In Game of Thrones the Targaryen family had special heritage allowing them to ride their iconic beasts of war. I want to ground this in reality. Is there a way for heritable trait to allow you to be more attractive by another specific organism?

I thought about the person having a gene that expresses chemicals in the skin that are much like those exhibited by dragons, making the dragons more receptive to the humans instead of auromatically assuming them to be prey (dragons are not usually cannibals).

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    $\begingroup$ Your idea sounds feasible. It could also be something about skin color or texture. Maybe dragons see in ultraviolet too, and targaryen gene makes skin look different in ultraviolet. $\endgroup$
    – Bald Bear
    Oct 23, 2019 at 16:21
  • $\begingroup$ DNA pretty much replaces God in science fiction, nobody really questions you when you say “Because... DNA.” BUT in reality DNA has very specific limits. In the real world your looking for a symbiotic relationship between two species. You want a commensulistic symbiotic relationship where the rider gains locomotion via the dragon. Pheromones are you best attraction choice because it doesn’t require a line of sight. A unique voice or call can be used together with this. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Oct 23, 2019 at 18:37

4 Answers 4



These are chemical agents similar to hormones, but are excreted from the human body and used externally on other creatures of the same species, rather than internally. The thing is that humans have very weak pheromones, if at all, though numerous online retailers will do their best to convince you otherwise.

That said, it's very easy to say that humans can produce a certain type of pheromone which is contained in sweat. So this royal line of yours possesses a dominant gene that grants its descendants the mutation to produce this pheromone, which makes dragons identify them as a friend. Not as a fellow dragon (as this would get your human killed when the adolescent dragons decide to play-wrestle with them), but as some sort of symbiosis.

The real question is how the gene is passed on. If it's on a normal chromosome, than that means that someone who has them on both chromosomes would pass it on to all their children. A hybrid, which would exhibit these symptoms because the gene is dominant, would have a fifty/fifty chance of passing it to any given child.

Or, alternatively, you could make it sex-linked. Linking it to the Y chromosome guarantees that all male offspring down the line would receive it from their father, however it wouldn't be possible for the female to receive it. On the flip side, you could link it to the X, which means a father who had it would pass it on to all his daughters, but none of his sons. If the mother had it, then it'd again be put to a fifty/fifty chance.

  • $\begingroup$ Ants use this and there are also other insects who fake ant pheromones so they can hide in the ant's nest for protection or to prey on them $\endgroup$
    – Thorne
    Oct 24, 2019 at 0:33

Can I introduce you to the recognised concept of a Highly Sensitive Person who has:

"an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli". The trait is characterized by "a tendency to 'pause to check' in novel situations, greater sensitivity to subtle stimuli, and the engagement of deeper cognitive processing strategies for employing coping actions, all of which is driven by heightened emotional reactivity, both positive and negative".

Your dragon riders could be so Highly Sensitive that they can perceive and understand the aura/electrical impulses/impulses/thoughts of the dragons and able to therefore communicate and control the dragons (if only subconsciously). The dragon can sense this receptivity in the rider and hence their recognition of the riders as 'family' and in need of protection from the rest of humanity.

A HSP can be determined at birth by testing reactions to stimuli, it is typically a genetic trait passed down from one or both parents. Your excessively HSP dragon riders could be an extremely rare subtype of this genetic trait and would require careful maintenance of the bloodlines. I recommend close familial bonds are maintained over countless generations to ensure the gene isn't lost forever!

Fyi. Be careful not to overstimulate your dragon riders as they have been known to lash out and burn a city or two!


There's precedent for animals which can detect medical problems by scent, for example dogs which are trained to identify the smell of malaria. There are also plenty of genetic mutations which could cause a difference in scent. For example, the ABCC11 gene can differentiate if a person has underarm sweat or the consistency of their earwax. It wouldn't be impossible that a specific (inheritable) genetic mutation causes one's sweat to smell differently or something.


There are many possibilities. The people might well excrete a chemical signal from their skin as you describe. This might take the form of a distinctive smell, an odourless pheromone or simply be a chemical that the “mutant” humans use for one purpose that the dragons use for another.

It is also possible that the people have mutant vocal cords and their voices contain specific low or high frequencies that the dragons are attracted to. These sounds might be voluntary or involuntary when speaking. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvtT3UyhibQ

Another possibility is that the mutation causes some aspect of physical appearance that the dragons have learned to associate with friend rather than lunch. This could be anything from skin/hair colouration to facial features such as distinctive eye, nose or mouth features and might be quite subtle.

Finally it is also possible that the mutation causes some form of behaviour in the humans that makes them less vulnerable. For example a gene that made them frightened of dragons might prevent them from looking dragons in the eye. Which might be a very good thing if the dragons interpreted that as a threat or challenge (obviously the fear would have to be not so great that they could not bear to approach a dragon!).


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