The Gaals are a satient humanoid race, of magic origin. They were created by the last of the dragons as a legacy of his race to the world. They are humanoid, but with no hair and scales all over their body (think something like pogonas)

The thing is, how to "realistically" convey sexual dimorphism in a lizard/dragon-like species? The idea of females having breast just sound really wrong, as they are nothing like mammals. Even though the Gaal were magically created by a superior being, I'd like that them would at least look and sound believable, and breasts are just the opposite.

Would it make sense that the females of the species would exhibit colored or oddly shaped scales around the body?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site Hommerique, when you have a few minutes, please take the tour and read up in our help center about how we work: How to How to Ask. Perhaps you could edit your question to clarify a specific issue: "Satient" What does that mean? You can edit your question to clarify. The reason I query this is that it seems to be halfway between sentient and sapient which are quite often opposed in cognitive content. Unless that is your specific meaning - a question about those who have not fully transformed such as in Angel: Lawson's character: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Why_We_Fight_(Angel) $\endgroup$ Commented May 11, 2019 at 1:35
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    – JBH
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    – Cyn
    Commented May 11, 2019 at 4:27

7 Answers 7


Would it make sense that the females of the species would exhibit colored or oddly shaped scales around the body?

In most species, it is the reverse. The females and young are rather drab and the adult males are colorful. Because the females and young hide from predators while the adult males distract or fight them.

If your females are colored in a way that attracts attention, then it seems likely that that species engages in the reverse. The males would care for the young while the females distract or fight them. In that case, you might want to make the females larger as well, so as to be better able to fight predators.

Bright colors are often more metabolically costly to produce than drab colors. So from a mating perspective, they are a way of saying, "Hey, I'm such a good hunter that I can afford to waste calories on bright colors! I'll be a good provider for our children."

In females, there is often a more direct relationship between secondary sexual characteristics and child rearing. For example, in mammals, large breasts indicate that the female can provide lots of milk for young (by converting the fat to milk). Wide hips indicate that they can give birth to large young. You might think about how these creatures feed their young and what aspects would support larger eggs.

Males may have longer tails and narrower hips. Longer tails as an advertisement of their hunting abilities. Females have wider hips to lay large eggs. Females may be larger in general, particularly if speed is more important to males than size.


1. Physical aspects due to gender roles

We live in a world that is trying its level best to erase or ignore traditional gender roles. Mother Nature, however, established a number of differences. For example, as the "defender" or "the hunter," the male is generally larger, more muscular, has a thicker skull (all possible puns intended), and is more aggressive. Females are generally smaller, have mammary glands, and have wider hips for child bearing.

  • Define the gender roles for your species and build some physical characteristics into the race. Terrestrial lizards are egg-laying species. If your species is, too, then the rectal tract in the female will accommodate this fact. If the females defend the nests, they may have stronger spring-muscles, sharper claws, or even a stronger jaw for combat. The males, perhaps still the traditional hunter, may have a leaner form for running and a neck gullet for storing transported food (not unlike a bird). The males may have a slimmer head and longer tail for running, the females a wider head and shorter, more muscular tail for defense.

2. Behavioral aspects

You haven't told us much about your race. For example, what are their mating rituals? What are their fears and delights? Humans, for example, have this quirky love for chocolate, greasy food, and The Beach Boys (well... my generation, at least).

  • Both genders may preen for mating, but how do they do it? Your runners (the males) may want to show their legs while the breeders (the females) may want to show their affluence (I don't want to dwell on the sterotype, but think "good housekeeper." They'd wear costly clothing, seek quality weapons, etc., to show their status). Males may prefer a vegetarian diet while the females may prefer insects (higher protein).

3. Plumage

I'm fond of a line from Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London, "I saw a werewolf drinking a Piña Colada at Trader Dick's, his hair was perfect."

