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.

 

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 ears.
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.

sylph0fl1ght asked
Have you seen Planet Dinosaur? Do you think Sinornithosaurus could've glided or is it more plausble to have Changyuraptor as the predator in that scenario instead?

I vaguely recall the episode (is that the one with the unfortunate attachment of primaries to the third manual digit?) but I don’t remember the specifics of the chase scenario. I definitely don’t think it’s totally outside the question that Sinornithosaurus could have been using its wings and tail to glide (or “descent-slow”) from higher to lower ground, certainly.

sylph0fl1ght asked
Do you think there's an upper size limit for a gliding dromaeosaur, since Changyuraptor shows that even ones bigger than Microraptor could glide?

Gliding is such a fundamentally different aerodynamic process from flying that it’s difficult to pin a hypothesized “maximum” size and weight on it. It might be easier to ask how long feathers can grow while retaining function and rigidity, and there may be an answer to that. As we see with Changyuraptor's elongated retrices, evolution imposes different restrictions and functions on the anatomy of an animal at greater sizes. Your question also rests somewhat on the definition of “glide” - even a large dromaeosaur could probably slow its descent very slightly with a lift-generating surface, so the line between “true” gliding and “descent slowing” might be as fuzzy as Tianyulong's tuchus.

Changyuraptor yangi is a newly-described microraptorine dromaeosaur dinosaur from the early Cretaceous (Yixian formation) of Liaoning, China.
The animal would have been around 4 feet long in life, and its fossil shows that it was covered in feathers — including, as in its smaller cousin Microraptor, a pair of “leg wings” represented by long paired pennaceous feathers on the metatarsals and tibiotarsus. One of Changyuraptor's most unique features is its voluminous tail feathers, and these feathers constitute the longest of any known non-avian dinosaur, with the most distal retrices reaching around 30 cm in length.
Changyuraptor is also by far the largest “four-winged” dinosaur known, and while this might not be as big of a deal as it sounds (given that there aren’t very many “four-winged” dinosaurs), it does show that small size wasn’t necessarily the gatekeeper to certain volant adaptations. I personally doubt that this animal was doing anything approaching powered flight, but the long tail feathers and multiple sets of long, well-developed lifting surfaces may have been a boon to gliding and controlled descent. The exceptionally long tail feathers therefore might have been used as a sort of “pitch control” device, wherein a large, relatively heavy animal would have needed especially fine-tuned control over rapid falls onto prey or in safe landings from higher ground. As Buzz Lightyear would say, “This isn’t flying, it’s falling with style!”
—
Gouache paint on A3-size hot-pressed illustration board, approx. 5-6 hours.
Gang Han et al. 2014. “A new raptorial dinosaur with exceptionally long feathering provides insights into dromaeosaurid flight performance”. Nature Communications. 5: 4382.

Changyuraptor yangi is a newly-described microraptorine dromaeosaur dinosaur from the early Cretaceous (Yixian formation) of Liaoning, China.

The animal would have been around 4 feet long in life, and its fossil shows that it was covered in feathers — including, as in its smaller cousin Microraptor, a pair of “leg wings” represented by long paired pennaceous feathers on the metatarsals and tibiotarsus. One of Changyuraptor's most unique features is its voluminous tail feathers, and these feathers constitute the longest of any known non-avian dinosaur, with the most distal retrices reaching around 30 cm in length.

Changyuraptor is also by far the largest “four-winged” dinosaur known, and while this might not be as big of a deal as it sounds (given that there aren’t very many “four-winged” dinosaurs), it does show that small size wasn’t necessarily the gatekeeper to certain volant adaptations. I personally doubt that this animal was doing anything approaching powered flight, but the long tail feathers and multiple sets of long, well-developed lifting surfaces may have been a boon to gliding and controlled descent. The exceptionally long tail feathers therefore might have been used as a sort of “pitch control” device, wherein a large, relatively heavy animal would have needed especially fine-tuned control over rapid falls onto prey or in safe landings from higher ground. As Buzz Lightyear would say, “This isn’t flying, it’s falling with style!”

Gouache paint on A3-size hot-pressed illustration board, approx. 5-6 hours.

Gang Han et al. 2014. “A new raptorial dinosaur with exceptionally long feathering provides insights into dromaeosaurid flight performance”. Nature Communications. 5: 4382.

This is an illustration from part of a set of birds for a museum that unfortunately ended up not being used. In any case, that means I’m free to share it and do with it what I please. It is also for sale in my Etsy shop.
The golden eagle is one of my favorite birds of prey, and is indisputably one of the most powerful and magnificent living dinosaurs. This eagle, depicted in an attack dive, was painted in watercolor and gouache on A3-size hot-press artboard over a period of around 2-3 days.

This is an illustration from part of a set of birds for a museum that unfortunately ended up not being used. In any case, that means I’m free to share it and do with it what I please. It is also for sale in my Etsy shop.

The golden eagle is one of my favorite birds of prey, and is indisputably one of the most powerful and magnificent living dinosaurs. This eagle, depicted in an attack dive, was painted in watercolor and gouache on A3-size hot-press artboard over a period of around 2-3 days.

lackofa:

Animorphs: a book series where in any given fightscene someone usually gets dismembered in some way. For kids!

Any of my followers Animorphs fans? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of the bloody battles from those books well-illustrated before. So awesome. 

lackofa:

Animorphs: a book series where in any given fightscene someone usually gets dismembered in some way. For kids!

Any of my followers Animorphs fans? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of the bloody battles from those books well-illustrated before. So awesome.