most dragons had long to mid-length wings for efficient flight and powerful downward thrust, but low wing beat frequency. And as wing-beat frequency determines respiratory frequency, this calls for bigger longer breaths, so a longer trachea and therefore longer neck is required to breath deeply without hyperventilating in flight. This creates the right dead space to tidal volume proportion to create the correct mixture of dead space air and fresh air upon inhalation and co2 concentration. Smaller dragons with shorter wings, higher wing beat frequency and shorter breath do not require this, and so have shorter necks. Long necks also come in handy for creatures with stiff backs/Vertebrae, they develop a long neck in order to get a better look around. Flying creatures are always very stiff, as too much flexibility in flight creates drag and makes it harder to support weight. This is observable in birds, who all have long necks. Even the small song birds necks are secretly proportionally long, their length is just hidden beneath feathers. When it comes to the larger birds, like herons and vultures, the necks are even longer.

About Spines/Spikes: I see a lot of anatomical dragon sheets in which the spikes are made of bone, aka extremely long spinous processes. This could work for terrestrial creatures, but for flying animals its additional and unessential weight. The spikey bones have the potential to provide a very easy way for the animal to injure itself and more specifically its spine. Not to mention greatly reducing flexibility, (though this doesn't matter too much as a flying creature would be stiff backed to begin with). Spikes found on reptiles today are made of flesh and scale, a good example being the Thorny Devil. This lizard when calm can be very soft, but is able to make its spikes rigid and sharp when threatened. This is the kind of spike I'd imagine a dragon utilizing.

Tail muscles --
The most important muscle in the tail for dragons as well as dinosaurs and crocodiles is the Caudofemoralis. As this illustration shows only the surface musculature, the caudofemoralis which is a deep muscle doesn't show up much. But it's one of the largest muscles in the dragons body, as it affects the abduction of the hindlegs. The bigger the caudofemoralis, the faster the dragon/dino. Birds whose main source of locomotion is flying, and don't spend as much time moving on the ground as dragons do have short tails and small caudofemoralis.

Update: 3/9/12
Cleaned up some of the skeletal drawing and increased the length of the spinous processes, as well as the cervical vertebrae on which the forearm scapula rest.
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© 2011 - 2021 KatePfeilschiefter
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I'm working on making a Hospital for Fairies and Familiars for the local nature center's annual Fairy House competition. Could I print a Teeny version of this to hang on the walls? Thanks!

tootbender's avatar

I'm guessing dragons can't sit like dogs because of their stiff muscular tails?

Waldling's avatar
tootbender's avatar
morion87's avatar
Question. What would change for a two-headed dragon? My mind keeps going back to it for some reason. Plus not many show it.
KatePfeilschiefter's avatar
I'm inclined to imagine it as a case of polycephaly, in which case the excess head(s) would have resulted from conjoined twins. Polycephaly is quite commonly observed in tortoises and snakes. 
Mea-Mina's avatar
If you ever asked yourself how a hexapod works - here is the answer along with a scientific explanation.
Super-B done!
eclipse2014's avatar
This is great, especially because I personally love drawing dragons. So this will be great reference material for muscle anatomy! It also looks great on a technical level too!
Timespinner2's avatar
Sorry if i'm being a bother, but i'm really interested in learning anatomy but i have no clue where to start, and you seem pretty experienced so you seem like a good person to ask. Do you have any tips for learning the anatomy of humans and animals?? Or how did you first start off learning this stuff?
KatePfeilschiefter's avatar
Hey, no bother at all. I didn't start out with a concrete plan. The best advice is always to draw from life and from reference as much as possible, pick up some anatomy books and practice identifying and drawing muscles from both people and animals. 
Timespinner2's avatar
thank you so much <3<3
PDG-art's avatar

I am doing a presentation about dragons in school. May I show this picture when i am describing how western dragons look like?

KatePfeilschiefter's avatar
Sure, as long as you credit my name in the sources portion that's fine by me.
hannahelizabethh's avatar
VenomQuill's avatar
Oooh! That's so amazing! I've been thinking about the anatomy of not only dragons but of all creatures. You knwo, how and why they work, how and why they evolved or devolved, and how and why the move and act certain ways. I personally think that if we get a good enough understanding of the life on Earth and how everything arranged itself, then maybe we could start to understand how alien life works. Perhaps since we haven't seen any, how alien life MIGHT work. Or you could also find ways to create fictional beasts in such a realistic way that they could be-or perhaps were-living entities.

AGH! I wished I was in a biology class. <3 Too bad my major isn't geared for it. Haha
Lady-woods's avatar
THIS.IS.FREAKING.AWESOME!!!!! :la: :la: :la: :la: :la: 
The dragon lover and biologist in me are having a massive nerdgasm!!!!!!! :love: 
KatePfeilschiefter's avatar
That is the intended effect 
Chiletrek's avatar
 The quality of this pic can only be matched by university-level biology books. You did an amazing work :) .
RaptorArts's avatar
Wow this needs to be in a book! Beautiful work! 
Taerynax-the-Dragon's avatar
This looks Well thought out and simply amazing!
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