Posted: Apr 01, 2015 12:55 pm
by wunksta
Australian and UK research has indicated that increasing temperatures will result in an explosion of fire-breathing dragons around the world. The authors say that dragon numbers declined during cool periods in history, such as the so-called Little Ice Age, but are likely to make a comeback as the planet warms. Additionally, the researchers say throughout history, fire-breathing dragons have been known to favour knights as a food source. They recommend that countries, like Australia, avoid honorific titles to escape the attention of hungry dragons.

The existence of dragons and their probable re-emergence in the near future are detailed in a News & Views article published online in Nature on the 1st April 2015. The article identifies a number of factors that are likely to trigger the resurgence of these creatures, including the global economic downturn, policy changes and inaction on climate change.

Andrew J Hamilton, Robert M May and Edward K Waters describe documents uncovered in the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library, attributed to the monk Godfrey of Exmouth, which offer evidence of the impact of dragons over past millennia. They also detail further work that reveals that dragons were particularly prolific in the medieval times, due to a high abundance of food (knights), unusually warm temperatures and a high availability of nesting material (silver and gold). However, according to the authors, a decline in temperature and food availability triggered a long-lasting hibernation period in the various dragon species, beginning around the start of the fifteenth century.

The authors describe a number of key events over the past few decades that are likely to lead to the resurgence of dragons. The rise in 'quantitative thieving', the process by which failing economic policies are bolstered by the removal of the dragons' valuable nesting materials, alongside sluggish action on global warming and the restoration of knighthoods in Australia are all identified as factors that would encourage dragons to renounce hibernation. They conclude by warning that climatic conditions are rapidly reaching an optimum for breeding dragons and recommend further research into fire-retardant material and the avoidance of honorific titles.

Dr Paul Willis is a palaeontologist and Director of the Royal Institution of Australia

"The fossil record abounds with evidence of dragons in the past and they usually appear in warm periods and/or periods of increased CO2 so it comes as no surprise that, as the planet warms, dragons will reappear."

Dr Andrew Hamilton is Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences At The University of Melbourne and an Adjunct Professor at Federation University Australia

"The phrase "human-induced climate change" continues to illicit scepticism whenever mentioned, so we will not at all be surprised that our finding that this climate phenomenon will see a burgeoning of fire-breathing dragons is treated with extreme suspicion, if not contempt, scorn, and ridicule. We don't care though: this is far too important to let ad hominem arguments distract us.

Many believe that dragons have been extinct for at least 300 years, and some even believe they never existed—despite considerable evidence to the contrary. Indeed, one of us, Robert May, stated in an article in Nature in 1976 that the typical mediaeval dragon was almost certainly extinct by the late 18th century. As John Maynard Keynes taught us though, one must be prepared to change position: 'When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?' And a fortuitous discovery by Lord May himself at his place of work, Oxford University, certainly changed the facts—and his mind. The discovered mediaeval documents provide definitive proof that dragons not only live for thousands of years but are capable of a form of dormancy, effectively a very, very long sleep.

After detailed investigation of historical climate records and millions of published books, we have found that dragons have already started emerging from The Great Sleep that was induced by the Little Ice Age. They are already starting to wreak havoc, but such events have mistakenly been reported as fiction, owing to issues of human cognition. As temperatures increase, their activity will be devastating—there is no question about this. Something needs to be done urgently. The restoration of Australian knighthoods will not help; in fact it will worsen the problem. Mediaeval knights were candy to dragons, and there is no evidence whatsoever that even St George did anything more than scratch a scale or two."

Dr Robert Johnson is a reptile veterinarian and is President of the Unusual Pet and Avian Special Interest Group of the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and the Australian and NZ representative to the International Committee of ARAV (Association of Reptilian and Amphibian Veterinarians).

"If Hamilton et al's predictions are correct, and there is little evidence to refute the facts, humans must be prepared to adapt and live with dragons. Some people may even attempt to domesticate them or go one step further and keep them as pets. As a result unique pressures may be placed upon the veterinary profession. Veterinarians serve the needs of the animal owning public and as the demographics of animal ownership change the profession must adapt accordingly (1). This has occurred recently as the profession responds positively to the rapidly growing hobby of reptile keeping. The bearded dragon, a distant relation of the fire breathing variety is fast becoming a very popular household pet.

No doubt injured or sick dragons, both wild and domestic, may require treatment or euthanasia. Standard emergency treatments may be found wanting; for instance the administration of oxygen to a fire breathing beast would be a perilous procedure. Alternative methods of critical care will need to be developed. In addition, if euthanasia is indicated the classic method of killing a dragon by driving a stake into its heart is not acceptable on contemporary animal welfare grounds, even if you are a Knight of the Realm. Blunt trauma should always be preceded by deep sedation or anaesthesia. I look forward to tending to my first dragon of the fire breathing variety. ... ng-dragons