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Old Jan 11 2008, 01:15 AM   #1
ElectricDragon
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Default Dragon population and attrition

Here's another population problem: Dragons.

Supposedly, each Weyr has about three queens during Passes. Each rises 2-3 times per Turn, and produces roughly two dozen eggs per clutch during the height of a Pass. During intervals the numbers dwindle down to 1-2 queens per Weyr, 1-2 mating flights per queen, and about a dozen eggs per clutch.

That means during the height of pass there are 45 gold mating flights, 45 clutches laid, and 1,080 eggs hatched. In three Turns, the entire population of the Weyrs would be replaced! That sounds fantastic...until you think about the attrition rate. If a third of your dragons (and riders) are being wiped out every turn to necessitate this replacement rate, the life of dragon-riders is very, very, very short during a pass.

Assuming a normal death rate (dragon-riders being fairly active, healthy sorts), you would expect to lose about 25 pairs per year from old age and other natural causes. To need 1,080 replacements each year, you would need to lose an average of 3 pairs killed per threadfall during a Pass.

Of course, if you're hatching 1080 dragons per year, you need 1080 empathetic people to Impress them. Over a 50 year pass, that's about 54,000 people aged 16-22, or about 4% of the population--killed as dragon-riders. I'm still looking into it, but those are Battle of Britain type loss rates, which were considered to be pushing the RAF's Fighter Command close to the breaking point. And the Battle of Britain only lasted three and a half months, not 50 years.

To give some further perspective, a military unit is considered "combat ineffective" if it suffers 20% attrition. At that point, the unit is usually pulled off the firing line for reconstitution in a rear area. Casualties also tend to fall disproportionately on the leadership. In Pern's case, that would be the bronze and brown riders. Heavy attrition amongst the leaders produces heavier attrition amongst the led, especially the junior-most. This kind of loss rate would be devastating and unsupportable.

I also see it as unlikely. Thread is a mindless opponent, unlike Luftwaffe fighter pilots. Nothing in the novels gives the impression that the Weyrs are losing 3 pairs each fall, although that many and more can be wounded. Deaths are frequent, but not unrelenting. Dragons are also infinitely more capable of evading their foe than any Spitfire ever made.

Information quoting the composition of a Weyr's strength typically quotes nine to ten wings (~300 dragons for the Weyr), while information on dragon population quotes as high as 3000 total dragons between the six Weyrs. Each Weyr supposedly has about 30 weyrlings in the the weyring wing. Given an 18-month minimum tutelage in that wing, the dragons can't be producing 45 clutches of two dozen (or more) eggs each Turn.

Taking a look at Interval, nine queens would rise 1-2 times each during the turn, producing 13-14 clutches and about 162 eggs, each year. If only about 25 pairs are dying of old age each year, that's an excessive replacement rate. Even assuming only six queens, rising once each each, there are six clutches and about 36 eggs, again exceeding the replacement rate, although getting closer if you accept the range of 5-12 for a typicial Interval clutch.

All this makes me think there's some adjustment and rationalization to be done. Perhaps a Benden-bred 9th Pass queen rises 2-3 times each year during pass, but an 8th Pass queen only rises once. Why? Perhaps the dragons are able to "influence" the composition of clutches based on community needs. This would explain the increase in clutches for Pass and the decrease for Interval. Reduced to one queen in one Weyr and that a dying one, perhaps the more "evolved" dragons of 9th Pass Benden prod their queens to breed more frequently and produce larger clutches. And perhaps this isn't really a conscious form of control, so the Benden dragons don't "turn it off" after the 8th Pass dragons come forward (or at least not quickly).
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Old Jan 11 2008, 03:19 AM   #2
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Default Re: Dragon population and attrition

First of all - this isn't really a topic for Edith's Science of Pern project, so don't be surprised if Cheryl moves it into the main section.

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Originally Posted by ElectricDragon View Post
Here's another population problem: Dragons.

Supposedly, each Weyr has about three queens during Passes. Each rises 2-3 times per Turn, and produces roughly two dozen eggs per clutch during the height of a Pass. During intervals the numbers dwindle down to 1-2 queens per Weyr, 1-2 mating flights per queen, and about a dozen eggs per clutch.
No. You're overestimating the number of queen flights hugely. The heaviest breeding is prior to the pass and in the early years, getting the Weyr up to full fighting strength and then just maintaining it against attrition. Flights twice a turn are realistic then, but perhaps only once every year or eighteen months (or more) as the pass draws to a close and you move into the interval. Egg numbers are about right though, but the number of flights does skew the rest of your analysis hugely.

