scorecardWhy the 'Game of Thrones' dragons wouldn't fly in real life
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Why the 'Game of Thrones' dragons wouldn't fly in real life

Why the 'Game of Thrones' dragons wouldn't fly in real life
LifeScience3 min read
  • If the dragons in 'Game of Thrones' - like Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion - wanted to fly in real life, they'd need much more muscle to push their tremendous weight off the ground.
  • However, extra muscle means extra weight, which creates a dilemma considering the mechanics of flight.
  • These fantasy dragons of Westeros would need a build similar to the prehistoric flying reptiles, called giant pterosaurs.
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Following is a transcript of the video.

Let's face it. When it comes to "Game of Thrones," we're all here for the dragons - Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion. After all, flying on dragonback is every fantasy nerd's dream! Now, we know dragons are just that - fantasy. But if these colossal creatures did exist in our world, could they really get off the ground?

If you looked toward the sky around 70 million years ago, you might have thought you saw a dragon. Back then, enormous flying reptiles called giant pterosaurs ruled the skies. Their wingspan was nearly as long as a telephone pole. And at least one species, Quetzalcoatlus northropi, stood as tall as a giraffe - and weighed 300 kilograms! That's 15 times the size of the heaviest flying bird today, the kori bustard.

Giant pterosaurs may be the closest real animals to the dragons of Westeros. So if they could fly, surely Dany's dragons could too, right? Well… not exactly. Let's consider the mechanics of flight. The hardest part of flying is taking off. And for most animals, that requires speed. Because the faster you go, the more lift you generate, which literally pulls you into the sky.

Most animals - including Quetzalcoatlus - gain speed to take off by jumping into the air. And the heavier you are, the more power you'll need in your jump. Now, Quetzalcoatlus got that power using its back legs and wings. They doubled as front legs, so it could push off the ground on all fours. And Dany's dragons actually use this same approach. So you'd think they'd have no problem taking off.

But there's one KEY difference: Dragons are thousands of times heavier than even the heftiest pterosaurs. So even with a four-legged launch, Drogon's thighs would have to be way more jacked than they appear here ... to push his weight off the ground.

Maybe flapping his wings really hard could help? Mmmmmm probably not. Drogon's wings are actually small relative to the rest of his own body. In fact, his wings would need to be about twice their current size to work. And if they were, they would be much too heavy to move, let alone flap. Unless he had iron biceps to match those thighs.

But that would lead to yet another problem. The powerful muscles needed for takeoff would put an equally powerful force on the bones that support them. So unless they were thicker, they'd likely break. But here's the thing: Thick bones also weigh a lot more.

So these dragons would either have bones that are too heavy for takeoff or bones that are too fragile to fly. Either way, they're not going anywhere. That being said, all is not lost for our fire-breathing friends. We've assumed they're made of the same stuff as other animals.

But what if their muscles and bones were made of something else? Some special, extra-strong material. Perhaps, a metal that already exists in Westeros: Valyrian steel. It makes perfect sense! After all, who comes from Valyria? That's right. Dragons. And their Targaryen riders. So all in all, could dragons fly in real life? Maybe not on Earth. But in Westeros, with the help of some magic metal? The sky's the limit.