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Fire Breathing Dinosaurs?

  1. Nov 18, 2009 #1
    Before I start, I want to make sure you all realize that I'm completely serious; this isn't a joke.

    So my mom is religious, and I'm not. Since I'm into science, she likes to try to provide all kinds of "scientific facts" to back up intelligent design, most of which is simply made up or draws fallacious conclusions. A little background information: she claims that dinosaurs existed at the same time as humans. She uses this as a possible explanation of the existence of medieval "dragons," saying that maybe a small group of dinosaurs survived whatever catastrophe wiped them out, and roamed Europe until the sixteenth century. Just want to stress again, this is completely serious.

    Here's where things get interesting. She has also claimed that there exists scientific evidence that one certain species of dinosaur (she couldn't tell me which one it was) had some type of organ that allowed it to expel combustible gas from its mouth, which (somehow) caught fire, which may explain the fire breathing qualities of medieval dragons.

    I'm almost afraid to ask, but I feel like I have to. Being a discovery channel addict for the last twelve years of my life, I can't really say anything is impossible in the animal kingdom, but this whole idea of fire breathing dinosaurs is just ridiculous. I guess what I'm trying to say is, this is ********....right? Does anyone have any information on where this idea may have come from? I can't even imagine a credible scientific report on anything that could possibly be twisted into a conclusion like "some dinosaurs could breathe fire." Any help is appreciated.
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  3. Nov 18, 2009 #2


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    No animals we know of could have expelled fire.

    Some have come close. The Bombardier Beetle actually has two chemicals hydroquinone and hydrogen-peroxide which it stores in separate sacks and is later combined (with a catalyst) to form a chemical that burns its enemies.


    It is also used by creationists a lot as an example of something that couldn't have possibly evolved because the beetle would explode if the chemicals were not separated from the beginning. It's not true however.
  4. Nov 18, 2009 #3


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    Well, there are animals that can shoot streams of "burning" acid...

    [EDIT: Beaten to it by another Dave...]
  5. Nov 18, 2009 #4


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    Also, if you look at the conceptual evolution of dragons it is pretty clear the original idea was a giant snake. Not dinosaurs.
  6. Nov 18, 2009 #5


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    it's pretty clear the original idea was ergot poisoning !
  7. Nov 18, 2009 #6
    There was some discovery channel or science channel program a few years ago about the scientific plausability of dragons. From what I remember of it, the storyline resembles what your mom told you. Blah blah blah...dragons eat some calcified rock or something, producing hydrogen gas that is stored in some save. It is expelled through the mouth where there is some ignition mechanism at the back of the throat. They had lots of nice drawings and diagrams, chemical formulae, etc.

    Discovery channel strikes again!
  8. Nov 18, 2009 #7


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    The fire-breathing aspect of dragons is fairly new, say from after the 12th century.

    Viking dragons, for example, were slithering wingless serpents who breathed foul odours (adderwurms).

    The following thread goes deeper into dragon lore:
  9. Nov 18, 2009 #8
    The Parasaurolophus is the dinosaur often cited by Creation Scientists as perhaps having the ability to spout fire or other noxious chemicals. I know because I have been to several conferences.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parasaurolophus" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  10. Nov 18, 2009 #9
    Very interesting. I was aware of the spitting of noxious chemicals (like I said, I'm a discovery channel nerd :p), but I hadn't considered the hydrogen from calcified rock idea. I'll have to look for that program on the plausibility of dragons, but for now I'm not convinced.
  11. Nov 18, 2009 #10
    Ehh, even on the program they weren't presenting it as a valid theory. It was just speculation. A program for sh*&^s and grins.
  12. Nov 18, 2009 #11
    I think it comes down to one of those "Its not impossible, but it is highly improbably" arguments.
  13. Nov 18, 2009 #12
    That's what I was thinking, Pattonias. I don't doubt that an animal *could* spit fire, but I have a hard time believing that there was one that actually did.
  14. Nov 18, 2009 #13
    Even if an animal could spit fire, I don't see how it would do very much damage.

    If you take a hairspray can and spray it at someone's arm with a lighter in front, the worst it's gonna do is burn the hair off. You'd have to keep your arm there for a while for it to do any serious damage.
  15. Nov 18, 2009 #14


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    I think you underestimate the potential for damage. As well as underestimating the deterrent factor for even a little damage.