This has been discussed before, a lot, particularly on the AMCF board - see here, for instance.


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Taking a look at Interval, nine queens would rise 1-2 times each during the turn, producing 13-14 clutches and about 162 eggs, each year. If only about 25 pairs are dying of old age each year, that's an excessive replacement rate.
Quite. See above. Two queens and a dozen new eggs each every eighteen months keeps the balance about right.
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Old Jan 11 2008, 11:56 PM   #3
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Default Re: Dragon population and attrition

Kath, I reviewed the thread you linked. A couple of observations.

One concern was how the queens could be triggered to mate more frequently, and some disbelief was expressed that there could be a natural explanation. There actually could be such an explanation.

Pern is a small planet, yet produces 0.9G of acceleration, meaning it is very, very dense. It also presumably has an immensely powerful magnetic field driven by that heavy core to protect and preserve the atmosphere from the stellar wind and cosmic radiation. The perturbations the Red Star induces in the planet's gravity and magnetic fields might well be part of the triggering mechanism. After all, pigeons can sense the Earth's magnetic field, so I see no reason why the dragons would not be attuned to Pern's.

Another factor in the queens' breeding could very well be "pressure" from the community of dragons. Perceived need or danger on the part of the surrounding dragons might influence the queen's mind, impacting the endocrine system, and thereby the reproduction system. Hence, 9th Pass Benden, down to one dying queen, with Thread in the offing might place a tremendous amount of "pressure" on Nemorth to produce a queen offspring. And not surprisingly, that queen turns out to be the uber-queen of all time, perhaps driven to gigantic size and fertility by an "overdose" of the appropriate endocrine input, courtesy of so much focused "pressure" on Nemorth from the other dragons, and the natural biological trigger of the Red Star's approach sensed through gravity or the magnetic field.

I reject the idea of the riders regulating clutch size by regulating the height of flights by permitting gorging. There seems to be no indication of such a practice and such stress is placed on blooding that it seems to be routine practice, even during Interval. As the height and duration of the flight is believed to effect not just quantity, but quality of the clutch, there would be a strong incentive not to permit a queen to gorge, even during Interval.

As for why the Oldtimer queens mostly did not reverse their declining trend, and why Ramoth continued her exaggerated trend, both are explainable. The older queens' system may well not have been able to reverse their decline. Some of the younger Oldtimer queens appear to have done so, but not the older ones. As for Ramoth, it is clear that she is a freak; an extreme example of the species. And extreme examples, however admirable they may be in some respects, often have flaws in others. Ramoth may be stuck in perpetual reproductive overdrive courtesy of the "overdose" of influence that led to her existence.
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Old Jan 13 2008, 05:56 AM   #4
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Pern is a small planet, yet produces 0.9G of acceleration, meaning it is very, very dense. It also presumably has an immensely powerful magnetic field driven by that heavy core to protect and preserve the atmosphere from the stellar wind and cosmic radiation. The perturbations the Red Star induces in the planet's gravity and magnetic fields might well be part of the triggering mechanism. After all, pigeons can sense the Earth's magnetic field, so I see no reason why the dragons would not be attuned to Pern's.
Given the doubts over the physical size of Pern, I really don't think you can tie that type of astrophysics into the logistics of dragon-breeding. I also seriously doubt that the Red Star would have much of an effect on the planet's magnetic field, particularly given the lack of any evidence to suggest that Pern's B-field is any different to Earth's in terms of strength.
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Old Jan 13 2008, 11:04 AM   #5
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Default Re: Dragon population and attrition

Dragons fly through telekinesis and it has never been mentioned that gravity, or sensing the planet's gravity, is of any importance. Sound a bit silly to me actually, but I'm the first to admit I'm no expert.
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Old Jan 13 2008, 10:43 PM   #6
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Default Re: Dragon population and attrition

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Dragons fly through telekinesis and it has never been mentioned that gravity, or sensing the planet's gravity, is of any importance. Sound a bit silly to me actually, but I'm the first to admit I'm no expert.
Heck, if pigeons can sense the Earth's magnetic field, why wouldn't dragons be attuned to gravity and/or the magnetic field of Pern? I'd hate to think a pigeon was more capable than a dragon in any category except guano production!
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Old Jan 13 2008, 10:45 PM   #7
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Given the doubts over the physical size of Pern, I really don't think you can tie that type of astrophysics into the logistics of dragon-breeding. I also seriously doubt that the Red Star would have much of an effect on the planet's magnetic field, particularly given the lack of any evidence to suggest that Pern's B-field is any different to Earth's in terms of strength.
Why not? Pigeons can sense the Earth's magnetic field and navigate by it. Why wouldn't a dragon? And given that the dragons have rather more capabilities than pigeons...why wouldn't they be able to sense subtle changes in gravity?

