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Decades ago I read a short story about a scientist who had a theory that crocodiles were dragons, but stuck in the pre-flight, pre-flame stage.

He experimented, and finally produced a method of unblocking the croc's developmental process - whereupon the world was plagued with flying, flaming crocodiles.

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  • I don't recall reading this (and I would have, I'm pretty sure) but this sounds very much like a Svetz story, from Larry Niven (same continuity as Flight of the Unicorn). There was one like this with an ostrich that was a "neotenous chick" and one of the scientists got it to "grow up" -- into a Roc!
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 16:42

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The looks to be "The Day of the Dragon" (ISFDB) by Guy Endore and first published in 1934, as per the guy looking for it here:

Hi, all. I'm looking for a short story in which a mad scientist type believes that crocodiles (or possibly alligators) are descended from dragons, and that he can force individuals to regress back into being dragons by experimenting on them. Only trouble is, he's right, and his experiments lead to the return of the vampire dragon species and the downfall of the human race.

....

ETA: FOUND! It's The Day of the Dragon, by Guy Endor.

Found through a search for science fiction short story crocodiles dragons (disclaimer: I do a lot of story searches, so my Google results skew towards them)

You can find a copy of the 1947 Avon Fantasy Reader issue it appeared in on Archive.org.

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  • Thank you! I didn't hold out much hope, as it was so long ago. If I were wearing a hat, I'd take it off to you.
    – France
    Commented Sep 19, 2019 at 21:37

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