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Archaeopteryx - Landing by EWilloughby Archaeopteryx - Landing by EWilloughby
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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:icontherealmaestro:
TheRealMaestro Featured By Owner May 1, 2013
You still did a great job, and I love your feathered dinosaur series. Your Anchiornis is actually my phone's wallpaper ^_^
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner May 1, 2013  Professional General Artist
They could stand to be a bit darker. I might decide to go over them again at some point.
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:icontherealmaestro:
TheRealMaestro Featured By Owner May 1, 2013
Oh.... It sort of looked like the Archaeopteryx had brown and white coverts that were in the bird's shadow ^^;

:+fav: restored.
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner May 1, 2013  Professional General Artist
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. ;)
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:icontherealmaestro:
TheRealMaestro Featured By Owner May 1, 2013
Sorry, but you need to make a new version of this. The colouration is wrong - [link]
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:iconpalaeorigamipete:
palaeorigamipete Featured By Owner Feb 25, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
absolutely gorgeous! =B
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:iconmelyssathepunkrocker:
MelyssaThePunkRocker Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
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.
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2011  Professional General Artist
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.
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:iconmelyssathepunkrocker:
MelyssaThePunkRocker Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
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?
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2011  Professional General Artist
It makes perfect sense!
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:iconmelyssathepunkrocker:
MelyssaThePunkRocker Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
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)
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2011  Professional General Artist
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! :)
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:iconmelyssathepunkrocker:
MelyssaThePunkRocker Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2011  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
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.
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:iconchickenosaurus:
Chickenosaurus Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2011
Nice painting!
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2011  Professional General Artist
Thank you! :heart:
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:icondrachenvuur:
Drachenvuur Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Your work amazes me. Your book is also going to be spectacular!
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:icondavonne:
davonne Featured By Owner Jan 7, 2011  Hobbyist
a simply beautiful creature I wish they were still around
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:icontsukihakaisha:
TsukiHakaisha Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2010
[link]

I love it! The link above thought to use your Deviant Art in an article about sexual perversions of dinosaurs! Nice work, btw ^^
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:iconquetzalcoatls:
Quetzalcoatls Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2010  Student Photographer
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.
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:iconnebulafire:
nebulafire Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2010  Student Traditional Artist
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!
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010  Professional General Artist
Thank you. :)
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:iconeonorteashadowmaster:
EonOrteaShadowmaster Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010  Student Writer
A magnificent piece on a fantastic critter!
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:iconmobius89:
Mobius89 Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2010
Wow, added to favourites!
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:iconhndz:
Hndz Featured By Owner Aug 21, 2010
those are beautiful colors c:
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:iconimaginary-shadow:
Imaginary-Shadow Featured By Owner Mar 12, 2010
Stunning work!!
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:iconspilled-sunlight:
Spilled-Sunlight Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2010  Student General Artist
Love it!! :heart:
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:iconflorineil-chan:
Florineil-chan Featured By Owner Mar 7, 2010
oh god...
you've just returned me to
the Jurassic period.
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:iconninjerina:
Ninjerina Featured By Owner Feb 18, 2010  Student General Artist
nice use of prismacolors looks very clean and your control over them is impressive. good color choices as well
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:iconbensen-daniel:
bensen-daniel Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2009
my favorite part is the form of the two wings, and how the far wing is foreshortened. Very nice.
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:iconsizzybubbles:
SizzyBubbles Featured By Owner Nov 20, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
great job with the rendition of this creature. I love his tiny little birdy toes.
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:icondontheunsane:
Dontheunsane Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2009
Simple flight mechanics, Archaeopterix had small wings for body size precluding gliding therefore for it to fly at all it requires the flight muscles for powered flight - no sternal keel, no flight muscles (biomechanical studies also demonstrate this which is why there are so many other theories to account for the development of flight feathers).

What flightless birds are you referring to? The only flightless birds I know anything much about are the Emu, Cassowary, Kiwi, Ostrich and Rhea birds that are primitively flightless and the Dodo and Kakapo, birds that lost the ablility to fly. The dodo was flightless for long enough for the wings to be greatly reduced in size but it still had flight feathers (also greatly reduced).

There are reasons other than just flight to account for the development of flight suitable feathers - or maybe no reason at all, just something that happened.
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Oct 27, 2009  Professional General Artist
I think that most paleontologists believe that the keel was an additional adaptation that evolved in birds after they had already been flying for a while.

