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(io9)   The illustrated evolutionary history of dragons   ( io9.com) divider line
    More: Cool, dragons, Evolutionary history, ecology and evolutionary biology, legendary creatures, evolutionary trees, nucleotides, polymerase chain reactions, speciations  
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5973 clicks; posted to Geek » on 21 Aug 2012 at 9:58 AM (5 years ago)   |   Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»

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2012-08-21 10:34:10 AM  
2 votes:
Horribly incomplete.

Looks like someone with Parkinsons tried to draw a circle and said, "Ohh, let's throw some dragons around the edges."

they're missing several species of dragons and there is no evolutionary history. Fish+Mammal, BAM, 4 types of Dragons who are all modern species and not the proto-drakes they evolved from. And Oriental dragons have no relation to any of the others?

This 'phylogeny' just makes my nerd brain hurt.
2012-08-21 12:56:00 PM  
1 vote:
It IS a neat experiment to get folks into phylogeny, but (speaking for myself) I probably would have done things a wee bit differently as far as draconic phylogeny goes.

a) Their phylogeny not include some dracoforms that could well be transitional between "Eastern" and "Western" dragons (speaking of the North American dracoforms, things like uktena and piasa and even old Quetzalcoatl) that could fill out the phylogeny nicely. It's even possible that an uktenid-type could be the ancestral form of dracoforms, as it has some characteristics of Eastern (general body form, manes in some descriptions, "crystal"/sensory organ in forehead possibly connected with the "pineal eye") and Western (breathing fire/spitting highly toxic gas, extreme territoriality, (feathered) wings) dracoforms--which would have some fairly major implications for phylogenetic classification.

b) They didn't seem to take into account that "mammaliform adaptions" in lungids could well be a case of parallelism (also, lungids seem to lack some very specific adaptations that would define them as mammals--specifically, true hair and production of milk--in traditional Linnaean definitions of the class). It just seems to me that more "fiddling" has to be done to place a lungid in to mammaliforms in general--IF it were related to mammals, it'd be very basal, around the beginning of therapsids--possibly even before therapsids developed fur (which would make explaining lungid scales difficult; you could have something akin to pangolins, but that would involve independent evolution of integument...the point of "split" would depend on whether lungids sweat and the point where certain sweat glands evolved into lactation glands in therapsids and mammaliforms).

c) Limb number modification in chordates and in bilaterian animals in general is known to be linked to the HOX gene; increases in limb number are well documented in non-chordate animals, and terminal phalange numbers are known to be flexible in temnospondyls and early "amphibians" (sensu lato) and lepidiosaurs (the clade of sauropsids including lizards and snakes) are known to have a lot of genetic "flexibility" including in mutations in the HOX gene. While the direction in amniotes tends towards reduction of limb number (and they even hint at this with wyverns and serpents!) it's not impossible it could also lead to increase in limb number, especially if proto-dragons actually represented a third radiation of amniotes. (This is, of course, making the big assumption that hexapod dracoforms are the primitive condition.)

d) Another possibility for draconic wings could well be modified ribs (interestingly, this seems to be the tack a lot of the recent Dungeons and Dragons art takes)--not unknown in evolutionary history, and we have living examples of "gliders" based on modified ribs (including the ironically named Draco--you'd actually have to use Drakon to refer to proper flying scalybutts). Again, this has some fairly major implications for dracoform evolution.

e) Based on the traditional morphology of their eggs and other body features--and for that matter, doubly so if American "dracoforms" are included--dragons would define quite clearly as sauropsids of some sort, and quite possibly as archosaurs or archosauromorphs. Draconic scales, for one, could well be a type of modified feather (they don't shed skin like lepidiosaurs, and whilst they do have scutes like crocs and some dinosaurs they also in mythos pretty consistently molt scales, whether Western, Eastern or American; there is also a type of protofeather development that could well develop into a scale of sorts) and tend to have harder shells on their eggs, and a number are explicitly feathered or dinofuzzed (the "hair" on lungids could well be dinofuzz)--and feathers/dinofuzz ARE increasingly recognised as a defining characteristic of archosaurs if not archosauromorphs.

(No, I am not insinuating we redo cladistics of mythical scalybutts, but this is something I've played with after way the hell too much Shadowrun and all :D The little mental exercise of "How WOULD you classify dragons, cladistically?"...of course, this was before a certain Shadowrun sourcebook came out and revealed all the different draconic "species" are actually the result of some very interesting epigenetics from imprinting on "rookery parents" :D)

/yes, sometimes I get bored. REALLY bored
//then I go into thought experiments like this :D
///also not mentioned, and something I've occasionally seen played around with in fanfiction--the "Reverse Pern Scenario" where dracoforms are actually a stranded xenobionta--an alien life form--from worlds with hexapodal amniote-analogues; that's as likely as anything else, methinks
2012-08-21 10:58:59 AM  
1 vote:

Spindle: Looks like this was a poor excuse to sell t-shirts...

All it really wants to make me do is go over to Hotdiggitydemon's page and watch the evolution of Spike in a Stoner.
2012-08-21 10:54:34 AM  
1 vote:
Looks like this was a poor excuse to sell t-shirts...

Seriously, could they at least show us some of the pictures they used to compose the phylogeny, maybe explain the common traits that tied them to the next branch on the tree.
2012-08-21 10:15:44 AM  
1 vote:
This is significantly less cool than I was expecting.
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