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Archaeopteryx - Landing

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This is the third in a series of feathered dinosaur illustrations for *Agahnim's and my upcoming book on evolution. You can see the first two here and here.

It depicts the famous feathered dino-bird Archaeoptyerx lithographica in its native environment of the tropical Solnhofen, of modern-day Germany. Archaeopteryx was a very small animal, roughly the size of a modern-day pigeon (not including its long, bony tail, a feature not found in extant birds) and lived 150 million years ago in the Tithonian stage of the Jurassic. Archaeopteryx remains one of the best champions of evolutionary theory due to its status as a "transitional" fossil, providing a clear example of an overlap of avian and dinosaurian features.

Though originally thought to be the earliest example of a true bird, Archaeopteryx also has a great deal in common with other theropod dinosaurs, especially deinonychosaurs, and was probably a poor flier. It had many small, sharp teeth, three-fingered hands, a long, bony tail, and lacks a bony breastbone but possesses a large wishbone. Most of the discovered Archaeopteryx fossils clearly show imprints of advanced feathering, including asymmetrical flight feathers on the wings. It also lacks a fully-reversed hallux, indicating that it was probably not capable of perching in the same way that most modern birds are able to do. It was probably more of a climber, glider or a runner than a bird capable of true powered flight.

A lot of work went into this piece, and I'm very grateful for the critiques and help of *Agahnim as well as many of the Gondolendians. Prismacolor pencil on sketchbook paper.
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© 2009 - 2021 EWilloughby
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Evodolka's avatar
a truly beautiful animal
EWilloughby's avatar
That study was performed on a single covert, not the whole fossil. The covert is black, yes, but the coverts on this illustration are black, too. ;)
EWilloughby's avatar
They could stand to be a bit darker. I might decide to go over them again at some point.
PeteriDish's avatar
absolutely gorgeous! =B
MelyssaThePunkRocker's avatar
Lovely work! You captured the motion perfectly. I see you submitted this a couple years ago. You probably already know this but Archaeopteryx is now considered a theropod. I came across this in a peer-reviewed journal and on youtube while researching for my literary review project.
EWilloughby's avatar
Birds are already technically considered maniraptorans, which are theropods, so Archaeopteryx is and always has been considered a theropod. ;) As for its position on the phylogenetic tree, Xiaotingia did indeed dethrone Archaeopteryx as a bird for a while, indicating it was likely a deinonychosaur instead - but a more thorough analysis was published not long after the fact which failed to construct the same tree, and found Archaeopteryx to still be a bird (and indicating instead that Xiaotingia was probably a deinonychosaur). As far as I know the issue isn't entirely conclusive yet, but the whole bird/dinosaur distinction is kind of meaningless anyway imo.

Thanks for the comment though! :)
MelyssaThePunkRocker's avatar
Yeah, once the similarities start disappearing and the "missing link" traits are seen in both early birds and nearly-bird theropods, it's hard to draw the exact line that distinctly separates the two. It's like trying to decide if orange is red or yellow, haha. (hope that last part makes sense)
EWilloughby's avatar
It makes perfect sense!
MelyssaThePunkRocker's avatar
Yay! What doesn't make sense is the people that argue against the theropod to bird theory with nothing to back up their claim. The chances that an integument as complex in structure as the feather evolved twice in unrelated taxa is virtually zero. But people that don't understand biology well won't accept that as an arguement. Ever had that problem? No matter what evidence you give they think you are making it up or making connections between impossibly related things?
EWilloughby's avatar
Haha yeah, unfortunately there are still some BANDits kicking around. I got into an argument with one (who worked) at my state museum a few months ago. As far as I know, though, they think that fluffy maniraptorans were probably just big flightless birds, and that other types of theropod dinosaur evolved separately, which would not necessitate complex feathers evolving twice in unrelated taxa. Unless of course you're talking about creationists instead... and that is an entirely different (and far smellier) can of worms.
MelyssaThePunkRocker's avatar
Haha, I like your can of worms reference. I do prefer the educated debating of avian evolution over the creationist one, though. The hardest part about argueing with creationists is that nothing you propose will ever change their mind and they can never give you testable evidence.
Chickenosaurus's avatar
Drachenvuur's avatar
Your work amazes me. Your book is also going to be spectacular!
EWilloughby's avatar
davonne's avatar
a simply beautiful creature I wish they were still around
[link]

I love it! The link above thought to use your Deviant Art in an article about sexual perversions of dinosaurs! Nice work, btw ^^
Quetzalcoatls's avatar
first off fantastic pic i love it!

second i hate to be a whistle blower but someone used your image on a news web site [link]

its actually a rather funny article but seeing as you say you plan on using this in a book i thought you might want to know.
nebulafire's avatar
Ahh, my favorite of them all (Although Microraptor is also quite awesome)! It's so cool seeing how much in common modern day birds and have in common with ancient creatures such as Archaeopteryx.

This is more on an aesthetic level, but you've added the level of depth well by making the background a little less focused than the foreground. It makes the image a lot easier to look at!
EonOrteaShadowmaster's avatar
A magnificent piece on a fantastic critter!
EWilloughby's avatar
Mobius89's avatar
Wow, added to favourites!
Hndz's avatar
those are beautiful colors c:
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