I am making a world where the environment is much larger than the people who live in it, and is in a swamp setting. My problem is that I would like to have the characters riding on wild animals (fish, reptiles, bugs, and other non mammals), but I can't find the correct size for them. They will be large that the riders which are about 5ft average. Is there certian sizes that would be easy to translate into the story?


A living Alligator Snapping Turtle is 26 inches normally, but how large would it have to be if riden by a human.

I would love to hear what you have to say as I am horrible at math and am at a cross roads. Thank you!

  • $\begingroup$ 7x body length or volume? $\endgroup$ – Renan Jun 9 '19 at 5:09
  • $\begingroup$ length would be best $\endgroup$ – BloodyNightStalker Jun 9 '19 at 5:39
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ We ride elephants and donkeys and no one would say they're similar sizes, $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jun 9 '19 at 5:54
  • $\begingroup$ If there would be snakes and insects that have a rideable diameter, humans would ride them. $\endgroup$ – Trish Jun 9 '19 at 14:50

the limit for riding beasts is the strength of the musculature and how it is organised. Now a peasant farmer rides a donkey with his feet dragging on the ground, almost; because the donkey has a very strong musculature, owing to evolving in the desert. A horse is ridiculously fragile by comparison and the legs are thin and spindly. But it can go fast. Let's take a historical creature; the Hell-pig, about 30 million years ago. It was an omnivorous critter with teeth not unlike ours only much, much bigger - but it had a gape like a hippo and could crunch on bones. to do that it had massively long vertebral spines which were used for neck muscle attachment. The shoulder area of this pig-creature which was about 6' high at the shoulder, would be tremendously strong and could carry a lot more than a man, though I would think it would be both an uncomfortable and nervous ride.
reptiles? I'd think you'd want a python big enough to swallow a man whole to be rideable. I've seen people ride the giant tortoises of the Galapagos, they are tremendously strong, and the big ones are about 5' long. Modern lizards can't be ridden because of their splayed gait; but if you had lizards with straight down legs, then you could. It's more in the bone structure and the musculature than the size. Now, bear in mind that most of the larger critters anywhere tend to be the predators, if you plan to have a 10' salmon capable of carrying a man, because of the laws of evolution, somewhere you are going to have a 20' pike capable of eating it. And that is a whole new kettle of fish [sorry, I can't resist puns] Or you might have herbivores which have grown big to resist carnivores; there isn't much which can take down an elephant, especially a bull elephant in musth .... and you have to factor in whether the mount wants to eat its rider, or if it is prey, and if so what the predator is like.
Insects? well, insects are tremendously strong for their size because of the chitinous exoskeleton. Now, this involves either lower gravity or denser air to get one up to riding size. Or higher oxygen percentage, which also works. Unfortunately this is bad for humans who suffer oxygen toxicity. Now a combination of lower gravity, denser air and a bit more oxygen - say up to 25% oxygen in the air - you could do it. And your humans would have to evolve to cope with it. the oxygen levels during the times of the great insects [about 35%] would be instantly fatal to humans. Any more than that and fires cannot be extinguished so it would be fatal to everyone any time a lightning strike set off a forest fire however adapted your humans.

I hope this is some use.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The big issue with rideable insects is circulation. Insects don't have a pulmonary system which means their insides need to be close enough to their outsides to maintain enough O2 CO2 exchange via diffusion. Giving your bugs lungs and hearts, would go a lot further towards giantification than changing the environment, because at some point scaling up a passive exchange system would create too big of an oxygen gradient from outside to inside to not kill the animal. $\endgroup$ – Nosajimiki Jun 9 '19 at 14:48
  • $\begingroup$ great comment, I had been thinking about what made insects gigantic when they were large, rather than the obvious corollary of changing their methods of gaseous exchange. Spiracles are limited ... $\endgroup$ – Sarah Waldock Jun 10 '19 at 15:08

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.