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Here lies the mighty bantha, killed by its own body weight.
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Like an oddly-colored sky with multiple suns or moons, this is one of those surefire ways of letting the audience know that the story has taken them to a world vastly different from our own. Just stick a ginormous monster skeleton somewhere in the scenery, and presto, instant otherworld! Interestingly, the heroes almost never encounter a living monster of that type, or one in an earlier state of decay. Sometimes, dinosaur bones may be substituted to indicate another time period instead of another world entirely.

This often overlaps with Alien Landmass, as both involve the use of large, unearthly landscape features to symbolize that a story is moving through realms unlike our own. See also Saharan Shipwreck, Desert Skull, Ribcage Stomach and Elephant Graveyard. For a much larger version of this concept, see Giant Corpse World. When the huge creature in the background is still alive, see Monstrous Scenery; overlap is possible if the being is undead.

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Examples

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Clover: The village Hage where Asta and Yuno are from has a massive skeleton of the demon god that the first Wizard King defeated.
  • Inuyasha: The most seen of the Inu-no-Taisho (the father of the main character and his half-brother Sesshomaru) is his gigantic skeleton (his fanged skull visible), albeit covered in equally-humongous armor, looming across the landscape where he supposedly "fell" in battle.
  • Naruto: Madara's hideout (which includes his lab, the statue the tailed beasts are sealed in (most of the time), and his mindless clone of the 1st Hokage) turns out to be in a mountainous area covered in giant animal skeletons of unknown origin. We eventually learn this place is called "Mountains' Graveyard".
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind: There are a few God Warior corpses, overgrown with greenery, in the opening landscape.
  • One Piece: One arc features an island with two giant skeletons on it. Although at first they appear to be just scenery, they turn out to be important plot points. In addition, gigantic monsters are quite common in the series.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering:
    • In the backstory, the Talon Gates appear to be a pair of giant pointy rocks off the coast of Madara. They're really the ribs of a demonic leviathan killed by Nicol Bolas.
    • A major scenery element in some Khans of Tarkir cards, such as the "Ugin's Nexus" artifact, is the ribcage of the spirit dragon planeswalker Ugin... who, incidentally, was also killed by Nicol Bolas. They fit in quite well on Tarkir, given that dragon bones are regular landscape features.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has a living example in the monster Temple of Skulls.

    Comic Books 
  • In the X-Men storyline The Brood Saga, readers discover roughly an issue in that the Death World surrounding one of the alien bases was, in fact, the semi-decomposed corpse of one of the Space Whales they had enslaved as Living Ships. To give an idea of the scale, the tips of the ribs poked out of the planetary atmosphere.
  • Mœbius had quite a few decorating the landscape of Arzarch.
  • In Old Man Logan Logan and Hawkeye pass by two different giant skeleton landmarks: Loki pinned under a toppled Manhattan skyscraper, and Giant-Man sprawled over the interstate near the appropriately-named town of "Pym Falls".
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    Fan Works 
  • Jurassic World 2020: In the prologue, the convoy drives past several Giraffatitan skeletons.
  • Star Wars REDONE: While being escorted by the Nelvaanians, Anakin discovers that the cave he was traversing through is actually a skeleton of a giant creature that the Nelvaanians made into their home.

    Films — Animation 
  • Animal Crossing: The Movie: The cave by the sea contains, sticking out of the wall, an enormous, intact Seismosaurus skeleton. In the climax, they climb it to grab one of Gulliver's gears.
  • Fantasia: Near the end of the "Rite of Spring" section, there is a desert littered with dinosaur bones.
  • Heavy Metal: Taarna the Tarakian flies past a monstrous skeleton of truly ludicrous size, combined with Alien Sky.
  • The Little Mermaid (1989): Ursula lives in the skeleton of... some kind of big fish thing, overgrown with weeds. (On second viewing, knowing that those weeds are the the transformed victims who have lost in the Chain of Deals that Ursula strings them on, the long pan down the hallway into Ursula's lair is horror.) A comic based on the movie shows the creature when it was alive. It was a monster used by a race of eel-people in their Gladiator Games, and Ursula bought its body from them after Ariel killed it.
  • The Lion King (1994): The Elephants Graveyard is covered by immense elephant skeletons.
  • Quest for Camelot: One of the first things greeting the Kayley and Garret in "Dragon Country" is a giant skeleton that they climb over without realizing what it is. Much later, they have a giant dragon skeleton dropped on them when the ogre finishes eating it.

