Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Megalodracos ezmerelda

The final surefire member of the "Dracocidae," which also includes Eudracos lacerta and E. magnificentissimus, is Megalodracos ezmerelda, an enormous North African dragon. Formally described by Hawkins in 1900, Megalodracos is notable mainly for its sheer size, which rivals that of the largest wyverns. In fact, the lack of larger extinct forms implies that Megalodracos may be the largest dragon to ever exist, although such claims are at the mercy of the fossil record. Megalodracos is a coastal dragon, usually sighted in Morocco, Algeria, and Libya. Individual dragons have also been sighted in Spain and Italy. Megalodracos is a fairly common tourist sighting on the Mediterranean. Aside from its nearly eighty-foot wingspan, there is no mistaking Megalodracos: It is a brilliant green color with thin black stripes. Small decorative red horns dot its body, mainly along the forelimbs, above the eyes, and along the spine.

The tail is notable for its prehensile "fingers," which serve many purposes. Toward its terminus, the tail bifuricates into two thin but muscular stalks which have a surprising range of motion. They are able to curl toward each other as well as downward, and they aid in holding onto perches, and holding and catching food (these dragons are known to "fish" with their tails; Salazar, 1944).

Given its enormous size, Megalodracos feeds on virtually anything it wants, including the occasional wayward human. Grimm (1921) noted that this dragon will gorge itself to the point of being unable to fly, at which point the animal becomes extremely slothful. Grimm suggested that, as the dragon had just eaten an entire buffalo, all of its body energy was going toward the digestion of such remains. Whether this feeding behavior is normal or not is unknown.

Although not as aggressive as Eudracos lacerta, Megalodracos is intolerant of humans and will unveil a unique threat display upon being approached: it will rise up on its hind legs, spread its wings, and "shake" its wingfingers. This makes an already large dragon look even bigger, and if the creature begins bellowing--well, it's time to leave. Human deaths have been connected to the taxon, although Megalodracos is not known to attack humans outright. Like its relatives, the mating and breeding behaviors of Megalodracos are virtually unknown, although juvenile animals appear to be almost black compared to parents. How long it takes them to reach physical maturity is unknown.

The taxonomy of Megalodracos is fairly stable. In phylogenetic studies, it nests with Eudracos without fail (Irwin, 1996), and molecular data has further confirmed such a grouping (Milnar, 1998). Judice (1987) suggested that Megalodracos evolved its enormous size to power its huge wings, which were used to cross the Mediterranean. Fossils attributable to Megalodracos date back to the Miocene, but are from central Africa. It is likely that the taxon originated there, but moved north as Africa began to dry out at the end of the last ice age.


Hawkins, H. (1900). A giant North African dragon. Studies in Zoology 20(2): 180-215.

Salazar, J. (1944). Fishing with Megalodracos. European Journal of Draconology 34(1): 57-61.

Grimm, B. (1921). Megalodracos feeds on African megafauana. European Journal of Draconology 11(3): 121-125.

Irwin, D. (1996). A revised phylogeny of the extent Draconia. In A Brief History of Draconology (Suet & Svenson, eds.). Prince Rupert Press: 56-73.

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

Judice, J. (1987). Gigantism in dragons and wyverns. European Journal of Draconology 77(2): 99-116.

Coming up: Sinuospondylus brekkie, a dragon that converged on sauropod dinosaurs!


BusaFan said...

Damn you Zach...... tell me more about dragons! .... it's a sickness...

lantaro said...

Dear God, I honestly cannot stop reading.