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Still Not a 'Raptor'

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Slowly but surely, the idea that deinonychosaurs ("raptors") had feathers is reaching the minds of the public. Compared to past years, here have hardly been any complaints about feathered deinonychosaurs on Wikipedia so far this year.

However, at least some people must still have some misgivings about feathered deinonychosaurs, because they try to compromise. They give their deinonychosaurs a fuzzy mane down the neck or a crest of feathers on the head or a few strands of protofeathers on the arms and leave everything else scaly.

Oops, that still doesn't cut it.

Previously, I've done a piece on common anatomical errors made when drawing deinonychosaurs, but this time I'll focus on the plumage.

For one thing, almost all of a deinonychosaur's body would've been covered in pennaceous feathers. The very tip of the snout (not the entire snout, just the tip) is the only area that's free of feathers in all deinonychosaurs with known integument, and in many, the lower legs (below the ankles) or feet are scaly as in birds, but the maybe-deinonychosaur Anchiornis huxleyi even has feathered toes. The fingers are commonly shown as scaly in many renditions, but this is incorrect. Even the fingers were feathered! We also know that some deinonychosaurs, like Microraptor zhaoianus, had head crests that may have been formed by pennaceous feathers. It is plausible that the largest deinonychosaurs had some bare areas (likely the legs, flanks, and neck, as in big flightless birds), but there is no good reason to suppose any deinonychosaur lost its feathers altogether. (And remember, those bare areas wouldn't have been scaly. They're just naked skin.)

Deinonychosaurs had longer pennaceous feathers on the wings and tail as well, similar to modern birds. A lot, if not most, pictures of feathered deinonychosaurs give them secondaries (feathers on the lower arm), which is good because they had those. However, they also had primary feathers. Let me rephrase that.

Deinonychosaurs had primary feathers deinonychosaurs had primary feathers deinonychosaurs had primary feathers deinonychosaurs had primary feathers deinonychosaurs had primary feathers deinonychosaurs had primary feathers deinonychosaurs had primary feathers deinonychosaurs had primary feathers deinonychosaurs had primary feathers deinonychosaurs had primary feathers.

I've lost count of the time where otherwise good images of deinonychosaurs have no primary feathers. Primary feathers are the feathers which attach to the second finger, so a correct deinonychosaur image would show part of its hands hidden behind the primaries. If you see one that shows its hands exposed in full view, that is wrong! However, deinonychosaurs did not have tertials. Those are the big feathers on the upper arm. They just had shorter feathers there. A deinonychosaur with fully extended wings will leave a gap between the wings and body.

At least some deinonychosaurs had long pennaceous feathers on the legs, too, forming a second pair of wings. This trait may be ancestral to the group, but some other deinonychosaurs may or may not have lost it. I usually draw all deinonychosaurs with at least rudimentary hind wings, but we don't know much about those yet.

The pennaceous feathers of the tail are restricted to a fan on the tip in dromaeosaurids (the more robust "raptors"), but are found all along the tail in troodonts (the more gracile, longer-legged "raptors").

One more thing to remember: if you look at modern birds, their skeletons barely match their living bodies because they have so many feathers. In life, feathers hide a lot of skeletal features, so it's best to make feathered deinonychosaurs look somewhat bigger and plumper than you'd expect from their skeletons, with no obvious S curve in the neck.
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ELLYsZOOTYCOONER's avatar
Even those anamatronic dinosaurs that are at Liverpool right now fail at getting feathers right. Even the Velociraptor. Quill-less Proto? Okay. Archeopteryx with no back wing feathers? Mild disapointment, but excusable. Bald Gallimimus and primary-less Oviraptor and Velociraptor? Y U BE EVIL, EXPERTS!?
MatthewOnArt's avatar
this kind of reminds me of the time I saw a Raptor shown like this
I was in a Target and I noticed a Children's Dinosaur sticker book, and on the Cover was a Velociraptor, Completely Scaled except for about four of Five Feathers on it's head and Arms.
Ironically, it was supposed to be about Accurate Dinosaurs for kids :I
ElSqiubbonator's avatar
I want to ask you for some advice. I'm writing a novel that involves dinosaurs, and I plan to illustrate it. One of the dinosaurs in it is Deinonychus, and I want to make it look as accurate as possible while still being something that the man in the street would recognize as a "raptor," to avoid alienating my readers. What would you reccommend?
Albertonykus's avatar
Might be somewhat difficult without resorting to gorilla suit syndrome (i.e.: what I've done here). If it were up to me I might just use an accurate Deinonychus to begin with (see [link] for a good example), and somehow explain somewhere that this is how dromaeosaurids are thought to look now. "Large ground-running eagle" is a good analogy. (I swear, if I ever write a dinosaur novel I'll have a section at the back explaining all the science and evidence behind it... which will probably turn out to be more interesting than the novel itself. But that might not be what you're going for.)
That's also 1 of the reasons why I like "Raptor Pack" even more than "Raptor Red" despite RP being a kid's book: Unlike RR, most of RP is the science behind the story.
"(I swear, if I ever write a dinosaur novel I'll have a section at the back explaining all the science and evidence behind it... which will probably turn out to be more interesting than the novel itself. But that might not be what you're going for.)"

