So, I was wondering if it would be possible for a race of reptilians to live in a climate similar to that of Germany or Scandinavia without having to hibernate for the winter months. They would be culturally similar to Germanic tribes and/or the Vikings. The would not be able to hibernate due to the war-like tendencies of the surrounding human clans. Would they just need to be more careful to avoid freezing to death? Would the hearth/long house be more important to them do to higher need for warmth from other sources?

If physical appearance is important, they will resemble Vurks from Star Wars (Colemam Trebor was one).

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Edit: Answers can also address if this race was mesothermic since cold-blooded species cannot survive in cold temperature without hibernating and/or advanced technology.

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    $\begingroup$ Just to be clear here- they're cold-blooded, not mesotherms like the non-avian dinosaurs? (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mesotherm) $\endgroup$ – PipperChip Oct 3 '17 at 21:37
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    $\begingroup$ Most reptiles are cold-blooded and really can't survive in cold conditions without good environment control, heated housing is important to stay alive. Also passive clothing would do very little for them because they produce very little body heat themselves which is what clothes are there to keep in. If they ever need to be outside for more than a couple minutes, they would require the clothes to be heated like an electric blanket powered by a battery or similar. $\endgroup$ – A. C. A. C. Oct 3 '17 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ Originally, without knowledge of mesotherms, I was thinking they were just cold blooded. However, seeing as it is hard to make realistic, answers can also address if they were mesotherms. I'll edit my question. $\endgroup$ – Cody Ferguson Oct 4 '17 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ Does this species need to be able to wage war during the winter or is the goal simply to stay alive (and conscious)? $\endgroup$ – Cradle2theGabe Oct 4 '17 at 16:55
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    $\begingroup$ They would align with the tendencies of pre-modern armies. Generally, during the winter months they would not wage war. However, if they wanted to and the conditions were not too bad, they could wage war. I would like for them to be able to perform close to normal human activities during the winter. This question here has some good answers to use as a guide lines reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/1path0/… $\endgroup$ – Cody Ferguson Oct 4 '17 at 17:53

I agree that the concept is not very practical for the level of technological advancement you have described, but if you absolutely must have winter reptiles there is some very limited biological precedence--but activity is severely reduced and your species would be very vulnerable at this stage.

Excerpt from http://www.bcreptiles.ca/reptiles_north.htm

How do reptiles survive Canadian winters?

In northern British Columbia, winter weather is too cold for reptiles to be active. If they stayed in the open, they would freeze to death. To live in the north, reptiles have to find some way to avoid exposure to cold in winter.

Many birds escape the cold winters by migrating to warmer places, but, aside from marine turtles, reptiles can’t travel large distances. Instead, reptiles must either tolerate the cold or go underground or underwater to escape it. One way of tolerating the cold is to ‘supercool’ (lower the body temperature below 0oC without freezing body fluids – not something you should try at home) or to tolerate freezing directly (survive freezing of the body).

Some northern amphibians can survive freezing of a large part of their bodies, but this seems to be a less common strategy in reptiles. There are a few exceptions. Hatchling painted turtles appear to survive winter through a combination of supercooling and freeze tolerance. Garter snakes also seem to have some tolerance for freezing. Most of our reptiles though, including garter snakes, avoid winter weather (and freezing temperatures) by hibernating. Except for hatchlings, painted turtles do this by going to the bottom of ponds or lakes that do not freeze solid. Even though the surface of the lake may be covered in ice, hibernating painted turtles survive by absorbing the small amount of oxygen they need from the water. In comparison, lizards and snakes hibernate on land, using burrows and cavities to get underground and below the frost line (the depth that the surface freezes to).

  • $\begingroup$ Digging down is a great idea, the deeper they dig the warmer it gets. $\endgroup$ – John Oct 5 '17 at 2:42

With intelligence comes the ability to modify your environment.

  1. Insulation. Your reptiles will have a much higher interest in thermal insulation than humans. Huts will exhibit better caulking, thicker boards, or even layered solutions to retain heat.

  2. Heat reuse. They might have developed looped chimneys to retain the heat of fire.

  3. Personal heating. Right now I'm thinking bedpan, wherein the victorian age put coals to pre-heat a bed (not the other bedpan, thanks). But, they would also have glommed on early to the use of gypsum, soapstone, and basalt at an early stage as natural stones that retain heat well.

  4. Finally, where humans tend to put boots in front of the fire to dry them out, our reptiles would place boots and hang coats to warm them up. It would almost be a religious observance as they move from building to building, staying warm, and then hanging up the clothes to re-heat while visiting friends (so to speak). You'd find clothing warmers in every building, the warmers getting larger as the buildings become more public.

