The World of Dragons: The Burrowing Sand Dragon5 March 2021
“Apep was so long and large that, even laid flat, he was taller than any human. His roar was so loud and so powerful that even the earth would shake at its sound. The enemy of Ra and order, he emerged from below to bring darkness, thirsting for chaos and destruction. Many tried to stop him, battling through the nights. Yet his strength was so great that, even if defeated, he would rise again the next night as though he had never been harmed.”
–A History of Dragons: The Truth in Mythology by Ailuv Drah Gonz
Scientific name: Draco harenae.
Diet: Omnivorous. May include vipers, scorpions, weasels, date palms and grasses.
Life span: 300-400 years.
Size: Up to 10 metres wide and 100 metres long.
Colour: Black, dark grey or dark brown. Occasionally golden in colour.
Notable features: Wingless, may be hooded like a cobra.
The burrowing sand dragon is one of the largest dragons currently known. They are long, wingless beings, similar to (though significantly larger than) a snake. Their hide is nearly impenetrable, with smooth scales that closely overlap to prevent irritation from sand.
They may be one single colour or spotted, with pale undersides. Dark spots are dominant on their backs, getting smaller towards their bellies; this is similar to the spotted pattern often seen on narwhals. Large rounded eyes allow them superior vision at night, with thick clear eyelids to protect them from sand and other debris.
Native to Egypt, reports of the burrowing sand dragon extend back to at least 3000 BCE. The species is still found in Egypt, with populations also living in surrounding regions. Though able to survive for many years in the desert, they often return to the fertile land of the Nile to breed and when raising their young.
The young quickly learn how to hunt, preying on small creatures by means of stealth and speed. Nocturnal beings, these dragons spend much of the day underground, buried under sand or taking shelter in rocky crevices. With keen senses, they begin their hunt at night. A favourite hunting method is to remain underground, waiting for the vibrations and shifting sands that suggest a creature above. They burst out of the sand with astonishing speed; the creature is engulfed by the dragon’s jaws, swallowed whole in a matter of seconds.
With jaws that can open up to 15 metres wide, their prey is not the only thing they consume. Anything in the area around their prey may be ingested, like how a whale may accidentally consume sea water when feasting on krill. As desert-dwelling beings, burrowing sand dragons commonly ingest sand and rock. Though providing no nutritional value, these are transformed in the dragons’ stomachs in a process speculated to involve immense heat and pressure. This unusual phenomenon is described in explorer Ekscree Shon’s final letter:
We have been following the dragon, which we have named Fortuna, for several days. She spends much of the day under the sand, nearly impossible to track. But at night, she is a creature of majesty.
She leaps from the sand and devours her prey in one graceful movement. Glistening black scales adorn her back, and silver shines on her belly. And in between, black and silver are scattered amongst each other like stars.
Though her beauty is unrivalled, we ensure to keep well back. We have seen her strength and speed, and have no desire to meet the same fate as the creatures who have crossed her path.
Then why do we follow, you may ask. For her beauty, in part. But we follow for so much more.
We follow for what she leaves in her wake.
Violet amethyst, verdant malachite, and blue-green turquoise. Such riches as we have never seen before.”
Shon disappeared shortly after. What happened to her is unknown; however, some theorise that she travelled too close to Fortuna when collecting gems, and met her demise at the dragon’s jaws.
Producing gemstones is not the only remarkable feature of these dragons. Ailuv Drah Gonz suggests that Apep, one of the most well-known burrowing sand dragons, could create earthquakes with his roar. Reaching up to 126 decibels, these dragons’ roars are certainly impressive; however, causing an earthquake seems unlikely at best. Gonz also suggests that Apep could heal from any wound in a single day. It is true that these dragons are fast healers, but serious injuries often take several weeks to fully mend. It seems most likely that Gonz has overexaggerated the facts. Surely such claims cannot be true. Yet if they are, these dragons must truly be a wonder to behold.