Presentation Type

Poster

Faculty Mentor’s Full Name

Kylla Benes

Faculty Mentor’s Department

Davidson Honors College

Abstract

Dragons have been depicted in human art as early as 4500 BCE. For centuries, these fantasy creatures have inspired countless folk and fantasy tales, as well as appearing in the art of different cultures around the world. Now there are thousands of different depictions of these huge, flying, fire-breathing lizards, but are any of them plausible? In this study, I referenced peer-reviewed scientific articles, phylogenetic analysis, and paleoart studies to create biologically-sound dragons. Basing the dragon lineage on a real branch of webbed-winged scansoriopterygids—an extinct family of climbing and gliding maniraptoran dinosaurs—I explored the possible wing-structure, fire-breathing abilities, and effects of adaptive radiation on these hypothetical dragons. My research, compiled in an illustrated and easy to read book, will be both entertaining and educational. Catching the attention of readers with the idea of scientifically correct dragons, I will then take them on an enlightening journey through evolutionary biology concepts such as homology, convergent evolution, and alternate evolution. It is important to educate the public on basic biology so that they better understand the scientific (or unscientific) research they are shown on media, helping to bridge the communication gap between scientists and the public.

Category

Life Sciences

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The Evolution of Dragons

Dragons have been depicted in human art as early as 4500 BCE. For centuries, these fantasy creatures have inspired countless folk and fantasy tales, as well as appearing in the art of different cultures around the world. Now there are thousands of different depictions of these huge, flying, fire-breathing lizards, but are any of them plausible? In this study, I referenced peer-reviewed scientific articles, phylogenetic analysis, and paleoart studies to create biologically-sound dragons. Basing the dragon lineage on a real branch of webbed-winged scansoriopterygids—an extinct family of climbing and gliding maniraptoran dinosaurs—I explored the possible wing-structure, fire-breathing abilities, and effects of adaptive radiation on these hypothetical dragons. My research, compiled in an illustrated and easy to read book, will be both entertaining and educational. Catching the attention of readers with the idea of scientifically correct dragons, I will then take them on an enlightening journey through evolutionary biology concepts such as homology, convergent evolution, and alternate evolution. It is important to educate the public on basic biology so that they better understand the scientific (or unscientific) research they are shown on media, helping to bridge the communication gap between scientists and the public.