Things With Feathers is a Tumblr where paleoartist and scientific illustrator Emily Willoughby will post science, illustration, dinosaurs, feathers, fossils, and occasionally a little bit of silliness.

 

palaeoplushies:

Here’s the Archaeopteryx from my display picture. I finally got this painting to a place I can almost call finished, and for now it’s going to have to do. I might come back to it later, but maybe not for a while!

Now this is a very pretty Archie. Also, you should go support Rebecca’s awesome Kickstarter for accurate dinosaur plushies if you haven’t already.

palaeoplushies:

Here’s the Archaeopteryx from my display picture. I finally got this painting to a place I can almost call finished, and for now it’s going to have to do. I might come back to it later, but maybe not for a while!

Now this is a very pretty Archie. Also, you should go support Rebecca’s awesome Kickstarter for accurate dinosaur plushies if you haven’t already.

Anonymous asked
How do you feel about Dinotopia? and I guess by extension James Gurney? I mean like, would you consider his art and/or his book series to have had any influence on your own art and your own interest in dinosaurs?

Like many paleoartists of my generation, my interest in dinosaurs was definitely influenced by Dinotopia as a child—both for its wealth of engaging characters and its vibrant, colorful artwork. While not the absolute most scientifically rigorous, Gurney’s painting style remains one of my favorite flavors of modern paleoart, and I’ve learned much from his buttery lighting and exquisitely detailed textures.

I had the great pleasure of meeting him in person in Boston a few years ago and introducing myself and my work. During that meeting I gave him a drawing I had done of his son’s band, The Yanks, reimagined as dinosaurs with their musical instruments. Years later, the drawing became the official t-shirt of The Yanks! 

James Gurney is not only a wonderful painter and a huge inspiration for his richly imagined worlds, but is also one of the nicest famous people I’ve ever met. 

lythronax-argestes-the-gore-king:

spikeheila:

The land eagle-bear, spooky, bitey, fluffy.

Ohh yes. More fanart of the Willoughby Utahraptor.

This is hardly fanart of my work—rather, I find it to be a unique and accurate rendition of Utahraptor, based on the new material that hasn’t been formally published yet. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best example of how to restore the new material I’ve seen so far, with an excellent color scheme and that perfect balance of “birdiness” and predatory grace. 
For everyone who loves feathered dinosaurs, go follow Spike—you’ll find lots of fluff, a good eye for accuracy, and a lot of artistic potential.

lythronax-argestes-the-gore-king:

spikeheila:

The land eagle-bear, spooky, bitey, fluffy.

Ohh yes. More fanart of the Willoughby Utahraptor.

This is hardly fanart of my workrather, I find it to be a unique and accurate rendition of Utahraptor, based on the new material that hasn’t been formally published yet. In fact, I’d say it’s one of the best example of how to restore the new material I’ve seen so far, with an excellent color scheme and that perfect balance of “birdiness” and predatory grace. 

For everyone who loves feathered dinosaurs, go follow Spike—you’ll find lots of fluff, a good eye for accuracy, and a lot of artistic potential.

rideaudetoiles asked
What kind of camera do you use?

I currently shoot with a Canon EOS 60D, but I’m hoping to upgrade to the new 7D in a couple of months!

