STL Science Center

STL Science Center

19 July 2019

Modern Dinosaurs

Since the description of Deinonychus by John Ostrom in 1969 the "dinosaur renaissance" that was kicked off by this paper and the hypotheses it generated, in part, has radically changed how we imagine and study dinosaurs. Deinonychus, for example, was originally illustrated as a leather skinned dinosaur. Deinonychus illustrations ranged in color and from strong looking to the often emaciated appearance that many dinosaurs, especially in the 1980's, were illustrated like. These versions have the skin pulled taut over bones in a way that makes the animals appear to lack muscle and other soft tissue. However, we do not generally see these kinds of illustrations anymore. Now, Deinonychus illustrations are almost always covered in feathers and typically have some elaborate feathers on the forelimbs, tail, and/or head. Admittedly, some of my favorite illustrations are those of Emily Willoughby, who has made this ferocious nightmarish dinosaur into an almost innocent looking (though likely still murderous) ball of fluffy feathers (on Wikipedia and DeviantArt). The bird-like appearance of Deinonychus has been taken to extremes at times as well; consider Luis V. Rey's rather turkey-like version of the dromaeosaur here. Unfortunately, the feathering and bird-like appearance have not been adopted by the most mainstream representation of Deinonychus: the "Velociraptor" of Jurassic Park. Crichton's dromaeosaurs were based off of Deinonychus antirrhopus. Jurassic Park (1990) was published shortly after Gregory S. Paul's Predatory Dinosaurs of the World (1988) which assigned Deinonychus to Velociraptor. This may explain why Crichton's Jurassic Park refers to these animals as Velociraptor antirrhopus; it's a nice story either way. However, the movies have increased the size of the animals and retained their old style of integument, possibly too inspire fear. The very minor exception is Jurassic Park 3, which did show some proto-feathering on the dromaeosaurs.
Some effort shown here, right?

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