I usually like to leave some wiggle room for myself when fleshing a concept out.

Dragons make that sort of impossible, same's true for nanomachines but ripped senators are a question for another day.

I was trying to expand my wiggle room by asking these questions:

Would stronger tendons and bones allow for stronger muscles for the same weight?
Would linear increase of a muscle's dimension increase the power as well?

The basic idea was that I had some wiggle room for material strength, thanks to graphene.

The core idea was to reinforce the bones and the attachment sites to be able to handle more muscles. The range of motion depends on the length of the muscle, while its strength on the area.

Staying aloft shouldn't be a problem for large fliers, thanks to thermals. Taking off, however, is a b...

Obviously, there would still be little room for the other stuff, like the third pair of limbs, but more managable than ~200 kg for this:
enter image description here Would it be possible for, say, a ~500 kg dragon to take off?

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    $\begingroup$ What are "ripped senators"? Or is that the question that's for another day? $\endgroup$ Oct 15 '19 at 20:41
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    $\begingroup$ Data point: The largest flying animal we know of, Quetzalcoatlus, was thought to be about half the weight you propose. The square-cube would seem to dictate a long, lanky frame with perhaps multiple sets of wings to get all 500kg off the ground. $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Oct 15 '19 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ @Mephistopheles ahh, a reference pool I have barely dipped my toes in. Mystery solved, anyway! $\endgroup$ Oct 15 '19 at 21:06
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    $\begingroup$ I don't have the time for a proper answer right now, but I suspect the answer is no, under standard parameters. Now, if you step away from Earth conditions (lower gravity and/or higher air pressure), you broaden the scope of what can work. $\endgroup$
    – Palarran
    Oct 15 '19 at 23:38
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    $\begingroup$ @Pelinore Ah, the noble Skywhale! $\endgroup$
    – Joe Bloggs
    Oct 16 '19 at 13:09

Definitely possible.

The Quetzalcoatlus has been estimated being 200-250 kg.

Also from Wikipedia:

Cryodrakon was proportionally similar to Quetzalcoatlus and other long-necked advanced azhdarchids, though its somewhat more robust bones may indicate that it was slightly heavier.

It doesn't seem too far of a stretch to say that evolution could have created something twice as heavy as the above examples, does it?

If the question is whether it is possible aerodynamically, the answer is a definite yes. Just look at how heavy airplanes are.

If the answer is whether that much weight could be supported in the air by muscles, the answer is still a definite yes. Just look at the T-Rex's huge legs, and you'll see that the size of muscles seem to have little to no evolutionary limitations.

So, if large animals like these are possible, I can propose the following solutions to your question:

  • Similar to an airplane, why can't you have a large animal that needs to run in order to take off? This animal could have evolved to search for mostly airborne prey, only landing in large open areas that allow them to watch for predators. Or they could be soaring animals such as the Andean condor.
  • Having larger wings will allow them to have more lift, similar to the effects of a bigger sail on ships. (although a larger flying animal will also need other forces)
  • Consider a dragon that has 2 sets of wings. These wings would work like a dragonfly, and could potentially alternate during initial takeoff and ease the burden of each set of wings.

Interestingly, to further the point about having a running start, the following paper goes into how the wings actually have a "relatively small contribution" to the initial takeoff of birds such as finches and doves.


@overlord has well established that it's reasonably possible for a 500 kg flying animal to exist. If nothing else, your 500 kg dragon could be a long-term soaring creature like an albatross, land only on prominences (cliffs and peaks) by preference, and avoid the need for a level ground takeoff almost all the time.

He needs to be able to take off from flat ground, though, because landing on the prairie or beach being a death sentence makes it hard to support a species that pretty well have to be carnivores (or at least carrion eaters).

There are sequence drawings, perhaps even video, of an ergonomically possible way Queztlcoatlus might have been able to launch from flat ground -- in general, it involves a sort of "pole vault" move, striding forward on the wing knuckles, then using the momentum with a stiff-legged "hop" to get enough height to unfold the wings and begin to laboriously flap to a soaring altitude. Obviously, the underlying requirement is that your flier needs to have the strength to climb by flapping, at least at a limited rate (it needn't have the performance of a Cessna, but that of a self-launch sailplane -- 40-50 meters a minute -- is about a minimum).

This climb performance is achieved with as little as 10 kW in sailplanes of similar mass, so let's say our (somewhat less efficient) super-Quetzl will need 15 kw. That only .03 kW/kg, which is pathetic for any living animal. Seems likely to work, given evolutionary pressure for such an animal to grow even larger than the known specimens...


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