This is a speculative reconstruction of a subadult Deinonychus displaying semi-arboreal characteristics. It’s based on the tenuous assumption that the type specimen (YPM 5205) represents an immature animal, as compared to later specimens with slightly different morphological characteristics, most notably the Harvard specimen (MCZ 4371) described in 1976. Ostrom noted in the description for this newer specimen that one of the major differences between this and the type is the angle of curvature for the second pedal claw: the newer specimen had a much straighter sickle claw, while the original was very strongly curved. However, he had no opinion at the time on whether this difference in morphology represented individual, ontogenetic, or sexual variation.(1)
In 2006, Parsons & Parsons demonstrated unequivocally that the Harvard specimen is a sexually mature adult, and identified some unique adult characters associated with this and other mature adult Deinonychus specimens.(2) Further study by the same authors in 2009 tentatively indicates that the type specimen—a possible subadult—may be associated with arboreal characteristics. Adult specimens are also found to have proportionally shorter arms, leaving room to speculate whether the longer arms of subadults could have been a semi-volant adaptation involved in some incipient gliding (or, perhaps more accurate for an animal that size, “descent-slowing”) capabilities. The more strongly recurved second pedal claw is implicated in climbing, and its lateral compression and inner arc are compared in this paper to the same ungual in Melanerpes, the red-headed woodpecker (a highly scansorial modern bird).(3)
Behavior rarely fossilizes, and the idea that immature Deinonychus occupied a partially arboreal niche is still highly speculative, especially given that few modern archosaurs possess markedly different ecologies at different ontogenic stages. And while I don’t usually support copying extant birds this precisely for serious paleoart, it proved to be an excellent practice piece to flesh out a highly speculative idea.
This piece is based directly on an excellent photograph by my most admired living scientist, experimental psychologist Steven Pinker, who was kind enough to grant me permission to do so. Pinker is a world-renowned cognitive scientist as well as a talented photographer, and you can check out more of his better angles of our nature on his website at stevepinker.com.
It’s interesting to note that of all known specimens of deinonychosaurs, a sizable percentage of them represent juveniles or subadults, animals that lived very brief lives before succumbing to nature’s indifference. For the life of a Deinonychus was surely solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.
—
1. Ostrom, J. H. (1976). “On a new specimen of the Lower Cretaceous theropod dinosaur Deinonychus antirrhopus”. Breviora 439: 1–21.2. Parsons, W. L.; Parsons, K. M. (2006). “Morphology and size of an adult specimen of Deinonychus antirrhopus, (Saurischia, Theropoda)”. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26 (3 sup.): 109A.3. Parsons, W. L.; Parsons, K. M. (2009). “Further descriptions of the osteology of Deinonychus antirrhopus (Saurischia, Theropoda)”. Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences 38: 43–54.

This is a speculative reconstruction of a subadult Deinonychus displaying semi-arboreal characteristics. It’s based on the tenuous assumption that the type specimen (YPM 5205) represents an immature animal, as compared to later specimens with slightly different morphological characteristics, most notably the Harvard specimen (MCZ 4371) described in 1976. Ostrom noted in the description for this newer specimen that one of the major differences between this and the type is the angle of curvature for the second pedal claw: the newer specimen had a much straighter sickle claw, while the original was very strongly curved. However, he had no opinion at the time on whether this difference in morphology represented individual, ontogenetic, or sexual variation.(1)

In 2006, Parsons & Parsons demonstrated unequivocally that the Harvard specimen is a sexually mature adult, and identified some unique adult characters associated with this and other mature adult Deinonychus specimens.(2) Further study by the same authors in 2009 tentatively indicates that the type specimen—a possible subadult—may be associated with arboreal characteristics. Adult specimens are also found to have proportionally shorter arms, leaving room to speculate whether the longer arms of subadults could have been a semi-volant adaptation involved in some incipient gliding (or, perhaps more accurate for an animal that size, “descent-slowing”) capabilities. The more strongly recurved second pedal claw is implicated in climbing, and its lateral compression and inner arc are compared in this paper to the same ungual in Melanerpes, the red-headed woodpecker (a highly scansorial modern bird).(3)

Behavior rarely fossilizes, and the idea that immature Deinonychus occupied a partially arboreal niche is still highly speculative, especially given that few modern archosaurs possess markedly different ecologies at different ontogenic stages. And while I don’t usually support copying extant birds this precisely for serious paleoart, it proved to be an excellent practice piece to flesh out a highly speculative idea.

This piece is based directly on an excellent photograph by my most admired living scientist, experimental psychologist Steven Pinker, who was kind enough to grant me permission to do so. Pinker is a world-renowned cognitive scientist as well as a talented photographer, and you can check out more of his better angles of our nature on his website at stevepinker.com.

It’s interesting to note that of all known specimens of deinonychosaurs, a sizable percentage of them represent juveniles or subadults, animals that lived very brief lives before succumbing to nature’s indifference. For the life of a Deinonychus was surely solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

1. Ostrom, J. H. (1976). “On a new specimen of the Lower Cretaceous theropod dinosaur Deinonychus antirrhopus”. Breviora 439: 1–21.

2. Parsons, W. L.; Parsons, K. M. (2006). “Morphology and size of an adult specimen of Deinonychus antirrhopus, (Saurischia, Theropoda)”. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26 (3 sup.): 109A.

