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These dragons are as big as double decker with wing span approaching 20m measuring from tip to tip, they migrate in large numbers and fly at an altitude between 10,000m to 20,000m above sea level. They are covered in special kind of mucus that prevents moisture and ice to form, the heat from the sun as well as it is less cloudy at such height keeps them dry during flight. I like to know how do they prevent being blinded by sunlight directly overhead as well as reflection from large body of water below? They tends to be very social and adopt a V formation in the sky to help those dragons with weak muscle, hence it is important for them to pay attention to every audio and visual cues at all times for safety.

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    $\begingroup$ What colour dragons are we talking about? $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Mar 8, 2022 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ Any reason their pupils cant simply close enough to prevent light blindness? $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Mar 8, 2022 at 17:41
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    $\begingroup$ The correct answer is: eyelids. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Mar 8, 2022 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ For the rest of my life I will imagine dragons flying while wearing totally cool Raybans. $\endgroup$
    – RedSonja
    Mar 9, 2022 at 8:24
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    $\begingroup$ Note that at 10000 meters, you're under -40°. source. The "heat" of sunlight isn't really doing much to keep you dry. Also, the radiation in orbit is about 1360 W/m² source ("Solar Constant..." heading), while that on the ground can be as much as 1050 W/m² (same source, last paragraph of "Terrestrial Spectra" heading). So the difference in brightness is fairly low. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelS
    Mar 9, 2022 at 22:44

5 Answers 5

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Don't worry about it.

What you describe is the cruising height of a passenger airliner. If you have ever looked out the window of such a plane you will know the light is often bright but not blindingly so.

enter image description here

Perhaps it would hurt the human eyes if exposed for too long. But humans are designed to live on the ground and not the sky.

It is entirely believable that an animal designed to live in the sky is better adapted to bright light. In fact such an animal exists. Check out these guys:

enter image description here

It's called a goose! They fly almost as high as your proposed dragon. They even fly in a V-formation like you said. And after all that flying they can still see! Wowsers!

The dragons should be fine, without further explanation, unless they look directly at the sun. Even then they might be fine. That is, of course, if sunlight counts as fire damage. Someone once told me dragons are immune to fire damage. . . .

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm sorry "Bar-headed geese migrate across the Himalayas twice a year, reaching altitudes as high as 7270 metres" google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=how+high+gees+fly that is not in the range 10000-20000 meters $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Mar 8, 2022 at 18:55
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    $\begingroup$ I would say 7000 is "almost as high" as 10000, in the scale of things, they're a long way up, and perhaps the dragon flight level should be lowered to something more sensible anyway. $\endgroup$
    – Nij
    Mar 8, 2022 at 21:44
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    $\begingroup$ I don't think the electromagnetic energy radiating from the sun reaching Earth that is perceivable as visible light would cause fire damage. $\endgroup$
    – dmedine
    Mar 9, 2022 at 5:09
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    $\begingroup$ @Goodies: At least a couple of species of birds have been recorded above 10,000m — (Rüppell’s vultures and common cranes) — and high-altitude bird flight is so sparsely documented that there are almost certainly more besides these. $\endgroup$ Mar 9, 2022 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies No need to apologise. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Mar 9, 2022 at 10:56
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Let us see how other animals protect their eyes from sun.

  • Meerkats have dark rings to reduce the glare of the bright desert sun.
  • Camels' lashes angle downward, to protect from desert sand and sun.
  • Camels have an extra protective eyelid that acts as a nictitating membrane.
  • Polar bears have nictitating membrane to prevent snow blindness and filter UV light.

Your dragon can use more than one of these methods.

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Several possible solutions

First, it may be that their perception of light is different from ours, so that bright light doesn't blind them. They could for instance have different light receptors for different degrees of brightness, the way we have for different colors. The low-light and medium-light receptors would then still work in bright light, because they don't register bright light and hence can't be blinded by it. Or there may simply be a cut-off brightness where additional brightness doesn't register.

Second, they could have double eyelids, where a semi-transparent inner lid reflexively closes when they look towards bright light - sort of like putting sunglasses on. Many Earth animals have double eyelids for this or other purposes. Heavy eyelashes could have a similar function.

Third, their eyes could be polarized, so that light coming from above or below doesn't filter very well through, while light coming from the front or the sides gets through unobstructed.

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I think they just close their eyes during the day.

They would definitely have other senses they depend upon at that height. What would their sight even be doing? They're flying over most of the clouds at that point, right? They'd need extremely specialized eyes to be able to see much at those altitudes, and that level of specialization would be disadvantageous while on land.

So what are their other senses? To get up that high safely in the first place, they would need sensitivity to barometric pressures. While in the air, they would use that to notice and dodge storms. To keep themselves flying in a line, they would probably have some level of magnetism, letting them know where they are in terms of distance from the poles. You mention they are social, so they need to be able to 'talk' to one another, meaning that sound is important. This would also help in avoiding storms if it was low level sound.

So, once they feel themselves hitting the right altitudes, they close their eyes and fly by their internal compass. The group sounds out to one another in order to keep themselves on track, to warn of any needed corrections, and to check in on weaker individuals. Prompted by communication, they would open their eyes for short spans if they needed to switch up positions in the formation or if they were ready to go down to lower altitudes.

If you want them to be flying for long journeys, they might open their eyes at night and actually navigate by the stars, or at least, use them to course correct.

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  • $\begingroup$ These are nice suggestions, but you certainly don't have to have excellent eyesight to navigate at 10 km. I can easily make out houses and roads at that altitude, so they should be able to see mountain ranges and other large-scale landmarks. Clouds are only a problem when they exist, and you can always have exploratory dives to stay on track when clouds do exist. And eyesight is by far the best way to detect other dragons in the daytime. $\endgroup$
    – MichaelS
    Mar 9, 2022 at 22:53
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(frame challenge)

Dragon wings are too small to fly over 10000 meters

The record altitude birds can reach: vulture, crane, swan.. they reach 11300, 10000 and 8800 meters, respectively. Common for large birds like Condor is an altitude of 5000-7000 meters. Condors have a giant wing span compared to their weight, your 20m dragon does not. So a dragon will fly lower than a Condor.

The reason for this: animals have flapping wings. Low air resistance cannot provide enough lift, at high altitudes. The altitude you would like your dragon to fly is commercial air traffic, which also has a relatively small wingspan.. but they have jet propulsion!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_birds_by_flight_heights

Actually, the "flying" of dragons is often disputed here: square cube law dictates a large (and thus very heavy) animal needs more than proportional wingspan. Looking at most images of dragons, their wings are much too small. A double decker wing span won't do.

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    $\begingroup$ maybe the dragons do have jet propulsion... you think the front is the only end that spits out fire? $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Mar 8, 2022 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki indeed, but there's a paradox involved.. the dragon would have to eat a large amount of beans before flight, adding to its weight. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Mar 8, 2022 at 19:01
  • $\begingroup$ Pterosaurs were quite large and it's speculated they had air sacs within their wing membranes. $\endgroup$
    – Jason_c_o
    Mar 10, 2022 at 17:05

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