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July 20, 2014
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Changyuraptor by EWilloughby Changyuraptor by EWilloughby
Changyuraptor yangi is a newly-described microraptorine dromaeosaur dinosaur from the early Cretaceous (Yixian formation) of Liaoning, China. 

The animal would have been around 4 feet long in life, and its fossil shows that it was covered in feathers -- including, as in its smaller cousin Microraptor, a pair of "leg wings" represented by long paired pennaceous feathers on the metatarsals and tibiotarsus. One of Changyuraptor's most unique features is its voluminous tail feathers, and these feathers constitute the longest of any known non-avian dinosaur, with the most distal retrices reaching around 30 cm in length.

Changyuraptor is also by far the largest "four-winged" dinosaur known, and while this might not be as big of a deal as it sounds (given that there aren't very many "four-winged" dinosaurs), it does show that small size wasn't necessarily the gatekeeper to certain volant adaptations. I personally doubt that this animal was doing anything approaching powered flight, but the long tail feathers and multiple sets of long, well-developed lifting surfaces may have been a boon to gliding and controlled descent. The exceptionally long tail feathers therefore might have been used as a sort of "pitch control" device, wherein a large, relatively heavy animal would have needed especially fine-tuned control over rapid falls onto prey or in safe landings from higher ground. As Buzz Lightyear would say, "This isn't flying, it's falling with style!"

--

Gouache/watercolor paint on A3-size hot-pressed illustration board, approx. 5-6 hours.

Gang Han et al. 2014. "A new raptorial dinosaur with exceptionally long feathering provides insights into dromaeosaurid flight performance". Nature Communications. 5: 4382. 

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:iconthedinofeed:
TheDinoFeed Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2015  New member Hobbyist General Artist
Really nice!
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:iconyemayema:
YemaYema Featured By Owner Oct 3, 2014  Professional General Artist
beautifully rendered! Also that's a pretty good time, you're fast as well.
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:iconacepredator:
acepredator Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2014
Think all or most raptors can glide now!
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:iconforgottendemigod:
ForgottenDemigod Featured By Owner Sep 9, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Aww :aww: .
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:iconnightxenon999:
NightXenon999 Featured By Owner Aug 11, 2014
Known.
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:icontraheripteryx:
Traheripteryx Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
It would be so amazing, to see one of those flying!
Great work on the feathers, as always! :D
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:iconwhiskerfacerumpel:
WhiskerfaceRumpel Featured By Owner Jul 24, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wow, love the colors on him!  They seem so fitting. 

