What can dragons eat?

Discussion in 'Research' started by Epulon447, Apr 9, 2018.

  1. Epulon447

    Epulon447 Apprentice

    So, I've been thinking on this for awhile. Dragons. What can't they eat? I've seen ideas from pizza to exotic delicacies straight to just raw meat. So in essence, they eat just like us. Or do they? The idea came from looking up facts on dog diets and says you can't give them chocolate and other certain foods, where other foods you can give them in small amounts and they won't get sick. So, I'd like to see what you guys think.

    I'd like to break this discussion up into a two group answer: realistic and fantasy. I've tried to look this up in various ways but come up with nothing really. Maybe some of you writers out there can chime in. And you don't have to answer both questions.

    The realistic portion I know can't really be measured out as we don't have REAL dragons. And no, Komodos don't count. But hear me out on this one. Humanity's earliest fantasy story telling had dragons throughout time, a lot of it based off of old dinosaur bones. So, safe to assume, if dinosaurs eventually evolved a branch that included dinosaurs, they would be reptiles. So would they be strictly carnivore or omnivore? The tooth structure of most dragons that the average person knows of is strictly carnivore. But like dogs who are carnivore in nature, can eat foods other than meat. And things high in protein and fats would probably benefit a digestive system evolved for a carnivorous meat diet than say, a chicken salad with a full apple.

    The second portion would be fantasy. Would dragons still have food allergies? Would some be only able to eat certain foods? Are they wholly dependent on magical energies and transcended us mortals that have to chew to subsist? Do they even need to eat at all?

    Maybe I'm looking too much into this. But this should be a fun hearing what you guys have. It'll at least give me leads on where I can point my research.

    Thanks for you time. Have a good one!
    Keep your pen to the paper.
  2. valiant12

    valiant12 Mystagogue

    I think the realistic approach would be to make dragons similar to pterosaurs. Realistic dragons will probably have a similar diet.
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  3. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Valar Lord

    According to Terry Pratchett, Dragons ate, coal, coke, shoe polish, and pots and pans . Copper if I remember correctly.
  4. Insolent Lad

    Insolent Lad Mystagogue

    Since I established in my fantasy tales that dragons are essentially very large members of the weasel family, they have similar diets. This does include fish (especially, of course, for the 'water dragons').
  5. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Grandmaster

    For the more real version, can look into the mockumentary Dragons: Fantasy Made Real which tries for getting the dragons and a decent variety of them to as believable as one can. From fire breathing used as defense to cooking meat and eventually hollowing out mountain caves with a heavy carnivorous diet.

    As for me and the Fantasy end of things, my dragons being slightly synapsids in a way (and yet not, still fantasy and all), tend to be omnivorous with a heavy preference for meat. Cooked or raw. As they are shape changers, technically they can have nearly any diet they want.
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  6. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Grandmaster

    Well, dinosaurs did survive and eventually evolve a branch which included dinosaurs. We call them birds. :p
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2018
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  7. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Mystagogue

    For the record, I would think dragons would be opportunistic omnivores, maybe even scavengers. If they can get it into their mouth, they'll try to eat it.

    Obligate Carnivores (including scavenging) basically come in 3 models: those that come from wet/humid environments (easy access to surface drinking water) and arrid/desert environments (difficult access to surface water) and aquatic/semi-aquatic, fresh or saline. Physiologically and metabolically the creatures inhabiting these places will have very different adaptations to an essentially protein/flesh only diet depending on environmental influences over time.

    Omnivores can basically digest anything and extract nutrients starting with complex teeth sets, and usually lots of intestinal real estate to break down food with the assistance of symbiotic microorganisms. If they're mammals, they get the extra benefit of being able to (temporarily) digest lactose sugars and casein proteins from their mother's milk.

    Ruminate animals ( I can't think of any that aren't mammals) that are default 'vegetarians' include cows, horses, deer, and a lot of 4 legged herding animals. They have multiple stomachs or chambered stomachs to process the plant fibers and proteins that are not digestable to other animals. ( Or, they could be Pandas and have one of the most inefficient metabolic strategies on the planet; lacking a multi-chambered stomach, they spend 20 hours a day eating mostly indigestible bamboo fibers... and pooping. Sloths diets are so poor they digest their food reeeeally sloooowly to try and extract as much energy as possible.)

    Small Song Birds are often omnivorous, eating insects and fruiting plants/nuts/seeds as things become seasonally available. They (some larger birds, too) usually have to selectively swallow rocks and stones to use in their stomachs to help mascerate their food internally, as their beaks lack true teeth to chew their food.

    To me, it would make sense for a dragon to be an omnivore, favoring meat, that's unable to digest tough grasses and bark (cellulose and lingnum) and hair / fur (keratin protein). Having to selectively swallow rocks (or maybe gold pieces?) if they have a beak-like mouth like a bird would be interesting to read. Some Carnivores can basically digest bone, others not so much.

    Flight requires energy. I could also see dragons having an affinity for 'sweets' and fruits in addition to meat. Raiding an apple orchard, for example, or destroying bee hives for honey, would put dragons in conflict with people for the same food-stuffs in addition to predation of domesticated animals and wild game. It could be interesting if dragons were territorial because of available vegetative food stuffs... maybe the guard a berry patch and not a pile of shiny gold? You could also dabble with a dragons dependence on one or a very limited vegetative plant. Eradicate this essential plant, eradicate the dragons in the area that depend on it as part of their dietary needs.

