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Submitted on
September 13, 2013
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Deinonychus Family by EWilloughby Deinonychus Family by EWilloughby
This is a very small watercolor "sketch", part of which was for a friend, and the scene inspired by ~Agahnim's novel-in-progress...

Obviously this is a very speculative scenario, perhaps a bit All Yesterdays-esque, and is speculative in a number of ways:

1. Family groups in dromaeosaurs are definitely not outside the realm of possibility, and may be more likely than the tired "pack" scenario, at least until the young disperse (fledge? Wean?). Here, the male and female are depicted in a monogamous pair-bond, and jointly care for the young.

2. The male is the more brightly-colored of the two, and the female is similarly-colored but a bit duller, and with more banding. The display feathers in the male are green due to a pigment molecule similar to the pigment turacoverdin, the only known green pigment in birds, and the pigment responsible for the green coloration in turacos. There is evidence to suggest that turacoverdin - or a molecule structurally very similar to it - arose at least twice in modern birds, once in turacos and once in the northern jacana, a totally unrelated bird. Therefore it's not totally outside the realm of possibility that a similar compound evolved independently in dromaeosaurs as well. Turacoverdin is copper-based porphyrin and turacos derive their copper from the fruit they eat, but Deinonychus could derive its copper from the livers of its prey, which is also high in copper.

3. The female is carrying its young on its back, much in the same way that some waterbirds like loons and grebes, as well as crocodilians, do with their young. The idea is that Deinonychus occupies a large territory and would needing to constantly hunt to feed the brood, and would be moving location too frequently for young to easily follow on foot. Here, one chick is using WAIR to climb up its father's back, which is something that some modern young birds also do.

4. The chicks are patterned similar to baby ratites, which are often streaked or spotted until they get older.

5. The feathery toes, while not terribly unique due to finds like Anchiornis, are loosely based on Matt Martyniuk's new post on dinosaur foot scales, which indicates that scutes may have evolved from feathers, rather than the opposite. The chicks here don't have feathery feet because the animals would have evolved from an ancestor that had pebble-scaled feet without feathers or scutes, and ontogeny occasionally very loosely recapitulates phylogeny. (Alternately, I could have depicted the chicks with voluminous legwings, since legwings may have been an intermediate stage between pebble-scale feet and scuted feet).
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Jurartsic Featured By Owner Nov 29, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Absolutely adorable and lovely~
CynderAngelDWOship14 Featured By Owner Oct 2, 2014  New member Hobbyist
Awe cute family!
Archanubis Featured By Owner May 9, 2014
Such an adorable scene.  And the use of ratite colors for the babies is very appropriate, since it now seems that, among the maniraptors, it was the males who brooded the eggs, like modern ratites.
Dinosaur-Freak Featured By Owner Apr 24, 2014
I love this. The babies are nicely done and they are adorable. I like the idea with the babies riding on their mothers back. Nice work!
Expandranon Featured By Owner Apr 2, 2014
How superbly adorable they all are!  I just wanna pet 'em.
Celestial-Rainstorm Featured By Owner Jan 25, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
What a charming family photo! I like your speculation on their color.
TakingLiberty Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2014
This is absolutely charming. :clap:  
Sasiadragon Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
I really, really love this piece of art. The chicks are adorable, and the adults are beautiful. I love how fluffy you've drawn them, it shows that they're feathered, but doesn't have fully developed feathers like modern birds yet. And then all the thoughts you've put into the work. I know it's just speculative, but it still makes a big difference, I think. I really love the chicks on the mother's back, they remind me of the way a grebe's chicks sits calmly on the back of their parents.
The only little thing that bothers me is the wing of the chick - I'd imagine it being 'paddling' more to get up on the father's back, if that makes sense? It's like the wings are stuck on, or doesn't move naturally ... I'm not quite sure why.
I'm amazed by your use of anatomy on your dinosaurs, they are so beautiful, and looks like animals you've been sitting and studying in a zoo or something ... You make me love dinosaurs more and more for every piece.
JD-man Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2013
Sorry in advance for the overly long comment, but there's a lot I want to say about this deviation.

