Smaug by artist Samuel Johnson (TheRisingSoul on DeviantArt)

Dragon Evolution: The Science of Fire-Breathing Reptiles

Geek Culture

The fire-breathing dragons that terrorize the pages of many high fantasy stories (of which Smaug the Golden is probably the most famous) don’t exist in our world — but what if nature had gone a different way?

Over at Scientific American, science writer Kyle Hill digs into dragon evolution and the natural forces that could possibly result in giant fire-breathing lizards roaming the Earth.

Smaug by Samuel Johnson (TheRisingSoul on DeviantArt)
Smaug by artist Samuel Johnson. Used with permission.

Citing examples such as methane gas, gut bacteria, specially developed organs, hypergolic reactions (like we can see today in the bombardier beetle), flint-lined teeth, and potential piezoelectric properties — along with a voracious appetite to fuel the fire — Hill hypothesizes that a fire-breathing reptile just might be possible in our reality.

But even if such a reptile was living today, could a beast as massive as Smaug actually take flight? That’s a different story entirely.

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