And I'm not saying that they necessarily perceive these things consciously. Many varieties of life on Earth are effected unconsciously by the tides, the weather, and the seasons (including humans). So, I say, why not? It's a simpler explanation than many others.
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Old Jan 14 2008, 08:48 AM   #8
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And given that the dragons have rather more capabilities than pigeons...why wouldn't they be able to sense subtle changes in gravity?
Because Pern has tides, and disappearing/reappearing volcanoes aside, the gravitational effect the Red Star has on Pern is negligible in comparison to that of its moons.

It'd be like picking up a butterfly's wingbeats in a hurricane.

You've heard of Occam's razor, yes?
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Old Jan 14 2008, 04:08 PM   #9
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Heck, if pigeons can sense the Earth's magnetic field, why wouldn't dragons be attuned to gravity and/or the magnetic field of Pern? I'd hate to think a pigeon was more capable than a dragon in any category except guano production!
What I meant is that there's no need for dragons to sense gravity (for the pigeon on Earth it is mportant, for the dragon on Pern, nope). If you could move yourself from one room to another, would you be bothered with gravity and magnetism? I don't thin so. You would be cncerned about visualisation since you don't want to end up in a wall, halfway through a (closed) door or in the middle of the heartfire.

I also don't see even a remote relevance in comparing the senses of Terran pigeons and Pernese dragons
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Old Jan 15 2008, 11:40 AM   #10
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Default Re: Dragon population and attrition

I can see it, at least in the sense that we know it is possible for animals to have that kind of ability.
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Old Jan 15 2008, 09:35 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Kath View Post
Because Pern has tides, and disappearing/reappearing volcanoes aside, the gravitational effect the Red Star has on Pern is negligible in comparison to that of its moons.

It'd be like picking up a butterfly's wingbeats in a hurricane.

You've heard of Occam's razor, yes?
Why yes, I have heard of it! And it cuts both ways.

If you're going to assume telepathy, teleportation and telekenesis, the ability of a living organism to be effected by minute changes in an electromagnetic field or a gravitational field is the simpler explanation.
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Old Jan 15 2008, 09:40 PM   #12
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What I meant is that there's no need for dragons to sense gravity (for the pigeon on Earth it is mportant, for the dragon on Pern, nope). If you could move yourself from one room to another, would you be bothered with gravity and magnetism? I don't thin so. You would be cncerned about visualisation since you don't want to end up in a wall, halfway through a (closed) door or in the middle of the heartfire.

I also don't see even a remote relevance in comparing the senses of Terran pigeons and Pernese dragons
Really? These are creatures that teleport. Presumably this involving some sort of transition into another dimension, which would demand an encompassing theory of everything--which includes gravity. For all we know, it may demand the ability to sense gravity or even manipulate it to go Between. So why be bothered with it? Maybe because it's essential. We don't exactly have a NATOPS manual for Between flight handy to consult since the dragons have been so uncooperative as not to write one.

As for why to compare to another living organism--why not? Or do you reject the idea of Pern as science fiction and ascribe to the fantasy label?
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Old Jan 16 2008, 10:40 AM   #13
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Yes, really!

No, I'm firmly in the Pern is SF camp.

P.S. I don't want to ruin your hopes but I can assure youthe chance of a manual for between is very, very slim ED
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Old Jan 16 2008, 07:51 PM   #14
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Yes, really!

No, I'm firmly in the Pern is SF camp.

P.S. I don't want to ruin your hopes but I can assure youthe chance of a manual for between is very, very slim ED
If you'd ever read a NATOPS manual, believe me, I'm sure the one for Between would be equally mind-numbingly dull. LOL!
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Old Jan 26 2008, 11:43 AM   #15
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Default Re: Dragon population and attrition

Okay, back to the original topic and to add an item, to keep the dragon population static during Interval, you'd probably need to replace .008 to .01 of the population annually to account for deaths by natural causes (and/or the suicide of decrepit pairs tired of living).