That's basically how I feel about the Preface & Epilogue of "Raptor Red": While I like the story, I like the science behind it even more.
ElSqiubbonator's avatar
I want to make this a book for as wide an audience as possible, and as such I don't want to turn them off by having to explain why my dinosaurs look different than what they're used to. So I want something that still looks at least a little like a "classic" dromaeosaur rather than a weird bird.
Albertonykus's avatar
I actually think it would be a great chance to stealth educate them on what dinosaurs are thought to be like nowadays, but I see where you're coming from. Would something like this ([link]) work? Fully feathered, but still with a basic "dinosaur" body shape instead of having everything hidden under the plumage.
ElSqiubbonator's avatar
sagittariussigner's avatar
Based on my own opinion, I don't think so much about the "reptile-esque" deinonychosaurs (in idotic people belief), because it made them unrealistic. I like this drawing.
Albertonykus's avatar
Thanks. In some ways deinonychosaurs not being feathered enough bothers me more than Jurassic-Park-style depictions as well, because they give a wrong idea of what a feathered dinosaur really looks like.
Unfortunately, that's what the best Velociraptor models ( [link] ) ( [link] ) look like.
Albertonykus's avatar
Argh, classic gorilla suits.
I wouldn't go that far, at least not for Rey's Velociraptor. As you can see in the 1st link's 3rd pic, the bare areas (besides the feet & hands) have naked skin & the body is hidden by the feathers. My only problem w/it is the lack of wing & tail feathers. Czerkas' Deinonychus is what I'd call a classic gorilla suit. As you can see in the 2nd link's 2nd pic, it looks more like scaley dino wearing a chicken suit than a feathered dino.

[link]

[link]
Albertonykus's avatar
True that, and in any case Rey's sculpture is now fairly old, so it's more a matter of being outdated.
Just in case you didn't know: While Rey hasn't updated his Velociraptor sculpture, he has updated his Velociraptor ( [link] ), which is cool b/c I can now say that Rey's Velociraptor is the best I've seen.
Albertonykus's avatar
Wow, very cool. I know he has also updated his old painting of some Utahraptor attacking an Astrodon with thicker plumage and wing feathers. (I can't find the updated version online, but it's in The Great Dinosaur Discoveries by Darren Naish.)
"(I can't find the updated version online, but it's in The Great Dinosaur Discoveries by Darren Naish.)"

That's 1 of my serious dino books (See my 4th post: [link] ), so I know what you're referring to. While I do like the updated version of his 1st Utahraptor/Astrodon painting, I prefer his 2nd Utahraptor/Astrodon painting ( [link] ).
Albertonykus's avatar
Yes, that other Utahraptor-Astrodon painting is a very good one. I like it a lot as well.
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Heh, makes me think that one of these days I should dig out some of my old 'raptor' drawings and update them to the latest knowledge (The first I ever drew were /way/ before deinonychosaurs were seen as having so much as a single feather...)

Say... did they have primary feathers? ;)
Albertonykus's avatar
I usually try to update my drawings every year, though not the really, really old ones.

Haha! XD
Gozer-The-Destroyor's avatar
I used to draw them like this when I was in middle school. Finally got comfortable enough with the concept of dino-feathers to draw them in full plumage. In fact, I think some of my really old pictures on my other account depict them as being half-plucked like this...
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