Hi, my name is James and welcome to Code/Switch, today I want to talk about dragons. I don’t just mean waxing philosophic about how dope they are, or how my family laughs whenever I non-ironically talk about dragons. Instead of my embarrassment we’re going to focus on something I’ve been thinking about, how much does a dragon need to eat?
How Can You Even Estimate That?
You can estimate everything given enough data. I can estimate it because of some data I’ve been able to snag and the hard work of people much smarter than me who wrote their ideas down and (hopefully) got paid for them. To figure out our solution we’re going to collect the scattered information about dragons Paizo has provided, jam that mess through a Kleiber’s Law equation, adjust based on some real world variables, and we’ll come out with the caloric needs of a dragon!
Good Luck Measuring a Dragon, Nerd.
I know, right! To make this feasible I have to make some assumptions and do some rounding. We’re going to use the average dragon size and not correct for variations in dragon flight. The average size of an adult dragon is 3.75 steps above tiny, rounded to “huge”. According to Pathfinder’s size rules, a huge, long creature weighs anywhere from 2-16 tons, and is between 16 and 32 feet long, and since I can’t measure any actual dragons we’re going to use the median of this range, 7 tons as the dragons weight. Comparing this to dinosaurs (we’re going to do this a lot), the average dragon is slightly heavier than a similar sized dinosaur, we’re going to chalk that up to dragons being so tough and filled with magic. Since length doesn’t really matter for this equation, we’re going to use this 7 ton number and run it through our equation.
Oh Great, Now He’s Doing Math About It.
You’re gosh darn right! We’re going to use that aforementioned Kleibers Law equation to gauge the caloric need of our hungry dragon. If you didn’t check the link or didn’t quite understand it, the amount of calories needed by our creature per day would be (K0.10 x Weight in Kilograms), or 5.6 x 6350kg which would equal 35,560 calories per day. I used this site to help me understand the formula, K0.10 is not a value on itself, just the marker for the value for cold-blooded creatures like crocodiles, turtles, and dinosau… Oh… Balls.
So What Does That “Oh..” Mean?
It just means back in the 1930s when Kleiber made this equation he didn’t anticipate mesothermic creatures. Mesotherms are creatures that can keep an elevated body temperature, but not at the same rate as warm-blooded creatures. Creatures like great white sharks, tuna, and leatherback sea turtles use this adaptation to stay alert and able to hunt in cooler climates. They still do experience some sluggishness as a result of the ambient temperature drop, but not nearly as much as the things they hunt would be.
I’m going to make a huge assumption and say dragons are more like dinosaurs than current reptiles. Dragons live in a wide variety of environments, including frozen tundra where almost no reptiles dare even venture. The mesothermic nature of dinosaurs means that dragons probably have a higher caloric requirement than our formula can offer, while still lower than warm blooded creatures. We should use this estimate as a low-end, as dragons are able to go into periods of magical hibernation which should minimize energy requirements and save us from this embarrassment.
Well, How Much is 35,560 Calories Anyway?
More than you’d think but less than you’d imagine. Every day a dragon would have to eat 3.5 of these 10k calorie cupcakes (Warning: Cheeky Language and Outdated Memes), 108 Pepperoni and Cheese Hot Pockets or even a human…every ~4 days. This outcome is actually pretty similar to a calorie analysis about T-rexes done by Randall Munroe, author of the webcomic XKCD, which makes me feel pretty good. Hopefully this doesn’t tarnish your view of dragons as rampaging killing machines, they’re still death incarnate, but now you know they do it for fun and not for nourishment, just like your average housecat.
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I love the ‘people get annoyed with me talking about this but I’m doing this anyway!’
I wonder with dragons being able to fly and all, would we have to think of them like birds? seems like that may skew their weight as we may have to assume they need to be lighter to fly. I guess dinosaurs have similarities to birds too and even if their bones are lighter, that shouldn’t change much about how much they eat.