3. Parsons, W. L.; Parsons, K. M. (2009). “Further descriptions of the osteology of Deinonychus antirrhopus (Saurischia, Theropoda)”. Bulletin of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences 38: 43–54.

about me

tagged by @balthatzar.

name:  Emily.
age:  20-something.
gender:  Female.
selfie:  http://emilywilloughby.com/img/me2.jpg


favorites 

food:  Many things. Filet mignon, duck, avocados, sushi.
drink:  Coffee for the morning, g&t for the evening.
book:  The Blank Slate, The Fountainhead, and Predatory Dinosaurs of the World.
author:  Steven Pinker, Richard Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, William Beebe, Kurt Vonnegut, Frank Herbert. I couldn’t choose just one.
song:  Right now my favorite songs are “Question” by the Moody Blues and “I Want the World to Stop” by Belle & Sebastian, but “Time” by Pink Floyd is the only song that is a truly timeless (ha) favorite.
movie:  Back to the Future or Winged Migration.
tv show:  Curb Your Enthusiasm & Seinfeld. Not watching much at the moment.
band:  Pink Floyd, Belle & Sebastian, Of Monsters and Men, Mumford & Sons, Simon & Garfunkel, the Moody Blues.
solo artist:  Eric Clapton, Ko Ontani, or Bach.
place:  I’m not sure yet. Still searching for my favorite place.
subject:  My three main subjects of passion are paleontology and the art to communicate it, psychometrics and behavioral genetics, and bird photography.
sport:  Eh.
male actor:  My longest-term favorite actor is probably Ian McKellan.

female actor:  Dunno.

life
best friend:  A handful of people could fill that slot. 
siblings:  None, grew up with two step-brothers.
dream job:  What I’m working toward now is my dream job.
political ideology: I can’t say my ideology adheres to any major US political party — I’d best describe myself as a moderate little-l libertarian, but with caveats. 
religion:  None.
tattoos:  None.
piercing:  Two in each ear.
languages:  English.
reason behind tumblr url:  It’s my name.
reason behind icon:  It’s a fairly recent piece of art I’ve done.
tracked tags:  None
why you joined:  For another place to share my artwork and ramblings. 
first url:  Same as it is now.

Diagnostic anatomical reconstruction of Deinonychus antirrhopus, intended loosely for Wikipedia but also as an experimental piece to show pretty much exactly how I believe this animal looked in life.
This was largely inspired by an interesting Facebook discussion with paleoartist Julius Csotonyi about arm-folding in paravian dinosaurs. It occurred to me that people seldom reconstruct paravians, particularly dromaeosaurs, with their arms folded in a reasonable and accurate way. Julius made the fair point that these animals probably didn’t carry their arms out in front of the body, as is so often depicted (in skeletals and otherwise — it makes sense in skeletals, to adequately show the hand and arm anatomy), because such an awkward orientation would leave the hand and arm feathers open to damage and breakage. But they also can’t fold them tightly against the breast or back like birds do, because they lack the mobility to do so.
So how did Deinonychus normally carry its arms? Senter’s 2006 paper on forelimb function in Deinonychus and Bambiraptor shows that the humerus couldn’t rotate much past the horizontal with respect to the scapula. In addition, Sullivan et al. 2010 — winningly translated to layman coherency by Matt Martyniuk — shows that wrist mobility in many paravians is much less than you might expect, given their similarity to birds. The wrist of Deinonychus antirrhopus specifically would not have allowed it to bend its hands even 90° with respect to the arm!
Given these limitations, most of the flexion would have to occur at the elbow, but a fully flexed elbow would mean that the hands would be hanging below the body, not held sleek and secure alongside the body. The arm orientation in my illustration above is based on what I think is probably the perfect configuration for carrying the arms: a fully-flexed shoulder, a fully-flexed wrist, and a nearly fully-extended elbow. A few other people have drawn their dromaeosaurs with the same arm configuration, like Smnt2000 and Pilsator, so kudos to them.
Illustration based on the papers linked above as well as Scott Hartman's beautiful skeletal. Gouache on 12” x 20” hot-pressed illustration board.

Diagnostic anatomical reconstruction of Deinonychus antirrhopus, intended loosely for Wikipedia but also as an experimental piece to show pretty much exactly how I believe this animal looked in life.

