So, I have devoted an unhealthy amount of my time to the dragon question, and a final solution will have to wait... for several thousand years at least.

My original plan was to make them at around 180 cm tall at the shoulders, and 6.4 meters long, 2.8 meters of which is the tail.

They soar for most of the time, and can't quad launch, so they need an elevated point to take off, and use their flight muscles, typically for about 90 seconds, to gain altitude.

Flight muscles can't be optimized any further, though you can always attach more. Problem is, you need to reinforce everything else to be able to withstand the increased load. My idea is to use:

Spider silk

For the wing membrane and tendons. Spider Silk can have tensile strengths of 1,6 GPa, sure, supercotraction can potentially ruin it, but it is still too damn strong. You might wanna braid them, though. The elastic modulus is still kind of a problem.

Limpet teeth

At least their structure. Limpet tooth is nature's answer to short-fiber composites and can be equated to them. Bones could be structured this way. Tensile strength is 4.9 GPa, yay.

The question is if this reinforcing could work as intended. I have faith in goethite, but I'm unsure about the other. I'm mainly concerned about the wing. Would these reinforcements allow me to make it significantly larger?

Additional information

Storywise, dragons were designed creatures, and their creator spent several thousand years, according to some sources, creating them.

Enhancements are both internal (wing bones, ribcage, tendons, ligaments) and external (wing membrane, and its attachment).

For the sake of simplicity, and my own sanity, we're going to assume that the wing structure is similar to that of the Quetzalcoatlus northropi.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure what the question is. Are you basically saying "here's two cool materials! Can I throw them at some unspecified body structure to achieve some unspecified improvements?" Biology is an amazing game of tradeoffs, with really nuanced decisions at every corner. $\endgroup$
    – Cort Ammon
    Jan 24, 2019 at 19:27
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I'm curious if this is really needed? Quetzalcoatlus was a lot bigger than these dragons, and didn't need super materials. $\endgroup$
    – AndyD273
    Jan 24, 2019 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ For external body parts, you need to make sure you have some way to constantly create a new supply and a mechanism to deliver that material to the desired location. Just because something is strong, doesn't mean it won't be worn down over time. For example, we grow nails and hair, birds have feathers, bats have skin like wings which have access to blood. Your external silk will also need a repair mechanism. $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    Jan 25, 2019 at 4:12

1 Answer 1



There is a lot of argument around whether the creature was preferably a glider, or a powered flyer but it is clear the the wing bones are significantly more robust than is required for walking.

Some even attribute the main wing bone as being used in a catapulting mechanism. This would quite likely be the strongest force exerted on the bone, even in many forms of active flight. The bone itself is hollow, but is reinforced by aligned supporting rods connecting the sides of the bone along the line of max force.

Similarly all pterodactyls, like modern day birds, have an enlarged sternum which serves to anchor the huge flight muscles. Supporting a wing span of 11-12metres which is certainly sufficient for around 100kg, maybe more.

The big question is how heavy is your Dragon?

If we take a therapod, who are we kidding, a dragon should be scary lets go for T-Rex. The largest skeleton "Sue" comes in over-size for your dragon at: 3.6meters at the hip. Smaller adult specimens are known, so lets go with the low end of the weight prediction 5.4 metric tonnes, that is 54x heavier than Quezalcoatlus. Scaling Quezalcoatlus ~9m up to the same length as T-Rex ~12m, still implies that the dragon is 39.6x too heavy.

Simply substituting materials will not make such a creature flight worthy. The main issue is its weight. Some quick gains can be made by ditching scales, hollowing out more bones, reducing the size of the gut, and reducing the size of the head. Already though this creature is looking less like a dragon and more like Quezalcoatlus.

Alternately you could offset the weight using the force of bouncy. Essentially the dragon becomes a blimp, using super-heated or even just hydrogen/helium sacks. that decrease the relative weight to a point were a reasonable set of wings could provide the remaining required lifting force. Unfortunately I am unaware of any animal doing this naturally. Although many flying species come close by using hollow limbs.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ With all the due and respect, sir I clearly said "at around 180 cm tall at the shoulders, and 6.4 meters long, 2.8 meters of which is the tail." $\endgroup$ Jan 25, 2019 at 4:44
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I was using the closest analogue for weight estimation. Sue was an extreme sample and I clearly excluded her from the approximation. I took smaller specimens and roughly hand waved. Of course the figures are not exact, even at 50% less the problem is still there. So with respect, what is it that is confusing you? $\endgroup$
    – Kain0_0
    Jan 27, 2019 at 3:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Mark Witton put the Quetzy's weight at around 200-250 kg. What is it with everyone trying to compare dragons to Tyrannosaurs, try other theropods. Even the lower estimates of the T-rex were larger than my proposed dragon, nearly the double. There is no "force of bouncy" bouncy is the dark lord of dodgems, and has nothing to do with aviation. Dragons don't use their tails to balance their head. Speaking of heads, azhdarchid pterosaurs had huge heads, compared to their bodies and neck. $\endgroup$ Jan 27, 2019 at 11:05
  • $\begingroup$ Air is a fluid, flight is the act of moving through a fluid so as to counteract falling. That can be achieved in several ways, blimps achieve this through buoyancy. Dragons are creatures which can be most closely described by a dinosaur, or a large snake. You mentioned legs. Therapods (pick any you like it was a guess) are the closest dinosaurs to the avian dinosaurs aka birds. I'm excluding birds because they derive flight via feathers. Conversely Teradactyls are not scaled, and have a different body plan. $\endgroup$
    – Kain0_0
    Jan 29, 2019 at 22:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .