Female komodo dragons don't need no man to make more dragons

Back in August 2019, a female komodo dragon named Charlie gave birth to three little dragons at the Chattanooga Zoo. The zookeepers had previously tried to hook her up with a sweet dragon fella named Kadal, but the two never really seemed to hit it off — not that the staff could observe, anyway. And now that they've tested the DNA of young Onyx, Jasper, and Flint, it's finally confirmed: Charlie and Kadal did not hit it off at all, so Charlie took it upon herself to bring the kids into the world. From the Chattanooga Times Free Press:

The DNA results showed the babies were the result of parthenogenesis, which is a type of reproduction where the female produces offspring without male fertilization. […] Female Komodo dragons carry WZ sex chromosomes, while males carry the ZZ type. When parthenogenesis happens, the mother can only create WW or ZZ eggs. Since eggs with the sex chromosomes of WW aren't viable, only ZZ eggs are left to produce all male hatchlings. Parthenogenesis is considered very rare, with the first case of a successful parthenogenesis reproduction in Komodo dragons recorded in 2006.

I was personally fascinated to learn that there are so many different categorizations of asexual reproduction, and that it can indeed occur spontaneously in vertebrates without any fertilization. In 2007, there was apparently a bit of a scandal involving a lab-grown human embryo that was allegedly cloned, but turned it to be a productive parthenogenesis. There are also living human beings with some unique chimeric complications in which they were both fertilized by a male, but also underwent some kind of parthenogenesis at the same time, resulting in a male offspring with Y-chromosomes in his skin, but not in his blood. Read the rest

This Welsh password generator might keep you safe from hackers, but definitely from dragons

Inspired by XKCD's classic diceware strip, a programmer named Alice created an open-source algorithm to randomly generate secure passphrases in Welsh. As difficult as it would be for any human or computer to figure out a nonsense phrase like, "correct horse battery staple," it would be even more difficult to guess, "stwffwl batri ceffyl cywir," especially when there are only about 700,000 Welsh speakers to begin with.

While I'm no cryptologist, I did run a few of the passwords through HowSecureIsMyPassword.net and My1Login.net and they seemed to work out all right. According to those sites, it would take 11 quattuordecillion years or 1 trillion trillion trillion years for a computer to crack "DrefnasidRhyd-y-meirchSefydlogiad6*." Similarly, "GlaeruchdyrauGymreigeiddiaiBarcdir0**" would take 429 tredecillion years, or 94 billion trillion trillion years, respectively.

However, as Alice the programmer warns: "It's probably not a good idea to actually use this, since the wordlist is freely available along with the algorithm being used."

So it might not stop a really clever hacker from getting into your email. But it will almost certainly stop a mythic Welsh dragon from stealing your identity. Probably. I'm assuming their claws are pretty clumsy on the keyboard.

Welsh Password Generator [WheresAlice.info]

Image via Lewis Ogden/Flickr (altered)

*Google Translate tells me this means, "The ford of the horses was arranged." I don't know that I trust it—Google Translate is famously sloppy with the grammar of some Celtic languages—but it certainly sounds epic.

**Similarly, this became "Parkland was a Welsh occupation" which sounds like something you would hear on the Breton version of InfoWars. Read the rest

Kickstarting a new feminist bicycle science fiction: this one's about dragons!

Elly Blue has kickstarted a series of successful feminist bicycle science fiction anthologies; her latest is Dragon Bike: Fantastical feminist bicycle stories, for which she is seeking $6,000 ($10 gets you an ebook, $13 gets you a printed book, $15 gets you a book and a poster). Read the rest

Watch this gnarly tree burl get turned into a gorgeous dragon's egg

Andy Phillip found a tree burl out in the world, then decided to turn it on a lathe and make it into a sapphire dragon's egg. Read the rest

Dragon skeleton discovered in China

This video and the photos below reportedly depict a 60-foot dragon skeleton unearthed in the city of Zhangjiakou in Northern China's Hebei province. Some observers insist it's a hoax, but we know better. From Mysterious Universe:

A translation of the story at wukong.com says the skeleton measured about 60 feet long with a horned skull and two tiny arms at the neck-body joint. The long thin serpentine body matches the Chinese version of dragons rather than the Game of Thrones or flying lizard types.

However, the skull seems more like an antelope and some witnesses thought the bones looked like they were from multiple cows and pieced together to fool the public or be used in a movie or TV show.

Read the rest

Watch a master glassblower make an intricate dragon

In under an hour, glass artist James Mongrain transforms blobs of molten glass into a stunning green dragon. The choreographed teamwork, the variety of tools, and the interesting narration make this a real treat. Read the rest

A biological mechanism for fire-breathing dragons

Say dragons did exist. In that alternate universe, how would they breathe fire? (Where the answer is not "magic".) Kyle Hill has a nice explanation for how real-life fire breath might work, and how it could have evolved over time. (Although, slight spoiler, Hill's idea won't be terribly surprising to those of us raised on Ken Hamm Creationism videos.) Read the rest

"Dragon" found in toilet

A shopper fled from an Asda supermarket in Edinburgh, Scotland, after being confronted by a "dragon" in the toilet—a creature that turned out to be a harmless monitor lizard. The lizard was rescued by animal welfare officers, who have named it Lulu. [The Scottish Sun] Read the rest