Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Eudracos lacerta


Eudracos lacerta was described in another Von Burne publication, in 1824, just two years after the same author described E. magnificentissimus. While the latter is a lowland species, E. lacerta is a rarely-seen mountainous animal, preferring hard to reach cliffs, caves, and rocky outcroppings than fields and streams. Adults are ten feet long with a twenty-two foot wingspan. E. lacerta has lost its fourth manual finger, and the first wingfinger is greatly reduced and does not contribute to the wing surface. While the dragon has never been seen using its free finger, Von Burne suggested that it used the hook-like projection to "cling to cliff walls and climb amid the rocks." While his theory is almost certainly false, the finger does have a surprising range of motion and bears a hypertrophied, curved claw. E. lacerta is otherwise fairly similar to its sister species. Rather than purple, E. lacerta is a light blue with black stripes and a yellowish underbelly. A double-row of bony spines, larger than those of E. magnificentissimus, projects over the vertebrae.

The skull has some peculiarities of its own. It is not as ornamented as E. magnificentissimus, but a large flat horn juts upward from the nasal bones. The cranial horns have a diagnostic twist along their lengths. A spiny dewlap, similar to that of the green iguana, hangs beneath the lower jaw. E. lacerta does not show any sexual dimorphism, although this may be the fault of poor sampling: virtually all of the information on E. lacerta has been hewn from dead individuals, and those dragons are almost all male. Two females are known, but both are young. They lack the nasal horn, but the describer of those specimens (Ban Zan, 1944) attributed such a fact to physical immaturity.

Since E. lacerta is so rarely seen in the wild, its ecological role and behavior is largely unknown. There is evidence that it is a beachcomber, although it has been observed attacking sheep and rabbits. Garner (1957) beheld a "gaggle" of E. lacerta individuals feasting on a beached whale carcass. The animals apparently did not care for the cetacean's sizeable fat reserves, and spit out the chewy substance whenever they bit into it. Despite their difficulties in removing the fatty layer, the animals "tore through the carcass" within a period of two hours.

Ever since Von Burne's inclusion of this species in the Eudracos genus, there have been arguments regarding its true taxonomic affinities. While clearly allied with E. magnificentissimus, many workers (King, 1835; Graves, 1856; Barker, 1903, among others) have suggested that enough differences exist between the two animals that E. lacerta should be placed in separate genus: Spinospondylus (King, 1835). That genus name was used as recently as 1995 (Horne), but genetic evidence suggests that E. lacerta and E. magnificentissimus diverged very recently (Milnar, 1998), supporting the species, not genus-level, separation.

While no human casualties are reported in association with E. lacerta, those who have caught sight of it note that this dragon is far more aggressive than its lowland cousin and has been known to "fake-out" by swooping toward its target and pulling up or away at the last second. There are a few reports of injuries sustained by angry animals--mainly scratches and blows dealt out by the dragon's feet. In all, E. lacerta seems far less tolerant of invaders than is the greater European dragon, so caution should be exercised when traveling in mountainous or rocky areas.

References:

Von Burne, R. (1824). Anatomy of the lesser European dragon, Eudracos lacerta. Royal Journal of the Natural Sciences 25(1): 73-120.

Ban Zan, S. (1944). A brief description of two female dragon specimens. Draconium 7(3): 404-420.

Garner, G. (1957). Lesser European dragons will eat whales. Brevia (October): 23-24.

King, H. W. (1835). A reappraisal of Eudracos lacerta (Von Burne, 1984). Royal Journal of the Natural Sciences 36(2): 212-218.

Graves, R. (1856). An overview of the known Draconia in Europe. Royal Biology Review 12: 101-134.

Barker (1903). Relationships of Draconia and Dinosauria. Natura Historia 309: 67-78.

Horne, J. (1995). An ice-age occurance of Eudracos. European Journal of Draconology 85(7): 805-810.

Milnar, H. O. (1998). Molecular evidence for recent divergence between Eudracos and Megalodracos. Natura Historia 405: 1117-1126.

Coming up next: Megalodracos ezmerelda, a giant North African form!

4 comments:

BusaFan said...

So.... do you need some kind of hobby? I could suggest a few if you're that desperate and don't know what to do with all your free time!

Heh, more about dragons than I ever really needed to know!

Zach Miller said...

You act as though I'm making this stuff up! :-D

Raven said...

<3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

Much love for dragon taxa! And I hear you on the Todd McFarlane dragons. I prefer his "Eternal Dragon" species over the others - with the exception of some of his magician dragons.

Anyway - go here: http://cawbox.blogspot.com/

I needs me the constructive criticism

lantaro said...

Wow. I'm so freaking entertained.