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Temporal range: 7 - 34 MyF
|Future of The World|
|This is a part of Future of The World: a collaborative project about our planet's future|
The Aerovaranids, or Draaks, are future large flying reptiles, convergent with pterosaurs. They are evolved from monitor lizards, and like them possess a high metabolism and venom delivery system.
The Draaks are large volant lizards. They range in size from having a wingspan of about 1 metre to a wingspan of over 10 metres in later species. Unlike other squamates, later species are warm blooded, and have a high metabolism. The
wings are similar in structure to bats, with three fingers supporting the wing, but they also have two free fingers used for walking and holding onto prey. Being large, endothermic predators, they require a lot of food, and favor large megafauna like wooly wombats and cattlebeasts. Unlike birds, but like pterosaurs, Draaks can get big without sacrificing flight, as they are quadrapedal, and the largest species, the Forest Demon of northern and eastern Australia, can be up to 80 kg, and up to 2 metres tall. Unlike most very large pterosaurs, Draaks still have a long tail, and use it for steering, and for show. But whereas many tailed pterosaurs have a flap of skin between their hind legs, Draaks don't, which makes them fast and efficient terrestrial predators.
The wings of Aerovaranids are similar in structure to the wings of bats, but unlike bats, the membranes are stiffened by rods of cartilage, meaning the lizards can fly with the efficiency of birds, but still attain large sizes.
Like their ancestors, monitor lizards, Draaks swallow small prey whole.
The highest diversity of Draaks is in Australia, though several large species of the genus Sinodracones are found in mainland Asia.
At the end of the Postocene, following the P-No extinction marking the end of the Cenozoic, the genus Sinodracones evolves into the Gubernators, the aerial dogfighters and apex aerial predators of the Neocene.
The Draaks evolved from a small arboreal semi-volant monitor lizard called Varanus volitans, which evolved in the late Holocene in northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. With the ice age many new large prey items evolved, and this otherwise small, inconspicuous reptile started to become ever larger, more agressive and considerably better at flying. The venom that all monitors produce evolved into a much more potent chemical, and some species evolved a mechanism that allowed them to spit their venom, in the manor of a spitting cobra. This small ancestral species eventually evolved endothermy around 6 MyF.
The evolution of flight started in three stages. The first stage was an animal similar to a chameleon, with elongated fingers to grip branches better, this is also the stage their venom became heightened, and their teeth became longer. The second stage was the evolution of a simple parachute structure, developed by webbing between the fingers and a membrane stretching from the wrist to the base of the hind leg. The third stage was the evolution of endothermy and the merging of the two membranes into a wing. The first Aerovaranids evolved about 7 million years in the future, about the time there was a marked decrease in raptor diversity, corresponding with both the end of the ice age and end of the Cenozoic era.
In the Middle Postocene, the most advanced genus, Sinodracones, evolved in the combined continental area composed of Australia, Sundaland and most of the islands nearby, and spread around the old world, inhabiting central China, the Mediterranean and Arabia.
Draaks eat larger animals, including Woolly Wombats, Cattlebeasts and even young Oxylania and Bush Dragons. Being rather lightweight however, they are often beaten of kills by adults of these species, or by Australian Vultures. A general rule of the strength of aerovaranid venom is based on size, smaller species have strong venom, whereas larger species, with larger teeth and claws, tend to have weaker venom. This ratio is similar to scorpions. Unlike raptors, the Aerovaranids, and their descendant taxa the Gubernatoroidea, do not have talons on their feet, meaning the reptiles are forced to hunt from the ground, putting them at a potential risk of injury.