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Old May 28 2010, 02:33 PM   #1
Tamara Henson
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Brown Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

Well, I am about to reopen that can or worms about how big dragons really are, and the reason I am doing this is because of this picture...


New fossils have shown that Quetzalcoatlus was really this big. All I can say is Wow Dinotopia was right!

Seriously this is a big animal as anyone who has ever stood next to a giraffe at the zoo knows. And even though pterosaurs were spindly compared to dragons it must have had some powerful muscles to fly (and yes it flapped it did not just glide) and shows that animals about as big as a small green dragon once lived on Earth. How big can flying animals get? The last estimate I heard was possibly up to a 90 foot wingspan. Just Wow.

For more on the latest in giant pterosaurs just go to Tetrapod zoology http://scienceblogs.com/tetrapodzoology/

and search for azhdarchids for more on these animals, you will be glad that you did.
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Old May 29 2010, 01:24 PM   #2
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

Wow! A picture says a thousand words. That is pretty big for a flying animal.
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Old May 29 2010, 05:14 PM   #3
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

It all hinges on the square cubed law, a mathematical principle of proportion. Like if you double the proportions of a sugar cube, you end up with eight times the volume rather than the intuitive double. This applies when scaling up the size and strength of an animal - when size (and therefore weight) is scaled up, the proportional strength doesn't match. Which is why spiders can't be the size of cars, and King Kong would collapse under his own weight. Applying it to flying animals, if one were scaled up, the weight that the wings carry would be increased, and so the wings have to be enlarged for more surface area to provide lift, and/or they would have to increase their speed to get the same amount of lift. But increase wing size adds more weight which needs more muscle to support it which adds more weight... and past a certain threshold it is not possible to fly at all with any amount of wing size.

On wikipedia it says that studies have shown that a wingspan of 60 feet would be the limit, but I imagine it would be difficult in practice to determine the exact limit, with the variety of body designs there can be.
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Old May 29 2010, 09:52 PM   #4
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Hmm, a 60 ft limit. I just posted an image of a dragon with a 70 ft wingspan. I guess I can always claim telekinesis.
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Old May 30 2010, 09:38 AM   #5
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

Quote:
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Hmm, a 60 ft limit. I just posted an image of a dragon with a 70 ft wingspan. I guess I can always claim telekinesis.
Unless your dragon was built like a toothpick, it would be impossible for it to fly anyway, regardless of size, so I think you can get away with a suspension of disbelief
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Old Jun 1 2010, 01:18 AM   #6
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

Thanks for the information. Something cross my mind as I posted, as big as a WW fighter which one I don't recall shall have check and get back to you.

They have very thin bone a US Postcard can't recall where read, with lot of air spaces.
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Old Jun 1 2010, 11:50 AM   #7
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

The body structure is a big part of it--as already mentioned, you have to have muscles, but you also have to have a frame that will lend itself to flying. A thick, heavy, dragging tail will make flight difficult (peacocks can FLY when they have their full tails in, but they can't maneuver well/at all or get very high.) Dense bones add weight. Extraneous limbs add weight (arms when you have wings, etc.) The wing itself is weight. So you'd need a relatively light, RIGID airframe and large enough wings to lift it.

And as anyone who HAS been to a zoo (or worked at one) will tell you, in that pictute, unless that guy's 5'6", that giraffe IS a little out of proportion--if that man is 6', they're not quite THAT massive. Plus, I would bet you it would weigh substantially more than the Quetzelcoaltus.
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Old Jun 1 2010, 12:41 PM   #8
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

The normal range of a giraffe is 14-17 feet tall, so that picture is only slightly out of the norm. If he's 6' tall, then that would make the giraffe 18' at the very tip of the head knob thingies. The largest giraffe on record is 20' so it's still within reasonable bounds, though at the very top of the limit.

You're very right about the weight though. A giraffe is somewhere around 2,000 lbs., and the estimates I'm reading for quetzalcoatlus are anywhere from 200 - 550 lbs. I have a hard time believing the lower weight range for something THAT huge.
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Old Jul 13 2010, 07:53 PM   #9
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

Things to note : Dragon Bone structure is based on boron, not calcium. IMHO Ramoth is the size of a small airliner, I'll check again to be sure.
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Old Jul 13 2010, 10:01 PM   #10
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

I believe that Ramoth is actually the size of a jumbo jet..... could be wrong, but I think the DLG compared her size in that way....
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Old Jul 13 2010, 10:04 PM   #11
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

I saw the same.
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Old Jul 13 2010, 11:58 PM   #12
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

This is where some people disagree with the DLG.

Apparently that figure is based on yards. Using feet instead of yards makes it too small. I've seen an argument that used cubits - about a foot and a half - and it worked for a lot of people.
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Old Jul 14 2010, 03:02 AM   #13
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

The use of meters in place of feet in the DLG was a mistake.
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Old Jul 14 2010, 10:52 AM   #14
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

Oops, I meant meters not yards. Thanks Kath!
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Old Jul 15 2010, 02:43 AM   #15
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

So are we saying that Ramoth is not as big as a jumbo jet? I must admit I always thought that sounded really huge.....
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Old Jul 15 2010, 05:57 AM   #16
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

Quote:
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So are we saying that Ramoth is not as big as a jumbo jet?
Got it in one.
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Old Jul 15 2010, 09:25 AM   #17
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

I've seen a lot of people now using a comparison to a bus - like a commercial tour bus - to give a rough idea of Ramoth's length. Still large, but not nearly as massive as a jumbo jet.
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Old Aug 6 2010, 05:07 PM   #18
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

I always assumed Ramoth was as LONG as a jet - not as massive or as tall as one. Unfortunately most people seem to think of height as length probably because humans are tailless bipeds so their height equals their length. This is why a 30 foot movie dinosaur is the size of a building (30 feet tall) while in real life it was no bigger than a rhino (30 feet long due to a long neck and tail).

Darren Naish (at the website I gave above) just did a big pterosaur exhibit in London. He has put pictures on his site, including life sized Quetzalcoatlus statues. Quite interesting and they look even bigger than the one in the picture above.
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Old Aug 29 2010, 04:22 AM   #19
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

In an appendix in Diversity of Dragons, Anne lists Ramoth as 'big to huge', bronzes and browns as 'medium', and blues and greens as 'small'. No problems so far.

She also lists Ruth as 'medium'!
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Old Sep 1 2010, 11:57 PM   #20
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Default Re: Just how big can flying creatures get anyway?

i've been rereading the original books, and i was seeing references to "hugging her 6 foot head" (Ramoth, i think...reading late at night makes me foggy on that kind of detail! 0-o), "tugging on his ear" (Canth), "not being as big as Jaxom's torso", in reference to Ruth's size at hatching. overall, im getting the impression that some authors are not agreeing on details, and even AMC sometimes mixing up herself.

one thing i can add, that might help with figuring out how something large can fly, is to look at the structure of birds. wherever possible, spaces are empty-feathers are hollow, the body is filled with air sacs, bones have hollow spaces. i bred cockatiels for years, and learned the hard way about this build, because if a bird catches any kind of illness that goes into the airways, it hits the air sacs and such and is hard to cure. (or was, back in the 1980s). so i would imagine that dragons would possibly have similarties. just because a bone is hollow, wouldnt necessarily mean fragility...look at the force that eagles strike with, when hunting big game in a cast of two.

did AMC ever have big parrots or such? if so, she might have learned about avian build, and extrapolated her dragon build off that.
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