There is hardly anyone who can match Daenerys Targaryen and his fire-breathing dragons.
Dragons have the ultimate built-in defense: they can spit fire, knock their enemies into charred envelopes.
But while historical and modern literature is rich in dragon traditions (we are watching you, "Game of Thrones"), there is no reliable physical evidence of the existence of these legendary creatures. Having said that, are there any living beings that can spit fire like the mythical dragon?
The short answer is no, but there are some amazingly creative animals that can spit harmful fumes, toxins and goo from their bodies. And there are even clever raptors that spread fire to be able to smoke tasty prey. [Top 10 Beasts and Dragons: How Reality Made Myth]
The main reason why fire-breathing animals do not exist? Well, a flame could cause a nasty boo-boo.
"There are no real animals that resist flames or do not fear flames," Rachel Keeffe, PhD student studying reptiles and amphibians at the University of Florida, said in a statement. . "Some animals can withstand very high temperatures, like ocean vents.Some worms can live in these really foolish heat environments, but it's not a fire."
This could disappoint Daenerys Targaryen, the so-called dragon mother of HBO's "Game of Thrones" – as well as her fire-breathing children Drogon, Viserion and Rhaegal – but there are still many animal-like animals. dragons. Take, for example, the spitting cobra, a group that includes several species of cobra that spit blinding venom from their fangs when they are threatened. Afrotropical Scorpions in the genus Parabuthus can inject highly toxic venom into threatening intruders.
And even if it is not as flamboyant as the explosion of Drogon, the gecko strophurus can draw an unpleasant odor out of his tail to scare off predators.
"It's not toxic or anything – it's just a little disgusting," said Keeffe, who co-wrote and illustrated the forthcoming book "The Anthropology of Dragons: a global perspective ".
Other critters whose tusks come out of their rear include skunks and bomber beetles (Pheropsophus jessoensis), who feast on a cocktail of toxic chemicals when they are threatened. The farts of these beetles are so powerful that they can push the toads that have eaten their last meal. That's exactly what the beetle wants; it can be covered with mucus from the toad's stomach, but these beetles can sometimes survive the test.
However, when it comes to fighting with fire, Australian raptors take first prize. Three species of these predatory birds Down Under – black kites (Milvus migrans), whistling kite (Haliastur Sphenurus) and brown hawks (Falco berigora) – are known to hide near forest fires, then suddenly catch burning grass or branches with their talons. The birds then use fire to light new flames elsewhere, which in turn, smoke the mammals and prey of the insects they can eat.
As for fire-breathing animals, it seems that they are confined to our imagination. Just note that this elephant that breathes smoke is not a kind of hybrid dragon. Instead, he probably ate pieces of charcoal from the forest floor and then blown ash, said Varun Goswami, an elephant biologist with the Wildlife Conservation Society in India, in a statement.
Originally published on Science live.