Dragon Anatomy - What All Riders Should Know

This lecture will cover some basic dragon anatomy and common injuries. If any of you choose to pursue Dragon Healer training, you'll learn much more than this. If you are interested in Dragon Healing, let T'burk know when you graduate. You do not have time to pursue it at this point, although you can talk to them about what would be involved if you are interested.

OOC note: The information in this lecture is mostly from the Dragonlover's Guide to Pern (DLG) - the "canon" knowledge about dragon anatomy and injuries. In previous clutches, people had lots of questions that weren't covered in the lecture itself, and we all worked together to come up with logical answers. So feel free to ask questions at any point during the training. Don't worry that your question might seem obvious, the point of weyrling training is to give you a time to ask questions.


There are five colours of dragons: gold, bronze, brown, blue and green. The golds range in shade from pale yellow to dark, antique gold. Bronzes all have a golden-green sheen, but occasionally a few can be found that are nearly as dark as a brown. The hides of blues and greens show nearly the whole spectrum of those shades, while browns go from tan through to chocolate.

Green dragons grow to between twenty to twenty-five meters in length. Blues are the next largest at twenty-five to thirty, browns range from thirty to thirty-five meters, bronzes from thirty-five to thirty-eight and golds from thirty-eight to forty-two as a rule, although there are exceptions.

By two months of age, a dragon has already reached 43 percent of his full growth. This increases to 58 percent after 4 months, 75 percent after 6 months, and 92 percent after a turn. A dragon will reach his full growth after 18 months. The tip-to-tip wingspan, including the breadth of the shoulders, is a full one and two- thirds the length of a dragon. A dragonlength, by the way, is equal to the average length of the most common dragons, the greens. The number of greens on Pern equals all the blues, browns, and bronzes put together.

The sphincter is hidden in the spade-shaped end of the tail, pressed closed by the forked end. Dragons void while they are *between*, except when they are young, or too ill to go *between*. The genitalia are concealed behind pouchlike flaps of skin, and are only revealed during mating.

A dragon's mood is reflected in the changeable color of its eyes. Red signals anger or extreme pain. Orange signals worry or pain. Yellow signals panic or alarm. Green signals content or happiness. Blue signals sleepiness or relaxation. Purple or violet signals love or lust. Hunger would show up as tinges of orange or red.

Dragons have neither eyelashes nor ears, though they do have multiple eyelids. Their intercommunication is chiefly telepathic. The sensitive head knobs acts as audio receptors for sounds. A dragon's eyesight is very sharp and exceeds that of humans, but their sense of smell is weaker.

Dragons are warm-blooded. If they bleed, you'll notice that the ichor is dark green.

They have _very_ sharp teeth and a forked tongue. Like humans and other creatures, the smell of a dragon's breath will vary depending upon what it's been doing - eating meat, chewing firestone, etc.

Their hide is uniformly soft and hairless. A sick, or poorly-cared for dragon has a dull skin. Healthy, happy dragons have silky and resilient hides. When female dragons are near rising to mate, the colour of their hides intensifies or brightens. The colour change is quite noticeable. I'll be discussing more of the signs that indicate when a female is ready to rise during the mating flight lecture.

Dragons are 'five-toed', with four 'fingers' and a 'thumb'.

Dragons have the ability to fly as soon as their wings are dry, but are held back from flying until they are around turn old so as not to strain their wing muscles.

Dragons' memories are for the most part, rather short-term. Their riders need to constantly, but gently remind them of important facts with repetition and reassurance. They rely on humans for long-term memory and wisdom. Since the dragons have no long-term memory, they quickly forget the harsh realities of Thread.

I'm going to detail a few of the more common dragon injuries. Remember, even if you've had Healer training, do not diagnose any problems you spot in your dragons, come to one of the WLMs, and we'll call in a Dragon Healer.

While you are weyrlings, please do not develop any tinyplots that involve injuries to your dragons without approval from one of the WLMs, or the WLs. Some time ago one of the weyrling classes at another Weyr ran a plot where the meat in the meat tub went bad and both dragons and weyrlings got sick from eating it. This isn't the sort of thing we want to see here. (Why were the weyrlings eating out of the meat tub, anyway? Eeeeew. :P)

Never try to go *between* when your dragon is in extreme pain. Severe pain will rob your dragon of the ability to concentrate on the visualization of the *between* destination. It's far easier, and safer, to call for someone else to bring a Dragon Healer to the dragon.

One of the potentially dangerous injuries that a dragon can suffer is a wing tear. Should one develop, have your dragon land immediately and send for a Dragon Healer. A minor tear will heal in a few days, but a major one will ground the dragon for a few weeks while the wing heals.

Dragons, like any other living creature, are prone to cuts. Minor cuts should be cleansed. and then left open to heal. More serious wounds should be tended to by a Healer, and stitched shut. Unless the cut is near the flight straps, it is unlikely to impair flight or movement. Dragons should avoid going *between* with unhealed wounds, as should humans.

Dragons are vulnerable to broken bones and dislocated joints. These are tended in much the same way that they are with humans. In the case of a broken bone, weight should be kept off it, but the break will not impair flight or going *between*, unless in the wings.

One of the nastiest injuries is a Threadscore. Treat it as you would a bad burn. Wash the score with cold water to clean it and make sure all the Thread is dead. Apply numbweed to deaden the pain and leave open to the air if possible. If not, bandage it loosely.

Dragons have been known to overfly themselves. This is especially likely to happen when they are learning to fly, as they have not yet built up their strength, and don't know their limits. Riders should frequently examine their dragons for stretched tendons and pulled muscles. The Weyr Dragonhealer will show you what to look for. The best cure is rest. Under no circumstances should an overstressed dragon attempt to fly, or a more serious injury may result.

The last general problem you should be aware of is constipation, especially at this age. Constipation usually occurs when the dragon overeats. Watch for thickening in the tail. If you notice the tail becoming thick, look for one of the dragonhealers or WLMs to administer a purge. Of course, you will have to muck the results.

Please do feel free to talk to any of the Weyr's dragonhealers to find out more information. (Yes, that means you should find out who they are. :)

This lecture is almost entirely word-for-word from one of Sionelle's old HRW Weyrling lectures at PernMUSH. I'd like to thank her for giving HMW a legacy that can be passed down to future generations.

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