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Pern Dragon Skeleton by bronze-dragonrider Pern Dragon Skeleton by bronze-dragonrider
Holy crap, I haven't uploaded anything for aaaaaaaaaages!

I've been reworking my depiction of dragon anatomy, working out the finer details. Externally, it'll look almost the same, but I'm tweaking the deeper levels of anatomy after I've finally figured out how the musculature between forelegs and wings could plausibly work, and not just skipping it over, suspending disbelief and hoping nobody notices :giggle:

So, I started with the deepest you can go, the skeleton. I'm crappy with vertebrae, so please excuse any flaws in that area, I have no patience for detailing like that :p

The ribcage is a single, flexible plate, as mentioned in the DLG (I just modified it, since the drawing there looked like crap), and the tail is similar to a snake skeleton in that it has "ribs" to protect the intestine that runs along to the tip of the tail. I know that the elbow/knee joints are supposed to be ball and socket, but every time I tried that, it looked stupid. So there's one inaccuracy at least :roll:

References from ornithschia hips, lion forelegs, bird/bat wings, theropod neck and tail, and various other tidbits.

I will be following (eventually) with a muscular chart, and a better dragon size chart, possibly including other items like sleds. I won't include whers though, as there are very little clues in the books to give specific sizes.



Please do not use without permission.
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:iconalienator65:
alienator65 Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I don't think it would be best for a intestine in their tail, it would ruin their balance and hurt if they whipped their tails.
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:iconbronze-dragonrider:
bronze-dragonrider Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2015   General Artist
I'm not saying it's a good idea, but that's how it is in the books!
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:iconfluffyspiderz:
FluffySpiderz Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2012  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Great structure, well imagined, I like it a lot. I can't draw vertebrae for crap either but yours look pretty darn good. My one suggestion is about the skull; now I don't know the standards of a pernese dragon, but if a complex story is to be written about them, they can't possibly just be dumb animals. Anyways, I just imagined the cranium to to be rather larger in order to house a bigger brain. everything else is great!
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:iconpeteridish:
PeteriDish Featured By Owner Apr 18, 2011  Hobbyist Photographer
i must say i've never seen such a ribcage, but it makes sense, birds also have rigid bodies to provide reliable support for flight muscles, but putting things to such extent... i think the dragon wouldn't be able to breath in ;-) but it is a unique skeleton and nice to look at. the skull is very mammalian, but the neck and tail look very reptilian. nice connection =)
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:iconun-knownhowler:
Un-knownHowler Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2010  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Whats with that freaky rib cage? O.o
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:iconbronze-dragonrider:
bronze-dragonrider Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2010   General Artist
Pernese dragons are supposed to have a ribcage made of a 'plate' rather than individual ribs. I don't particularly like the idea, but this was my attempt to visualize it.
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:iconobloquycondemed:
ObloquyCondemed Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2010
So glad I found this again with ease, though like you I can't quite get my head around how the ball joints would work at the elbow/knee, not without the joints themselves being terribly bulbous and probably not to an evolutionary advantage...
But that was not the reason I came back here.
The reason I hunted down (okay, typed Dragon Anatomy Pern into the search bar and happily clicked on the first image,) this and yourself was to ask permission to draw an image illustraiting both a dragon of my own anatomical construction and of yours, I know this is based strongly on Pernese Dragons, but, alas, I have yet to read the books, and so can't help but be impressed by your work simply as an example of careful thought and design without being biased by the books, and I am rather glad of that, but because of my lack of knowledge on Pernese Dragons I thought best to ask your permission.
I would of course, both link back to you and show you the finished image, or at least the sketch.
For quite some time I've been wanting to do a complete and detailed picture showing our two designs, but knowing me I'd finish the sketch, put it down and forget about it, but I certainly don't feel right not doing anything.
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:iconbronze-dragonrider:
bronze-dragonrider Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2010   General Artist
Oh wow, that would be cool!!! Absolutely, go for it, I'd be honored :)

If you're not going for something specifically Pernese, you can just leave out the distinctive features, mainly the headknobs and faceted eyes, superficially, and the fused ribs and ribbed tail on the skeleton. The rest of it is pretty non-specific.

