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Old Nov 27 2006, 12:25 PM   #1
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Default Do firelizards age?

In one of the books wild southern firelizards call the people who arrived on Pern "their men". It got me thinking: do firelizards age?
Do wild firelizards remember their ancestors "men" or could it be the same firelizards?
I do not remember the books mentioning firelizards getting old, but then I have not read them all. Could you give me a quote?
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Old Nov 27 2006, 12:43 PM   #2
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

I don't think it is the same firelizards. I think it is memories passed genetically down from their original ancestors to the present day firelizards. If firelizards did not get old and die then Pern would be overrun with them. I am sure I have read in a lot of SiFi books that with ancestral memories you only need to be shown something once to access that memory that you already have. So you do not learn by observation and trial and error like humans do. For some reason the Clan of the Cave Bears books come to mind.

And Robinton's Zair died with him.
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Old Nov 27 2006, 01:13 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clamball View Post
And Robinton's Zair died with him.
Yes, I know. But he did not die of age, did he?

Off course firelizards can die or go between, but are there any examples of firelizards dieing of age or just described as old-looking?
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Old Nov 27 2006, 01:40 PM   #4
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

I was thinking something similar along these lines after a comment made by someone - Arwyn I think at KT in the Pern forum saying that they wouldn't want girls to be too old for a queen hatching because they don't want to cut short a gold's mating years because the human partner doesn't last as long or something, that made me think about Zair and how he died with Robinton, Menolly's are the oldest we know of, in 9th pass pern, and they all appeared to be quite youthful past when Zair died. Not sure if there's a point in there or not

I have to wonder though if some of the 'younger' fire lizards might not die with their human, since a lot of firelizards don't even stay with their human partners after impression anyways... not sure where I'm trying to go with that point either

As for the firelizards remembering their humans, I always just assumed that the firelizards passed down their story images to their kin, not that they survived a long time - dragons age after all and Kitti Ping wouldn't have played with those genetics *shrug*
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Old Nov 27 2006, 02:26 PM   #5
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

I think Wyzall has the right idea in SoP:
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From The Skies of Pern
...“Did you ever discover which is the oldest living fire-lizard, Wyzall?” she (Ballora) asked with a grin.

Wyzall tut-tutted and shook his head. “It’s an impossibility. They may tell dragons what they ‘remember’ seeing but I think it’s analogous to the Tillek’s knowledge of delphinic history. The fire-lizards weren’t there to see it happen but they have passed the tale of it down so that it”—and he waved to the fairs that were either sleeping or lazily flying on the light breeze—“becomes a personal memory.”
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Old Nov 27 2006, 08:37 PM   #6
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

Rather than a "genetic" memory, I always saw it as rather a telepathic memory, with the most emotive elemets being passed down through the generations - such as the landing of the shuttles, the exploding of the colcanoes, and the men themselves - being transmitted through generations.
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Old Nov 28 2006, 04:06 AM   #7
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

Impressed firelizards do not seem to have this kind of memories, do they?
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Old Nov 28 2006, 05:57 AM   #8
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

Generally not, since they're not in prolonged contact with wild firelizards, so they don't have a chance to gain these memories, which further supports that they are telepathically passed on, rather than genetically.
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Old Nov 28 2006, 09:04 AM   #9
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

I agree with their memories being passed down orally/telepathically rather than genetically. And that that's how the firelizards at Landing knew about the shuttles landing -- I don't think they were witnesses to the actual event.

We know dragons age: their color starts to grey out, joints lose their spring, hearts begin to show signs of strain, golds cease to ovulate. I would presume that this happens to firelizards too. If firelizards didn't age at all, and Kitti Ping introduced it to dragons, that would seem a recipe for disaster if she got any details wrong; why mess with more genetic code than necessary?

We don't ever see any old firelizards, either in the wild or Impressed to a person. No one has had them for that long a period of time in either the 9th Pass or the 1st Pass.
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Old Nov 28 2006, 11:13 AM   #10
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

Zair died with Robinton after being 'poisoned'. They had to poison him to get close to Robinton to kidnap him. And he never was fully healthy after that. And when Robinton died I think Zair's reason for living was gone so he died too.
Firelizards all know about the Red Star. Consider Meron's firelizard's reaction. So there has to be some sort of memory transfer or trigger for them. And not all are going to remember the same things. Red Star is a global event so all will remember that, but if there are firelizards from areas in Southern that never had contact with man they wouldn't remember, same with Northern firelizards who didn't come North with the colonists.
Hope this makes some sense. Gotta go to work now, but wanted to post about this when I read it.
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Old Nov 28 2006, 12:25 PM   #11
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheryl View Post
We know dragons age: their color starts to grey out, joints lose their spring, hearts begin to show signs of strain, golds cease to ovulate. I would presume that this happens to firelizards too. If firelizards didn't age at all, and Kitti Ping introduced it to dragons, that would seem a recipe for disaster if she got any details wrong; why mess with more genetic code than necessary?
She did make sure that Golden dragon could not flame. She also made greens infertile. Why not make dragons age with their riders?