You would also need to replace about .003 of the population annually for "lifestyle" or "occupational" deaths, including things like teleporting into solid rock, getting flamed by your wingman's dragon, being thrown from your mount by a broken fighting strap, catching a bag of firestone with your head instead of your hands, etc... This rate means that essentially, you've got a 25% chance of dying as a dragonrider for every 20 Turns of flying. I'm basing that off of the life expectancy in naval aviation during the more primitive late-prop and early-jet era. Current naval aviation safety practices have drastically altered this grim old stat. Given the primitive conditions on Pern and their fundamental incapacity to launch anything similar to the naval aviation safety program, and considering the hazard of jumping Between, but off-setting by the intelligence of the dragons, I'll call the relative levels of danger a wash.

Assuming 2160 dragons (360x6 Weyrs) you would have about 17 deaths of pairs by natural causes or suicide per Turn and about 6 "training accidents" or other deaths by "flat-hatting" and various mishaps inherent in being dragon-riders. Thus, a single clutch of about two dozen eggs would be adequate each Turn to keep the dragon population static.

Assuming a decrease in the dragon population during intervals (we'll arbitrarily say to half to match Benden's depletion before the 9th Pass, which was probably atypically low thanks to Jora and Nemorth) to 1080, you would have about 9 deaths by natural causes or suicide and 3 by virtue of dragon-riding's dangers each turn. So a single clutch of a dozen eggs would suffice to maintain the population on an annual basis.

Assuming 10-11 queens in this reduced population, with one over-age and one under would leave 9 breeding queens rising about once every nine Turns. This would imply that the population did not typically reduce below the nominal 2160 level if queens were rising every 4-5 Turns, although the higher population would give twice as many queens and still push things out to once every 9 Turns for a queen to rise.

Thus, if you go by the Wiki figures of a queen rising once every 4-5 Turns vice once every 9 Turns, there is either a higher death rate or a greater level of hazard, or both, taking out about 46 pairs each Turn at reduced levels or 92 pairs per Turn at nominal levels of Weyr strength.

Any thoughts on whether it is one, the other, or both?

If queens are rising once per Turn during Pass, and clutching larger numbers of eggs, at nominal levels you would have about 21 queens with 2 overage and 2 underage at any one time and about 17 breeding for 408 dragons per year. Discounting for 92 deaths due to natural causes, suicide and routine hazards, that indicates 316 "combat" losses per Turn, or almost 15% of the force, hanging the dragonriders of Pern on the ragged edge of disaster for the duration of Fall, given that at 20% losses, a unit is considered "combat ineffective." This rate equates to approximately four deaths per five Falls per Pass given that there are approximately 18,000 falls per pass.

That's six dead pairs (whatever the cause), per 5 days and a funeral each week for each Weyr.

Like flying off carriers, dragon riding is a glamorous job, but it's also a killer.

What this says about the likelihood of any one rider surviving 50 years of Fall is grim. Not many are going to make it and the ones that do are going to be the really meticulous ones, personalities every bit as Type-A as naval aviators. So, would F'lar actually make it all the way through the 9th Pass? Probably. As grim, authoritarian and driven as he can be at times, he is probably exactly the meticulous sort that would last. Would F'nor? Probably not. F'nor would probably be the type that would have that one moment of recklessness, inattention, lightheartedness or overconfidence catch up with him, and probably close enough to the End of Pass to make it a tragedy.

It also says something harsh about queen casualties, particularly in cases where the queen and her rider single out a bronze and his rider in a life-long partnership. Lose the bronze and his rider in battle, and perhaps the casualties amongst the queens aren't so much from deaths in Fall as from grief suicides in the wake of such losses. After all, the clutching numbers say there are about 3 queens hatched each year during a Pass. We also have three known cases where it is implied certain queens are flown only by single bronzes (Faranth/Carenath, Alaranth/Brianth, Ramoth/Mnementh).

Thoughts?

Last edited by ElectricDragon; Jan 26 2008 at 11:32 PM. Reason: Additional content
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Old Jan 27 2008, 02:28 PM   #16
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Default Re: Dragon population and attrition