I can't wait to see what you do with it! :D
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:iconobloquycondemed:
ObloquyCondemed Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010
Cool thank you =D
I have no idea how long this will take me XD but I've been wanting to do it for so long I'm sure it'll get done sooner or later, even if I do piece it together one minute at a time XD
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:iconrainydayfun:
RainyDayFun Featured By Owner Jul 3, 2010  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Nice job on the anatomy and drawing it. Not sure about the ribs, but I think the tail needs to be a lot longer. That'd be hard to fit on the page and still get a decent image size, though, so I guess it's better as it is for illustration purposes. I'm really impressed with this, though!
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:iconobloquycondemed:
ObloquyCondemed Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2010
I like the usage of the ribs going do the tail (as I've not read the Pern books, may I enquire as to the intestine running down that far?), though in the sketch they appear very box-like.
The rib cage you say is quite pliable, a flexible cage rather than ribs which can slide towards and away from each other. I can see some problems with this, for starters with the weight and/or stresses and strains exerted on the cage it is likely to warp or collapse, and a ridged version of the same would completely restrict movement.
In a short compact body like a bird, the ribcage can almost complete rigid, but in something like this I would retain the separate hard ribs, and build up a lattice structure out of gristle between them, this would bring in rigidity without sacrificing all of the movement and would help stop the rib cage collapsing in (or out) on its self.
Otherwise I like the nice forward keel, bringing the weight forwards to the front and shifting of the foreleg onto a separate area of the torso for room and manoeuvrability.
It would be interesting to see how yours and mine dragons would co-exist in a world, and what environments they would take so, I suspect that my dragon would actually prefer less mountains that Iím prone to using for my creatures.
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:iconbronze-dragonrider:
bronze-dragonrider Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2010   General Artist
I agree with your criticisms of the ribcage. I was trying to design something which was what the Anne McCaffrey's Pern books describe, a flexible ribcage in a single cage. There are probably better ways it can be done, but I still dislike the idea. It does have a nice "alien" feel to it though, even if it lacks practicality.

The ribs going down the tail is my invention, it isn't specified in the books whether they have this. The intestine is supposed to run down to the very tip of the tail, and I couldn't picture how this could be possible with the traditional row of vertical bones descending from the tail vertebrae, which are purely for muscle attachment, with no room for organs. A snake like tail with ribs is the only thing I am aware of which would allow this, but I tried to beef up the vertebrae so it might be strong and rigid enough to hold above the ground rather than dragging.

The part I'm uncomfortable with is how ungainly the forelimbs look ahead of the main flight pectorals. It does free up the musculature for mobility... but it looks a little *too* detached. I prefer the look of your more compact structure. You might want to take a look at Hummingbird's innovation - [link]

Similar to mine, but it looks much more refined, compact, and it *seems* like the forelimb scapula/sternum doubles as a clavicle for the wing, though I'll have to ask her about that particular.


I think that yours is still perfectly functional theoretically, but as you said, just for different purposes.


Thank you for such a well thought out comment - they are rare and very much appreciated :D
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:iconobloquycondemed:
ObloquyCondemed Featured By Owner Sep 22, 2010
How did I not reply to this message!
I'm so sorry, and so glad I scrolled down the page!

I first encountered a rigid ribcage in a sci-fi book by... Oh dear I've forgotten his name, but he was a mathematician and made many vulgar mistakes with his alien species, reading the book made me more aware of this, particularly when later discussing my concerns with my dad, who is far more knowledgeable than I: I remember one of his species was a large predator with a rigid ribcage that lacked curiosity but had developed intelligence, but I couldn't understand how anything could evolve successfully with a solid ribcage and still retain flexibility and speed, and an intelligent predator without curiosity is certainly an impossibility, but, I digress, the manner in which you've attempted to encompass both a degree of rigidity and flexibility is impressive, in fact your manovering around all the odd aspects of McCaffrey's dragons is impressive, I am guessing she has the digestive tract running down the tail for added alien traits, and I suppose it could occur, but it is hazardous, whereas a digestive system centralised in the abdomen only is relatively protected and safe, I can imagine the intestine in the tail leading to many complications: twisting, crushing, peritonitis if it was ripped... So your added ribs create some sense around it.