Or it could just be a mistake.

Or maybe dragons age because their rider do? (Don't really believe in this one myself).
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Old Nov 28 2006, 12:33 PM   #12
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

Because making a change to the genetic code to make them age, in addition to all the known changes like size, memory, and what you mentioned, is just pushing things too far. And there's no way aging is a simple code change, so many body systems are affected in so many different ways as we grow older... it would be ludicrous change to make, not to mention dangerous if any of the parameters were set wrong, a dragon might age prematurely or essentially even have birth defects if conditions of 'aging' are coded wrong.
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Old Nov 28 2006, 01:51 PM   #13
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

though large dogs tend to have shorter lives than little ones. I agree with the telepathic idea though!
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Old Nov 28 2006, 11:20 PM   #14
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

I can't remember where it's at, it's mentioned that firelizards can out live their human freinds. That gave me the impression that they do age.

I think nobody sees old firelizards. Wherries will eat anything they can grab, & the firelizards probably slow down with age like dragon making them a target.
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Old Dec 6 2006, 06:20 PM   #15
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

There’s a lot of speculation in DDawn:
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"Your dragons are so young," Pol went on, seeing the favorable reaction, "in terms of their species. The fire-dragonets do not appear to suffer from degeneration. In other words, they don't age as we do physiologically."

"You mean, they could go on living after we die?" Tarrie asked, amazed. She glanced around toward Porth, a darker bulk against the shadowy vegetation.

"From what we've discerned, yes, Tarrie," Pol replied.

"Our major organs degenerate," Bay went on, "although modern technology can effect either repair or replacement, permitting us long, and useful, life spans."

"So they're not likely to get sick or to ail?" Tarrie brightened at the prospect.

"That's what we think," Pol answered, but he held up a warning finger. "But then we haven't seen any elderly dragonets."

Sean gave a snort, which Sorka softened with a laugh. "We've really only our generation to judge by," she said. "At that, we only get to treat our own, who trust us, and that's usually for scoring or scorching, or an occasional hide lesion. I find it comforting to know that dragons should be as long-lived."
They might be long-lived, but to the tune of thousands of years … probably not, at least not without more natural predators to keep their numbers in check. Tunnel-snakes can get ’em in the egg, and wherries immediately after they hatch, but I can’t imagine what could threaten them once they mature, at least outside of Threadfall.
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Old Dec 24 2008, 10:32 AM   #16
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

First I want to apologize for the fact that I react at such an old, long time not used thread, but I like to give my opinion about this....

As Jax already mentioned:
Quote:
... Kitti Ping wouldn't have played with those genetics.
I remember once Kitty Ping saying that she didn't like to alter anything anyway, or, to put it in other words, she was already reluctant to changer their size. So, why should she change things that are not nessecary (or however I write that...) if she already doesn't like to change anything at all.

Quote:
We know dragons age: their color starts to grey out, joints lose their spring, hearts begin to show signs of strain, golds cease to ovulate.
That is true: I guess in Moreta - was it? - or in Dragonseye, it was mentioned that one dragon was getting old, meaning it ages.

IF Kitty didn't change that from the original dragonets, or firelizards if you please, then they age, too. But then again, it is not mentioned how quickly and in what way they age.
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Old Dec 24 2008, 11:46 AM   #17
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Golden Lilith's rider View Post
She did make sure that Golden dragon could not flame. She also made greens infertile. Why not make dragons age with their riders?

Or it could just be a mistake.

Or maybe dragons age because their rider do? (Don't really believe in this one myself).
Gold dragons could flame, but it would make them infertile.

Green dragons are fertile until they flame.

I agree with the poster that used little dogs vs. big dogs as an analogy. Fire Lizards do age, but probably at about half the rate (or more) of the dragons. There's not nearly as much stress on their joints and organs as there is on the dragons.

I also agree with the theory, that fire lizards pass down "stories" such as their men, volcanoes, and the red star telepathically (as opposed to fire lizards being that old or passing the stories genetically).