You have the experience factor too. Considering WW2 biographies and things, a lot of the problems were due to inexperience. (If you want to see shocking figures look up the crash figures for the USAAF (or whatever it was then) for Atcham in Shropshire. There is a list and I spent ages helping my boyfriend look up a crash.
There, when they came over to the UK they were given a squadron of Spitfires as the P38s they were meant to be training on hadn't turned up. They wrecked every single one as they were new pilots, not used to the wildly different set-up and performance of the Spit.
An older test pilot could pick up a new aircraft and most likely not destroy it first go. Although accidents do happen. So, without enemy action, the people at most risk of death are the newer riders, even in a combat situation the very new and the over-confident are the most at risk. I wouldn't say F'nor is in that last group, he's been a rider for too long.
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Old Jan 27 2008, 10:12 PM   #17
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You have the experience factor too. Considering WW2 biographies and things, a lot of the problems were due to inexperience. (If you want to see shocking figures look up the crash figures for the USAAF (or whatever it was then) for Atcham in Shropshire. There is a list and I spent ages helping my boyfriend look up a crash.
There, when they came over to the UK they were given a squadron of Spitfires as the P38s they were meant to be training on hadn't turned up. They wrecked every single one as they were new pilots, not used to the wildly different set-up and performance of the Spit.
An older test pilot could pick up a new aircraft and most likely not destroy it first go. Although accidents do happen. So, without enemy action, the people at most risk of death are the newer riders, even in a combat situation the very new and the over-confident are the most at risk. I wouldn't say F'nor is in that last group, he's been a rider for too long.
I'm afraid I'm a little bit of a ringer on this topic having been a naval air safety officer. The way the statistics work out for pilot mortality is a "U" with the least and most experienced having the higher mortalities.

The least experienced are killed for all the reasons you would expect: inexperience, inattention and incapacity. The most experienced are killed by complacency, deteriorating skills due to age, and cumulative exposure to the odds (especially in a combat environment).

One important factor in the survival of the elder aces is whether they're regularly rotated out of the line and back to a training capacity. Unfortunately, Pern is running on such short numbers and under such constant threat, that option is not available. So instead of the Allied model of many aces surviving, but their scores being in the double-digits, you are closer to the Axis model of many aces running up fantastic scores (even into the triple digits), but most of them being killed over time for being kept constantly in combat. Also, Pern has nothing like the "pipeline" the Allies did in which about half of the aircraft were training birds. The Weyrs just don't have that depth.

Now the Pernese do have a couple of advantages. First, their "planes" actually have brains and instincts such that they're not exactly going to crack up ground-looping themselves. Second, their "planes" are not mechanical and prone to sudden failures of components due to overstressing a mechanical system that can't say "ouch" and back off in time. Third, their "enemy" is an unthinking organism that is incapable of engaging in any deliberate tactics to eliminate them.

The Pernese also have some disadvantages. First, any "hit" that destroys the "plane" destroys the pilot as well; there is no bailing out and no walking back to base and requisitioning another mount. Second, any "hit" that truly cripples the "plane" will never be made good by repair, and will eliminate not only the "plane" from the order of battle, but also the "pilot" since he cannot seek another mount. Third, they're operating in a primitive medical environment where they're in danger of losing those who might survive with better medical care. Fourth, there is the hazard of traveling Between.

So it's likely that someone like F'nor would most likely make it through the majority of a Pass, only to fall to a moment of "get-home-itis" or other complacency or inattention in a task he has literally performed a thousand times before. A lot of good aces have fallen that way, and some of them on the last mission.
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Old Jan 28 2008, 03:33 PM   #18
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2cent Re: Dragon population and attrition

when there is a popluation explosion with prey animals(on Earth) the predator with also have more offsprign.

Besides not all the eggs with hatch. it was stated on DQ with Ruth's hatching
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Old Jan 28 2008, 04:57 PM   #19
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Yes, but it is very seldom that an egg will not hatch.
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Old Jan 28 2008, 11:04 PM   #20
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Yes, but it is very seldom that an egg will not hatch.
Concur. That's also the impression I get from DE, as well. It happens, it's known, but it's not common.
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Old Feb 3 2008, 12:15 PM   #21
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Tripped over more data in DE on this issue. One of the Weyrleaders states after the first Fall that there are only 6549 more to attend, so I may have been mislead on the number of Falls. However, given that the information on the number and frequency of Falls that produces a figure of 18,000 plus may be for the entire planet, then 6550 could very well be correct for the number the Weyrs would have to meet over the Northern Continent.

Of course, while that reduces the number of Falls, given the dragon reproduction rate, that about triples the casualties each Fall. That's bloody.
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Old Feb 6 2008, 07:37 PM   #22
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Interesting thought from another topic that might be pertinent:

Is every mating flight consummated? We do, after all, have the very largest and fastest dragon in the Weyr (the queen) doing her damnedest not to get caught. Maybe she does rise 2-3 times each year, but doesn't get caught every time.

