Now that the long awaited study on the pathologies of the holotype specimen (UCMP 37302) of Dilophosaurus wetherilli have been published, I can finally share this full illustration with all of you. This one did not make the final paper, but instead, an edited version of it did, surrounded by images of the fossil specimen and its pathologies.
To see a larger version of it, please visit the “Art Gallery” section of my website, which you can reach by expanding the menu. (To do this: click on the black box with white lines above my name at the top of this page).
This image has undergone a number of revisions since its initial version- most notably, the addition of well defined cast shadows on the sand, as well as deeper shadows on the D. wetherilli itself. This was done on the advice of a good artist friend of mine. I think the illustration looks much better now, although it could probably use some stronger highlights as well. As with the previous illustrations I did for Dr. Phil Senter, this one was also completed on a deadline.
You will also notice that Dr. Senter’s signature is on the image as well- that is because he was so kind as to provide me with the initial sketch of the pose he was envisioning for the Dilophosaurus, which I was having some trouble visualizing myself. I thank him a lot for the initial sketch, because the pose is very dynamic and even more eye-catching than the poses I had tried for the Dilophosaurus.
He also suggested that the image give the impression that the Diloph has been “stalking the viewer”: to create this feeling I illustrated the trail of its footprints in the sand behind it, and gave the eye a light coloration to emphasize the pupil. If you look closely, you’ll also see its nicitating membrane beginning to swipe over the eye.
I wanted to avoid as many “paleoart memes” as possible in this image. I tried to avoid the “platform” look that so many paleoartists do- which is putting the dinosaur on a flat landscape, also with all of its body visible. I couldn’t hide any of its body for the purposes of this drawing, but I was able to make the landscape sufficiently hilly. I also included a dead fern in it- that’s because in my opinion, it seems like every single plant is perfectly formed, alive, and flourishing in most paleoart pieces, even though in nature there are plenty of dead plants to be seen.
I also haven’t seen Dilophosaurus illustrated with solid, bright red crests very often: it’s almost always Allosaurus that falls prey to this meme thanks to Walking With Dinosaurs. I also attempted to make them look sufficiently thick with keratin, the way they most likely were in life, and even extended the keratin down to the front of the snout- but I admittedly do not know how plausible this is.
I also looked at Jaime Headden’s ( http://qilong.wordpress.com ) Dilophosaurus skull reconstruction, and used that as a reference for how to properly depict the crest.
It is also rare to see this species illustrated with feathers, so I decided to give it a speculative coat of Stage 2 -or even 3 (!) feathers. Yes, perhaps Stage 3 is a bit too speculative, but Currie & Chen’s 2001 re-examination of the feathers of Sinosauropteryx prima led me to the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, Stage 3 feathers could have appeared a lot earlier than once thought. Yes, this is still quite speculative, but I don’t think I’d be surprised if they do one day find a Dilophosaurus specimen with feathers that are this advanced.
For more discussion on this topic, see the following link (written by Matthew Martyniuk):
The reddish coloration on the back of the neck was inspired by a Rufous-Necked Hornbill.
Enough explanation about my illustration, then, and on to why I think the research Dr. Senter and Dr. Juengst did was so very important:
- As stated in their paper, it is all too often that dinosaur pathologies are overlooked in a newly discovered species in favor of describing the traits characteristic of the new species and not anything unusual or pathological to the particular specimen. What other amazing discoveries could we make about the life of the animal if we looked more closely for injuries and abnormalities?
- The sheer number of injuries of this specimen (8 in total, all concentrated in the pectoral girdle and forelimbs) shows that it was leading a very active lifestyle in which the arms played an important role in prey capture. (One theory posited by the team is that the injuries may have been caused by a struggling prey item- another one is they were inflicted in a fight with a conspecific.) Additionally, the osteodysplasia shown in the left forelimb would have impacted its mobility in that arm, and therefore the Diloph must have favored its right forelimb to avoid causing pain in the other.
In summary, more carefully examining fossils for signs of injuries can tell a fascinating story about the lives that these animals led, as well as the healing processes in dinosaurs in comparison to modern reptiles, birds, and mammals.
Link to the Article:
In addition, my artwork has appeared in the following press releases on the article:
PLOS Blog: http://blogs.plos.org/paleocomm/2016/02/24/what-a-pain-in-the-arms-a-record-breaking-number-of-injuries-in-a-theropod-dinosaur/ (It’s such an honor to see my artwork alongside that of Heather Luterman, an artist I’ve admired for over a decade now!)
Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/53832-jurassic-dinosaur-injuries.html
(Enough with the “finger” jokes, people…but that aside, a nice article.)
Discovery News: http://news.discovery.com/animals/dinosaurs/beaten-up-dinosaur-lived-through-intense-pain-160224.htm
Yahoo! News: http://news.yahoo.com/dinosaur-giving-finger-due-bone-deformity-130906805.html
Daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3464443/The-dinosaur-constantly-giving-finger-bone-deformity-Fossil-injured-theropod-reveals-lived-intense-pain.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490
(Wow…7 articles so far! I’ve never been this “famous”…)