Friday, April 18, 2008

Spinodracos dysonii

Commonly known as the "porcupine dragon," Spinodracos dysonii (Owen, 1987) was unknown by science for decades, overshadowed by its contemporary, Jugoceras horriblus. While on expedition to the Alps to track the range of that wyvern, Owen was surprised to discover a new species of dragon, and it became the new focus of his study. Spinodracos reaches lengths of 22 feet, and its wingspan can reach 50. It is a deep purple color, with black spots along the body. Spinodracos is named for its most obvious feature(s): the multitude of small and large bony spines which dot its body. Of most prominence are those along the back and down the center of the chest. Clusters of spikes can be seen on the shoulders and thighs. The head is subrectangular, and displays impressive caudally-directed cranial horns. The tail is thick and fairly stiff, and each lateral side has another row of small spines running down it. The body is slender, but the limbs are surprisingly robust--especially the hindlimbs. The neck is fairly short and not very flexible. The dentition is crocodile-like in that the upper and lower teeth interlock and are not hidden behind any kind of "lip" or rim. The dragon also has a noticeable underbite.

The dragon lives at higher elevations than the wyvern, although the prey of both is similar: rock-loving ungulates. Goats make up enormous portions of the wyvern's diet, but Spinodracos is more of a generalist, going after just about anything large enough to satisfy its appetite. Like Megalodracos, Spinodracos is a glider, and rarely flaps its enormous wings. It is unable to take off from a standing position, so the dragon will often crawl up an incline and leap forth, taking flight by virtue of gravity. The animal is just as able to capture lunch on the ground as on the wing, and Spinodracos' cat-like hunting skills have taken down many a goat. Although their paths rarely cross, Spinodracos and Jugoceras are known to fight viciously when one is provoked. These battles usually take place on the ground, where both animals are more adequately equipped to deal damage to the other. Unfortunately for Spinodracos, the winner is often determined by the wyvern's ability to spit fireballs. Aside from that unique ability, the two are fairly evenly matched when it comes to physical combat, and fights will often end in the death or mortal injury of one animal.

Interestingly, Spinodracos and Jugoceras also share their habitat with Felimimus paradoxus (Camp & Bello, 1991), the cat-mimic dragon. However, Felimimus does not often conflict with either the larger dragon or the wyvern, as it is much smaller, totally flightless, and tends to scavenge. Family groups of Felimimus can often be seen cleaning the carcass of a recent Spinodracos or Jugoceras kill.

Because it is such a recent discovery, the breeding habits of Spinodracos are poorly known. Galton (1994) observed what he thought were two juvenile dragons roaming the skies together. He noted that the small dragons were a much lighter, creamy color than adults, and their spines had not yet come in to the extent seen in older animals. Galton hypothesized that juveniles, perhaps from the same litter, traveled together in order to better survive encounters with aggressive adults and wyverns. Over the course of several days, Galton witnessed the pair kill three prey items cooperatively. "This is something," he wrote, "which you never see adult animals do. Adults are unquestionably solitary." Galton further observed that adult dragons, while solitary generally, are not aggressive toward one another (unless a fresh kill is involved) and in some cases seem to enjoy the company. Locals have told stories of small Spinodracos "swarms" mobbing large Jugoceras individuals, seemingly with the purpose of driving the wyvern away from a kill, but such a phenomenon has not been observed by any natural historians, and it cannot be confirmed at this time.

Irwin (1996) did not include Spinodracos dysonii in his phylogenetic analysis of the Draconia, citing a lack of good skeletal or anatomical description of the animal. In his description of Dracospartus hallos, Krause (2003) suggested that Spinodracos and the Spartan dragon may belong to the same monophyletic clade, which he named the Dracolympidae ("dragons of Olympus"). He cited the unique arrangement of armor plating on both animals, structure of the mandible, and the prevelance of spikes around the body. He suggested that Spinodracos is the more basal taxon, given that Dracospatrus is almost entirely flightless--a derived trait. Without any good alternative, most workers have accepted Krause's hypothesis, although Fletch (2004) suggested that Spinodracos may be the most derived member of the Eudracocidae. However, as a completely skeletal and anatomical description of Spinodracos has yet to be published, neither hypothesis can be adequately tested at this time.


Owen, S. R. (1987). A new dragon from the Alps which co-habituates with the giant wyvern Jugoceras horriblus. Natura Historia 396: 345-362.

Camp, B. & Bello, C. (1991). Felimimus paradoxus, a new dragon which converges on modern cats. Draconium 32(2): 236-257.

Galton, R. (1994). New observations on Spinodracos dysonii. Science Notes 71: 577-583.

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

Krause, P. (2003). A heavily-armored Greek dragon. European Journal of Draconology 104(2): 308-329.

Fletch, F. R. (2004). A re-evaluation of the Eudracocidae. Draconium 45(4): 455-461.

1 comment:

lantaro said...

Very cool. I found it informative, yet stimulating!! I look forward to more, sir!!!!!!!