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With the fifth season of the worldwide sensation Game of Thrones soon to premiere on UK television, we at LSMedia thought what better way to celebrate than by taking a look at the science behind what is set to be one of the defining features of the upcoming season: dragons. Are they scientifically feasible?

Dragons appear in many cultures across the world: from your European, conventional fire-breathing ‘burn-the-village-down’ variety to your mystical, moustachioed, eel-like Japanese variety. For the purpose of this article, we’ll focus on the European variety (dragons with moustaches are just silly).

Hokusai_Dragon
We can safely assume that the ingredients to make any self-respecting dragon are: fire breathing; incredibly tough scales; ability to fly and an attitude to rival that of a “n-nosssh at all drun-thk” reveller refused entry to Cava.

There are plenty of cases of mean-attitudes in the animal kingdom. From the aptly named Tasmanian devil to the cute-sounding honey badger. Despite their small size, these creatures are notorious for their aggressiveness and lack of willingness to back down from a fight. Couple this with a boost of the aggression-producing hormone testosterone, our dragon can live up to its terrifying reputation.

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dailymail.co.uk

 

Incredibly tough scales would certainly be achievable: take the pangolin for example. This creature, found across Africa and Southeast Asia, is covered in hardened, keratin plates. These would surely add enviable protection for a dragon against the spears and arrows of the townsfolk.

pangolin

All dragons must fly, yet this is where things become a bit tricky. As any aeronautical engineer will tell you, for something to fly, it must have the correct weight to up-thrust ratio. Birds achieve this by maximising wingspan and reducing weight through the use of hollow bones and light feathers.

We’ve kitted our dragon out with a full body of hard, incredibly heavy scales. See the problem? We couldn’t counteract this with hollow bones because they’d snap under the weight and wouldn’t be very useful in a fight. So sadly, this is where our dragon’s dreams of flight are shattered.

That just leaves fire-breathing on our list. You might think this is the least likely ability, but there is one example in the animal kingdom that resembles this: the bombardier beetle.

gameofthrones.wikia.com

gameofthrones.wikia.com

The bombardier beetle uses an exothermic reaction to create a toxic, vaporised chemical substance at temperatures of about 100°C, which it can then shoot at predators as a defence mechanism.

bombardier

Using this principle, we could have a chemical-breathing dragon, which would still have the desired effects on its foes, and sounds pretty cool too.

All in all, a dragon in the conventional sense wouldn’t be scientifically possible. But we could see Daenerys ride into battle on the back of a walking, chemical-spewing, keratin-clad behemoth.

However, what this article doesn’t take into account is the magical side of Game of Thrones. I personally think this is a bit of a cop-out, but hey-ho, whatever floats George R.R. Martin’s boat…

You can watch the first episode of the new season of Game of Thrones tonight at 9pm on Sky Atlantic.