The Best Dragon (According to Science)


Hi, this is Julián from MinuteEarth. Dragons don’t exist – but if they did – which
would be pretty cool – they’d need to conform to Earth’s biological and physical rules. So we figured we’d make a fun video about
which of these famous fantasy dragons would have the best shot at being more than just
fantasy. To rank these dragons’ believability, we’ll
start with the most egregiously unnatural characteristics of dragons and move up from
there. Look, obviously dragons breathe fire, but
we looked into it and the only thing that even comes close to that in nature is the
bombardier beetle, which fires boiling hot liquid from its butt to burn its enemies – not
exactly fire breathing. So let’s just move on to limbs. Most Western depictions of dragons, like on
the Welsh flag, have four legs and two wings for a total of six limbs. But all bony creatures on Earth evolved from
a four-limbed fish whose body is the blueprint for every other bony creature … including
a hypothetical dragon, clearly a bony creature. This would make it very unlikely for a six-limbed
dragon to evolve on Earth. That’s why some fantasy writers, filmmakers,
and game designers have used real bats, birds, and pterosaurs as models for their four-limbed
dragons. So we’re placing all these six-limbed dragons
in the bottom tier, including the Smaug from the theatrical release of the first Hobbit
film. The Smaug from the second film, however, gets
to move on, since the filmmakers removed his front legs, not because they particularly
cared about Earth’s evolutionary history, but because they thought it would make for
a more expressive performance. A wingless four-legged dragon would be accurate
too, but without magical flight like Eastern depictions of dragons, that’s basically
just a lizard. So, let’s talk about wings: animals need
them in order to fly, which means they need big chest muscles to flap their wings, which
means they need a tall ridge on their specially modified sternums called a “keel” for
the muscles to attach to. A dragon without a keel couldn’t have the
muscles needed to power fast enough flight to keep its massive body in the air. That means it’s the end of the line for
these smooth-chested beauties. But a keel alone is not enough to fly; any
creature that wants to fly also needs the right combination of weight, wing size, and
flight speed. The more a creature weights, the bigger its
wings need to be or the faster it needs to fly to generate the necessary lift to keep
it afloat. For example, penguins, which do have a keel,
could actually fly despite their comically narrow wings, but they would have to go nearly
as fast as a commercial airliner and deal with ludicrous forces on their wings. The Quetzalcoatlus pterosaur, thought to be
the largest flying animal to have ever existed, had a 12 meter wingspan, which kept its 250
kilograms aloft at a reasonable 80 Km/h speed. Naturally, we painstakingly calculated the
weights and wing sizes of all our remaining dragon contenders and found they all had wings
too small for their weight, meaning they’d need to fly at ridiculously fast speeds in
order to sustain flight and the forces involved would destroy any flesh and bone based wings. Wait, so NOBODY wins? Well … among our remaining candidates, the
most realistic has to be the one with the biggest wings in relation to their weight. And the winner is: the Hungarian Horntail
from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It has four limbs, a keel to hold its muscles,
and the biggest wings in relation to its weight. Now, whether or not you could ride it … we
could get into that, but we don’t want this video to drag-on. Did someone just make a claw-some pun?! Hey Matt! What brings you over to MinuteEarth from the
Extra Credits side of the internet? Well Julián, you got me thinking… if the
existence of these fantastical beasts are scientifically improbable at best… then
how did tons of cultures around the world each come up with Dragons myths before every
having contact with one another? Good question! Say, you wouldn’t happen to… oh I don’t
know… have any idea where one could find a youtube video discussing that very topic
would you? You know, I just might! If you’re fired up about dragons like I
am, then come fly by the Extra Mythology campfire, where we’ll talk all about the Dragon myths
of various cultures, human psychology, dinosaurs, and even the politics of Dragons! Political dragons eh? Hope they can let “Bagons be Bagons”… Did we just become best friends?