Thoughts?
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Old Feb 7 2008, 08:05 AM   #23
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Default Re: Dragon population and attrition

Barring queen fights and young queens rising for the first time who might overfly themselves to the point of injury (eg a badly wrenched wing), I think every flight is consummated.

Queens want to get caught; they slow down at some point to ensure it.
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Old Feb 7 2008, 02:52 PM   #24
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Default Re: Dragon population and attrition

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I reject the idea of the riders regulating clutch size by regulating the height of flights by permitting gorging. There seems to be no indication of such a practice and such stress is placed on blooding that it seems to be routine practice, even during Interval. As the height and duration of the flight is believed to effect not just quantity, but quality of the clutch, there would be a strong incentive not to permit a queen to gorge, even during Interval.
I don't think this idea can be rejected out of hand. If I remember correctly, F'lessan does some specific musing to himself about how the dragon population could be kept under control After in The Skies of Pern, and he specifically considers shallow mating flights. Gorging is not specifically mentioned, though.
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Old Feb 7 2008, 03:06 PM   #25
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We also have three known cases where it is implied certain queens are flown only by single bronzes (Faranth/Carenath, Alaranth/Brianth, Ramoth/Mnementh).

Thoughts?
The dialog between dying Sorka and Wind Blossom in Dragonsblood sheds some interesting light on this. It is explicitly stated that once Carenath was killed, Faranth never rose to mate again.

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Badly scored when they failed to dodge an oddly clumped bunch of Thread, Sean and Carenath had gone between—and never returned. That had been over eight years ago. In all that time, Faranth had never again risen to mate. No one had commented on it, considering it merely due to Faranth’s age. Only Wind Blossom knew differently. The reason was one of many secrets that she and Sorka had shared over the years, and a part of one of Wind Blossom’s few true friendships.
This says to me that, at a certain point (perhaps not immediately, and perhaps not ever, if the riders are not attached) dragons become mated for life.
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Old Feb 8 2008, 12:42 AM   #26
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I don't think this idea can be rejected out of hand. If I remember correctly, F'lessan does some specific musing to himself about how the dragon population could be kept under control After in The Skies of Pern, and he specifically considers shallow mating flights. Gorging is not specifically mentioned, though.
Let me clarify: I'm certain it could be done. We just have no evidence of the practice. We also have one very good reason to avoid such a practice: the potential impact of the flight on the quality of the clutch, not just the quantity. So, my point was not that it can't be done, but that it would appear that it isn't done.
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Old Feb 8 2008, 12:43 AM   #27
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Barring queen fights and young queens rising for the first time who might overfly themselves to the point of injury (eg a badly wrenched wing), I think every flight is consummated.

Queens want to get caught; they slow down at some point to ensure it.
Every one that we've seen and has been written about that didn't result in a queens' battle, yes. The rest, we just don't know.
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Old Feb 8 2008, 10:29 AM   #28
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Default Re: Dragon population and attrition

Do we know for absolute certainty? No. But can we make a reasonable agrument against it, based on what is in the books? Yes.

Not a single character ever even speculates about it as a possibility. If it was a common occurrence, then it would be mentioned/worried upon by riders at mating flight time. And if it was an uncommon occurrence, it would be so remarkable as to become legendary and thus mentioned at least occasionally when a gold rises.

We didn't see Brekke wishing that Wirenth simply wouldn't be caught. If it was a possibility, then Brekke would have been obsessing about it.
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Old Feb 9 2008, 11:05 PM   #29
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Do we know for absolute certainty? No. But can we make a reasonable agrument against it, based on what is in the books? Yes.

Not a single character ever even speculates about it as a possibility. If it was a common occurrence, then it would be mentioned/worried upon by riders at mating flight time. And if it was an uncommon occurrence, it would be so remarkable as to become legendary and thus mentioned at least occasionally when a gold rises.

We didn't see Brekke wishing that Wirenth simply wouldn't be caught. If it was a possibility, then Brekke would have been obsessing about it.
Reasonable points, but I was only pointing out that it has never been addressed and so we don't know. It could be that such things are so routine they're not remarked upon or thought about. And we already know Brekke suffered a certain degree of ignorance, so... The thought occurred and I raised it.

Take for example, functional check flights that fail. These happen all the time, but have you ever heard a pilot talk about one? Similarly, there are boltered landings on carriers. They happen all the time, but is a pilot going to think to discuss it with you in a bar? Probably not. There are more interesting stories to tell and more significant worries to take up their thoughts. So, it's possible it could have slipped everyone's mind (or just the authors'!).
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Old Feb 17 2008, 12:27 AM   #30
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Interesting thought from another topic that might be pertinent:

Is every mating flight consummated? We do, after all, have the very largest and fastest dragon in the Weyr (the queen) doing her damnedest not to get caught. Maybe she does rise 2-3 times each year, but doesn't get caught every time.