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    $\begingroup$ ‘Sorry, I can’t come out drinking tonight, my coat warmer is broken’ $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 4 '17 at 13:19
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    $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs, that's actually a really good point. No cold brews for our reptiles except in the summer. I can imagine them having a culurally unique hot beverage that'll souse the whole lot of them. $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 4 '17 at 21:04
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    $\begingroup$ A race of sozzled sauropods guzzling gratuitously warmed wine? $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Oct 4 '17 at 21:56
  • $\begingroup$ @JoeBloggs! I about died laughing. Thanks for the lift! $\endgroup$ – JBH Oct 4 '17 at 22:42

A little (lot) late to the party, but one possible method for your endotherms to survive the winter (in addition to the technological innovations already mentioned) is to hold territory around naturally occurring hot springs. Their society could be semi-migratory, with the summer months spent in a wider territory and then retreating to their (well fortified) geothermal pools for winter.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you! I really like this idea and could work with the Germanic tribe type of society that I want to give them. $\endgroup$ – Cody Ferguson May 24 '18 at 15:48

You are right to say that the reptilians would find their long houses and fires of critical importance.

The reptilians could stay outside but would need to find others means to keep themselves warm. One way would be to have continuously burning fires outside which they could bask beside. But this would not be very practical. Insulated clothing could help even out temperature fluctuations, but they would have to be careful not to venture beyond the warm zone of the fire for more than a few minutes at a time or else they would face being stuck in the cold and not being able to return.

Active heating would be ideal but with Viking technology what could be achieved would be very limited. Perhaps they might carry some hot coals in an insulated bucket, but that would be of marginal use.

Two big problems they would face are:

  • The need to collect colossal amounts of fuel in the warmer weather as foraging for fire wood in winter time would become increasingly difficult as the winter progressed as all of the available nearby wood was depleted. They would probably be forced to live underground or semi underground to aid in insulation, but unless chimneys were available this would be impossible.
  • Predatory humans who would have a variety of methods of attacking them especially in very cold and/or snowy weather. They could try to extinguish fires with large amounts of water or by smothering (especially effective against chimneys if allowed). Another perhaps even more successful strategy would be to ignite the reptilians huge wood store, let it burn out and then return a few days later.
  • $\begingroup$ Great calls. Techniques for mitigating the cold would be very vulnerable to sabotage. $\endgroup$ – Cradle2theGabe Oct 4 '17 at 18:56

In the other answers we see some clever techniques which might make cold-winter climates survivable, given enough preparation and risk-tolerance. That said, are these techniques practical? Our human types live all the way up into Nunavut, but if you look at where the permanent towns are you'll see that there's a northern edge to where their lifestyle works. The northernmost town, called Alert, is more of a military base supported behind the scenes from a more southern industrial base.

What I'm getting at is that your Scandinavia winters are long and severe enough that they are likely out of the practical living space for active reptiles. Unless they're industrialized, it's just not worth it.

This of course offers you the tremendous opportunity of having two sapient species on one planet, so there's that silver lining... ;D

  • $\begingroup$ I never thought about it providing a more believable case for two sapient species. Thank you for pointing that out! $\endgroup$ – Cody Ferguson May 29 '18 at 14:54

If your reptile race is a conscious, tool-using, language-using race, they'll be there. Whatever combination of lifestyle and technology makes it possible, there would eventually be a tribe of losers, fleeing a genocidal war, who would just have to make it work, or die.

Clothing works. Carrying a heat source or a heat reservoir would help. Over thousands of years, their physiology will adapt to work with the technologies that enable them to be there-- just like humans in northern Europe became able to digest lactose.

Maybe your northerners get really big so they can carry hot stones around all day. They could have a version of the siesta, but instead of sleeping, they go in, warm up, and trade cold rocks for hot. There could be a network of warm shelters, and cultural norms that maintain them. Rescuing stranded, cold-stupefied travellers would be a societal concern, just like in the Alps-- they'd have St. Bernards!

I find myself rooting for those guys. :)

  • $\begingroup$ I like the idea of warm-blooded animal companions! There would be multiple applications! It seems simple to think about, but I never thought of them as a heat source for rescues and what not. Thank you! $\endgroup$ – Cody Ferguson Oct 5 '17 at 14:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Neal I hope you're right: " a tribe of losers, fleeing a genocidal war, who would just have to make it work, or die" +1 However I'm reminded of the Viking Greenlanders whose settlements failed as the temperature got colder, because their lifestyle (crops & livestock) just didn't work. Or the European settlements in tropical areas which failed because the disease environment was too foreign for them to adapt in time. $\endgroup$ – akaioi Oct 5 '17 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ Not kidding about the "or die" part... now, about those factory farms... $\endgroup$ – Neal Oct 5 '17 at 15:26

Would there be magic in this fictional world? Magically induced warm longjohn's, and PJ's.

In a non-magical setting your Reptoid race might have a second stomach, or summat that they use to store warmed stones which helps them regulate their internal temperature. Maybe an evolutionary holdover, or an atavistic trait. Perhaps their species used to have a closed digestive system. Perhaps they have to heat stones of a certain size and swallow them, and then regurgitate them later, though... ewww. Still, wear some well insulated clothes and they're good for XX number of hours in whatever conditions you choose.


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