In Dracoriri, I plan to have a species of small dragon called a Malidge (by small, we mean about the size of a human). These dragons are red, shiny, and covered in plates instead of scales, a natural armor fitted so well together that it is virtually impenetrable, much like on a Mesmerake.

They are also solitary creatures, bipedal too, standing on reptilian talons but possessing a pair of clawed fingers at the ends of their forelimbs, which are used to cut up and collect vegetation for food. In fact, their entire body is like this, with a vaguely humanoid torso, reptilian limbs and tail, and a neck and head that is very clearly that of an insect's.

Typically, this spadelike head is held pointed down, the three horns protruding from the back of its head standing up, possibly for sensory reasons-these horns are tough but flexible and have been observed moving when a Malidge is agitated, curious, looking for something....you get the idea, and holding the head down would allow it to see the ground....

TL;DR: To a casual observer, Malidge may appear to be dangerous predators. They are in fact rather aggressive toward humans, almost unnaturally so, and they possess sharp fangs and claws, but they are herbivorous, eating wood and vegetation. Why would a herbivore be armed and aggressive?

The Best Answer Will:

  • Take into account a Malidge's traits and use them to glean information on what they would act like, as while I like biology, I am no expert and would like to fine-tune my creatures to make them at least somewhat realistic. Basically, I'm asking you to use what I have and what you know and be creative in answering this.

  • Focus on the point of the question; there is a lot of weird things going on with Malidge, like the wood-eating and the mixed biology, but the focus here is on the fact that this is a herbivore with the aggressive behavior (yes, I know herbivores can be aggressive too, but only a hippo is aggressive like a Malidge, or in other words, acting like a predator) and weaponry of a predatory animal. I would like a biological explanation for this behavior.

  • If possible, I would love it if the answer could include why Malidge are so aggressive toward humans and basically just humans-others they just remove or scare off, but humans they outright attack on sight. But, this is not necessary.

Finally, let me know if there are problems, I appreciate feedback and new perspectives!

  • $\begingroup$ The title asks a different question to the body of the text. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 18:57
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime: fixed, thanks for pointing that out! $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 18:58
  • $\begingroup$ My dog would perform tactical movements whenever it sees a cassowary, me I give up on welfie because I am terrible at covert mission. (Now I hope you understand human nature) $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Mar 20, 2022 at 6:21

5 Answers 5


Your description of a biped with claws for tearing vegetation makes me think of another creature that isn't a herbivore but is just a disinterested in attacking large animals as a typical herbivore: the giant anteater. enter image description here

Their claws are designed to rip through termite mounds, which are comparable to concreate in terms of hardness, and are known for winning fights against jaguars with their powerful swipes. Basically every animal gives them a wide berth because, just like your malidge, they can kill anything that disturbs them without discrimination.

This indiscrimination is because they have terrible vision. If they sense any large moving object they might take a swing at it just because it might be a predator. Black African Rhinos also have awful vision and will likewise will charge at any moving object just to be on the safe side.

In summery, the malidge could be an armored herbivore that tears into specific trees to get at nutritious wood inside (as apposed to the nutritionally poor bark). To avoid driving their food source to extinction they have huge territories they roam so that more trees can grow while they are away. However, their faulty eyes, small to avoid splinters and insect bites, means that they can't tell creatures apart and so attack indiscriminately. This roaming behavior combined with their aggression makes them seem like they are hunting.

The three pronged sensory apparatus could be chemosensory organs, aka noses, that are positioned on the back of the head to keep them away from the trees while they are eating. They move to better triangulate smells and are how the malidge find ripe trees to eat. This might also be a weakspot for them and why they can attack so aggressively even though their armored. With out their smelling horns they would starve, doesn't matter how tough they are.

As for why they go for humans specifically . . . I'm not too sure. My gut says that humans are more pungent that other animals and therefore more noticeable to malidges. Or maybe malidges mark their territories with scents that humans can't smell and therefor tend to trespass where other creatures know to avoid. Or maybe our sweat and natural odor is similar to the trees malidges eat so they wander to human campsites and villages by mistake. Or maybe those same trees are used by local humans as building or crafting materials and Fred's knife handle is inadvertently enticing malidges as he sleeps.


Q: "I would like a biological explanation for this behavior"


Armed agression takes place among many herbivores and herbivores can act hostile to intruders, when territorial bounds are not respected. Gorillas are known for it, American Bison as well. Herbivores that want to keep their territory will attack animals that tend to steal territory. Humans especially. Some intelligence will help to let your creature know that.. and act accordingly.

Mating competition

In a herd, there is hierarchy, when it comes to procreation. Some males have the privilege, others have not. The hierarchy is determined by fights. That's why evolution provided them with arms in the first place.

enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ Very good, thanks for your great answer! I find myself wondering why I didn't see it before..... $\endgroup$
    – Alendyias
    Commented Mar 19, 2022 at 20:04

Why would a herbivore be armed and aggressive?

Have you ever seen an hippopotamus with full open jaws?

hippopotamus showing its fangs

There is plenty of footage of these herbivores, well known for being extremely aggressive, mauling crocodiles who didn't properly evaluate the risk when messing up with them.

Did I also mention the elephants, rhinoceros, the now extinct aurochs? All of them again pretty known for being aggressive and well armed with various body protuberances.

Be armed and aggressive is a way of putting in action the old saying "attacking is the best defense".

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    $\begingroup$ I believe hippos kill significantly more people every year than any other large animal in Africa (such as lions or crocodiles, which are what most people likely view as more dangerous). Probably blame Disney and Looney Tunes for the "cute and cuddly hippo" image. $\endgroup$ Commented May 25, 2022 at 14:32

They mistake humans for other malidges.

The overall body shape is right and some of the movement, auditory and olfactory clues given off by humans match those of the malidge. Occasionally the reverse is true and at a distance or with limited visibilty a human can mistake a malidge for another human. Humans figure it out quick once up close. Malidges not so much.

The malidges are fiercely territorial. Another malidge that shows up outside of mating season will be chased off. A malidge will generally avoid its own kind unless it is spoiling for a fight and so when one shows up that is presumed to be what is going to happen. WHen a human shows up that is exactly what happens.

Inside of mating season is a different story. Humans misidentified as malidges during this period may receive a different reception.


Maybe in the past or even present, their main predator / competitor was human shaped (or, drawing from another comment, scented)? Thus, like the hippo that is aggressive towards crocodiles, the Malidge attacks humans.

The claws themselves could be purely for defence or for cutting up some secondary food source.


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