I mentioned a bit about plumage in #2 (how they present themselves to others and why), but plumage also can be very physiological. Humans do their hair, wear rings, makeup, tatoo their bodies, and heaven only knows what else to both attract and express themselves. Again, generally speaking, men enjoy women with smooth skin and women enjoy men with rippling pectorals. Women with rippling pectorals and rough skin and men with smooth skin have for millennia been seen as "not part of the norm" and often shunned.1

Generally speaking, however, we're not like peacocks in that we don't have plumage that intrinsically changes by gender (i.e., there's not a hair color for women and another for men, like there are feathers for birds), but that doesn't mean you can't. As you said, you can use scale color (perhaps fancy for the gents, camouflage for the ladies and their nests). But you can also use scale size, dorsal spines (if your species has them), tail lengths (which I've already mentioned), length of snout/face, size of eyes... Heck, you can even do length or size of claws and digits.

4. Expression

Finally, a lot of analysis has been done on what defines "perfect human beauty." Face shape, eye size and placement, hair line, etc. You can do the same here. Perhaps the men appear (to their enemies) solid, serious, unfazed by their surroundings while the women appear wise, cunning, and perhaps even devious. Extremes in these attributes may be perceived by the species as "more attractive" (which would be an excellent addition to your storyline — attractive traits that make little to no sense to your readers because, well, except for politicians and lawyers, we're not snakes lizards).

1Yes, yes, yes... we live in a politically correct world where some will be upset that old stereotypes like this are brought up. Except that any anthropologist worth their salt will tell you that these things are real and require a sophisticated level of reasoning to socially overcome. Please keep that in mind before winding up for a scathing comment that doesn't actually have much to do with the OP's question.


Borrow from both the peacock and frilled lizards. Your females have no-nonsense frills that just get the job done. Males have extended, colorful frills.

This choice gives the advantage of having ready vocabulary that is familiar to audiences when describing displays to show the difference, and of providing a plausible modification to a lizard that anyone can find pictures of on the internet.


Iguanas do sexual dimorphism right!



And I mean the escaped nonnative iguanas taking over the Florida Keys. The males are over the top dimorphic - wild colors like red and purple, huge spikes, giant throat flaps. As male as a lizard can be!

I wonder if the founders of this population were pets that were selected for these characteristics. Or if the absence of any predation means there is no downside to over-the-top spectacularity, and the males with the best displays make all the babies.

The females are plain and greenish gray. In a sentient species you could have them match the males with body ornamentation, jewels and paint.

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    $\begingroup$ Among lizard people like this, bright female jewellery and body paint might be only popular with feminists, lesbians, rebellious teenagers and women who have been hanging out with humans... while very conservative lizard people insist that it's weird and unnatural for women to dress as colourfully as men. $\endgroup$
    – Robyn
    Commented May 11, 2019 at 19:11

What you want is basically sexual dimorphism, which is very common in the animal world. Some examples.

  • You can have a difference in size. Usually with mammals, the male is bigger than the female, but in other species it is the opposite. I know that female dinosaurs were generally bigger, etc. However, if you want to have it the other way, it's also possible, for reasons of defense.
  • Color can also be a varying factor. Many answers I see have the males looking flashy and the females looking drab, and I agree. However, you could go a different way and have things like the males being light green and the females dark green, or visa versa.
  • Physical characteristics. Other than the obvious, the males could have claws more accentuated, etc.
  • Social differences. Before puberty it is often difficult to distinguish male and female, but the difference is made clear through social things like hair, style of clothing, etc.

A combination of all of these could definitely work. Also consider that humans are generally very good at knowing whether another person is male or female simply through subtle cues such as bone structure. Thus, if this is a book you can reference these but also use pronouns such as he/she to distinguish character's gender.


Just give them breasts

You claim that these lizards are 'nothing like mammals', which implies that:

  • Their face cannot produce facial expressions
  • Their lips are fused to their jaw
  • Their shoulders are narrow and attach to the base of the body
  • Their arms are inflexible and they cannot reach up to their backs
  • Their torso has a prism shape, without any defined chest or stomach
  • Their legs stick out around perpendicular to their body axis
  • Their tail is thick enough to be continuous with the body

And much more

Is this all true? If not, then your species isn't as un-mammalian as you seem to think, in which case you should probably just give them some breasts


You could expand the major differentiation beyond beyond just the physical characteristics. for example males could act more flamboyant both in seeking partners and in general interactions they could also be more competitive. Females on the other hand could act more resigned and cautious in general.

You could also extrapolate on their physical appearance through clothing. Males more likely to wear colorful clothes and use flashy jewelry makeup or other such accessories. In comparison female clothes are simple and drab.


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