    As there was the idea of comparing dragons to dinosaurs: The emerging consensus is that the branch of dinosaurs that were mostly two-legged (bipedal) survived as a group of proto-birds and later into the birds we know today; and based on microscopic analysis of cross sections of bone and 'mummified' specimen studies, etc. were in all likeliness warm-blooded like today's birds. (There's some evidence suggesting that quadriped dinosaurs earlier in time were the branch that became both proto-mammals and cold-blooded reptiles. Crazy, huh?) These dinosaurs also had muscles that filled with air, that were in addition to the early 'hollowing' of bones. Nothing to my mind today has any muscle-non-organ structure that holds air like a lung organ/ swim bladder organ. I could see dragons needing big lungs and big hearts to utilize these 'airy muscle sacks'.

    I don't see cold-blooded creatures (reptiles) whether they were obligate carnivores, vegetarian or omnivores of being capable of sustained powered flight. Gliding, short bursts of intense action, for sure. But from what I know of biology, cold-blooded flying dragons make no sense to me. I would feel that without some specialized adaptation metabolically, it's implausible... even in fantasy writing. That being said, reptiles are darn interesting creatures. Their metabolism runs slower, so energies/nutrients from food can last a ridiculously long time between meals and they often posess other useful survival tricks.

    But, reptiles' intolerance to the ambient cold also 'grounds' dragons. Flying up into the sky exposes them to intense cold and lowered oxygen levels fairly quickly... and dragons induced to a state of topar or coma from the cold, plummeting out of the sky half-dead is terrifying in a totally different way.

    Insect and crustacean biology kind of bends all the rules. Insect-like dragons would be a whole different ball game to invent and write. Some fish appear to exibit a type of 'warm bloodedness' (Great White Shark) that is somewhat different to mammals and birds. Invertabrate cephalapods (sp.) and mullosks have far-out mind-bending physiologies.

    Dragons can fit wherever you want to put them in the biological spectrum, if you can navigate through a logical physiology and create plausible scenarios of why they are 'what' they are. Kind of sort of follow the archetype 'blueprints' of animal kingdoms we know of, and segue to wherever you want to go. Once you pick physical features/ attributes, the 'diet' should basically suggest itself. Convergent evolution happens frequently... so in a world of succesful dragons, other species in your world might express similar adaptations. Conversely, they might evolve counter-adaptations to out compete or avoid predation from your dragons.

    Technically, you don't have to suggest anything of their biological or magical lineage unless your fantasy characters are fossil-hunters trying to answer those kinds of questions. If you're borrowing heavily from an Earth-like fantasy world, you might have an easier time 'following the rules' of what we earthlings can wrap our heads around. Don't try to sell me a cold-blooded creature, that has no bicuspids, that is an occassionally blood-sucking vegetarian that also produces milk and can hold it's breath for days underwater... unless you're prepared to explain how all of that would work. Because if I read that, I'd immediately have questions.

    I will say thst the fossil records on our planet indicates that there were a lot - I mean a lot- of even $%#!ing crazier-sounding animals that actually existed that make the idea of flying dragons seem perfectly sane and logical. Even
    fire-breathing via chemical reaction seems biologically permissible. Complex venoms, tissue toxicity and manufacture of chemicals already exists in the animal kingdom.

    If I can find them, I'll post some video links that goes into these topics of ancient animal metabolisms and such. Hope this helps!
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2018
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  8. Night Gardener

    Night Gardener Mystagogue

    Epulon447Epulon447 A lot of these topics can be found on the PBS Digital Studio series "Eons". That series really helped get my imagination stirred up. The videos (via youtube) linked to documentaries, I think produced by National Geographic? about the 'Evolution of T-Rex' and about 'The (Evolution of) First Eggs' and whether dinosaurs were parental or not. And I think I've also seen that dragon "documentary" posted by Orc KnightOrc Knight. I think it recycled footage from that dragon movie that came out in the 90s-2000s but was nonetheless a worthwhile watch.
  9. That depends on whether they are carnivorous or vegetarian, and whether they are fourth dimensional or of the lighter spiritual planes.
  10. Gurkhal

    Gurkhal Shadow Lord

    Depends on the needs of the story and role the dragons are to coney. If the dragons at bad guys then it might be weird for them to be vegetarian (or at least weird to me) while monsterous meat-consumers who can eat a village a day might not work for dragons as creatures of wisdom and nobility playing with the good guys.

    Or one can turn it around. But anyway I think that being magical creatures of legend there's alot of space, and probably also need, to adapt the dragons' diet to the needs of the story.
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  11. Epulon447

    Epulon447 Apprentice

    Thank you so much for posting this. This is exactly what I was looking for! It would make sense for something as big or small for a dragon to be an opportunistic omnivore favoring meat. If I may add to your vast library of knowledge; a lot of paleontologists agree that dinosaurs were either mesothermic, warm, or cold blooded depending on the time frame and species of dinosaur. Mesothermic is not quite cold, nor warm. Something of an 'in between'. That in between gave the dinosaurs the ability to not only move faster in their environments, adding cold as well, but also the advantage of getting by on less. The getting by on less is what gave a lot of them their large size and not having to burn as much energy. Mesos would still be outperformed by endothermic bodies like mammals and birdlike cousins, but they held their own niche.
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  12. Epulon447

    Epulon447 Apprentice

    Just wanted to thank you all for replying so far! A lot of it has helped and I have learned a few things along the way. If I find anything else, I'll be sure to post it along here. Hopefully sooner than later.
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  13. Writer’s_Magic

    Writer’s_Magic Mystagogue

    In the real-world animals are sort by “food categories”. Carnivore (or meat-eater), Herbivore (or plant-eater), omnivore (or meat-and-plant-eater), and piscivore (or fish-eater). So, you must look for an animal, and you shall get a line on that. Where does it live? What size have it? How are the teeth formed? Etc. Maybe it helps you-

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