By the way, was he four feet long with or without the tail feathers?  And is it possible for a raptor even larger than him to be a good glider? 
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Professional General Artist
Thanks! The exact length of the fossil - from the nosetip to the very end of the tail fan - is measured at being 132 cm in the paper, so that's around 4 feet 4 inches or so in total length, including the tail feathers! I wouldn't say that a larger dromaeosaur being a good glider is impossible, in that I can't think of any definitive evolutionary constraint that would necessarily have prevented it, but I don't think it's terribly likely, either. After all, even Microraptor was probably not an especially competent glider.
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:iconwhiskerfacerumpel:
WhiskerfaceRumpel Featured By Owner Aug 2, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
You're welcome! 
And thank you greatly for clarifying/answering!!!  It's really appreciated! 
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:iconsaberrex:
Saberrex Featured By Owner Jul 25, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
maybe, but that hasn't stopped me from making a fictional (and modern day) flying Microraptorine called a Glaurung. saberrex.deviantart.com/art/Gl… . it's big too; close to the limit of avian flight weight, being condor sized.
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014  Professional General Artist
You're in luck: Glaurung, being condor-sized, isn't necessarily at the limit of avian flight weight: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pelagorn… The relevant question is probably less a matter of size alone and more a matter of what other morphological features of microraptorines would have made true powered flight pretty difficult to accomplish (like the lack of a triosseal canal). An animal the size of a condor would have had no trouble gliding with the proper aerodynamic equipment. As I've commented elsewhere, the physical requirements for gliding and powered flight are extraordinarily different in nature.
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:iconsaberrex:
Saberrex Featured By Owner Oct 10, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
that is true indeed.
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:icondontknowwhattodraw94:
Dontknowwhattodraw94 Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
This looks very beautiful with those colours and the details as well :)
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:iconghostinthepines:
GhostInThePines Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
This "four-winged" stuff always confuses me. In modern pigeons, long leg feathers are usually a hindrance to movement and flight. I have trouble seeing how the "traditional" positioning of these leg feathers would work on an extinct animal unless its hip sockets have some weird configurations.
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Jul 22, 2014  Professional General Artist
In modern pigeons, the leg feathers are selectively bred by humans, so it's no surprise that they'd be more hindrance than help to the pigeon's movement. Evolution, of course, plays to no such pointless ends, which leads me to suspect that, despite their visual similarity, the legwings of Microraptor looked and behaved in a much different manner. We don't yet know with absolute certainty how the animal's legwings were held during gliding, but the "sprawling" model theorized originally has been essentially disproven, not just because of an inflexible hipsocket but on aerodynamic grounds as well. The current thinking is that it glided in some iteration of Chatterjee's "biplane" suggestion, with some possible modification. 
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:iconghostinthepines:
GhostInThePines Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
The facts that the "sprawling" model has been disproven and that pigeons are hindered by those feathers (which often descend down to cover the feet/toes as well) are the main reasons why I find it confusing that numerous artists have used those pigeons as the "model" for how they illustrate these "leg-wings." Those pigeon breeds clearly display the issues that arise from such positioning of those feathers: they're constantly breaking shafts and ruining barbs because they're unable to keep the feathers off the ground or from tangling with their tails/wings. No wild bird dependent on flight (or gliding in this case) would be able to thrive with such damage, and it would likely attract unwanted attention from predators.

The "biplane" model makes more sense in an evolutionary way beyond the obvious as well. Many bird species tuck their feet up under their bellies when they fly, herons being one of the most obvious exceptions. The "biplane" positioning of a Microraptor is more in line with developing muscles to bring the feet forward and up than the "sprawling" model that reverses joint evolution towards reptilian positioning.
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014  Professional General Artist
This is all true, but it's important to keep in mind that evolution in the wild doesn't happen in a vacuum. It works much differently from human-mediated artificial selection, which usually acts on the target trait of interest and nothing else (outside of traits involving genes that are linked, as in neotony). But in the wild, natural selection involves a constantly shifting interplay of morphology and behavior, and especially in paleontology the latter element can be almost impossible to detect. A microraptorine with voluminous, pigeon-like legwings may have had a suite of accompanying behavioral traits that dictated exactly how it should carry the legwings, how it should walk, and what things to avoid in order to keep them free of damage. Behavior is shaped by evolution every bit as much as physical anatomy, but a pigeon selected by humans for its legwings would have no such set of evolved instincts. This is one of the many reasons why living birds can never be a perfect analogue for extinct deinonychosaurs: behavior rarely shows up in the fossil record, and when it does it's usually much less subtle.
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:iconghostinthepines:
GhostInThePines Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
Because domestic birds are bred for artificially-selected traits is exactly why paleo-artists should not be using them as models.

But behavior is just as much a response to environment as it is to genetics. A pheasant or hawk or goose will still display the typical behaviors of their species associated with posture, including mating/breeding behaviors, even if they're raised in captivity. However, if they're imprinted on humans/captive living, then they typically will not develop the skills associated with survival instincts related to procuring food or avoiding predation. The reason why a pure-blooded, captive but wild bird ends up with damaged feathers is based primarily on inadequate (cramped or dirty/damp) living conditions. But fully-domesticated birds have other factors hindering their behavior and/or ability to maintain their feathers.

Animals that are heavily artificially selected for specific physical traits cannot behave in a manner that is in accordance with possession of those artificially-selected physical traits. Just as dogs bred for short faces (pugs, bulldogs, etc) suffer breathing problems for their distorted anatomy, pigeons and chickens can suffer for their distorted anatomy. And feather-footed pigeons are possessed of distorted anatomy. Fantail pigeons, one of several breeds to possess "leg-wings," are bred to be short-legged and pudgy, leaving most of them unable to fly due to weight/lack of range-of-movement of their wings. They would have trouble walking even without the additional long feathers on their legs and feet.

