STL Science Center

STL Science Center

16 January 2016

Seeing the Dinosaur

(C) Matt Martyniuk
The dinosaurian head of Anchiornis is one of the most visible features of the little dinosaur. The small body, wings, and tail are much more bird-like than the head. Granted the tail is very long and dinosaur-like overall, but there are also long tailed birds. The anatomy of these tails is completely different, with dinosaurs like Anchiornis possessing a long column of caudal vertebrae and the long-tailed birds possessing very long tail feathers supported by a fused "clump" of caudal vertebrae called the pygostyle. The blunted nose of Anchiornis, getting back to the dinosaur traits of the head, was covered in feathers to the nasal protuberance. The maxilla and premaxilla have been described as housing teeth, a very unbird-like trait. The feathers of Anchiornis have been found with fossilized pigmentation, therefore we can attest to the validity of coloration in the illustrations that are in existence all over. That includes the wonderfully red crown portrayed in this illustration. That crown, assuming it was not dimorphic was probably present on males and females, like modern birds such as the Northern Cardinal. Like the Northern Cardinal, the brightest crowns would have belonged to the males. However, to bring in another extant bird, the crown could have been like that of the Blue Jay, which is not dimorphic in presence or pigmentation between the sexes.

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