GH
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Old Dec 24 2008, 01:21 PM   #18
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

Regardless of impression the firelizards do share emotional memories (not just the cry of Brekke either)...The stealing and recovery of Ramoth's egg was recovered in part because the firelizards kept saying dragons flamed them and worried Ruth into a tizzy about his getting the egg before/after he had done it....they were seeing his flight into the past to get the egg....
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Old Dec 24 2008, 11:51 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GHarris View Post
Gold dragons could flame, but it would make them infertile.

GH
I don't think so. In Dragondawn they tried chewing firestone and were not able to flame. Just regurgitated the remains of it.
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Old Dec 25 2008, 08:02 AM   #20
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

Quote:
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I don't think so. In Dragondawn they tried chewing firestone and were not able to flame. Just regurgitated the remains of it.
Correct, and from that the tale came to be that golds couldn't chew it and would become infertile. It's just a story that was told again again and agai over 2.5 millennia.

The not being able to hold it done was just "programmed" but maybe the story of it being bad and causing infertility was invented just to withhold ever new, young queen and weyrwoman from trying

The fact that greens, the other female dragon colour, could eat/use it and never become pregnant (undoubtedbly programmed too) made the tale even more acceptable.
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Old Dec 25 2008, 09:28 AM   #21
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

I've always seen the dragon aging as connected to the rider i.e. the dragon reflects the rider's health. If the rider becomes frail or arthritic the dragon tends to reflect that. There is a mention of a 100+ Turn old rider in MHoP who is still flying. Leri and Holth (from Moreta) weren't that old by comparison and both had difficulty moving around.

Hence in my mind I've always seen the wild firelizards have having extraordinarily long lives, which is how I interpreted the comments made in SoP about the matter. A firelizard bonded to a human would be similar to a dragon and reflect the human's health. Unfortunately we only have the case of Robinton and Zair for this, and both were poisoned.

However on reading the above posts I can see that the memory issue (the wild firelizards remembering the original colonists landing) as likely being passed on and not genetic, as the firelizards impressed away from the south don't 'remember' this - Menolly's firelizards would be a good example of this.
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Old Dec 30 2008, 11:01 PM   #22
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

I'm a new member here, though I've been reading Anne's pern books for nearly a decade, staring with Dragondawn ironically (and I've never had the chance to read Dragonflight either, haha). Anyways, I'm also a biologist and so I couldn't resist signing up and posting to this thread - darn that scientist's nature in me. This'll be boring, horribly huge poast, but hopefully interesting to some, and not just about the pern world, hehe.

Aging isn't all that complicated, nor mysterious, actually. There are three main regulators of aging in our bodies from which all other effects and degenerative diseases stem. They go in about this order: mitochondrial dysfunction -> loss of sirtuin mediated gene regulation (Sirt1 in humans) -> loss of telomere length.

For instance, methylene blue, a common compound used in human medicine for nearly 100 years, has been recently found at really low doses to fight and even reverse mitochondrial dysfunction, and can increase human cell line life span by up to 30-40%.
Sirtuins have recently been found to most likely be a master regulator of aging in all eukaryotic organisms from yeast to humans, and they increasingly lose their vital gene regulatory activity as one ages and accrues DNA damage. Activating sirtuins to restore their function (via resveratrol for instance) can increase yeast life span by up to 70%.
Finally, telomeres are the ultimate regulator of life span, and repairing the loss of telomere length in a cell can literally turn it immortal aging wise. This immortalization is absolutely required for cancer, for instance, and is how species replicate from generation to generation, otherwise we'd peter out in only one (our gametes are immortal).

So, what about our beloved firelizards and dragons? Since pern natives have a triple helix for their DNA, they may lack a telomere structure, thus uncapping their life span far beyond anything we can have (a complete consequence of our mode of DNA replication). Theoretically, firelizards could be immortal, the books really don't tell us for sure, but from the biological stand point it's possible. Dragons could age almost exclusively via a psychological mechanism triggered by the age of the rider, that's also possible in the science world and is known as psychosomatic effects (the way you think can literally change the state and health of your body and brain). Personally, while all this is possible, ecologically it only makes sense to have a finite lifespan, unless the environment is just that harsh. Since thread is so nasty and ecologically devastating, it also makes sense if pern natives have very long life spans far beyond ours with which to repopulate their world before the next Pass.

Could Kitti Ping have imposed a life span cap on dragons without likely causing any other problems? Absolutely. We've done that in genetically modified mice. All she'd have to do was identify a sirtuin like protein or pathway and lower its activity. Or, if pern natives do have telomere like structures, she'd just have to shorten their length. Even with our primitive technology today, again, this very thing has been done in mice to experiment with shortened life spans.