1stly, I've been meaning to tell you that I LOVE this deviation, partly b/c it depicts accurate eudromaeosaurs in your old-school drawing style (which I've always liked) & partly b/c it depicts the family life of eudromaeosaurs. The latter part is especially important for 2 reasons: 1) While I always enjoy a good pack-hunting scene, other aspects of eudromaeosaur biology are comparatively underrepresented in paleoart; 2) It reminds ppl that theropods in general & eudromaeosaurs in particular weren't only fearsome predators, but also caring parents. My only nit-pick is the reasoning for green feathers (which seems like a stretch).

2ndly, in reference to #1's 1st sentence, both family groups & packs are likely in eudromaeosaurs, given the evidence ("The social life of Deinonychus makes a tantalizing case study. There is just about enough evidence to place them as pack hunters. It is reasonable to assume that co-operative hunting was reflected in some form of co- operative lifestyle that encompassed mating, rearing young, migration and movement as well as just attacking prey":….

3rdly, in reference to #1's 2nd sentence, I'm surprised you didn't mention Zelenitsky & Therrien 2008, which described a nest that probably belonged to a mated pair of dromaeosaurids (See the Zelenitsky/Therrien & Mike quotes).

Lastly, I was wondering what level of precociality (… ) this deviation depicts? I think eudromaeosaurs had semi-precocial young b/c they were both ground dwellers ("Most ground-dwelling birds...are all capable of walking around soon after hatching":… ) & social predators ("Hunting groups...usually contain only adults, babies and adolescents are well advised to stay away so they won’t get hurt":… ). The same probably went for small to medium-sized tetanurans in general, given the evidence (E.g. See the Horner quote AWA "THE RED GULCH DINOSAUR TRACKSITE" in this link:… ).

Quoting Zelenitsky/Therrien (See "Taxonomic affinity" under "Discussion":… ): "Montanoolithus strongorum is only the second type of maniraptoran clutch known from North America, after that of Troodon formosus (Horner and Weishampel 1996; Varricchio et al. 1997, 1999). Our cladistic analysis reveals that TMP 2007.4.1 belongs to a maniraptoran theropod that is phylogenetically bracketed by Citipati (Oviraptoridae) and Troodon (Troodontidae) + Numida (Aves); the basal position of Deinonychus in this analysis may be due to missing data (50%) for this taxon. The phylogenetic position of Montanoolithus within Maniraptora indicates that this taxon is more derived than Oviraptoridae but less derived than Troodontidae. The only maniraptorans (besides Troodon) known from the Two Medicine and Oldman formations of North America are caenagnathids and dromaeosaurids (Weishampel et al. 2004), which represent the most probable egg-layers of Montanoolithus. However, the crownwards position of Montanoolithus relative to oviraptorids may support a dromaeosaurid affinity."

Quoting Mike (… ): "By studying the fossil the scientists have been able to determine that this dinosaur dug its nest in freshly deposited, loose sand, possibly along the shore of a river.  An analysis of the substrate under the actual fossil indicates that the dinosaur disrupted the rock underneath, indicating that there was a substantial amount of effort put into the digging when excavating the nest.  Perhaps this indicates that the mated pair worked together or that both the front claws and the strong hind limbs were used to construct the nesting mound."

Quoting Horner (… ): "Data from Egg Mountain and Egg Island now provide extensive evidence to hypothesize the nesting behaviors of Troodon and the paleoecology of its nesting ground. The animals nested in colonies, used the nesting ground on at least three different occasions, constructed nests with rimmed borders, arranged their eggs in neat, circular clutches, brooded their eggs by direct body contact, and, apparently brought the carcasses of Orodromeus to the nesting area for their hatchlings to feed on. The hatchlings left their respective nests, but may have stayed in the nesting area for a short period of time before following the adults out of the nesting ground."
Sheather888 Featured By Owner Nov 11, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Okay, this is definitely my favorite restoration of any dinosaur, ever. The animals are anatomically spot-on, I absolutely love their colors, and the speculation is just awesome here. Their expressions are entirely natural yet subtly visible; I just love this! So goddamn cute.
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