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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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:iconeonorteashadowmaster:
EonOrteaShadowmaster Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010  Student Writer
A magnificent piece on a fantastic critter!
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2010  Professional General Artist
Thank you. :)
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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 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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: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 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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: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
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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: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
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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: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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: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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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2009  Professional General Artist
Thank you!
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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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: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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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Apr 7, 2009  Professional General Artist
Thanks. :)
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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 26, 2009
She is really quite beautiful.
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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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: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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:iconbrokenmachine86:
BrokenMachine86 Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Beautiful work! :)
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:iconcheddarness8:
Cheddarness8 Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
o3o I love his little feet, and all his feathers. Nice one!
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009  Professional General Artist
The feet were one of my favorite parts of it too. XD
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:iconcheddarness8:
Cheddarness8 Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
<_<" Reminds me of chicken feet. Those things can hurt.
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:iconfelldohthesquirrel:
FelldohTheSquirrel Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Ah that's cool! :D
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:iconqueenofthedinos:
queenofthedinos Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009
Wonderful pencilwork, and I love the sense of action here. It's marvelous. The background is also rather epic!

Your work is amazing.
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:icondraculahunter7:
draculahunter7 Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009
Ooo. Yay for feathered dino/birds.

I'm going to be illustrating parts of Jurassic Park for one of my classes - I'm planning to draw the scene where they're inside the raptor den as one of the illustrations. Oh how exciting.
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:iconmast88:
Mast88 Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
super beautifull
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:iconlmcolver:
LMColver Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009
This is so beautiful. Archaeopteryx is my favorite dinosaur.
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:iconaltairsky:
AltairSky Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009  Hobbyist Digital Artist
very nice composition, I love the pose and the details are really well done!
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:iconmiyess:
Miyess Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009   Digital Artist
Got sick of waiting for me to sketch the archaeopteryx I promised, and decided to do your own ey?!
Well I don't blame you. :O_o:

Yours is incredible, I love it! :trophy:

P.s; Mine's in the works. I'm in the process of re-sketching 90% of the old stuff in my gallery, and doing some new ones as well! So it'll be a little while still, but I'll be sure to pay attention to the hyper-extendible raptor-like toe, feather configuration, and environment...
Since you made yours landing, I think I'll pose mine taking off, or leaping from a tree...
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:iconagahnim:
Agahnim Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009
We’ve talked about this picture so much that I don’t have a lot else to say about it, but here’s one other thing: don’t forget to put it at our DA community. I think it ought to go there, don’t you?
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:iconpiatnitskysaurus:
Piatnitskysaurus Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009
I thought the Solnhofen was semi-arid scrub?
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009  Professional General Artist
Jurassic Solnhofen was an archipelago in a warm, shallow, very salty sea with isolated lagoons formed by coral and sponge. The environment would have been tropical, with a lot of smallish plants (no trees) and tons of small animals. It's thought that sometimes the lagoons were dry and muddy, but I don't think it would be categorized as arid.
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:iconpiatnitskysaurus:
Piatnitskysaurus Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009
From what I read in Gregory S Paul's "Predatory Dinosaurs of the World" conifer scrub. What source did you use for the ecology? My source is, granted, more than 20 years old.
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009  Professional General Artist
Mostly Taking Wing by Pat Shipman.
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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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:iconsinoparapax:
SinopaRapax Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2009
I love it by default because it is archaeopteryx, but I also think this is a beautiful piece of art :)
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Mar 26, 2009  Professional General Artist
Aw, thanks. :heart:
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:iconbenwhoski:
benwhoski Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2009
You can never possibly do enough Archaeopteryx artwork for my tastes.

This is gorgeous work. You are one of the artists whose colored pencil work I study intensely in hopes of picking up something I can use in my own work :)
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:iconsagekorppi:
SageKorppi Featured By Owner Mar 25, 2009  Hobbyist General Artist
Don't forget that they also had a hyper-extendible toe like other deinonychosaurs as well ^^

Awesome illustration! I really like your depiction of the plumage!
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