There's no reason that Archaeopteryx would have had asymmetrical flight feathers if it hadn't at least been able to glide. Modern flightless birds don't have asymmetrical feathers, proving that it's an adaptation that gets lost pretty quickly once an animal adapts to non-flight.

There's no inconsistency in the depiction of the gliding here - I've done my best to accurately recreate Jurassic Solnhofen, complete with a lack of trees. The Archae depicted here is gliding from one cycad trunk to another.
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:icondontheunsane:
Dontheunsane Featured By Owner Oct 24, 2009
For some reason the presence of feathers in the fossil Archaeopterix has resulted in it being depicted as flying. Archaeopteris wasn't capable of flight as it lacks a sternal keel and the requisite flight muscles. Its wings were also too small to facilitate gliding and there is a minor problem with the climb and glide theory, according to fossil evidence the islands Archaeopterix inhabited didn't have anything to climb and glide from. The islands were covered with low scrub, not trees and were semi-arid.
T. rex had more avian characters than archaeopterix and now a specimin of Tyrannosaurid has been found with feathers making them even more bird like.
The discovery of feathers in Archaeopterix led to many flights of fancy which have unfortunatly become popularly taken as fact.
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:iconmoonscream:
moonscream Featured By Owner Jul 8, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I believe I just died... Lol that's how lovely this is :)
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:iconslayerterrabrei:
SlayerTerraBrei Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2009
ah. Thank you for that information. Apparently our teacher wasn't aware of that. :)

LOVE your art, I wish i near that talent.
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2009  Professional General Artist
Actually, that isn't exactly right. The first specimen that was found of Archaeopteryx was originally classified as a pterosaur. It wasn't until years later that the fossil was reexamined by Ostrom and feather impressions were noticed for the first time. So, the first fossil of this animal that was unearthed definitely did have feather impressions.

Later specimens were accidentally classified as Compsognathus, but it's important to keep in mind that not all fossils show feather impressions even if the animal certainly had them. Feather impressions are actually extremely rare and require a pretty specific set of events to form at all.

Archaeopteryx certainly had feathers. There is definitely no question about that and no debate about it in the scientific community.

Glad you like my art, though. :)
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:iconslayerterrabrei:
SlayerTerraBrei Featured By Owner Jul 4, 2009
really really nice art!

but...not all of the fossils of this dino have been found with feather impressions. when it was first found, there were no feather impressions, and it was passed off as a very small raptor type dinosaur. it wasn't until the 'famous' representative of this species was found with the feathers that it was realized it was a transitional species.


i dont want to be rude or anything, but i had a discussion about this dino-bird in my vertebrate paleontology class, and that tidbit was mentioned.
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:iconaprilweredragon:
Aprilweredragon Featured By Owner May 21, 2009
amazing!
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:iconcottoncritter:
cottoncritter Featured By Owner May 16, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Thats amazingly beautiful! Great work! :wow:
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2009  Professional General Artist
Thank you!
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:iconwayrahyena:
WayraHyena Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2009
A very beautiful peice, I can tell you put a lot into this. Very nice work on the ferns 'n feathers.
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:iconcatlover1672:
catlover1672 Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That's so AMAZING! And it looks so cute! I love Archaeopteryx's.
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:iconjurassicpark:
jurassicpark Featured By Owner Apr 13, 2009   Digital Artist
Wow, the Archaeopteryx just looks so real, especially in the feather details and the dynamic pose :thumbsup:

I really like how he fills the screen, it makes him seem mush bigger and more powerful than he really was.
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2009  Professional General Artist
Thanks. :)
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:iconfatcaiman:
FatCaiman Featured By Owner Apr 3, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Fantastic work! I love the details on the feathers, and you've drawn the background very nicely, too. I like the markings on the primaries, too...it reminds me a bit of a hawk. The feather crest is a nice touch, as well. :D
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:icontheantimonyelement:
TheAntimonyElement Featured By Owner Mar 31, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
This is superbly done. The details, colors, and textures fit together perfectly! Great job. :)
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:iconalyeskabird:
Alyeskabird Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2009
I really do not know for sure, but, she feels female. I know thats a pretty poor reason, but there it is. Perhaps coloration, shape and size of the body.....
Its really hard to quantify in a way that is easy to explain.
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:iconagahnim:
Agahnim Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2009
I agree, but I’m curious: how do you know this one is a female?
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:iconpiatnitskysaurus:
Piatnitskysaurus Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009
Hmm, sounds like your reference is the most recent.
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:iconalyeskabird:
Alyeskabird Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009
She is really quite beautiful.
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