A "Dirt Dragon" (also known as "Tu Lung", "Shooter", "Grablite" or "Baby Graboid") is the very first stage of the Graboid life cycle, occurring immediately after the eggs hatch. A Shooter is small enough to actually jump out of the ground, (hence the nickname), but they rapidly grow into Graboids, so the Shooter stage does not last very long and may even be argued to be a "mini-stage" in the Graboid life cycle. Along with regular Graboids, the Dirt Dragons are the main antagonists of Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, which so far is their only appearance and origin.
The Baby Graboids are 3 to 5-foot versions of the adult Graboids. The head and beak pieces are each a little over a foot long. The 'babies' have spikes long their sides unlike those on adult Graboids. They are widest just behind the beak, six-eight inches, and get narrower toward the tail, down to two or three inches. Then there are two tail spikes about six inches long (similar to the horns on the rear of a centipede). They grow very rapidly (in about three months) to adult size. Adult Graboids lose the tail and edge spikes, but grow many more small spikes overall, for better locomotion of their large bodies. They metamorphose into into their Adult Graboid through the shedding of the scale-like plates which protect a Shooter's back and the above mentioned spikes. They, like the adults, completely subterranean and posses many of the features that adults do; Due to their age, Shooters have rudimentary and non-functioning tentacles, just a small "bud" at the back of the throat. The bud expands into full fledged tentacles as the animal grows to full size. They are able to more then compensate with speed and surprising strength. When they first hatch they are similar to their later shooter forms, but shorter and wider, like fat slugs; almost colorless and slimy. They can move at a speed of 30 mph while underground. This speed enables them to leap from beneath the earth, like a salmon from the water. They remain fairly inactive for a time after hatching, waiting for their protective exoskeleton to harden, Then they start feeding aggressively. After about 3 months they lose the plates and go into a semi-dormant state during which all their energy is focused into rapid growth and development. This accounts for the "quiet" Rejection experienced while the town's people waited for Black Hand Kelly. They seem to possess thinner skin then the adults or at least a weaker exoskeleton, but they possess carapace-like plates on both the top and bottom of their bodies that protects their underdeveloped body, they lack coverage on their sides though. This is a key weakness as they can be killed with a hand-held weapon such as a pickax. It was originally thought that they could be picked off by a sharp shooter, this theory remains untested however as the Shooters continued to grow, reaching full size by the time one could come to deal with them.
Hunting and intelligence
They are obviously just as intelligent as the adults and appear to work in packs similar to their later Shrieker forms, easily able to kill 14 miners in less than 10 minutes though as ambush hunters they made good use of their surprise. They can also burrow vertically in to the ground by vibrating at high speeds even dragging along bodies to feast on later; it is highly likely that adults could not do this due to their bulk. They are able to propel themselves through the air as they shoot from the ground. This is made deadlier in tunnels as they can simply turn around and repeat the maneuver. After shooting out of the ground like bullets (hence their name) and knocking the prey to the ground they bite on to the prey item and vibrate to pull the prey under the ground for consumption. For larger prey like humans they work together each grabbing on to the prey at different points after knocking them down and vibrating together to pull it underground to safely consume the meal together.
- They are only seen in Tremors 4: The Legend Begins. Fourteen miners are eaten by the Shooters dubbed "Dirt Dragons".
- "Shooters" is an unofficial fan name for the creatures, and they are dubbed so in the Tremors encyclopedia. However, being a non-canon site, it is not their official name. In fact on the stampede entertainment site they are frequently called "Grablites", short for Graboid "Lite". The most agreed-upon name is "Dirt Dragon", although this was also used to refer to the full-sized Graboids. As the Dirt Dragons have not yet been encountered in the modern day, it is unknown what their name would be.