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Full Version: Dragon metamorphosis and regeneration (spoilers for Liveship and Rain Wilds books)
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I have made a few posts in other threads about the possible biology of serpent to dragon metamorphosis and the more that I think about it, the stranger it seems.

In general, metamorphosis can be described as hemimetabolous (certain new features are grown from a pre-existing body - usually additional limbs, a new respiratory system and sexual organs) or holometabolous (the whole body is broken down and regrown from scratch). I had assumed that dragons were holometabolous because they metamorphosed inside a cocoon and because the lack of serpent memories in adult dragons suggested that the brain had been broken down and rebuilt. However, the bodies of adult dragons do not appear to be drastically different from those of serpents and some individual serpent features seem to be retained by adult dragons, including traits of colour pattern and personality.

It is particularly interesting to consider the deformities of the hatchlings described in Dragon Haven. Most of these possessed malformed legs and wings but not malformed bodies or heads. Given that there were clearly problems with the process of metamorphosis, this suggests that only the limbs were grown from scratch, not the head or body. Furthermore, as the surviving hatchlings journeyed to Kelsingra, their limb deformities gradually righted themselves, with legs and wings becoming proportionately longer. The ability to regenerate lost or damaged limbs is possessed by amphibians such as salamanders. This is thought to be associated with the partial metamorphosis that these animals undergo. The legs must have the ability to develop independently of the body during metamorphosis and a beneficial side effect of this is that they retain the ability to regenerate if removed later in life.

Do dragons retain the ability to regenerate limbs as adults? If so, this might explain a statement made by Bolt to Wintrow, to the effect that he ought to be able to heal his amputated finger.
From the dragons, the skill is derived. And from what we know from the skill, a powerful user can control and direct healing, astonishing by human standards.

Probably dragons retain the knowledge of very advanced 'mind over matter' healing. As part of this, they can perform regenerative healing.

With regards to their limbs/wings becoming stronger, I think its simply a natural growing process. Anyway, it seems dragons can direct how to 'repair' their body as long as they have mental facility (i.e., drawing knowledge from ancestors) and enough food or body reserves to do so.

Of course, it is noted that such healing can be detrimental to the lifespan of humans. But perhaps to dragons, as they live a score longer than humans, this detrimental effect is less present or even non-present at all.
There is a big difference between healing and regeneration. Healing can repair damage to a tissue but cannot recreate a complex structure such as a limb or eye. For most vertebrate animals, development of complex structures is restricted to certain points in their lives. For mammals, most major structures are formed before birth. A human born with a stunted limb will retain it for the rest of his life. For dragons, development of complex structures appears to occur at two times; in the egg and during metamorphosis in the cocoon. Tintaglia emerged from her cocoon fully formed, with no indication that further development, other than growth was required. The deformed state of the dragons described in Dragon Keeper was abnormal and could not have been rectified by normal growth or healing. So, either dragons possess the natural regenerative capabilities of salamanders or they can use a skill-like ability to regenerate. The ability of dragons to shape elderlings implies that the latter is likely. If dragons can cause the development of complex structures such as crests and wings in their elderling companions then it follows that they should be able to regenerate their own limbs.

This raises the question of whether a human could use the skill to regenerate lost body parts or to improve his own body (or those of others). The use of the skill to repair Fitz's brain damage and remove his scars suggests that this is likely since scar tissue and nerve damage are not repaired through normal healing processes.
It may be related to DNA... Scars are not encoded in DNA, and neither would the stunted growth of the DK dragons... It would then be quite logical to say that dragons can heal based on DNA... And thusly control DNA development in others too...
Development (even "normal" development) is not determined solely by DNA. It results from a complex interplay of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors. Every cell in the body contains the same DNA (with obvious exceptions such as red blood cells, ova and sperm) yet cells differentiate to form different types of tissue, depending on their locations in space and time. The same genetic code may produce a stunted wing or a functional wing, depending upon the context in which the code is expressed. This does not mean that normal wing development is encoded by DNA while stunted wing development is not. It means that the same DNA codes for normal wing development under normal conditions and stunted wing development under abnormal conditions.
it would appear that the dragons then have a simpler genome, that while a wing may be stunted at hatching, it will not remain so. Quite related to the superior healing/regeneration described earlier by others.

In humans, stunted growth can be in DNA. The reason behind the stunted wings, legs and such on the dragons is not, these beings claim, in their DNA, but rather in their severely shortened gestation period within their memory casks... Whereas a normal dragon enters cocoon in early-mid summer to emerge in spring, these dragons entered them in late autumn/early winter and emerged in late spring, giving them too short time to transform properly from serpent to dragon.
Having reread Dragon Keeper now, these beings noticed a few more details.

Dragons grow their entire lives, so stunted growth like the dragons have, will naturally correct itself, as the DNA will not include stunted growth. The DNA will instead have wing size in proportion to body length and all such similar ones programmed in. So it is not as much regeneration as it is natural growth.
Since dragons grow all their lives, it is quite natural that they would not grow to be proportionally incorrect, especially since nature would indicate that accidents or poorer years can happen. If food is scarce one year, a dragon will just reduce growth rate for that time, not focus only on growing one part. The poor years near Cassarick led to a lack of growth for the dragons, not malgrowth.
^ Yes, it seemed that way to me too.

Tintaglia could have stayed to nurse the dragons as she probably knew that dragon bodies keep growing. It may be that Tintaglia might have mistaken the state of the dragons at Cassarick to be extreme genetic mutation rather than a premature state. Or maybe her decision to leave them was simply from following reptilian instincts-- to not waste energy nursing stunted dragons and instead try to conceive healthier ones.

For dragons proper growth and regeneration may be an automatic function as ordained by genetics, but they need to have certain physical needs met first, such as enough food and heat, otherwise they remain stunted as we see during their interment at Cassarick. Skill ability may function as an enzyme of sorts that harnesses excess energy not being used to maintain bodily functions to promote healthy growth. This is unlike what we've seen in Fitz's situation, where his regeneration occurred in minutes and the energy used was mainly drawn from Thick's Skill reserves. This 'artificial' regeneration is taxing to the subject, however, as we see that Fitz fell into a coma to recuperate. Thus a dragon's ability to naturally regenerate itself seems to be a natural adaptation.

Speaking of adaptation, I found it interesting that Alise was remarking to herself about the adaptations of the species in the Rain Wilds to the acidic river. This suggests that an evolution theory is a concept that is well known and accepted (in Bingtown at least.)
The last part about adaption... That can really be summed up in survival of the fittest... those who didnt adapt to it, died off...

The attitude of Tintaglia is common for dragons... The cassarick dragons were malformed, and thus inferior. Inferiors are ignored.
(Aug-17-2010, 04:28 PM (UTC))thul Wrote: [ -> ]The attitude of Tintaglia is common for dragons... The cassarick dragons were malformed, and thus inferior. Inferiors are ignored.

As mentioned in other threads, it could be said that 'the ignorance of those who are inferior' is an attitude common throughout the entire realm...thankfully, in most cases that I can think of, those considered 'inferior' have proven, in fact, to be 'superior'!

I did respond earlier to maulkin's original post (regarding regeneration)but can't see anything else here from me. *searching files*
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