Thursday, April 10, 2008

Sinuospondylus brekkie

Flightless and massive as a result, Sinuospondylus brekkie (Cooper, 1892) is an extremely localized creature which wanders the mountainous regions of southern Europe. At a whopping 45 feet long, the beast weighs between three and four tons and seems to live on an omnivorous diet. While its front teeth are long and sharp, it has four large "molars" in its mouth which serve to break up plant material, although fecal matter studies indicate that S. brekkie is extremely selective about what flora it eats (Nom & Ramis, 1947). The same studies suggest that most of S. brekkie's meat comes from fish.

Cooper compared Sinuospondylus to the giant sauropod dinosaurs of Europe and North America, and rightly so. With its long neck, fat body, and long flexible tail, Sinuospondlyus certainly seems to have converged on that bauplan. The animal is mostly a purplish huge, darker above than below, with a green band separating the two shades in lateral lines down the sides. Like Megalodracos, a row of spine-like projections run along the back and down to the tail, where the spikes surround the teminal end. The head is roughly triangular--unusual for a dragon--and features a number of bony projections. Like Eudracos lacerta, a flat bony horn rises from between the eyes but is swept backward. Also like the Eudraco genus, Sinuospondylus has caudally-directed cranial horns. Females have two in the usual place, but males have developed two additional horns which seem to erupt from laterally-expanded jugal bones. In other regards the two sexes are basically identical.

Although never testified to in a scientific journal, many observers have witnesses Sinuospondylus standing upright for brief periods, although to what end is unknown. The wings, while ultimately useless for flight, are strongly muscled and usually kept folded at the creature's sides. During confrontations between rival individuals or mating rituals, however, the wings unfurl and take on specific purpose. Embattled males will raise their outstretched wings over their backs, making small flaps in a threat display while growling and bellowing. Courting males (and females) will hold their wings out horizontally and essentially perform "jazz hands" with their wing fingers. Thanks for the careful observations of Benton (1967), the ritualistic behaviors of this species are well-known.

While Sinuospondylus is clearly derived in its own way, it retains many primitive traits. Both the forelimb manus and wings manus have five fingers, while the hindfeet have four. The head is roughly triangular, and the external nares are not in any way fleshy, as they are in Eudracos and to a lesser extent, Megalodracos. The toes on the forelimb manus and feet are unusual in that the individual phalanges are arranged in a mammalian way. Whether this is a primitive or derived trait for the group is unknown--the early fossil record for dragons is pitifully ill-represented.

Gauther (1988) suggested that Sinuospondylus nested with Eudracos and Megalodracos in a monophyletic Eudracocidae, although he cautioned that the few features which united Sinuospondylus with the other taxa, including caudally-directed cranial horns, fairly mobile wing finger joints, and spines down the back, were fairly ambiguous given their widespread but unequal distribution among other, clearly separate, dragon families. For example, Rugodracos arborealis has spines down its back which are similar to those of Megalodracos and Sinuospondylus, but Rugodracos is otherwise very different from those animals. Cooper noticed the superficial similarities between his new taxon and the European dragons, but noted that the many more basal features of Sinuospondylus suggested that it was not directly related to them. Indeed, Irwin (1996) hypothesized that cranial horns and "spine-like structures" along the back were plesiomorphies for Draconia. Unfortunately, genetic testing has not been attempted for Sinuospondylus, and fossil remains for the genus are unknown.


Cooper, E. (1892). Sinuospondylus brekkie, an enormous, flightless, European dragon. Royal Journal of the Natural Sciences 93(4): 356-388.

Nom, J. Z. & Ramis, H. R. (1947). New information on the eating habits of Sinuospondylus brekkie. Brevia (February): 37-41.

Benton, C. M. (1967). Observations on the mating rituals of Sinuospondylus. Draconium 30(2): 130-143.

Gauther, R. A. (1988). Potential monophyly of the European dragons. European Journal of Draconology 78(1): 57-67.

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

Coming up: Palusodracos wellsi, and our first foray into aquatic dragons!

1 comment:

lantaro said...

Wtf, sir!!? Where is the information regarding this big critter's response towards humans? Is it violent? Does it MAIM!?