So, the conclusion? No way to tell from science how long firelizards live - they could certainly be immortal (especially with that triple helix DNA of theirs). The books? They suggest extremely long lifespans for firelizards or even immortality (highly unlikely). The dragons? Ping could have capped their life span to match humans with ease - it'd be one of the easiest genetic modifications to do compared to the rest she had to pull off, and wouldn't likely trifle with anything else. Or, it could all be due to their extremely larger size compared to firelizards, which means their cells have to replicate a lot more, and thus age at a far accelerated rate. Or, it could even be something psychological, keyed to the state of their rider so the two will age and die together. All of this seems possible from the books I've read, and I vote for really long lived firelizards (but not immortal), and psychosomatic matching of dragon age to rider age, or life span reduced by extreme size.
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Old Jan 10 2009, 11:11 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by evdelft View Post
First I want to apologize for the fact that I react at such an old, long time not used thread, but I like to give my opinion about this....<Sinp> Its great to read what others think too and welcome to MoM too!
<Sinp> That is true: I guess in Moreta - was it? - or in Dragonseye, it was mentioned that one dragon was getting old, meaning it ages.
Moreta I think, for Leri's Holth was nearly bronze with age. Along with a old brown Sorth, who got his wing scored just after the first finger joint a bit closer and he would have lost mobility, his rider was L'rayl who was scratching his greening muzzle after his dragon had told answered. (I've read many of time I recall that part of it for its just after Moreta fixing that young blue wing.

Also there is something in The White Dragon soming about showing aging in the two Oldtimers' bronzes from Southern Weyr to Ista's Jr. queen open flight when D'ram steped down as Weyrleader.
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Old Jan 10 2009, 11:17 PM   #24
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

There's numerous references of dragons aging in the books. C'gan's Tagath comes to mind in Dragonflight. I'm sure there's many more. I think it can be safely said that dragons age, but most don't die before their riders. Fire-lizard aging is more of a gray area--I think there's been references of some fire-lizards appearing younger, but to my recall they were all up to a few months out of the shell---Not exactly conclusive.
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Old Jan 10 2009, 11:22 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cytan View Post
I'm a new member here, though I've been reading Anne's pern books for nearly a decade, staring with Dragondawn ironically (and I've never had the chance to read Dragonflight either, haha). Anyways, I'm also a biologist and so I couldn't resist signing up and posting to this thread - darn that scientist's nature in me. This'll be boring, horribly huge poast, but hopefully interesting to some, and not just about the pern world, hehe.

Aging isn't all that complicated, nor mysterious, actually. There are three main regulators of aging in our bodies from which all other effects and degenerative diseases stem. They go in about this order: mitochondrial dysfunction -> loss of sirtuin mediated gene regulation (Sirt1 in humans) -> loss of telomere length.

For instance, methylene blue, a common compound used in human medicine for nearly 100 years, has been recently found at really low doses to fight and even reverse mitochondrial dysfunction, and can increase human cell line life span by up to 30-40%.
Sirtuins have recently been found to most likely be a master regulator of aging in all eukaryotic organisms from yeast to humans, and they increasingly lose their vital gene regulatory activity as one ages and accrues DNA damage. Activating sirtuins to restore their function (via resveratrol for instance) can increase yeast life span by up to 70%.
Finally, telomeres are the ultimate regulator of life span, and repairing the loss of telomere length in a cell can literally turn it immortal aging wise. This immortalization is absolutely required for cancer, for instance, and is how species replicate from generation to generation, otherwise we'd peter out in only one (our gametes are immortal).

So, what about our beloved firelizards and dragons? Since pern natives have a triple helix for their DNA, they may lack a telomere structure, thus uncapping their life span far beyond anything we can have (a complete consequence of our mode of DNA replication). Theoretically, firelizards could be immortal, the books really don't tell us for sure, but from the biological stand point it's possible. Dragons could age almost exclusively via a psychological mechanism triggered by the age of the rider, that's also possible in the science world and is known as psychosomatic effects (the way you think can literally change the state and health of your body and brain). Personally, while all this is possible, ecologically it only makes sense to have a finite lifespan, unless the environment is just that harsh. Since thread is so nasty and ecologically devastating, it also makes sense if pern natives have very long life spans far beyond ours with which to repopulate their world before the next Pass.