    Films — Live Action 
  • Godzilla (2014): The action is set into motion when Serizawa finds a cave where the walls are supported by the fossilized remains of a member of Godzilla's species that was infested by likewise fossilized "MUTOs".
  • King Kong (2005): Several gigantic bones from Kong's deceased relatives lie scattered about near his mountaintop cavern.
  • Kong: Skull Island: A major battle against the skullcrawlers takes place amid the bones of Kong's family and other tremendous beasts.
  • Leviathan (2014): The whale skeleton lying on the beach, which serves to reinforce the mood of hopelessness and despair.
  • The Lost World: Jurassic Park: Huge sauropod ribcages and bones are encountered by the heroes near the ruins of the facilities of Site B.
  • Love And Monsters: The countryside is littered with the ribcages of the immense monsters, all long dead, which are used as impromptu walls and ridges.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie: The title characters encounter some on an alien planet. They turn out to be Dem Bones.
  • Monster Hunter (2020): Alpha Team discovers a monstrous rib cage poking out of the sand in the desert. When they stop to examine it, they are attacked by a Diablos. The rib cage (and the wrecked vehicles) serve as major landmark for the rest of the film.
  • Pacific Rim shows Kaiju skeletons being incorporated into buildings, most noticeably in the aptly-named Bone Slums of Hong Kong, where an entire shantytown is housed within the titanic skeleton of a dead monster. The skeletons are just too heavy to move, and more than strong enough to support buildings.
  • Pitch Black: If the derelict settlement doesn't clue you in that something went Horribly Wrong, the discovery that the "trees" on a hill are actually the skeletal "fins" of several dozen long dead Whale-sized, Slug-like Extraterrestrial filter-feeders in the valley far below should.
  • Red Sonja has a bridge made of giant vertebrae roped together.
  • Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope has a famous example. C3PO and R2-D2 walk across the desert on Tattooine and come across the bones of a Krayt dragon. It was still there when Lucas went out to film scenes for the prequel trilogy. Anakin and Ahsoka also stumble upon the a Bantha skeleton in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
  • Time Bandits: As Kevin and the dwarves walk through the deserts of Time of Legends, searching for "the most wonderful object in the world", they pass by myriad skeletons of animals. They discover the Fortress of Ultimate Darkness when they reach an invisible wall, which one of the dwarves, Wally, accidentally shatters by throwing a nearby skull at the leader, Randall, in a fight after being shoved by Randall to the ground.

    Literature 
  • The Belgariad: The desert surrounding Rak Cthol was once a shallow sea. When it was drained, the enormous serpents that called it home were left behind and died, leaving skeletons in the black sand.
  • Dinotopia: A large dinosaur skeleton is seen in the Desert in ''Journey to Chandara.
  • Ender's Game: When Ender kills a giant in a game designed by Battle School to test the students' psychology, the giant's body is left to rot. Every time he comes back it's a bit different — the bones get grown over, until the rib-cage forms a valley and the legs two long hills. Someone even comes along and builds a village into the skeleton. Later, after the war is over, he learns that the Buggers built an identical landscape on one of the planets the humans colonized and hid a cocoon containing their last queen in it.
  • Lucius Shepard has a series of stories about people living in towns on and around the body of a gigantic dragon — who isn't entirely dead.
  • The Last Dragonslayer: When Jennifer first explores the Dragonlands to find Maltcassion, she walks past a massive, moss-covered dragon skull.
  • Perdido Street Station: The city of New Crobuzon contains a neighborhood, Bonetown, entirely inside the ribcage of some monstrous beast. Said beast is most certainly some stripe of Eldritch Abomination, given the following: 1. All attempts at removing the Ribs fail. 2. All attempts at building over them also fail, with building just not going right and completed constructions just suddenly collapsing for no reason, despite being brand new and structurally sound. 3. Tools used in construction projects against the Ribs always malfunction, break, and wear out supernaturally quickly and often. 3. Workers involved in such projects report feeling unsettled, and frequently suffer horrific nightmares and visions. Often, workers just suddenly disappear without a trace...
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: The Ironborn tell stories of how the legendary Grey King killed the sea dragon Nagga and built his hall from her rib cage. Whether the stories are completely true or not, the petrified, building-sized rib cage remains; they treat it as holy ground and crown their kings there.
  • Temple of Terror has the hero crossing the Desert of Skulls. At one point he can come across the half-buried skeleton of an unidentified draconic monster whose ribs are as tall as the hero.
  • Tunnel in the Sky: Rod and Roy scout the countryside looking for a new colony site. They find a beach of bones on the shores of a dead sea. There are millions of bones lying there; some ancient and worn, others with gristle still clinging on, but with no actual carcasses in sight.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Space: 1999: In one episode, the main characters wind up on a planet where the only signs of animal life are big weird skeletons scattered about the place. The story revolves around the fact the plants on this planet teamed up and killed all the animals, so it's not quite just scenery in this incidence.
  • A made-for-TV movie with Jack and the Beanstalk as the backstory has a shot of a dragon on a hill in the Giant's realm in the flashback, and the same shot of its skeleton when said realm is revisited in the present.

    Mythology 
  • Many creation myths describe gods creating the world itself from the remains of colossal monsters killed in battle at the beginning of time. In Norse Mythology, for instance, mountains were formed from the bones of Ymir, the first and biggest of the frost giants, and his skull became the sky itself.

    Tabletop Games 
  • 7th Sea: The material for the Eisentown of Freiburg features a whole city ripe with this trope. One dragon skeleton makes the biggest bridge in town, another one the biggest tower and the last one is used as the cathedral.
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Dungeon Adventures: One adventure takes place in a tunnel-complex that was dug out in and around a gigantic, buried dragon skeleton. Its cranial cavity and ribcage were two of the rooms in the place.
    • Planescape: One whole layer of Hell is covered with (partially still alive) body of its former ruler, the bones forming giant mountain ranges. Likewise, the Outlands' portal town to Hell, the aptly named Ribcage, is built within the ribs of something huge and unidentified.
    • Ravenloft: The short-lived domain of Daglan, from the adventure Feast of Goblyns, features huge ribs and femurs jutting out of the ground as part of its "local color".
  • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: After he died, the skeletal remains of the titan Behemat continued to dominated the landscape of the land where he fell — his ribcage, for instance, houses a large commercial hall.

    Theme Parks 
  • At the American Museum of Natural History, one of the dioramas is of a whale skeleton on the ocean floor, covered in sea snow.

