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Submitted on
March 6, 2012
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Jeholornis in the Morning Light by EWilloughby Jeholornis in the Morning Light by EWilloughby
My final feathered dinosaur illustration for the book I'm working on with ~Agahnim, ~keesey and others. This is the basal bird Jeholornis from the Jehol Group of early Cretaceous of China (of the Jiufotang formation, around 120 million years ago). This species is meant to represent the original J. prima, though the tail fronds are based on the well-preserved tail of J. palmapenis, which may not be a distinct species.

Jeholornis was fairly similar in anatomy to the more well-known Archaeopteryx, but differs in being decidedly more "birdlike" in several respects. It had very few teeth, more well-developed shoulder girdles, longer forelimbs, and claw morphology that indicates perching ability. The hallux may or may not be reversed, and more likely than not is representative of a state of partial reversal.

The type fossil of J. prima is interesting in that it preserved a collection of fossilized seeds in crop area. It is unknown what plant they belonged to, but here I've reconstructed it eating the seeds of a fallen branch of the Ginkgo tree, which it very likely would have done. The morphology of the mandible, dentaries and teeth indicate that Jeholornis was well-adapted for feeding on seeds. The seed-eating lifestyle would allow more carotenoids to be present in the animal's diet than would a stricter carnivorous lifestyle, so I've taken some liberties here in giving it some slightly brighter colors on the head and tailfan, which was likely used for display.

It is depicted alongside the Jehol dragonfly Aeschnidium.

Special thanks to ~Agahnim and *Nambroth for their invaluable suggestions and critiques. :heart:

High-res version here.
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Lipizzaner-Kgirl Featured By Owner Nov 14, 2013  Student General Artist
He has such personality!
GuardianWTJ8 Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2013
NO WAY!...this is so awesom!:O
Robotwezel117 Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2013
Nice and really realistic!
Imbecamiel Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
;_; This is exactly the way I dream of one day being able to paint. So gorgeous.
EWilloughby Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012  Professional General Artist
That is very kind of you to say, thank you.
blanket86 Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2012  Professional Traditional Artist
This is so amazing and very realistic! Beautiful colours! :-)
CharlieRenwick Featured By Owner May 21, 2012  Student Filmographer
Gorgeous work!
JurassicPark40 Featured By Owner May 16, 2012
Too good for words!
Tacimur Featured By Owner May 6, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Urgh, if you know the smell of ginkgo seeds... XD
The painting is absolutely stunning, from the little dinosaur to the ferns (seriously: how did you do them) and all the details on the foreground. Thanks for sharing!
dbw13 Featured By Owner Apr 10, 2012
It looks wonderful hanging on my wall.
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