Thoughts?
Update on this notion: Dragonflight specifically states (F'nor IIRC) that the will of the Weyr can have an influence upon the outcome of a mating flight. So we apparently have three inputs: the dragon's choice, the weyrwoman's choice and the Weyr's choice. As to which is strongest, that undoubtedly varies. Given that the Weyr is always going to want the flight consummated, then they're probably always consummated.

Now, this raises the question of the collective influence of the Weyr on frequency of mating and on clutch composition...
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Old Feb 19 2008, 10:25 PM   #31
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Every one that we've seen and has been written about that didn't result in a queens' battle, yes. The rest, we just don't know.
Update on this issue: In MHoP there is a line regarding F'lon's obvious relief that Nemorth was "with egg." Setting aside the short, low and somewhat glutted quality of the mating flight, the obvious implication is that sometimes a queen is not "with egg" after a mating flight. Would the only cause be a poor quality flight? Maybe, maybe not. But this does raise an interesting question. Perhaps every flight is consummated, but does every flight result in a clutch? Again, we don't know because it hasn't been addressed.
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Old Feb 20 2008, 05:03 PM   #32
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Default Re: Dragon population and attrition

Maybe he was just glad that there were enough eggs for it to be obvious she was with egg?

Then again, maybe it's MHoP being stupid again.
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Old Feb 21 2008, 02:40 PM   #33
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Update on this issue: In MHoP there is a line regarding F'lon's obvious relief that Nemorth was "with egg." Setting aside the short, low and somewhat glutted quality of the mating flight, the obvious implication is that sometimes a queen is not "with egg" after a mating flight. Would the only cause be a poor quality flight? Maybe, maybe not. But this does raise an interesting question. Perhaps every flight is consummated, but does every flight result in a clutch? Again, we don't know because it hasn't been addressed.
I think, if the flight is too low, then it is questionable that fertlization would occure. From what little has been said of mating flights...the act takes place in a downward spiral...not enough height, not enough time.
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Old Feb 21 2008, 10:27 PM   #34
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I think, if the flight is too low, then it is questionable that fertlization would occure. From what little has been said of mating flights...the act takes place in a downward spiral...not enough height, not enough time.
I suppose a bad catch that doesn't remain clasped long could be an issue as well, even if the catch was made at altitude. Well, if not every mating is successful (And how many species are always successful?) that could easily account for "excess" matings without overpopulating the species.

And I suppose some poor matings would be likely given how often queen riders (and everyone else) seem to be surprised by a queen quickening. I really roll my eyes at that overused plot device. Lessa had an excuse being as there were zero other queen riders to clue her in, but the rest...?

More realistic to my mind was M'hall's career of carefully marking the timing of queens' flights, and constantly monitoring their status, and then very deliberately and scientifically flying them. This is the behavior I'd expect of bronze riders, and would it be at all ridiculous to expect a dragon's own rider to know her gold was about to quicken? Heck, she should know before the bronze riders, and if bronze riders can tell, or mark time, why can't she?
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Old Feb 22 2008, 05:44 AM   #35
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I was wondering whether there was something wrong with Nemorth- physically.
She is undersized, under-clutching and even accounting for Jora's poor health, there is something amiss about her.
Allowing for the inaccuracies in MHOP, she wasn't the only queen when she hatched or in her early years and the weyr under F'lon (the major deterioration is marked as being after he died) wasn't in the same state as it was after R'gul misunderstood his plans. So it can't have been just bad control that led to her being undersized.
Perhaps there was a genetic defect, which fortunately, did not get passed to Ramoth.
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Old Feb 23 2008, 09:25 AM   #36
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I was wondering whether there was something wrong with Nemorth- physically.
She is undersized, under-clutching and even accounting for Jora's poor health, there is something amiss about her.
Allowing for the inaccuracies in MHOP, she wasn't the only queen when she hatched or in her early years and the weyr under F'lon (the major deterioration is marked as being after he died) wasn't in the same state as it was after R'gul misunderstood his plans. So it can't have been just bad control that led to her being undersized.
Perhaps there was a genetic defect, which fortunately, did not get passed to Ramoth.
As I read things, I got no sense there was anything wrong with Nemorth physically that wasn't a result of indolence. When the bronze riders got together and starved Nemorth (and Jora) and ruthlessly pressured the two of them before one mating flight to see that Nemorth only blooded, they actually got a good flight and two dozen eggs with a fair number of bronzes. So Nemorth could do the trick if she wasn't allowed to lie around and get fat.

