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About Varied / Professional Emily WilloughbyFemale/United States Groups :icondomain-of-darwin: Domain-of-Darwin
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Most of my watchers by now will have seen my two illustrations for this new dromaeosaur, but I think the discovery is exciting enough to warrant its own journal entry as well!

Without further ado: meet Dakotaraptor, the first "giant" dromaeosaur from the Hell Creek formation.

Dakotaraptor steini by EWilloughby

I've been sitting on these illustrations for months and can't think of the last time I've been so excited to illustrate a new taxon. At 5.5 meters in length and with magnificently robust ulnar quill knobs, this is not only the first "giant" dromaeosaur from Hell Creek, but it is also the first dromaeosaur in this size range with indisputable evidence of feathers. And not just shaggy and sparse "protofeathers" as many skeptics purport in defense of the "half-arse" integument pattern (I'm sorry you hate that image, Tom, but no other infographic uses the term "half-arse"...).

No, Dakotaraptor had massive ulnar quill knobs, which meant that its arms likely supported thick, heavy feathers with a stiff central rachis. This confirms, once and for all, that feathers stage 3 and beyond existed on dromaeosaurs larger than Velociraptor and Zhenyuanlong. What was such a large dromaeosaur doing with feathers like this? There are several options which are not mutually exclusive: brooding eggs, aggressive mating and territorial displays, shielding young... but many of you will recall my particular fondness for Denver Fowler's 2011 paper on "raptor prey restraint", which posited a unique predatory role for robust wings on non-volant dromaeosaurs. These wings would have acted as stabilizers and balancers for a large animal as it struggled atop still-living prey, much as modern birds of prey do. Modern hawks and eagles have evolved particularly stout and powerful ankles for this purpose, which allow greater torque for the inner claw on each foot to dig into unruly prey. This inner claw is, certainly by no coincidence, by far the largest on most birds of prey.

Dakotaraptor's Ornithomimus Dinner by EWilloughby 

The use of RPR by Dakotaraptor means it would have been especially appropriate when grappling similarly-sized prey, and Hell Creek has given us the perfect also-feathered match: Ornithomimus, a new feathered specimen of which has been described just days before.

There is much to be said on Dakotaraptor, from its possible synonymity with Acheroraptor to its ecological relationships with other Hell Creek carnivores, but it should come as no surprise that the role of feathers in its predatory ecology is what interests me most! I look forward to seeing what future analyses and potentially more material will bring.

As for my watchers, I have a request of all of you: I have not had the time to sift through the rapid influx of new illustrations of this exciting taxon, so please link to your favorites in the comments! (I have seen the Saurian version many times and am more interested in seeing others, mind you.)

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EWilloughby
Emily Willoughby
Artist | Professional | Varied
United States
"I don't build in order to have clients. I have clients in order to build!" - Howard Roark

"Hands are levers of influence on the world that make intelligence worth having." - Steven Pinker

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:iconlucas-attwell:
Lucas-Attwell Featured By Owner Edited May 21, 2016  New Deviant Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for watching me Emily,its an honour to me.
PD:I am a fan of your work since I was 12.
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner May 21, 2016  Professional General Artist
Thank you for the kind words, Lucas! I really like the natural look of your feathered dinosaurs. I hope you gain access to a scanner at some point, as photographs don't do justice to your excellent pencilwork.
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:iconlucas-attwell:
Lucas-Attwell Featured By Owner May 21, 2016  New Deviant Hobbyist General Artist
Since I saw your dinosaurs I wanted become better at drawing dinosaurs.In 4 years I learned about anatomy,I started to reading papers and improved my drawing skills.All of this because of your dinosaurs.Thanks to you.Hug 

