This document will be discussing the physical features of the species dragon Eudraco magnificus occidentalis and their potential benefit to the earth empire.
A dragon is a quadrupedal reptile mammal cross, it has most of the physical characteristics of a reptile such as scales and they hatch from eggs, but has several features that could only classify it as a mammal, such as its warm blooded and the eggs are internally fertilised. These discrepancies are most likely going to reclassify the dragon into a class of its own, probably homoeothermic reptile. Dragons are carnivores, but they are not scavengers, preferring to eat fresh meat that they have killed themselves than carrion. The dragon is what you would call a super predator, similar to industrialized man, it is at the very top of the food chain and nothing is above it.
The dragons power lies in its size and strength, a fully grown dragon reaches about thirty feet in length and fifteen feet high. its skeletal structure is both very strong and very light, some have speculated that a dragons bones are hollow but this is not the case, it is in fact the structural makeup of the bone at a cellular level are arranged differently to that of most creatures, applications of this are being tested in bone healing and grafts research. Its claws can reach up to over a foot long and its horns can get to over two feet, the variety of a dragons appearance is too detailed to mention here. Dragons often sport spikes, fins, finned ears and multiple horns among others, but all dragons conform to the same shape as the others as mentioned in this section. Its wingspan reaches at least its length but often it is more, this is needed to lift the dragon from standing stop to total flight.
And that brings us neatly onto the dragons wings, a dragons wings look like an elongated arm and hand with a membrane stretched across the fingers this membrane runs across the arm and connects to the dragons body. The wing, more specifically the membrane itself, is the most vulnerable part of a dragon as it is weak in comparison to the rest of its body, a tear in this can take a long time to heal and if it is not repaired properly the dragon may never fly again. But thankfully such instances are very rare, and injuries are healed inside of two months and a dragon can be safely flying again in three. The muscles that are required for flight stretch from the wing joints on the back along the side of a dragon and connect to the ribcage and sternum [fig.3], these muscles are quite large to help keep a dragon in the air and for the enormous effort to get the dragon there from a flat start.
Overlapping scales completely cover a dragons body, these scales act as armour that protect a dragon from most attacks. The scales are made of keratin which is the same substance from which hair, nails and horn are made from, though it appears to be mixed with other proteins for strength and flexibility, this is being researched further for soldiers body armour. The scales have no feeling in them and as such a dragon does not feel pain for any blows they may receive, scales can take scars and scratches easily without weakening but any severe damage to the scale e.g. a scale being sliced in half, will cause the scale to fall out and it to be replaced by another soon after. The scales are also responsible for the wide range of colours that a dragon may take; these colours can range from the darkest black to the brightest white. The colour of a scale will change slowly to match the bulk of the environment the dragon is in, this is a slow process taking several weeks for a complete colour change, it is part of the dragons astounding adaptation ability that makes them so versatile in military applications. As a dragon is exposed to different conditions its body adapts to become more versatile in those conditions, part of this is the colour change for camouflage as mentioned before, they are best categorised as what colour they have attained as follows.
A black dragon is often found living deep underground, its forward legs powerfully built from digging. The black dragon is by no means evil, it just prefers the quiet solitude that comes from living underground, such dragons are often found in abandoned mine workings, or to the horror of the miners, active mine workings. But any deep tunnel or cave would do, these dragons can dig several miles of tunnel a day without getting tired.
A green dragon lives in a forest or jungle; there are no obvious adaptations to accompany this variation, sharper claws for hacking through undergrowth is being looked into but is not confirmed, green is one of the more common colours that a dragon undertakes alongside white and brown.
A white dragon lives high in mountains or at the polar ice caps, but sometimes a dragon may become white simply because it has snowed where they live. A white dragon often has a slower metabolism than one not adapted to live there, this is to so it can go between meals longer during the cold winter months where food isnt as available.
A brown dragon is adapted to live in a desert, a dragon adapted to live here can go for longer between when it drinks, but often drinks more. Its body does not lose moisture as easily as other adaptations. Depending on the desert a dragon will bury itself into the sand if no other home is available, but most often it will seek out a cave to live in.
A red dragon is found near lava and volcanoes, often preferring to make a home in the volcano itself. Its body can withstand very high temperatures but it can not go into the lava, for that is too hot for anything to survive. Red colouring can also occur when working with a furnace for too long.
This one was deliberately left for last as it is the most complicated and the most intriguing of all adaptations. Every dragon has a set of dormant gills just behind the head; these gills are literally sealed up with the rest of the skin and you could never tell they were there until they became active. When a dragon lives in or around the water for a long time, these gills slowly unseal themselves until a dragon is fully amphibious; a dragon uses its wings to propel itself along and sometimes develops webbed feet and hands as well. If a dragon is trapped underwater and it is not adapted for it, its gills will tear open just before it drowns saving the dragons life, despite the process being very painful when done like this.
These are the block colours so to speak, a dragon can take on any variation or mixture of these and the adaptations to go with it, for example a dragon that lives in a swamp will become a black/green colour.
On another note, it comes to light that there are a couple of dragons who can change the colour of their scales quickly, and they can do this with such precision that they can blend in with their surroundings almost immediately. They are not rendered totally invisible; the effect is more reminiscent of the chameleon.
The most common weapon of this type is the ability to breathe fire; this is often labelled as magical fantasy but its basis is in scientific fact. When a dragon eats, the digestion process creates a by-product of hydrogen, this is stored safely in a dragons body in two glands at the back of the mouth, these glands can store several litres of the stuff which is enough for ten minutes of solid flame. The hydrogen is mixed with a little phosphorus which is obtained though the bones the dragon eats, when the dragon wishes to breathe fire the glands release this mixture which is expelled from the mouth, the phosphorous ignites the hydrogen on contact with the air, creating the desired effect.
Other breath weapons include the ability to expel acid in a similar fashion; this is much less common than fire breathing, a dragon can not breathe fire if it can breathe acid. The explanation for this one is easier than for fire, the acid is produced in a similar way to the acid in the dragons stomach and is stored in the two glands, and released when desired.
The rarest of them all is poison; there are no dragons currently alive with this ability. The dragon has a venomous bite and can spit poison in a similar fashion as described above. The poison is lethal to humans in any amount and there is no known antivenin.
All of the abilities above have a range of about fifty feet.
Dragons senses are more accurate than humans, its eyes can focus perfectly on something a mile below them, or something as close up as an inch. Its sense of smell is sensitive enough to smell prey on the breeze from over a mile away. Its other senses are also as sensitive; its sense of touch has to be sensitive enough to feel things touching the scales as they have no feeling of their own.
This report was compiled by Anthony Taylor, head engineer of the earth empire
(NOTE. If you make me do another one of these ruddy reports I will wring your neck out myself. I dont care that you are my superior all you need to know is that I am a half dragon that you are on the verge of severely ticking off, and just because I am does not mean I am qualified nor do i care for these sorts of demeaning tasks. Anthor)