A University of B.C. scientist's attempts to draw a family tree for dragons have won him both sudden online fame and the possibility of a deal for a T-shirt design.
Rob Colautti, a post-doctoral researcher in evolutionary ecology, turned his attention to dragons in 2009 as a diversion from his PhD thesis. Colautti wanted to produce a dragon phylogeny — a graph detailing the hypothetical evolutionary relationships between different organisms.
“For me it was just kind of like a fun little project to see what could happen if we applied these evolutionary methods to imaginary creatures like dragons,” Colautti said.
But where biologists might use DNA to track the connections, Colautti faced a problem: “I wasn't able to get hold of any dragon DNA.”
Instead, he collected images of 76 drawings, paintings, sketches, prints and sculptures of dragons dating from the dark ages until about 1920. The works include depictions of both Asian and European dragons and paintings from artists like Leonardo Da Vinci and Raphael.
Colautti said he identified 27 distinct traits.
“I came up with a bunch of traits that these things had in common, but that [also] differed,” he said. “Things like, how long was their body; how long was their tail; what kind of skin texture did they have; whether they had two legs or four legs; whether they had wings or not, and then when you get enough of these traits together you start to see things clumping together based on these traits.”
After compiling all his dragon data in 2009, Colautti shelved the project, but then came back to it recently... (click for more)
Source: Proctor, Jason. "Dragon family tree springs from scientist's imagination - British Columbia - CBC News."CBC.ca - Canadian News Sports Entertainment Kids Docs Radio TV. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Aug. 2012. <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/08/21/bc-dragon-phylogeny.html>.