I absolutely adore how you've put the forelegs forwards, aesthetically it is beautiful, until the engineer in me kicks in, all flying creatures and machines have their CoG/CG (Centre of Gravity) towards the front, say in birds and bats the chest, in planes it is in the equivalent of the chest: between the wings... CoG has something to do with inertia I believe, the exact reason escapes me, but the machine/animal in question turns/pitches/yaws/moves around this point, and it dictates stability, I really should know this, oh well. The CoG on this design isn't so far back as to unbalance the creature, particularly as it's forearms and neck seem so lightly built, but I am still getting a distinct feeling of instability: not necessarily a bad thing, the more stable a flying form the less manoverable it is e.g. the Typhoon Eurofighter, which is fundamentally unstable but very very manoverable.

I shall have to check out Hummingbird's work, I know I've seen it before, but I'm sure I'll get a kick out of looking over it again, her work is so beautiful, thank you for reminding me about it.

Ah yes, the bipedal form of Rasasa has allowed Hummingbird to keep in a large proportion of birdlike anatomy, allowing for a rigid chest and forward placed CoG.
Huh, revisiting your work, seeing her work and looking back at mine, I see I have quite a bit of work to revamp, and I think I shall take a leaf out of your book and dissect a chicken, I know where our old kit is, so it shouldn't be too hard to attempt something like that, any suggestions?
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:iconbronze-dragonrider:
bronze-dragonrider Featured By Owner Sep 25, 2010   General Artist
Can I just say that I love your replies? It's so, so, so seldom that someone takes the time to write out a well thought-out response, so I just want to say thanks :D

I agree about the intestines running down the tail creating a distinct vulnerability. And imagine the added weight when they're full :/ The only rationalization for it in the books was a mention that it was an improvement upon the "playground between the sewers" design of Terran vertebrates.

I did think of an improvement on the tail design though. Instead of having the ribs on there, I thought I could keep a similar design to dinosaur tail vertebrae with the bone coming down from the bottom, but instead of just one, have an upsidedown V formation of them, for the organs to run along between them without compromising muscle attachments. Much more economical, sturdy, and probably much lighter.


I've always been troubled about the balance issue too... I haven't really tried to work around it though, since a creature of that size and build is never going to by physically able to fly in the real world, so I might as well save myself the trouble :p

I don't really have much in the way of tips for dissecting a chicken... all I did was very, very carefully peel back the skin (it's especially tricky for the wings) and peel back each muscle layer, trying not to damage anything beneath. And then consume what I peel off, yum! :p I also took lots of pictures at each stage for later reference. Which creeped my wife out immensely :XD:
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:iconbloodrave13:
BloodRave13 Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2008  Student
Ooh, wonderful! I do hope you won't mine me using this as a reference for a pern dragon picture I'm working on. Only a reference, of course. This work of art is to amazing to add too... -drools over it- So pretty...
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:iconbronze-dragonrider:
bronze-dragonrider Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2008   General Artist
I'm perfectly fine with people using it as reference, thanks for asking :) I just don't approve of direct copying.
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:iconrasa88:
Rasa88 Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2008  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Bronzie you genius D: Do you mind if I use your chest shape for my re-vamp of a species of dragons of mine?
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:iconbronze-dragonrider:
bronze-dragonrider Featured By Owner Apr 20, 2010   General Artist
Good god, I can't believe I didn't reply to your comment :faint:

I've been an admirer of your work for quite some time, so a request like that from you is a huge compliment, thank you (even though a couple of years late!)

