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What would be the ecological impact of the dragons of “Game of Thrones”?

A few days ago, a little girl named Victoria tried to bribe New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to launch a government research program on dragons. Jacinda Ardern politely refused, but little Victoria will no doubt be able to console herself with the research of Matthew Kolodner, Clarissa Xia and Lauren Zhou.

These three students from Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Maryland in the United States, took part in the national competition of the Consortium for mathematics and its applications, a competition that rewards teams capable of solving logistical or prospective problems according to given scenarios.

The trio of young scientists – they are the only high school students to have been rewarded – tackled the most fanciful scenario of this edition, namely to calculate the environmental impact of Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion, the three dragons of Daenerys Targaryen. The other two challenges in the competition dealt with a real emergency, one asked teams to configure and deploy a fleet of drones to complete the chains relief medical supply in Puerto Ricothe other to build a model that could predict the severity of the opioid epidemic in the United States if it did not decrease.

Risks of deforestation

To determine the ecological consequences of dragons, Matthew Kolodner, Clarissa Xia, and Lauren Zhou analyzed their behavior, habits, diet, and interactions with their environment. After reading George RR Martin’s novels, watching the HBO series and spending hours on the dedicated forums with flying bugs from the Game of Thrones universe, the team determined which real animals might be comparable to Daenerys’ dragons, in terms of migratory behavior or body density.

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Pterosaurs, flying reptiles that disappeared in the Cretaceous, and Komodo dragons served as models, in particular to determine the daily energy needs of dragons. Result: more than a million calories per day.

The team then deduced the area needed to meet a dragon’s metabolic needs while remaining environmentally friendly. Looking at apex predators in different ecosystems on the planet, she concluded that each dragon would only need 758 square kilometers for a savannah, compared to 18,410 square kilometers for arctic tundra.

In a section on human intervention, specifically the logistics of sustainably raising cattle to feed Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion, the students also determined that a single dragon would need to devour a minimum of 1,798 cows. per day. Each cow also requires nearly 8,000 hectares of land, which would undoubtedly lead to massive deforestation campaigns to create new grazing areas, and would cause a significant increase greenhouse gas emissions.

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