STL Science Center

STL Science Center

15 September 2012

Bambiraptor the Feathered

Artist Unknown at this time
Dromaeosaurs are expected to have feathering these days. There is not a single thing wrong about feathering on Dromaeosaurs on account of the fact that we have fossils that have feathers. The exact nature of the feathering on Bambiraptor, at this time, is not known, however. The hope for the future is, of course, that there will be known feathering from fossils of some kind to support the theory of a feathered dinosaur. The reasoning, or part of the reasoning, for the original feathered illustrations came from the ideas of paleontologists that Bambiraptor appeared to be an arboreal hunter of small agile creatures it could watch from above such as small mammals and lizards living on the forest floor.The small size of Bambiraptor would certainly have allowed it to scale trees more easily as powered flight in this dinosaur was not a reality. Gliding was probably not a reality for an animal like this either at this stage in the development of the dinosaur-bird lineage.

©Scott Hartman
The holotype, possessing the majority of its bones, has led to many other clues about the tiny dinosaur. Its teeth, for instance, are  recurved like those of other Dromaeosaurs which has led some paleontologists to look at diet and how Bambiraptor fed itself. Given its small stature swallowing smaller animals whole would, while feasible, probably be somewhat problematic as it did not have the largest teeth to hold the prey in place as it shifted the prey for swallowing. One alternative that has been voiced is that the arms and wrists of this dinosaur were supple and long enough to actually hold prey up to the mouth, allowing Bambiraptor to eat its prey items the same way we eat cheeseburgers or small mammals eat their food. If this is indeed the case that would be quite a unique situation in the dinosaur world, given that almost all other predatory dinosaurs possess arms far too short to reach their mouths, let alone to feed themselves. The hand alone on Bambiraptor is fairly enormous for its size as a dinosaur.

Alternative images of Bambiraptor are fantastic to look out. I could pick out typical feathered Bambiraptors all day long for this post, but none of them are as interesting as this slightly different modeling of the dinosaur. There's something to be said about the idea that there were more than likely one variation of a dinosaur species and the portrayal thereof. Often we find a very mundane mixture of coloration in feathering illustrations, however, here we have a typically forest-colored feather scheme replaced with a much more gull-like coloration scheme. The idea that another variation of Bambiraptor may have been more of a shoreline animal is more interesting than usual in part because there are very few trees for it to sit in along an ocean shoreline. Along the interior seaway in North America Bambiraptors in the forests as well as along the shore may have been a daily sighting for other dinosaurs going about their business. This different coloration may have belonged to a second species, if it had in fact existed, or it may just be one of many possible colorations that could have been found in Bambiraptor. Perhaps in the future we will be able to find out.

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