6
$\begingroup$

Dragons are kind of a cult. They are very popular in movies, books and stories in general.

It feels that the dragons are only a better dinosaur. So I wonder, would finding their skeletons affect people's judgement about dinosaurs being so special?


Dragons...

  • extinct.
  • can fly.
  • can breathe fire.
  • have scales.
  • have one, three or seven heads.
  • have different colours.
  • have organs indicating that they might have something similar as human speech

EDIT: I am not sure if all of the attributes can be determined from the skeleton (but that doesn't change the question).

$\endgroup$
8
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Finding their skeletons when? Like when we first discovered dinosaurs and thought they were dragons or finding dragons now? $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 30 '16 at 12:24
  • $\begingroup$ Colour can't be determined from skeletons. I don't think scales can either but I'm not sure. Organs for speech can be seen in skeletons. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 30 '16 at 13:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Zxyrra Every discovery that we have about dinosaures we would also have about dragons. $\endgroup$ – TGar Dec 30 '16 at 13:33
  • $\begingroup$ We don't leave skeletons so there is mysticism about us. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Dec 30 '16 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ Interestingly, "dragon" is actually quite a wide category. Eastern dragons bear little resemblance to Western dragons. In both cases, however, they fill a cultural need. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Dec 30 '16 at 15:45
7
$\begingroup$

Are triceratops or raptors ignored just because t-rex existed? The same would be true of dragons (although note that your descriptions seem strange, multi-headed beasts in particular are not very practical). Speech-capability might be possible to infer from the skeleton, but colour would not be.

If the dragons had always been known about then they would just be yet another form of prehistoric life. If they were a new discovery then that would be big news for a while, but only for a while then they would be catagorized in with everything else.

$\endgroup$
11
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This. +1 (1234) $\endgroup$ – Zxyrra Dec 30 '16 at 12:24
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ They would likely receive a lot of popular interest. Similar to how T-Rex is famous and loved by many children whilst hypacrosaurus is practically unknown. $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 30 '16 at 12:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I'm fairly sure I read that that had been able to infer the colour of dinosaur feathers from chemical traces in exquisitely well preserved Chinese fossils found recently. Black, IIRC. $\endgroup$ – nigel222 Dec 30 '16 at 13:05
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @TGar You don't think huge animals far larger than elephants moving in great herds whilst being hunted by gigantic, two legged lizards with massive teeth is cool? $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 30 '16 at 15:16
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @TGar Some of the answers here may help with the multiple head problem: worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/42017/17720 also worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/q/51758/17720 $\endgroup$ – Bellerophon Dec 30 '16 at 16:04
5
$\begingroup$

Loosely theorizing from your premiss, I'd say dragons would become more popular.

Why?

  1. Currently dragons are beasts of legend and are assumed not to be the stuff of real life.
    You gain all potentially interested people that connect with what they can see and hear. You loose all people that connect with the imaginary exclusively.

  2. We'll know much more about dragons.
    You gain all people that get fired up as they learn more about a topic. You loose the group that has made dragons what they want to be, unhindered by pesky real life details.

Ignoring smaller effects like people denying the dragon fossil records in general and small boys limiting enthusiasm to only one big lizard from the now much bigger heap the number of fans lost will be much smaller than the number of fans gained.

$\endgroup$
5
  • $\begingroup$ But wouldn't it be a heavy blow for the imagination, that nowadays is possible while talking about dragons? $\endgroup$ – TGar Dec 30 '16 at 13:32
  • $\begingroup$ @TGar, yes indeed, a bad blow for mysticism. But in this material day and age I do think facts will win out. Factoid: In Chinese tradition the dragon stands for... change. Heh. $\endgroup$ – Bookeater Dec 30 '16 at 13:42
  • $\begingroup$ I thought the Chinese dragon stood for luck and fertility, hence the baby boom every Year of the Dragon. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Dec 30 '16 at 14:18
  • $\begingroup$ Also true. Change is a bit more obscure. See Dragon entry on nationsonline.org/oneworld/Chinese_Customs/… $\endgroup$ – Bookeater Dec 30 '16 at 16:22
  • $\begingroup$ @Bookeater Well, now I know what happened to my beloved encyclopedia of dinosaurs I had when I was younger. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Dec 31 '16 at 0:10
2
$\begingroup$

Dinosaurs would be much less popular, dragons it depends on if dragons are still alive

There's a saying in paleontology: if turtles were entirely extinct today people would be fascinated by their remains. Turtles are bizarre, their bodies are so strange with their limbs inside their ribcage, skulls that make no sense compared to living reptiles, that if turtles were extinct today it would be hard for anyone to imagine how they could exist. Now imagine a turtle that is sixty feet long, has wings, and breathes fire. There's your answer for dragons.

If dragons were real dinosaurs would almost certainly be less popular, as dragons are basically dinosaurs+. Part of what makes dinosaurs enticing to a lot of people is that they were once real, and if dragons took that uniqueness away there isn't a lot of reason to favor dinosaurs over them. Dinosaur paleontology would be a niche subject, kind of like how mammal paleontology or paleontology of Triassic archosaurs is today, with the possible exception of a big area of interest in theropod dinosaurs that evolved into birds (but with far fewer people liking dinosaurs for being big and toothy). Think of how the "less interesting" Mesozoic megareptiles (mosasaurs, ichthyosaurs, pterosaurs, plesiosaurs) are treated today. Always showing up as side roles in documentaries and movies about prehistoric life, almost never the stars of the show, and almost always less popular or more likely to be inaccurate because there isn't as much interest in them.

If dragons were alive today there would be even more interest in them and even less in dinosaurs, as fossil dragons would be seen as important in understanding the origins of dragon biodiversity. Something similar happened with dinosaur paleontology, in the early 20th century dinosaurs were seen as big, dumb, uninteresting evolutionary dead ends that were good for attracting children but unimportant as far as science went, and instead a lot of research focus and popularization was placed on fossil mammals because fossil mammals gave rise to modern horses, cats, dogs, humans, etc. Nowadays things are reversed because of the Dinosaur Renaissance and the dino-bird connection, which has revitalized dinosaurs as active animals and evolutionarily important because they gave rise to modern birds and aren't just an evolutionary side-show.

Another aspect is that before the discovery of dinosaurs dragons didn't look that much like dinosaurs, they looked like mashups of snakes, big cats, hooved mammals, eagles, bats, and crocodiles. It was only after dinosaurs became popular that dragons started looking like dinosaurs with bat wings. If dragons were a real animal it doesn't take much of a leap to think that people would take features of real dragons to make new mythological monsters that are seen as even more alien and fascinating than we find dragons.

$\endgroup$

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.