And I am considering to buy a scanner,photographs aren't that good.
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:icond3in0nychu5:
d3in0nychu5 Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
How's that creationist book coming along? As an ex-creationist myself, I've been very interested in it ever since you mentioned it, especially since I credit you with opening that door for me in the first place. I only just recently realized that the first paintings that convinced me feathered dinosaurs didn't necessarily look stupid were painted by you! With this emotional reaction out of the way, I started actually looking at the evidence, and gradually became convinced by the evidence for evolution. That was nearly 8 years ago now! Thank you for that, and I hope to continue follow you in this journey of discovery through many more paintings (and hopefully books) to come!
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2016  Professional General Artist
Hi d3in0nychu5, thanks for your interest! And it's great to hear that my work has been so influential to your abandonment of creationism (seriously, that's awesome to hear). Our book is now in the pre-publication copyediting phase, and we're intending to ship the manuscript off to the publisher within the next month. As with most projects involving this sort of collaborative effort, it has been an near-endless sequence of unpredictable holdups, but those are hopefully coming to an end. I'll be posting updates as they happen, and the publication event may be accompanied by some amount of press and/or events, so stay tuned! We're shooting for an early fall release.
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:icond3in0nychu5:
d3in0nychu5 Featured By Owner Jun 17, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I've heard that's how these collaborative projects tend to go. Glad to hear it's nearly done! If you're curious by the way, the specific pictures which first caught my attention way back when were this Deinonychus portrait and an accompanying full-body picture which you seem to have since put into storage on DA. I'm sure you consider them embarassingly out-of-date now, but as better as your current art is, these two pieces will always hold a special place in my heart, like a C. Knight painting or something. :)
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:iconcreepywarriorpony:
CreepyWarriorPony Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2016
Just stopping by to say that I love your work! You're very talented and a brilliant artist!
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:iconxstefcr:
xStefCR Featured By Owner Feb 26, 2016  Hobbyist General Artist
I love all your dinosaurs taxonomic illustrations! Do you have any tips for artirts who want to try to archive a symilar realism?
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:icondovahkiinhu3br:
DovahkiinHU3BR Featured By Owner Jan 26, 2016
Hello Emily. Well, I have heard about the fact that dromaeosauruds had feathers on their second fingers, but as far as I know we only have fossil proffs that later ones such as velociraptor had such characteristic. What can you tell me about the first ones (such as deinonychus).
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2016  Professional General Artist
Hi there--even though direct fossil evidence for feather attachment to the second digit in dromaeosaurs comes from relatively few fossils (including Microraptor, Changyuraptor, and Zhenyuanlong), we also have evidence of this kind of attachment from more basal taxa (most notably oviraptorosaurs). Since this is obviously the condition in modern and ancient avialans, with Archaeopteryx being perhaps the most salient example, we can use phylogenetic bracketing to infer that all dromaeosaurs possessed this trait. (Phylogenetic bracketing is based on the same logic we use to determine that prehistoric mammals, known only from bones, were likely covered in hair.) In fact, the most recent common ancestor of dromaeosaurs, oviraptorids and birds (and all their descendants) probably had this finger arrangement. This group is often referred to as "Pennaraptora". 
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:icondovahkiinhu3br:
DovahkiinHU3BR Featured By Owner Apr 16, 2016
Having in mind how severe integument loss (like what we see in elephants) on a short period of time is really rare and how we have this feature from an animal from the Jurassic Period and in some from the Cretaceous, it is indeed nonsense to assume that earlier and even later dromaeosaurids did not have feather attachment on the second finger. Thanks for the points :) (Smile) 

PS: You are one of the greatest paleoartists I have ever seen.
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:icondontknowwhattodraw94:
Dontknowwhattodraw94 Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
(I got randomly mentioned in this conversation)

I think you mean Microraptor instead of Velociraptor. We only have quill knobs from the latter's fossil, but I think I can give you some help.

From Microraptor we have the fossils with feathers and its from this guy we know the primaries are attached to the second finger, I think. Also Zheyuanlong and other non-dromaeosaurids like Archaeopteryx show the same. 
Also the third digit is smaller compared to the second and should merge with the second during the evolution of birds. In Sinornithosaurus you can see it happening, because it's bending inwards.
You might want to stroll around in Willoughby's gallery and read comments. I'm pretty sure you can find replies there about feather placements and such. 
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:icondovahkiinhu3br:
DovahkiinHU3BR Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2016
I just wanted to know the probability of earlier dromaeosaurids having quills on the second finger. Thanks.
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:icondontknowwhattodraw94:
Dontknowwhattodraw94 Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Ah okay. You're welcome :)
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(1 Reply)
:iconthedubstepaddict:
TheDubstepAddict Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
She didn't gave a dang. That's what she told ya. It's a pity that some artist don't even try to answer comments.
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