The Weyr trains its own dragon healers, mostly from riders who show an aptitude and an interest in healing, though anyone with training and knowledge can help heal injured and burned dragons. Dragonriding takes up most, but not all, of a rider's time. The Healer Hall instructs all healers in basic techniques of first aid, but apprentice dragonhealers learn from others in their Weyr. Moreta, for example, was a dragon surgeon. A dragon healer needs dispassion, skill, and dexterity to be effective. It does the dragon no good if a healer is afraid to perform a painful operation to save a wing or a leg. In case of emergency, a beastcrafter may be called in to assist a dragon surgeon.
All weyrlings physic their own dragons. If a young dragon's tail is too thick, denoting constipation, his weyrmate must administer the purge. If he has bitten his tongue learning to chew firestone, the rider applies numbweed salve until the bleeding stops and the ichor clotted. Fortunately, dragons are a healthy breed, but dragonriders are always encouraged to learn more about caring for them.
Detailed Dragon Information
Dragon External Anatomy
Dragons have evolved into 5 colors: gold, bronze, brown, blue and green. Golds are fertile females, while greens are sterile females. Bronzes and browns are fertile males, and it is assumed that blues are fertile (since no blue has ever caught a gold). While a white dragon did exist in the 9th Pass, Ruth was an anomaly that will never occur again on Pern. Within each color, variation exists so that shades of the colors are obtained, which is fortunate for dragon identification.
Draconic color ranges are as follows:
Gold - pale yellow to dark antique
Bronze - golden green sheen, a few are nearly as dark as a brown
Brown - tan to chocolate
Blue - whole spectrum of the shade
Green - whole spectrum of the shade
THERE ARE NO OTHER COLORS INCLUDING NO WHITE DRAGONS!
Dragon size varies according to dragon color. Golds are the larges while greens are the smallest. Within each color, variation occurs as well, so that there is some overlap. For example, a large brown might be the same size as a small bronze. Or a large green the size of a small blue. In the case of the Oldtimers, their dragons were of a generally smaller size than the 'newer' dragons as they'd lost 400 Turns of evolution.
Golds - 38-42m
Bronzes - 35-38m
Browns - 30-35m
Blues - 25-30m
Greens - 20-25m
Dragons have hides, not scales. Their hides are thick and resilient, smooth, hairless, and soft to the touch. A healthy hide is glossy with no hint of grey or dryness. Dryness leads to patches of hide that may crack and cause great pain while b*tween. Regular oiling prevents such cracks and is essential to dragons, whers, and flitts. Dragon epidermis is thick and resilient to abrasions. Despite this, it is still absorbative and topicals such as oil and numbweed can penetrate through, though for numbweed to reach sensitive tissues takes longer.
Dragons have three eyelids that protect their eyes. The inner membrane is translucent with the outer two increasing in thickness. The inner membrane is used when the dragon is submerged in water to allow the dragon to see while protecting the eye. The outer lid is the thickest and tends to be the same color as the dragon's hide. Dragon's lack eyelashes and rely on their eyeridges as additional protection. Dragon eyes are multifaceted and whirl. They eyes are able to reflect draconic moods with the speed of the eyes representing the intensity of the emotion.
red and yellow--preparing to sear Thread
yellow--alarm; anxiety; fright
blue or green--contentment
Dragons have the same 5 sense as humans: sight, smell, taste, touch, and hearing. Dragons do not have ears, rather their headknobs seem to serve as auditory receptors. They can augment their hearing with telepathy. Their eyes, as already described, are superior to humans and have better long-distance focusing than humans. They do have a sense of smell, though the sensitivity of it is questionable. They do not seem to mind the heavy stench of firestone, yet can distinguish scents that humans cannot. Also, their sense of touch seems to not be as highly developed as humans, but their bellies are known to be softer and more sensitive (and also prone to tickling). As to draconic taste...it's just different than humans.
Dragon Skeletal Anatomy
Dragon bones are strong and do not break easily. Unlike Terran carbon-based life forms, Pernese life forms are boron-based, and the dragon's diet sustains bone strength. Dragon bones are different than humans as they are modified plates that allow for sliding and thus, are able to sustain the impact of landings and takeoffs. A ball and socket joint keeps impact on the knees minimal as well.
The dragonwing and ribcage are complicated structures. Unlike the human ribcage comprised of many bones, the dragon ribcage is a single bone, not all unlike that of a bird's. Despite being a single bone, it can expand and contract as needed to allow the full range of draconic activities. The dragonwing is comprised of many bones that allow it mobility and flexation. Dragon's have an 'arm' similar to that of a humans with two main bones separated by an 'elbow'. The wrist bones contain the dragon's wingfingers and the bones that comprise the sail portion of the wing. The anatomy of the wing will be discussed in detail later.
Dragon Muscular Anatomy
Dragons are heavily-muscled but especially so in their hindlegs as these muscles are involved in takeoffs and landings. Dragon muscles are grey but appear greener where ichor supplies are heavier. Dragons have shorter frontlegs than rear, and thus have an akward gait when on all fours. Their muscles are much more suited to sitting upright than remaining at an angle tetrapod position. Flitters have more equal leg-lengths and thus spend less of their time upright than dragons. Dragons have five digits on both front and rear appendages with each digit ending in a talon. Talon's are keratin-based and grow from the bed outward, much like human fingernails. Thus talons themselves are nerveless until the bed of the nail where ichor and nerves abound.
Dragon Wing Anatomy
Dragon wings are delicate and fragile and require special care when injured if the dragon is to maintain sustained flight. Dragons have an arm-like bone, complete with an elbow and finger joint, that supports about half the length of the dragonwing. The shoulder and upper arm provide the power that a dragon uses to lift off the ground by pumping his wings. The arm is slightly flexed allowing for a membrane, called the leading edge, to run from the shoulder to the finger joints. The finger joint includes a vesitigial thumb and the joints for all the four wingbones that divide up the large portion of the membranous wingsail. Between the dragon's body and the inner bone is the primary mainsail, the largest portion of the membranous wingsail. Between the Inner Bone and the Mid-Bone is the Secondary Mainsail. Between the Mid-Bone and the Spar Bone is the Spar Mainsail. The last bone runs parallel with the Spar Bone and ends middway down the sail. The ends of the wingsail is known as the trailing edge. Batten ribs are cartilaginous supports that run through the wingsails and parallel to the wingbones. The Primary mainsail supports the dragon's weight in the air while the secondary and spar mainsails provide agility by the flexing of the wingbones.