    Video Games 
  • Adventure Island has levels like this, and parts of the bridge/spinal column fall off as your player runs across them.
  • Alone in the Dark (1992): The escape tunnel in the first game looks like a spine with ribs.
  • Aquaria: There are several big skeletons. A big one in the Noob Cave that can be swim through, the other ones are more in the background, at least one of them is from a creature that can also be encountered alive, and these creatures are indestructible, (for the player anyway) and quite gentle, so that makes it extra sinister.
  • Banjo-Tooie features a stage based (very loosely) on the Mesozoic era and features many different fossils embedded on the ground and walls. A bit of Fridge Brilliance when you realize some dinosaurs were dead as long, to others, as they have been dead, to us.
  • Battleborn: The bones and fossilized scales of enormous dragons frozen eons ago litter the icy moon of Bliss.
  • Borderlands:
    • Planet Pandora is littered with giant skeletons. Bandits have turned some into encampments, most notably Titan's End.
    • Borderlands 2: The Three Horns area is lousy with bits and pieces of massive monster skeletons. Some of them are lying on the ground, but one is coiled threateningly around a mountain peak. There's a subsection called the Marrowfields, so called because of the giant ribs that mark its borders, as if the whole place were actually inside an unspeakably huge skeleton's ribcage. The skeletons are skeletons from dead skags, Kaiju-sized dead skags. Skags so big that they could eat Skagzilla and Dukino's Mom for snacks.
  • The Burnable Garbage Day: The Nature Area is littered with several giant elephant skeletons.
  • Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: In the Necromancer Abyss, at several points you encounter rock formations that look suspiciously like bones, and then one cave which is clearly a ribcage. Of course those happen to be the fossilized remains of a dragon, which are then reanimated by the Necromancer to serve as the stage's boss: The Dracolich Titan.
  • Chrono Cross: Fossil Valley, one of the earliest places the player visits, has a gigantic dragon skeleton as part of the background. No live ones are ever encountered because the specific species of dragon is long extinct. (bar one egg that the player can hatch)
  • Code Lyoko: The Wii game Quest for Infinity offers a sort of variation; parts of XANA's mechanical monsters (disembodied heads, limbs, etc.) can be found littered about; you get points if you break them by shooting them or jumping on them.
  • Dawn of the Monsters: In Cairo, the skeleton of a long-deceased Nephilim called Kemarah can be found integrated into the cityscape. The skeletons of deceased Nephilim can also be found scattered around various levels and posed menacingly across the Hatteras Abyssal Plain.
  • ''Digimon World -next 0rder-': The Corpseway in the Bony Resort runs right under what seems to be the skeleton of an unidentified gigantic Digimon.
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns: Cliff world is defined by this aesthetic, being a rocky region full of gigantic fossilized seashells and dinosaur bones.
  • Dragon Quest VIII has an entire dungeon inside of a dragon skeleton, with several smaller ones forming the terrain.
  • Dreamfall: The Longest Journey: The rebel camp is situated partly on a colossal skeleton floating the swamp.
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: The plains and mountains of Skyrim are liberally dotted with the ribcages, spines and occasionally skulls of large animals (usually "mammoths", but there are a few troll and dragon skeletons lying around). Killing a dragon can cause this instantly (apparently eating draconic souls makes flesh disappear). The skeleton of a whale also serves as a bridge to the Hall of Valor in Sovngarde.
  • Endless Ocean lets you swim through a whale skeleton.
  • EverQuest has this in the Field of Bone, featuring a giant reptilian skeleton jutting derelict from the ground.
  • Final Fantasy Mystic Quest: The entrance to the Bone Dungeon is marked by a giant dinosaur skeleton. You also fight (a smaller) one inside for the big boss battle.
  • Final Fantasy XI has this in a few areas, like Tahrongi Canyon and the Maze of Shakhrami.
  • Fire Emblem: Large skeletons may appear on desert maps. Some take up two squares on the map, which means they're considerably larger than humans. The most exaggerated example would be the Plegian maps in Fire Emblem: Awakening, which all feature huge dragon bones, but the Chapter 10 map takes the cake. It's fought around what little of the gargantuan dragon Grima's ribcage wasn't buried under the ground, but what "little" is still visible is still big enough to take up almost the entire map and have fortresses built on top of some of the rib lengths.
  • Gradius: Stage 4 in the NES port of Life Force has a giant ribcage with a gauntlet of lasers near the end, and a giant skull as the boss.
  • Ground Control: A few maps have the rotting remains of huge otherworldy fish.
  • Guild Wars: The Crystal Desert is full of these, which the lore handwaves as the remains of the now-extinct "Great Giants", presumably unrelated to the game's smaller elephant-sized modern giants.
  • Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards: One stage has Kirby exploring an underground cavern where part of the scenery is made of fossils. One of the titular Mineral MacGuffins is inside a reptilian's mouth.
  • The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning: Several areas in the swamp area at the beginning are roofed and lined with the skeletons of immense snakes.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
  • Marvel Super Heroes: Shuma-Gorath's stage is a massive otherworldly wasteland with the skeletons of strange beings decorating the landscape.
  • Mass Effect: On one of the optional explorable planets, there's a giant skull about the quarter of the size and shape of your MAKO. When you investigate it, it adds a map marker and says that it does not match any species in the Codex.
  • Minecraft: In the Soul Sand Valley biomes of The Nether, there are exposed bones in the shape of ribs and skulls. These fossils can be found in the Overworld, but they are usually buried.
  • Monster Hunter 4: In the Primal Forest map, one area is entirely overshadowed by the giant ribcage of some sort of gigantic serpentine monster. The secret starting location for this map is located on top of one of the ribs that has snapped loose from the rest of the ribcage, and is easily large enough for a full party of four hunters.
  • Myst: Used as part of a Continuity Nod. The Age of Riven contains a species of aggressive aquatic beast known as the wahrk, as well as a sort of wormhole, the Star Fissure, that was turning the Age into a vacuum and destroying the universe. A key part of the endgame reveals that jumping into the Star Fissure is survivable and is the only way you can get back to Earth. In Uru — in the present-day — you start out the game in the New Mexico desert and determine that this must be around where the wormhole ended, because hey, giant wahrk skeleton!
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 Mask Of The Betrayer: You have a conversation with the "dead" god Myrkul while the entire party is standing on his breastbone.
  • Nuclear Throne: The initial Desert levels have huge ribcages scattered around them to further emphasize the post-apocalyptic nature of the world.
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps: Howl's Den is littered with the bones and skulls of various unidentifiable beasts, including at least two spinal columns. The Feeding Grounds between the Silent Woods and Windswept Wastes, where Shriek resides, have a similar aesthetic.
  • Patapon has giant skeletons in the desert level which mark very dangerous areas which have damaging lava geysers.
  • Planescape: Torment has a desert map about two-thirds into the game that's mostly taken up by a giant, half-buried skeleton, which appears to be a colossal bear. An important NPC built a rather nice keep for himself inside the skull.
  • Primal: There's a Ribcage Ridge underwater. It's the skeleton of a giant fish, naturally.
  • Primal Rage: The final Boss Rush takes place in a tar field littered with dinosaur bones.
  • Quest for Glory V: Dragon Fire: You walk down a spinal column of a giant deceased Dragon in Hades.
  • Radical Rex has a level called Dinosaur Graveyard, where you have to climb up huge jumbled dinosaur skeletons. Just watch out for Stegosaurus plates and carnivore claws.
  • Ratchet & Clank (2002): Veldin mixes this with Saharan Shipwreck: there's the wreck of a ship early whose circular hull has decompiled such that it resembles the classic ribcage. The effect is helped by the thrusters, which now look like eyes.
  • Rayman:
  • Serious Sam II has them, mostly in planet Kleer. Most of them are found in the aptly named Boneyard level.
  • The Sims:
    • MySims: There's a dinosaur skeleton in the desert. All it indicates is the sort of stuff you can get digging around there.
    • MySims Kingdom: A giant dinosaur skeleton is on the Uncharted Isle.
  • Secret of Evermore: The first world, a prehistoric-styled jungle, contains a "Mammoth Graveyard" that serves as a battle arena. Sticking out of the unpleasant muck are the remains of woolly mammoths; giant tusks frame the path to the next area.
  • Shadow of the Colossus: A variant — returning to the site of a colossus battle shows the corpse of said colossus becoming a part of the environment. The imagery falls more into this trope with larger colossi like Basaran and Phalanx.
  • Slashout contains a colosseum made from rib-bones of some ancient, unidentified gargantuan monster near the end of the game. Fittingly enough, you fight a Dracolich boss in said colosseum.
  • Something: Skulls Cave. It's a cave filled with lots of bones and it happens to be a reference to Skull Man's level in Mega Man 4. The Charging Chucks have Skull Man head-swaps.
  • Sonic 3D Blast has several dinosaur skeletons embedded in the walls of Diamond Dust Zone.
  • Space Quest I: The Sarien Encounter has an area consisting of a large skeletal ridge in the middle of a desert planet. The player character can walk across the spinal column like a bridge, and as in Adventure Island, a part of the column was cracked. The player can only cross the cracked area twice before it breaks, at which point you had better hope you picked up everything you needed beforehand.
