Lady Amherst, golden, and mostly Reeves pheasant feathers, from both roosters and hens. This one was a lot more involved than usual…
Scott Hartman has recently released his silhouette of the new Utahraptor reconstruction to Phylopic. Even though the paper hasn’t actually come out yet, it’s apparently close enough to publication that Scott gave me permission to upload my own drawing as well, which he has approved as being accurate (at least from a distance - any more subtle anatomy differences would be likely hidden by feathers).
Clearly, the new material will completely revamp our perception of what this animal looked like and probably how it behaved as well. Note the downturned jaw with its precombent teeth and the much shorter limbs and tail. I’ve heard people say the new material makes Utahraptor “ugly”, but I don’t see ugly, I just see very, very strange - like an “ostrich bulldog”, to use Kirkland’s words.
Hopefully we’ll see the paper out very soon now. I don’t know much detail beyond what you see here, so I’m as excited as the rest of you. And now to let the ecological speculation on what it was actually doing with that weird jaw and extra-short limbs begin!
or, Why Wings Probably Really Evolved
- Controlled Falls: Winged dinosaurs were predators, and would have chased or ambushed prey. Wings would allow them to better control pounces and leaps, as well as slow falls from high places that might otherwise injure them.
- Wing-Assisted Incline Running: Wings can be used by their owners to help them climb steep hills or tree trunks.
- Mantling: Seen in birds of prey even today, wings are useful for hiding prey items from opportunistic passersby who might steal them. Also useful for hiding vulnerable offspring from sight.
- Camouflage: Wings can have intricate patterning that help their owners blend into the background, and also help break up their silhouette- particularly important if your predators have poor color vision, like mammals (and mammals were around long before dinosaurs!).
- Secondary Sexual Characteristic: Glossy, healthy, bright wings and other feathery appendages are indicators of good health, desirable in mates. It’s an honest signal to females that the male is in good condition and can pass those genes on to the offspring.
- Ritualization: The same sexual characteristics can also settle disputes between competing males (or females, if the sexual roles are reversed) without violence. An individual can visually determine if he has a chance in a fight with his opponent without ever fighting. It increases the fitness of both parties.
- Deimatic Behavior: This is defensive behavior, or a startle response. Wings can make a bird (or dinosaur) look much larger than they are, and bright colors and bold patterns can startle a predator and deter the attack.