And that's why they shouldn't be used as a reference for leg-feather placement in extinct animals... artificial breeding has distorted both their skeletal structure as well as their plumage.
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:iconewilloughby:
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Jul 26, 2014  Professional General Artist
And yet, feather attachment on the feet of these pigeons does give us a sense of the sort of developmental pathways being used to generate feathers in these locations, so it's not out of the question that they looked similar, though certainly not identical. Using these animals as reference is certainly better than drawing legwings on microraptorines that look like like this, which don't really resemble anything living (and which don't, imo, look like structures on a real animal). 

In any case, I get what you're saying and I don't really disagree. In my first really meticulous illustration of Microraptor that was informed almost entirely by published data, I painstakingly reconstructed the legwings in a way that seemed - both on evolutionary and morphological grounds - most reasonable, and this way was based very loosely on the position of these feathers in fancy pigeons. My logic at the time was that the legwings facing directly backwards, as they're usually reconstructed, would impede the animal's ability to sit, lay down, and stand at certain angles, so they'd need to be held in a different way. Out to the side would make more sense. However, other artists, most notably Matt Martyniuk, have reconstructed the legwings of microraptorines to sort of "fold" in a similar way to regular wings, which could pick them up off the ground for these positions. This is how I've attempted to paint Changyuraptor above, though I don't feel strongly which position is the correct one (and they may not be mutually exclusive). I wrote more about this idea here.
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:iconzoltan86:
Zoltan86 Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014
Not only did I get to look at a beautiful piece of art but I also learned something new. Thank you so much :)
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:iconndlevett:
NDLevett Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Nice^^
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:icondeinonychusempire:
DeinonychusEmpire Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Beautiful!
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:iconkeeper-of-spirits:
Keeper-Of-Spirits Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014
Wow, it's so clean. Amazing!
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:iconpilsator:
pilsator Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
I might just have seen my new favorite dromaeosaurid reconstruction.
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:icon8bitaviation:
8bitAviation Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014
This is really great, it reminds me of Peter Schouten's paintings. 
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:iconaspidel:
aspidel Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
That's a nice drawing. This dromaeosaur looks like a pretty bird there.
The tail finally looks very similar to that of Archaeopteryx.
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:iconwillemsvdmerwe:
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Jul 21, 2014
Great work on this!  I was wondering if you'd illustrate this new microraptorine.
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:icontarturus:
Tarturus Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Interesting.
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:iconkeight:
keight Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014
This is a beautiful representation of "the new kid". Very well done!
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:iconjeijla:
jeijla Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014
Beautiful animal. I love your work.
Reply
:iconalexraccoonglider:
AlexRaccoonGlider Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I still can't get over how realistic this drawing is, it's almost this changyuraptor has the details of a pheasant, or a duck in a case. It goes to show how much we're getting to understand our prehistoric past and your drawings are the closest window we have to the prehistoric past.
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:iconalexornisantecedens:
AlexornisAntecedens Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014
Wow! Amazing job!
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:iconayceman:
Ayceman Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014
5-6 hours? Damn that's good!

Just imagine the difference in style between the shrink-wrapped naked raptors of 2 decades ago and this...
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:iconhellraptor:
Hellraptor Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Really nice, makes me inspierd to become better on doin featherd dinos ;)
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:iconherofan135:
herofan135 Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Very beautiful, you captured it perfectly! :wow:
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:iconhyrotrioskjan:
Hyrotrioskjan Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014  Professional General Artist
Wonderful, as I said on Facebook: the best Changyuraptor I saw so far!

A picture for the Featured folder =)
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:iconshinreddear:
ShinRedDear Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014
Ok, this is the best depiction of the new taxon I've ever seen ! I knew you would do something beautiful but this is beyond my expectations ! I really love the combination of brown and blue, warm and cold colors. Really impressive once again !
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:iconpalaeorigamipete:
palaeorigamipete Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
awesome work! I'd give a kindney to see these creatures fall with style in real life! XD
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:iconladycorvidaea:
LadyCorvidaea Featured By Owner Jul 20, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Beautiful work! I just love microraptorine dinosaurs! They are adorable :)
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