Sorry again that I missed it somehow :blushes:
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:iconwolfpriestess:
WolfPriestess Featured By Owner May 25, 2008  Hobbyist Writer
Okay, I just found my DLG and looked through it. No where in it does it say the knees and elbows were ball and socket. To quote page 31 exactly --

"The back legs would be massive with muscle, relying on the natural ball-and-socket joints to keep the knees from dislocating on takeoff and landing."

Now, the picture on the next page is rather unusual and blurry to begin with, so I don't follow that picture at all. What I gather from the text I just quoted was that the hips are ball-and-socket, but not the knees.
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:iconbronze-dragonrider:
bronze-dragonrider Featured By Owner May 25, 2008   General Artist
Since it says that they rely on the ball-and-socket joints to keep the knees from dislocating, wouldn't that imply that the knees are a ball-and-socket joint?

On the next page the knees are clearly ball-and-socket, but I have no idea if elbows were supposed to be as well.

But anyway, even if they are supposed to have them, it makes no sense to begin with, lol.
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:iconwolfpriestess:
WolfPriestess Featured By Owner May 25, 2008  Hobbyist Writer
To be honest, none of it makes sense...they're always flipping back and forth...@_@
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:iconwolfpriestess:
WolfPriestess Featured By Owner May 25, 2008  Hobbyist Writer
Lovely work, Bronzie. And yeah, the hip joints were ball-and-socket...supposedly to give better support for take-off and landing. Though I'm not entirely sure how much that helps with that...O.o
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:iconbronze-dragonrider:
bronze-dragonrider Featured By Owner May 25, 2008   General Artist
Well, all hip/shoulder joints are ball and socket. But the DLG specifically mentions and depicts ball and socket joints for knees as well, but I couldn't figure out how the muscle attachments would work like that... But I never trust the DLG, and it never mentions this point in the books, so I'm not counting it as canon.
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:iconwolfpriestess:
WolfPriestess Featured By Owner May 25, 2008  Hobbyist Writer
Hmm...I don't remember the DLG mentioning that...I'll have to re-find my copy and look through it again to make sure. I just don't see a ball and socket joint for knees as well...what the hell is the purpose of that?
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:iconshiari:
shiari Featured By Owner May 24, 2008
I don't remember reading anywhere than the knee and elbow were ball-and-socket like human shoulders and hips. O_o It doesn't make much anatomical sense anyways. Ball and socket is useful for things that "stick out", like the limbs from the trunk. But ball and socket farther down a weight-bearing limb would only lead to breakage of the joint when put under pretty much any stress.
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:iconbronze-dragonrider:
bronze-dragonrider Featured By Owner May 24, 2008   General Artist
I'm not sure if it's canon, but it says that they do in the DLG. But that book is so full of holes anyway that I felt justified in ignoring that detail ;)
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:iconshiari:
shiari Featured By Owner May 25, 2008
Do please continue to ignore any obvious biological *stupidity* as your pernese dragons are the best looking ones around. :D
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:iconskizzle01:
skizzle01 Featured By Owner May 24, 2008
wow awesome depiction, i agree that the ball and sockets would look rather out of place.great job! i look forward to more !
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:iconwewoka:
WeWoKa Featured By Owner May 23, 2008  Hobbyist Photographer
This looks amazing, love!! You did awesome! I wasn't sure how you were describing the tail, but since I've seen the drawing I get it more. ;)
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:iconfelinewyvern:
felinewyvern Featured By Owner May 23, 2008
That looks very anatomically feasible - certainly looks like the inside of a Pern Dragon to me :D
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:iconswirlything:
Swirlything Featured By Owner May 23, 2008
I'm no expert on animal anatomy, but as far as I'm concerned this looks much more convincing than the drawing in the Guide to Pern :D Nice!
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:iconacvioleteye:
ACVioleteye Featured By Owner May 23, 2008   Writer
Ooh, this looks very nice and realistic. Sorry for the lack of advanced critique, but I can't see anything to critique.
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:iconbronze-dragonrider:
bronze-dragonrider Featured By Owner May 23, 2008   General Artist
Thanks! :)
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