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Microraptor Piscivory
By EWilloughby   |   Watch
881 110 24K (4 Today)
Published: April 20, 2013
© 2013 - 2019 EWilloughby
[Update March 1st, 2014] Most of you will have seen this by now, but I've recently taken some time to update this painting with improved lighting, color balance, and a few details here and there. For all but the most dedicated of watchers it might be hard to tell the difference, but I think it represents a definite improvement over the original.

This is a life restoration for Xing et al 2013 of the tiny, iridescent four-winged dromaeosaur Microraptor eating a fish, the osteoglossiform Jinanichthys, near a swampy Jehol pond. The illustration is based on a new specimen described as having the skeletons of 3-4 of these fish preserved in its gut. This study is important because it demonstrates that Microraptor was probably a generalist predator, capable of preying on on a wide variety of small animals. Previous specimens have been found with evidence of a scansorial mammal as well as an enantiornithine bird preserved in the gut, but this is the first instance of Microraptor stomach contents that takes it out of the trees by necessity and places it on the ground, near water.

The illustration incorporates a lot of research. The iridescent color of the animal is modeled after the Li 2012 color study on a Microraptor specimen, which detected fossilized melanosomes consistent with the iridescent black in some modern birds. The two long tail feathers were not preserved in this specimen, so were left off by request of the authors. The manner with which the Microraptor is grasping the fish is based on the Fowler 2011 study on dromaeosaur prey restraint, which analyzed the pes and leg proportions of deinonychosaurs and found them to be extremely similar to those of modern birds of prey, indicating that the animals likely grasped smaller prey with its feet while tearing at it with its mouth. The plant life in the background is modeled entirely after known plant fossils from the Jiufotang and Yixian formations, including the aquatic seed plant Archaefructus and the eudicot Leefructus, as well as the ever-present Ginkgo apodes. The nearby pond sports an algae bloom, a phenomenon that was probably quite common in early Cretaceous ponds, as blooms are often caused by falling volcanic ash.

As often is the case, Jon provided a tremendous amount of help via critiques and suggestions, especially with shading. Much <3.

100% zoom detail shot
Image size
1300x897px 814.35 KB
Adobe Photoshop CS4 Macintosh
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Comments (110)
Megavenator's avatar
Megavenator|Hobbyist Filmographer
I like your micro, good job! 
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JonnyLikesDinos's avatar
what made you decide the color of the raptor?
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JonnyLikesDinos's avatar
Thx for replying, your work is extremely amazing and I have always been absolutely fascinated by life during the Mesozoic Era, it's nice to you are aswell, though I am not a talented artist. Anyway, I hope you have a nice day!
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RaptorWings's avatar
RaptorWings|Student General Artist
Nice.  My desktop pict
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EvilSnail1's avatar
EvilSnail1Edited |Hobbyist General Artist
This is so pretty! I love the shade of blue you made the microraptor's feathers!
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partybug98's avatar
partybug98|Student Digital Artist
I really like the structure of this animal, I like the fact it has wing like thing on it legs. Dose this animal fly? Or does it glide?
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Megasupream's avatar
Megasupream|Hobbyist General Artist
I love the head ^.^
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corvidaegenus's avatar
corvidaegenus|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Awesome i love this realism and colour of feathers is really well done and nice. The way he/she eats is cute^^
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LittleCoelophysis's avatar
Beautiful artwork! I love dromaeosaurs, and you're one of the best paleoartists out there. (also 100th comment :D I just had to put that there)
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Camacaw's avatar
So.............good..............it's..........beautiful! :)
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AltairSky's avatar
AltairSky|Hobbyist Digital Artist
I was wondering why nobody ever mentioned pigeons when comparing modern birds to microraptors. Fancy pigeons like this one c2.staticflickr.com/6/5129/525… and several chicken breeds have feathers on their legs. Shouldn't that characteristic be considered a sort of atavism? After all, a microraptor could have looked almost like this bird: www.unitedswallowclub.com/Zwon… in both color, shape and size.
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TheDubstepAddict's avatar
TheDubstepAddict|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Youre right
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AcrocanthosaurusA's avatar
I love the coloring of the microraptor ,and how you made the coloring accurate as well. It's simply amazing. 
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CrimsonShadowj's avatar
I love the acurassy in your art. XD
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chinmoy808's avatar
chinmoy808|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Emily, do you think you could make a diagram of how the arms are folded in your portraits and how you draw the wings?
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Prcttyink's avatar
Prcttyink|Student Digital Artist
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PaleoShack's avatar
PaleoShack|Hobbyist Traditional Artist
AWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is adorable!!!!!!!
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HadrosaurHero's avatar
If only would see these animals today. It would be glorious.
Great job, love the colors and the amount of detail.
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Terizinosaurus's avatar
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Birdskull31's avatar
Your drawings are breathtakingly realistic, you've earned yourself a watch!
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Adohr's avatar
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