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Dragons are such a great group of living beings that experts are in doubt whether they should be considered as an order or a subclass. In fact, the name Dragon encompasses a number of animals that share some common characteristics.
To allow sufficient time for great diversity and complexity of dragons to emerge, the first ancestors of dragons must had come since the Carboniferous period, about 300 million years ago, at the emergence of the first reptiles, soon differentiated into a lineage that would give rise to mammals and another that would create dinosaurs and birds later. The ancestors of dragons are evolutionarily closer to the second group, and were probably related to Varinidae, or monitor lizards, of which the most famous is perhaps the Komodo dragon. Monitor lizards have a wide variation in size from 30 cm to over 8 meters (at the now defunct Megalania), and are the most differentiated group of lizards, some characteristics that make them good candidates for draconic ancestors are:
- Breathing system by airsacs, present in all flying vertebrates, and that could not miss on dragons; - Metabolism too fast for the standard of reptiles; - Excellent hunters; - They can move quickly and efficiently; - They possessed last marine species; - They have a very refined sense of smell and vision; - They are venomous, the system that stores toxins will be used later to store chemical components connected to fire breathing; - They are culturally related to legends of dragons
The species of Varanidae family who evolved to dragons replaced the toxins by substances that explode when brought in contact, as the bombarier beetle, releasing a boiling mixture at 100 ºC.
(Just ignore the last seconds that say it couldn't had evolved)
The dragon glands would be similar to the ones of the spitting cobras and to prevent damage to their own bodies, ancestral dragons developed a heat resistant skin. As many cobras (that are believed to had evolved from Varanidae ancestors)
possess a cocktail of toxins that acts in diferent ways, we can imagine that our dragon ancestor could had all sort of different substances to predigestion, such as acids and stinging substances that had become stronger within the evolutionary course. To support their own toxins, their skins became more and more heat and acid resistant.
At the part two, we will start to discuss the slow evolution of aquatic dragons and elemental salamanders.