Could Kitti Ping have imposed a life span cap on dragons without likely causing any other problems? Absolutely. We've done that in genetically modified mice. All she'd have to do was identify a sirtuin like protein or pathway and lower its activity. Or, if pern natives do have telomere like structures, she'd just have to shorten their length. Even with our primitive technology today, again, this very thing has been done in mice to experiment with shortened life spans.

So, the conclusion? No way to tell from science how long firelizards live - they could certainly be immortal (especially with that triple helix DNA of theirs). The books? They suggest extremely long lifespans for firelizards or even immortality (highly unlikely). The dragons? Ping could have capped their life span to match humans with ease - it'd be one of the easiest genetic modifications to do compared to the rest she had to pull off, and wouldn't likely trifle with anything else. Or, it could all be due to their extremely larger size compared to firelizards, which means their cells have to replicate a lot more, and thus age at a far accelerated rate. Or, it could even be something psychological, keyed to the state of their rider so the two will age and die together. All of this seems possible from the books I've read, and I vote for really long lived firelizards (but not immortal), and psychosomatic matching of dragon age to rider age, or life span reduced by extreme size.
I had listen/read about about finding the human DNAm a while back and your informtion is good!

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Old Jan 11 2009, 12:21 AM   #26
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

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Originally Posted by edith View Post
though large dogs tend to have shorter lives than little ones. I agree with the telepathic idea though!
Actually, small dogs tend to lead pretty short lives too. Both extremities of size tend to suffer decreased life-spans. Our breeder refuses to breed "miniatures" much less "toys" because of the decreased life-span. She only breeds "standard" dogs.

I had heard that breeding toward either extreme in any species tends to place various stresses on an organism that the rest of it just isn't adapted to handle. So the tallest and smallest humans don't tend to lead the longest lives, any more than large breed dogs, or purse dogs.

Dragons obviously age, and fire lizards seem to do so less obviously. Being the "original" and "natural size," it would not be surprising if fire lizards lived far longer than the "giants" of their genetic line.

A long life-span would make sense for fire-lizards given the natural attrition rate they suffer in the wild. With nests raided by egg-eaters, and with newly hatched clutches set upon by all varieties of predator, and with other natural hazards (such as a clutch being swamped below the extreme high-tide line), very few fire-lizards make it past infancy. Other threats exist such that in the wild, even fewer fire-lizards reach adulthood. Once adult, there are probably few threats to a fire-lizard's survival given the ability to go between, but there is probably still attrition. So for the ones that do survive to have long life-spans would be a survival trait for the species. So where dragons may fail after 50-75 years, perhaps fire-lizards live 100-150, and with that being longer than most humans, they might well have a hard time figuring out how old the eldest was.
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Old Jan 11 2009, 08:57 AM   #27
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

By little I was thinking of terriers like Jack Russells, not "miniatures". Jack Russells seem to go on forever sometimes!
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Old Jan 11 2009, 09:24 AM   #28
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

Why shouldn't firelizards age? Of course they do, they don't live forever thus they age. Maybe you can't see easily how old a firelizard is because it has no gray whiskers or something, but of course they age.

Maybe they get to be somewhat slower in their reactions and behaviour when they get older? Nothing really obvious. Thinking of that... how does a bird age? Birds don't have obvious outward signs of age but they do age. Seems firelizard ageing is similar to that
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Old Jan 11 2009, 12:24 PM   #29
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

It's hard to say what Anne intended for an age of Dragons and Firelizzards.

I suspect it's similar to small vs large breeds of the same animals. The Smaller can usualy live sometime twice as long as the larger breeds. I think the only exception I know to this is the Lynx, that can outlive it's smaller cat relatives quite easily.

Dragons seem to age at about the same rate as Humans. Can extrapolate that to mean firelizzards would have a life expetancy of about 1.5 to 3 times that of a dragon, if it's not impressed to a human.

Once impressed though, there are probably plenty of reasons a firelizzards age might more closely match it's partner. Such as that impression, might actualy cause certain biological or hormonal changes in a fire lizzard.
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Old Jan 11 2009, 09:10 PM   #30
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Default Re: Do firelizards age?

If you think about it, there would be no reason for a species to lay eggs unless it was propigate the species. As the firelizards, tunnelsnakes and the aquatic the dolphins reported have a common ancestor, it should indicate that evolution is alive and well on Pern and progress in a normal fashion, as on Earth. The report to the colony commitee reported the planet as a "Parallel Earth". And as previously mentioned, if the firelizards didn't die, there would be any space at all. Best to leave it a normal life cycle with a normal best-guess span of a human. Makes it simple with intelligent life form (proof of which is in DD when they were warning the settlers of threadfall).
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