  • Spider: The Video Game have a museum level in which you cross one area to another on the spines of a dinosaur skeleton model.
  • Spore: Immense skeletons, ranging from mostly complete remains to solitary femurs sticking out of the earth, abound in the Creature Stage. In fact, you're encouraged to dig up the earth around them, in order to acquire new parts you can use to "evolve" your creature later. They are a lot bigger than even Epic Creatures, and too many of them in one place is often a tip-off that one is in the vicinity. How big you ask? this big. In this one the spider looking guy is a regular epic, and the smaller creature is regular sized.
  • Spyro 2: Ripto's Rage!: Skelos Badlands, a prehistoric level, has a large number of saurian skulls, spines and ribcages lying around, which serve as both terrain and bridges.
  • Starcraft has massive skeletons as part of several scenery sets.
  • Star Fox 64 features a number of these in Titania Arid Desert, foreshadowing the skeletal Boss Fight with Goras at the end of the level.
  • Star Wars: Galaxies had several of these, including the krayt dragon skeleton from Episode IV and a large krayt dragon graveyard on Tatooine, as well as various other large skeletons on Kashyyyk, Dathomir and other planets.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic: There's a section of the Dune Sea called the Krayt Graveyard with several of these. In the same area, there's also the skeleton of an unfortunate Trandoshan Qyzen's dad. He goes later to pay his respects.
  • Stellaris: One potential planetary anomaly is a skeleton that your survey crews initially believed to be a mountain range. It's implied to be an Ether Drake.
  • Subnautica: In the Lost River you can find the skeletons of several Reaper Leviathans that died in the briny water (or were eaten by a Bigger Fish) There are also ancient fossilized remains of long-extinct creatures, including a colossal Sea Serpent that must have been over a kilometer in length.
  • Sunless Sea: Near the east end of the map is the Gant Pole, which is the skeletal remains of some very large unknown creature sticking out of the sea. While it's unknown how deep the sea is at that point, the bones you can see are much larger and tower much higher than your ship and incidentally, are larger than some of the islands you encounter.
  • Super Cyborg have areas containing giant ribcages as bridges, where you walk on the spines to avoid falling into pits.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
  • Mystic Defender have an area in the game where the ribcage of some unknown gigantic monster forms various platforms, which you can jump on to avoid enemy attacks.
  • Tadpole Treble: The water of Thunder Creek is filled with gigantic skeletons of various animals that perished while trying to cross the Creek.
  • Titan Quest has gigantic ribcages as a cavern decoration, along with loose bones and four-horned dragon skulls, with no living monster of a matching appearance. These eventually appear in the Very Definitely Final Dungeon.
  • Vexx has one in its second level, Dragonreach. The level is so-called because the giant skeleton is from a dragon, and it looks like it's reaching for the sky. Naturally, you get to clamber around its back and inside its skull.
  • World of Warcraft: There are several enormous kodo skeletons in Tanaris desert, a giant snake skeleton off the coast of Stranglethorn Vale, a skull of what is apparently one of the Old Gods in Darkshore (with a glowing Titan sword still embedded in it) and two giant naga-like creatures in Desolace. That's just the most famous ones, listing em all would take forever. The kodo graveyard in Desolace and the Dragonblight (dragon graveyard) in Northrend are obviously chock full of them, too. The biggest one in the game is probably off the coast of the Dragonblight, which is large enough to be seen on the map. Not as an icon like most large or important things, but as a skull and skeleton itself.
  • Yoshi's Island DS has several large beast skeletons lying around in the "desert" levels.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 
  • From Sun to Moon, From Moon to Night: One of the landmarks on a national map is a Titan dragon's skull, which is bigger than the sovereign's castle, even though the rest of the skeleton is buried. Fortunately for everyone, Titans are long extinct.

    Western Animation 
  • Adventure Time had an episode where Finn and Jake carry tarts through a desert wasteland. At some point, they walk in between the bones of this dead, giant creature and climb through its eye socket. Oddly, it seemed that its brain hadn't fully decayed yet.
  • Robot Chicken: The Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope example is parodied sketch featuring a green water-dwelling creature talking to his wife about finding great things beyond their little lake. As it turns out, he was the creature to whom the skeleton belonged, so things evidently didn't work out for him.
  • Samurai Jack: The opening features Jack swimming through a huge, multi-eyed fish skeleton.
  • Wakfu: Yugo stumbles onto the skeleton of a dragon in the desert during episode 21. It takes him some time to realize what it is since he can't use his eyes but only Aura Vision at the moment.

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