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Tips on Deinonychosaur Drawing



I understand that my own drawings could use plenty of improvement, but I thought I'd share some tips on drawing deinonychosaurs ("raptor dinosaurs").

This picture shows two Deinonychus antirrhopus. The one on top is as morphologically wrong as I could make; an amalgamation of the errors I've seen in deinonychosaur art on DeviantArt and elsewhere. The one on the bottom is, by comparison, more correct.

What exactly is wrong about the Deinonychus antirrhopus on top? Without futher ado, here are the details.

Body covering - Fossilized skin impressions, skeletal evidence, and phylogenetic studies show that deinonychosaurs had feathers, just like modern birds. Even Utahraptor ostrommaysorum, the largest of the deinonychosaurs, would have most likely had them; various scientific studies on this so far show size is no implication when it comes to whether a dinosaur has feathers, and it's generally hypothesized that feathers can't revert back to scales*. Furthermore, deinonychosaurs had clawed wings like Archaeopteryx lithographica.

A few things to note:
-The leg feathers of most deinonychosaurs reach down to the ankles, not just the knees, and some go down further. In the troodont Anchiornis huxleyi, they cover even the toes.

-Hind wings are present in at least some deinonychosaurs and is possibly an ancestral feature. These hind wing feathers probably stuck out to the sides and not down. (To my knowledge, there isn't yet a scientific paper published on this subject, but it's the only logical conclusion I know of. If the hind wing feathers pointed down deinonychosaurs wouldn't have been able to sit, but we know they sat because there are specimens preserved in a sitting position.)

-The index finger** of deinonychosaurs supports some of the wing feathers (again, like birds), meaning part of the hands will be hidden under the wings.

-In fact, the wing feathers are so long in at least some deinonychosaurs that they had to lift their wings out to the sides when on the ground, and were unable to hold them out in front! Unlike modern birds, deinonychosaurs couldn't hold their wings up above their backs. (In fact, neither could the earliest birds.)

-However, deinonychosaurs don't have tertials (long wing feathers on the upper arm).

-Among deinonychosaurs, troodonts have long tail feathers (retrices) all along the tail, dromaeosaurids have them only near the tip.

-Deinonychosaurs don't have beaks, and the feathers extend to the snout. In Anchiornis huxleyi, for example, only a little bit at the tip is left without fuzz.

Hands: The hands of deinonychosaurs and other meat-eating dinosaurs face inward, not down, in their natural poses. It's possible for a deinonychosaur to point it palms down by lifting its wings out to the sides (once again, like a bird), but that's it. The thumb is the shortest finger, and the index finger the longest. Deinonychosaurs could fold their wings up, but not to the degree seen in modern birds. They could fold their hands back about sixty degrees.

Tail: Although deinonychosaur tails were stiffened by ossified (bony) tendons and certainly not whippy or serpentine, they were still flexible enough to wrap around the dinosaur's body, as shown by fossils of seemingly sleeping deinonychosaurs.

Feet: Deinonychosaurs only have four toes on each foot. The first (inner) toe is small and doesn't touch the ground. (So the "big toe" of a deinonychosaur isn't big at all!) The second toe holds the infamous killing claw of deinonychosaurs. It is usually held off the ground when not in use. The other two toes are regular-sized and used for walking.

Eyes: Deinonychosaurs (and most modern hypercarnivorous birds) have eyes that are slightly set forward so they have some binocular vision. (I forgot about this when I was drawing the picture, so mine isn't a good example.) However, birds, and most likely deinonychosaurs, can't roll their eyeballs very well. If they want to look in some other direction, they need to turn their heads. Of course, this makes all of my drawings incorrect, but my drawings are supposed to be somewhat cartoony.

*However, Dr. Thomas Holtz, author of Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages (a must own for any dino fan by the way), informs me that, "general agreement aside, we do NOT know that feathers can't revert to scales. Indeed, there are modern mutant chickens in which you can get scalation to replace feathers. Furthermore, the addition of new skin as an animal grows (particularly over so many orders of magnitude) isn't straight forward: is the spot halfway down the torso at the fifth dorsal in an adult T. rex REALLY homologous to the same spot in the hatchling? Or might some parts of the skin grow at different allometry?"
**This has been disputed lately, some say it's probably the middle finger, but the evidence isn't all that convincing. Either way, I mean the second finger that's on their wings.
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TarbosaurusBatar's avatar
Ah yes, you forgot the greyhound torso on the above drawing.