If there was anything wrong with Nemorth, it had to be a mental defect for her to Impress Jora. But even here, that's not clear. There was nothing wrong with Prideth, yet she Impressed Kylara. Prideth actually had the good sense to be a little disgusted with her own rider. It is possible there was a similar situation with Jora. It also sounds like Nemorth was presented with next to no options. IIRC, I think there were something like four candidates. If Jora was the only one with the necessary telempathic ability...

We also don't know what role the telempathic "pressure" of other dragons, and dragonriders, has on hatchlings as they emerge. An awful lot of "favorites" Impress, even when others are considered more appropriate in other respects. Obviously any such "pressure" is not a trump card, as the hatchlings often seem to have a mind of their own. In Jora's case, it appears that S'loner had a strong preference for her and perhaps that was communicated to Nemorth, possibly augmented by S'loner's bronze, and maybe others that shared S'loner's opinion.

Of course, it also appears that S'loner was rather senselessly stuck on Jora for some reason (yet another thing MHoP frustratingly failed to develop, along with S'loner's falling-out with Maidar). So it may have been in S'loner's interest to limit the field of candidates, and perhaps "lean" on the hatchling with his bronze's help to apply "pressure" for the choice he wanted.

This raises an interesting thought. If such "pressure" exists, what role does a live queen play in the matter? (I can't remember if Nemorth's dame was dead when she Impressed... Have to look that up.) Of course, Nemorth's daughter hatched after she died...did F'lar and his wing "lean" on Ramoth to Impress Lessa? Of course (LOL) would they even need to with Lessa's talent? And if this pressure exists, what was Ramoth's role in Prideth's Impression...?
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Old Feb 23 2008, 09:58 AM   #37
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But that doesn't explain her being so undersized.
If she had been malnourished, perhaps then she would not have grown so, but not when she was over nourished.
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Old Feb 23 2008, 11:14 AM   #38
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But that doesn't explain her being so undersized.
If she had been malnourished, perhaps then she would not have grown so, but not when she was over nourished.
Somewhere - I don't recall where - there's an implication that dragons grow larger when they're better matched to their riders than others. For the life of me, I can't remember where I saw it though.


Anyone?


Bueller?
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Old Feb 23 2008, 10:35 PM   #39
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But that doesn't explain her being so undersized.
If she had been malnourished, perhaps then she would not have grown so, but not when she was over nourished.
I believe that F'lar notes in DF that Ramoth is twice the size of Nemorth. Whether this is meant literally or figuratively is, of course, not made clear. What is clear is that Ramoth is distinctly larger than her dame. The implication is that Nemorth was undersized. Whether this is completely outside the norm is unknown, and frankly, F'lar doesn't have much to compare either Ramoth or Nemorth to at that point having seen only one other queen (Nemorth's dame) for reference.

Frankly, I'd say that both Nemorth and Ramoth are likely freaks, and that inbreeding is probably to blame. Benden has been functioning for a long time with a dearth of queens by the time we get Nemorth and Ramoth. With a single queen, and less than ten bronzes, and a propensity for the queens to monogamize, we're not talking about much genetic diversity.

I believe F'lar also states in DF that it is one of the primary duties of a dragonrider to keep one's dragon from overeating. This is very heavily stressed immediately prior to Lessa's Impression, and even in the face of the obvious and necessary gluttony of hatchlings. So perhaps overfeeding is detrimental to proper development. Too much boron in the diet too early stunts growth? Who knows?
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Old Feb 23 2008, 10:41 PM   #40
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Somewhere - I don't recall where - there's an implication that dragons grow larger when they're better matched to their riders than others. For the life of me, I can't remember where I saw it though.


Anyone?


Bueller?
I recall no such reference, but I haven't reread all the books yet. There are enough other factors that seem to be influenced by individual or collective telempathy with respect to dragons that, perhaps, this is one of them. Jora and Nemorth would seem to speak for the case. Jaxom and Ruth, and Kylara and Prideth would not. Jaxom is hale, healthy, and sexually complete; Ruth is a freak, a runt and sexually non-functional. Kylara is vain, selfish and randy; Prideth does not appear to mirror these characteristics under normal circumstances.

No other actual or seeming mismatches come immediately to mind. Am I missing any?
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