    1] A good, throaty growl and raising of hackles often makes the difference between winning and losing a confrontation. Then there's always teeth and claws. Compared to that, being able to breath fire would be nature's version of nukes!

    2] You've picked an example of how one might do the least amount of damage. For example what if, instead if hairspray, it was napalm? And what if, instead of pointed at your arm, it was pointed at your face?
  16. Nov 18, 2009 #15
    Animals also seem to be naturally scared of fire, even without getting hurt by it.
    I thought about that. If it was just a gas, like explained above, I don't see how it could do much damage. But if it did something like spit out lipids and used an electrical signal to ignite it, I see how that could do some damage.
  17. Nov 18, 2009 #16


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    It's all in the mixing.

    Once, when young and foolish - and drunk - I partially-filled an empty cola can with butane from a Bic lighter - maybe 30 seconds of butane. Then I applied the flame to the mouth. Nothing happened right away. Then the butane got mixed with the air in just the right proportion and the cola can turned into a torch. Out came a flaming blue jet with a PFFFT! that gave my thumb a pretty good first degree burn in about one second.

    Very different from a on-the-fly mixing as happens with the aerosol can, and very within reach of evolution.
  18. Nov 19, 2009 #17
    I actually think that a naturally occurring fire from a dinosaur would be much more severe than "hair-spray" simply because it could continue to burn on contact with whatever it was sprayed upon. The right mixture of fats could very well make a napalm like substance. I don't think that it would burn extremely hot or violently, but if your food just spit a sticky burning substance onto your face, you may lose your appetite. I really doubt that this thing would produce a Hollywood quality stream of fire.
  19. Nov 19, 2009 #18


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    Godzilla fire was melting tanks, I saw it by myself.
  20. Nov 19, 2009 #19
    That is true, and we really need to make sure to include all current available evidence. :biggrin:
  21. Nov 20, 2009 #20
    Here's something to ponder: suspend your understanding of evolution for a moment and allow the possibility humans and dinosaurs could exist at the same time.

    Envision it's a cool humid morning - the kind where you can clearly see your breath - and you're walking through the bush. You turn the corner and same gigantic animal turns his head and let's you now s/he's not happy with you being there by letting out a tremendous roar.

    It's breath creates a gigantic plum of steam headed in your general direction. This scares the s--- out of you, and you high-tail it out of there. In your terror you couldn't really tell if it was steam or smoke or whatever. But the story is told and retold, grows, and takes on a life of it's own.

    I think this is how the legend(s) of fire-breathing dragons began. Could it have been a dinosaur? Would their breath have been warm enough to condense? No idea, but something to ponder.

    Fire not required.

  22. Nov 20, 2009 #21


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    I think you underestimate ancient Man. They live and die by the world around them; they know nature very well - they have to. The survival of the tribe depends on passing down every nuance of animal behaviour. I don't think they make that kind of naive mistake you suggest.

    I think you're mixing in the common idea that primitives see things they don't understand -such as firesticks or silver birds - and make up wild stories about it.

    Sure, stuff they've never encountered before. But nature? They're experts.
  23. Nov 21, 2009 #22
    Oh, I don't know. You might be projecting scientific thought a bit too far. Since we can't observe the ancients for ourselves we'll have to draw analogies from cultures we can observe.

    Every society has "illogical" beliefs and customs, including our own. There's no reason to think primitive man would be any different. Some surely were experts, but all??? And, as Joseph Campbell would attest, there is power in myth. So legends could have been created for reasons other than ignorance. A myth is just truth exaggerated.

    Logic and reason may be the highest form of human expression, but too often it's just a mouse squeeking in the shadow of the monster that is human emotion. Especially fear.

  24. Nov 21, 2009 #23


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    If the dinosaurs lived long anough to meet humans, they would be eaten to the last.

    And to see your breath you need to have body temperature much higher than the surroundings, I am not sure if it is already 100% settled that dinosaurs were warm blood animals.
  25. Nov 21, 2009 #24
    Yeah. It wonderful to eat meat. Just imagining a Vermont Maple Ichthyosaur dish makes me droll. Or a Carbonara like pasta, made with cured Raptor ham.
  26. Nov 21, 2009 #25
    i rly think that dragons have exsisted you know why all the sotrys about them there exist storys in europ in asia in midel east and usa about them so all this thing about them cant be just myths but it mus be something real on it
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