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Mother of Dragons
The fantasy series "Game of Thrones" returns to HBO tonight (April 24) with its much-anticipated Season 6, promising a headlong plunge into scenes of deadly peril, serpentine intrigue, betrayal and perhaps just a little violence.
And, of course, dragons. Central to one of the show's main storylines is the fate of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons — Drogon, Rhaegal and Viserion — which are, as far as anyone knows, the last of their kind in all of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros.
While fire-breathing creatures big enough for people to ride are a fantasy-fiction staple, they're in short supply in the real world. But there are certain animals with features that call to mind the majestic — and terrifying — reptile-like "children" of the Khaleesi.
Live Science takes a look at a few of these real-world "dragons" — some of which are alive today, while others are long extinct.
Sea dragonSlide 2 of 19
Sea dragonMeet the olm (Proteus anguinus), a blind, cave-dwelling salamander from Slovenia that measures about 16 inches (40 centimeters) in length. The olm is also known locally as the "sea dragon" and, paradoxically, as the "human fish," due to its pinkish-white coloration. The frilled, pink salamanders were actually mistaken for baby dragons centuries ago, by people who found the olms after rain had washed them from their cave habitats.
The next real-life dragon would likely have made even Drogon shiver. Read on.Slide 3 of 19
'Bat dinosaur'Slide 4 of 19
'Bat dinosaur'Birds alive today are living dinosaurs, but a bizarre dinosaur that lived in China 160 million years ago had bat-like wings that made it resemble a mythical dragon more than a modern bird. Though Yi qi (pronounced "ee chee") had feathers on its body, its wings were made of a membrane supported by extended fingers, and paleontologists suggest that it probably flapped and glided, much like a flying squirrel. [See Images of the Bizarre 'Dinosaur Dragon']
Next up? A dragon that was tiny but mighty. Check it out for yourself.Slide 5 of 19
Flying dragonsSlide 6 of 19
Flying dragonsThese tiny lizard gliders don’t have true wings. Rather, their elongated ribs spread outward, stretching folds of skin tightly to form colorful panels. The miniature "dragons" climb trees in their jungle habitats of southern India and southeast Asia, jumping and opening their skin "sails" to help them glide safely to another tree or to the ground.
Even mighty Balerion, Daenerys's grandfather's dragon, would admit that the next reptile on our list is pretty scary looking.Slide 7 of 19
Bearded dragonSlide 8 of 19