This feathery scene created in the late 2000s shows what look like giant turkeys facing off against a menacing meat-eater. It also shows how far paleoartists have come in their depictions of birdlike dinosaurs.
The turkey-like creature is actually the giraffe-size oviraptor, Gigantoraptor, whose discovery was announced in 2007. (See more pictures of Gigantoraptor and learn about its discovery.) Although no feathers were found preserved with the Gigantoraptor fossil, feathers have been found on closely related dinosaurs, such as Caudipteryx (see picture).
Note that the artist, Luis Rey, has put feathers on large animals. This is a reflection of the fact that long, filamentous feathers are being found on larger and larger dinosaurs, such as Beipiaosaurus (see picture), suggesting that feathers had other functions in nonflying dinosaurs than keeping the little ones warm.
Even though the color is guesswork, illustrations like this, showing very birdlike, colorful dinosaurs, are now mainstream. This artwork, for example, won the 2009 Lanzendorf Prize, the highest award for paleoart given annually by the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.
Stay tuned to see how the new science-based determination of color in dinosaurs, birds, and other creatures will impact our understanding of the role of color among extinct animals and our view of prehistoric times.
Get the story behind the story from author Chris Sloan >>