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The dragons of my world, like many historical dragon depictions, have their wings attached to the lowest part of the body, similarly to many planes. This is in contrast to all real winged animals, whose wings are close to the back

If you'll need details about my dragon, their torso is reptilian, mostly lizardly. They are quadrupeds, with normal legs for a reptile. Their wings are limb based, with a row of elongated bones along the posterior of the wing finger and ulna that support a webbing. Said wings are attached to reptilian shoulders that are low down on the body, close to the centre of the body. The tail is long and lizardly. The head is a mixture of reptilian and mammalian, with a long neck involving avian aspects alongside

Could this wing position realistically be used for powered flight in an animal?

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  • $\begingroup$ Low mounted wing position reminds me of flamingos, where their wings are at the midpoint of their body, very different from other birds that put their wings in the upper half. Do your dragons resemble flamingos? $\endgroup$
    – Toddleson
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 19:57

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The reason real flyers have their wings mounted high is that they need those big breast muscles and the lever afforded by the breast bone to apply the necessary force for flying. Low mounted wings just wouldn't allow for the space needed by the "engine".

So, unless your dragons fly by magic or jet engine instead of muscle power, i don't think this would be viable.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree, assuming that their flight mode resembles other flying animals. But, if they were to fly inverted (just... why?) then it might be feasible. Of course, they could then de-invert and glide for awhile. The problem there is that they're going to need a really twisty torso to be inverting and de-inverting for that stuff, and it's just not efficient at all. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 20:07
  • $\begingroup$ You could have those muscles and the associated skeletal structure inverted, biomechanically, but you'd have to go way back down the evolutionary tree to get the anatomy right. Consider the way most fish have their pelvic fins low on the body. But flying fish have their fin/wings high on the body. It seems to be a matter of the center of gravity: airplanes can be low-winged because most of what's above the wing is empty hull. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 17:34
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I offer no warranties on the ability to make any kind of dragon able to fly, but physically (anatomically) it may work if you bring in some mammalian features:

  • flat sternum - make it even flatter and wider, you're dealing with a crawling reptilian when not in flight (so lose the keel bone, but increase the area of the sternum)

  • bring in the shoulder girdle - a scapula and the clavicle to attach the humerus (of the wing)

  • attach the pectoral muscle on the humerus further down from the joint

Something like this:

enter image description here

What you lost from the depth provided by the bird's keel bone, you gain in the length of the lever arm but inserting the muscle further on the wing bone.

Yes, the bone will need to be stronger than the humerus of a bird (which is mostly hollow). But for a heavy dragon, it will need to be stronger anyway (at least from the joint to the area where the pectoral muscle inserts).

The extra bones will make the dragon's frame quite sturdy (not a bad feature for a dragon), albeit the extra weight may be an issue for the flight (but if the atmosphere of your planet is denser in the dragon age, it may not be such a big problem).

For comparison, the anatomy of the pectoral muscles of a bird (from here). Note the shortness of the lever arm (defined on the humerus with the joint as the fulcrum), relative to the depth of the keel bone. You just need to invert that relation for a "jetplane like low wing position"

enter image description here

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