This was largely inspired by an interesting Facebook discussion with paleoartist Julius Csotonyi about arm-folding in paravian dinosaurs. It occurred to me that people seldom reconstruct paravians, particularly dromaeosaurs, with their arms folded in a reasonable and accurate way. Julius made the fair point that these animals probably didn’t carry their arms out in front of the body, as is so often depicted (in skeletals and otherwise — it makes sense in skeletals, to adequately show the hand and arm anatomy), because such an awkward orientation would leave the hand and arm feathers open to damage and breakage. But they also can’t fold them tightly against the breast or back like birds do, because they lack the mobility to do so.

So how did Deinonychus normally carry its arms? Senter’s 2006 paper on forelimb function in Deinonychus and Bambiraptor shows that the humerus couldn’t rotate much past the horizontal with respect to the scapula. In addition, Sullivan et al. 2010 — winningly translated to layman coherency by Matt Martyniuk — shows that wrist mobility in many paravians is much less than you might expect, given their similarity to birds. The wrist of Deinonychus antirrhopus specifically would not have allowed it to bend its hands even 90° with respect to the arm!

Given these limitations, most of the flexion would have to occur at the elbow, but a fully flexed elbow would mean that the hands would be hanging below the body, not held sleek and secure alongside the body. The arm orientation in my illustration above is based on what I think is probably the perfect configuration for carrying the arms: a fully-flexed shoulder, a fully-flexed wrist, and a nearly fully-extended elbow. A few other people have drawn their dromaeosaurs with the same arm configuration, like Smnt2000 and Pilsator, so kudos to them.

Illustration based on the papers linked above as well as Scott Hartman's beautiful skeletal. Gouache on 12” x 20” hot-pressed illustration board.

albertonykus:

killdeercheer:

A phylogeny of maniraptors - a gift for albertonykus for being awesome :D
Whipped up from recent avian phylogenies & Dr. Holtz’ Theropod cladograms. Green = extant lineages, brown = extinct. Yeah, the non-avian maniraptors are a little sparse, I apologize for that, but one of my main goals was to create a ‘consensus’ of multiple trees. The birds relationships are slowly stabilizing, but we have a long way to go.
Any inaccuracies or changes, please let me know.
Images from PhyloPic - http://phylopic.org/

I love this! You keep springing surprise gifts on me. XD

Cladograms: you’re doing it right. This is gorgeous! 

albertonykus:

killdeercheer:

A phylogeny of maniraptors - a gift for albertonykus for being awesome :D

Whipped up from recent avian phylogenies & Dr. Holtz’ Theropod cladograms. Green = extant lineages, brown = extinct. Yeah, the non-avian maniraptors are a little sparse, I apologize for that, but one of my main goals was to create a ‘consensus’ of multiple trees. The birds relationships are slowly stabilizing, but we have a long way to go.

Any inaccuracies or changes, please let me know.

Images from PhyloPic - http://phylopic.org/

I love this! You keep springing surprise gifts on me. XD

Cladograms: you’re doing it right. This is gorgeous! 

ask-the-meganula-hivemind asked
Hello. Do you have any good sources on the feathering on raptors? I have been drawing them for some time, looking at bird field guide after field guide, and skeletal diagrams, but I still feel like I need help to make them as accurate as possible. Thank you.

I’m actually somewhat unsure whether you mean birds of prey or deinonychosaur dinosaur by “raptor” (the rules of thumb for feathering in dromaeosaurs and troodonts are essentially the same, and both groups belong to the clade Deinonychosauria), but given whom you’re asking, I’ll assume the latter. There are a number of effective “how-to” feathering guides for deinonychosaurs that I’ve come across, so I’ll link to a few of them here. Keep in mind that these should serve as a general guide only, specific taxa should be researched at the source, and that phylogenetic bracketing invokes different traits depending on which taxon you’re feathering.

Restore Dino Wings by Smnt2000: [1], [2], [3], and [4]

Common Errors for Velociraptor by Tomozaurus

Velociraptor Infographic by ChrisMasna

Feather Evolution by me

Tips for Drawing Prehistoric Raptors by Grays-Raptor-Flock

Feathered Dino Arm/Wing PSA by SageKorppi

sylph0fl1ght asked
How's it going? Also can I ask how long it takes you to do the average art piece?

Hi there, it is going well! An average professional piece with full background and a lot of detail can take me in the range of a few days to a few weeks, whereas my absolutely most involved paintings to date have taken on-and-off work spread out over several months. My current job requires that I do a relatively high-quality piece in a matter of around 4 days, so that’s been my rate of production for the past few months.

