Hi, I'm a very old newbie to this stuff, but gentle critisism is welcome. I've got questions...about a lot of things. First off, at the time of Temeraire and Laurence, they (the scientists) have begun to classify and codify as many of the animals & plants that they could get there hands on. Since dragons have six limbs and not the standard four, will they be in a sub-species by themselves? Will some on determine that the Sea Serpent from ToJ is part of the proto-species of dragon? Is it like the coeleocanth (you know, big fish thought to be extinct for a while)?
And what about bone structure? Bird bones are semi-hollow to provide not only lightness of structure, but there form allow hidden strength to the bone. (It was explained in a book I read as to why pteresaurs are flying animals.)
Not necessarily the last thing on my list of questions is the dragons in America. Do we have so few in the Eastern part of the continent because there are so few hot or warm springs here? East of the Mississippi River there are only 34 spring listed by at the www.ngdc.noaa.gov website, and only 17 in states lands settled by Europeans by 1805. I also wonder if we will find dragons with similar abilities to the Celestials if the Thunderbirds of Native American legend came from some of the same stock as the oriental dragons. According to one description these creatures "caused the earth to shake and lightening to strike."
I'll save questions as to how Temeraire might react to meeting some of the Founding Fathers, who are still alive and active in government. (James Madison is the president at the time of the War of 1812.) Or will the discussion on slavery lead Temmer to form a Dragon Suffrag organization. (The American Women were the first to do it, but not until the 1840's, when Laurence is in his 60's). And don't even make me think of the fiction that will come from this - a combination of Uncle Tom's Cabin and Black Beauty perhaps.
Wacky ideas and responses always welcome. Thanks for reading.
Some Speculation on your Questions
I think dragons and sea serpents would be their own Class (several levels higher than species) because of their 6 limbs, with true dragons being one order and the sea serpents being another. Not sure if dragons have more than one Family since they seem to crossbreed often. So maybe family, genus and species are all the same for dragons like for dogs. Your guess is as good as mine. :) Wikipedia Scientific Classification since I had to look it up.
I think in ToJ they mentioned that sea serpents were seen fairly regularly in the South China Sea and North Atlantic but of much smaller size. Under 20 feet is what I remember. So I don't think they are a proto-species, just a different one (or order, depends on where we want to draw the line).
The Regal Coppers are mentioned as having air sacks that help them fly, which would make them more bird-like than not. I think hollow bones are a good bet for creatures of such size. Pterosaur wings also have a different structure than bat wings. Bat wings are just skin stretched between the fingers, but some Pterosaur wing fossils have been found with rod-like structures in the wing material, sort of like... the wavy inner layer of corrugated cardboard. Makes it stiff in one direction but flexible in the other. Ever since I read about that, that's how I imagined dragon wings working.
That's an interesting idea on the number of dragons in America. Their eggs are usually kept in warm places (the two described have been warm and wet. Does it have to be wet? Or can it just be warm? If just warm is an option, then the desert Southwest is going to be full of dragons.) Maybe food is a limiting factor and once the Great Plains are explored they will find huge Bison eating flights of dragons. Thunderbird dragons would be really cool. I think they might look like native art of the Pacific Northwest with bold designs in red, black and white. I'd draw one if I wasn't so sick of drawing dragons. ;)
Dragon Suffrage. . . I'd never thought of that particular combination of books but it certainly fits. And Temeraire is certainly already headed down that path!
--Mooir 20:22, 10 July 2007 (PDT)
More on American dragons
The reason I nosing around the subject is because of the fact that right now Ms. Novik has tied up the rest of the world. The next book will be in Africa, so we will have to wait until September for that info. (Aurgghh! Never mind Harry what's-his-face! I want my dragon fix!!) If you look at the timeline of history, you see that after Temer and Will come back from Africa, they'll be getting ready for the face off with Napolian and Lien. Then there will be a slight pause before they escape from Elba(?) and face Wellington. Or is it that Lien will rescue Napolian from the island? One of the cause for the War of 1812, or what some historians call the American Revolution- Part 2, is the need for manpower to crew the British ships during these times. Can you imagine Temer's recaction to the impressment of men (Americans or not). I'd love to see the dialog between Will and this freedom loving dragon on press gang activities. They might be involved in the very end of the war of 1812, seeing that it occures in January of 1815, but I don't see them getting involved until after Napolian and Lien have been resolved.
So until then, we can speculate on how dragons brood their eggs in the wild, what observations the Americans will make on this and other subject, as there are more wild dragons here, and if American dragons use the shores of the Carolinas, the outer banks, and other areas to brood there eggs. More later.
Bones and things
I'm wondering if dragon bone structure is similar to dinosaurs and birds. After my last posting, which was done in a hurry, I went home and dug out one of my dino books - The Dinosaur Heresies by Robert T. Bakker. On page 20 he writes that "many species ... had hollow chabers in their vertebrae. In life, thes bony caberns were filledwith air sacs connecting to the lung, just as in many birds today." When I read Adrian Desmond's Hot Blooded Dinosaurs he stated that the pterosaurs had similar smaller cavities in their wing bones and speculated that this was a way to provide oxygen to the flight muscles.
Does anyone have any suggestions as to the ancestors of dragons? With six limbs they aren't from the same group as mammels or dinos. Lobsters, crabs and crayfish are six limbed but are closer to bugs than dragons.
The geological dragon
Since most of our life forms on Earth have four limbs, where did dragons come from? We need to "find" the protodragon in the geologic or historical record. One good fact is the information Ms. Novik has included in both ToJ and BPW. The fact that feral dragon have a long record of dragon communities in areas of Asia, speaks for this being the location of the their possible development. In Dinosaur Lives by John R. Honer and Edwin Dobb, they explain that donosaur bones may have been mistaken for mythological creatures - they suggested griffins(pages 21-24). We could co-opt this information for our protodragons. The bones found sometimes had broken areas and the portions visible were identified has horns on the creatures head. Other portions were identified as part of wings. As to the dragons fondness for golden hords, these bones were found in the several areas of the Altai Mts.(altai mean gold in the local language) and the region is still a productive gold mining area. This area is near the Gobi desert and is between Mongolia and China. A little research would place it near the old sea that once existed before India collided with Asia and formed the mountains. Is it possible that dragons developed from some shore dwelling creature that lived in the margins of the water? It may have been a very rare six-legged lizard-like animal, perhaps looking similar to Tarasque of french legends(Dragons: a natural history by Dr. Karl Shuker; page 100-104). Flight might have developed as the result of the closing of the ancient sea. If you look at the bones of cratures with webbed feet, their foot bones are longer than similar creatures. In the case for dragons versus birds, dragon wings may have developed as a survival mechanism to allow the early Archeodragon to propel itself out of the shallow sea, much like flying fish use their fins for a gliding flight to escape predators. Ms. Novik's description of the the wing structure of the sea-serpent in ToJ might imply this. ("The sea-serpent...laid spindly forelegs on the Allegiance's railing as it lifted itself out, webbing stretched between unnaturally long talon fingers." page 244)