I’ve learned over the course of being a scientific illustrator that improvement entails not just increasing the objective quality of work, but learning how to achieve the same quality in less time.

lythronax-argestes-the-gore-king asked
Re sylph0fl1ght's question, do you think that true gliding behavior as observed in large seabirds such as albatrosses could be possible for more primitive paravians such as microraptorians?

Albatrosses are soarers, not gliders, and they’re among the most specialized of all flying vertebrates. Microraptorines lack many of the adaptations for soaring found in birds like the albatross - an elongated humerus, the presence of tertiary feathers, and an extraordinarily high aspect ratio, to name a few.

Gliding by definition is an energy-efficient mode of locomotion that involves movement from higher ground to lower, and is a totally separate phenomenon from soaring.

sylph0fl1ght asked
How long do you think we'll have to wait before scientists find out what color Changyuraptor was?

Color studies are relatively unlikely to happen for taxa for which we only have the holotype. Melanosome studies also require extraordinary, fine-grain preservation of the fossil. It’s more likely if future specimens of the genus are found, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. 

sylph0fl1ght asked
Interesting. Hopefully we'll find more microraptorines and get a better idea of the size range of gliding dromaeosaurs? Do you agree with Planet Dinosaur that Microraptor and kin's leg feathers would've gotten in the way of walking?

No, I don’t agree that legwings (or pennaceous feathered “trousers”) would have necessarily gotten in the way of walking. Two reasons come to mind, and one comes from functional morphology and the other from evolutionary logic. First, assuming these structures would impede walking requires a certain lack of imagination: we don’t yet know for sure how an animal like Microraptor would have held its legwings, but one reasonable idea is that they were splayed in a manner not dissimilar to fancy pigeons, which have little trouble walking despite being selectively bred for this admittedly unnatural trait. Another idea is that they folded and overlapped like regular wings do, with the metatarsal section of the legwing being under some amount of muscular control and folding under the tibiotarsal section. Matt Martyniuk draws his Microraptor legwings in such a manner. In either case, the feet are relatively unimpeded by the structures.

Another important point to keep in mind comes from how evolution itself works - and doesn’t work. Walking (and running, leaping, and other ambulatory activities) is an invaluable part of the tetrapod legacy, and it’s only given up in cases of extreme adaptation to other ways of life that make the loss worthwhile. One example is loons, grebes and other diving birds whose entire morphology is built around their capacity to dive at high speeds. In these animals, their ability to walk on land is severely limited by the exaggerated posterior placement of the feet. Swifts and hummingbirds (a group whose order name literally means “footless” because early naturalists thought they didn’t have them) are another example, and their feet are useful for almost nothing but clinging. This is because they are extraordinary specialist flyers, some of the best in the world. 

Microraptor, however, has been demonstrated to NOT be an aerial specialist! (Nor does it seem to be a specialist of any other sort, including its diet.) It’s very unlikely that it would have lost performance of such a basic function without evolving a comparable specialty. In my view, Microraptor was a fairly generalized crappy glider that was reasonably adept at walking, running, climbing and leaping.

Anonymous asked
If you were to paint a tyrannosaur, would you restore it with pennaceous feathers?

I would not choose to restore a tyrannosaur with pennaceous feathers, which so far appear to be restricted to maniraptoriform dinosaurs. 

Anonymous asked
How fluffy/feathery do you suppose the legs of larger dinosaurs might've gotten, if at all? Just recently I was wondering how ridiculous a, say, tyrannosaur might look with disco pants like microraptor has. That seems like it might be incredibly unrealistic, though. c:

It’s hard to know for sure. Most Mesozoic dinosaurs described with feathery “pants” did not have actual legwings, which is a term that I think should be reserved for lift-generating surfaces, as in Microraptor and the newly-described Changyuraptor. Modern hawks are good examples of fluffy pants in a non-aerodynamic role, and it’s difficult to say that even something as large as a tyrannosaur would have definitely not had something along those lines. Yutyrannus (a tyrannosauroid, but not a tyrannosaur) had filamentous feathers covering almost the entire body, possibly down to the feet. 

True legwings and voluminous feathered pants seem restricted to Maniraptora so far, but I wouldn’t rule out filamentous feathers extending down to the pes in tyrannosaurs and other larger groups.