Monday 15 April 2013

The Mysterious Mysteries of Feather Resistance

Three feathered dinosaurs: the famous dromaeosaurid Velociraptor mongoliensis chases a juvenile oviraptorosaur, Citipati osmolskae. The parent of the latter tries to intervene. Prints of this image are available.
So, the Jurassic Park 4 'No Feathers' controversy has continued to roll across the Internet, spilling out from the palaeo blogosphere (notable articles here and here) into mainstream media such as New Scientist, The Telegraph and the New Zealand Herald. As might be expected from such wide coverage, there are a lot of differing opinions about the decision to keep JP4's dinosaurs entirely scaly. As we all know, this decision is at odds with overwhelming evidence that all manner of coelurosaurian theropods, and possibly many other dinosaur species, were feathered. Although much about the film itself remains mysterious, it's director, Colin Trevorrow, has allegedly confirmed his tweet with another tidbit of info about the lack of feathers in the movie. The source for this confirmation has yet to be verified, but if he has, my hopes that the producers may be looking to the Internet to gauge reaction to the idea of feathery dinosaurs were in vain.

But I don't want to talk about that
To me, the most surprising aspect of the discussions over JP4's 'No Feathers' has been the commonality of argument from some contributors. Specifically, there is a body of people who seem to strongly dislike the idea of feathery dinosaurs. We're not talking about people ignorant of fossil evidence indicating that feathered Mesozoic dinosaurs were as real as blue sky and gravity, but those people who personally prefer their dinosaurs scaly, irrespective of fossil evidence. Interestingly, these individuals almost always bring up the same reasoning.
  1. Feathered dinosaurs look stupid
  2. [linking to some awful tarred-and-feathered reconstruction] "Do we want dinosaurs to look like this?"
  3. Feathered dinosaurs aren't scary
  4. Feathered dinosaurs look like giant turkeys/chickens/parrots!
  5. Feathers equate to bright colours and lurid display structures
I've been wondering if the similarity of these comments suggests a common cause. If there is, it's clearly not informed by modern depictions of feathered dinosaurs. The feathered dinosaurs depicted at the top of this post are pretty typical of modern reconstructions: whether they look stupid or scary is a matter of opinion, but we can at certainly agree that neither is brightly coloured, chaotically feathered, or resembles a parrot. If this is a typical modern representation of feathered Mesozoic dinosaurs, where are the animals suggested by the 'Feather Resistance' resistance coming from? What is the source of these common comments, and, more broadly, why are a number of people still so adverse to the notion of feathered dinosaurs?

Soft touch
Let's start with a possible root cause for Feather Resistance, from deep within the popular characterisation of dinosaurs. Moreso than any other extinct species, dinosaurs are depicted as hardcore 'superanimals'. Ancient, real-world dragons that lived in a turbulent and violent world of volcanoes, sparse, sharp-leaved vegetation and perpetually-hungry predators. We get the impression that our modern fauna wouldn't last two minutes in this time of voracious killer reptiles. If popular depictions of dinosaurs are anything to go by, they were only vulnerable to two things: other dinosaurs, and giant rocks from space. Modern animals, by contrast, struggle when someone redirects a river or we build a new supermarket. Dinosaurs could not only take that, and they'd eat your mother just for suggesting otherwise.

With this in mind, it makes total sense for dinosaurs to have scaly hides. Scales provide tough armour plating. They wrap every dinosaur, big or small, in biker leathers and reinforce their status as the hardcore mofos we expect them to be. This is why we're secretly glad that some dinosaurs are extinct: their enormous power and resilience would be a terrifying force if unleashed in our modern, tranquil world.

Fossil of the feathered therizinosaur Beipiaosaurus, borrowed from here. Note that, like Sinornithosaurus, below, this fossil shows very avian-like feather contours around the neck.
The suggestion from stupid-old scientific evidence that we need to swap the armour and scales of some dinosaurs for soft, strokeable feathers just doesn't sit right with this interpretation. In fact, it undermines the popular concept of Dinosaur Awesomeness, big time. Feathered hides aren't about protection from teeth and claws, but instead lame things like keeping warm, camouflage, display and perhaps locomotion. The sort of things that real animals are concerned with, but that make-believe fantasy animals aren't. Feathers make dinosaurs seem more vulnerable, which makes them harder to idolise and fear. The fantastic interpretation of dinosaurs is alluring to many, while the reality is, by necessity, somewhat less fantastic.

Compounding this perceived loss of awesomeness is the removal of mystery surrounding dinosaurs: their feathered hides make them a lot more familiar to our eyes. Scaly, bipedal theropods are unusual to us: "they look a bit like birds, but they're kind of reptilian". By contrast, feathery theropods, and large fuzzy animals generally, are well known to all, and many modern birds probably look very similar to their extinct, non-avian ancestors. More convincing reconstructions of feathered maniraptorans converge with animals like roadrunners, emus and corvids so much so that they could be mistaken for these modern species at casual glances. Suddenly, most of their mystery is gone. A lot of the appeal with dinosaurs concerns the many unanswered questions we have about their lives and appearance, but if these can be answered - even if only roughly - by pointing at a modern animal, then we'll have satisfied the curiosity of many casual interests in extinct life. Adding feathers doesn't just replace mythical dinosaur badassery with boring-old reality then, but also makes dinosaurs more familiar, and thus more 'boring' to some eyes.

But don't we make all of this up, anyway?
Moving away from imaginary concepts of  dinosaurs towards efforts to reconstruct them in art, we may encounter our second factor in Feather Resistance: a lack of awareness about the fossil evidence used to constrain reconstructions of extinct species. A lot of folks seem to think that palaeontologists and palaeoartists make up dinosaur appearance as they go along, perhaps with a few scraps of evidence to point them in the right direction, but otherwise work within almost limitless possibilities. In such a scenario, personal choice about attributes like integument would play a large role. Of course, this could not be further from the truth. A good palaeoartist reconstructs extinct animals as rigorously as possible, with as much information as possible, using increasingly good fossil data and phylogenetic analyses to inform animal proportions, musculature, integuments, environments and behaviour. A lot of folks would be very surprised at how much data can be obtained from one fossil nowadays, and how much of that can be used to inform a reconstruction. It doesn't seem unfair to say that our dinosaur knowledge is advanced enough now that we can make some inferences about the integument possibilities for most major groups, so there's normally good reason behind the choice for scales, quills and feathers on different dinosaur reconstructions. Much of this work is probably unknown to much of the public, however, who may think that feathers are just fashionable possibilities in a sea of poorly-constrained, speculative artworks.

The learning curve
The points made above may not matter so much, however, if dinosaur PR had convinced us that feathered dinosaurs were still cool, even in their new threads. The need for reconstructing extensive feathering on at least some non-avian theropods became inescapable in the mid-nineties thanks to discoveries of Chinese dinosaur fossils surrounded by fuzzy halos of feathers. As such, feathered dinosaurs have been a mainstay of palaeoart for around 15 years at least. With hindsight, I think we can say that it has taken a little practise to produce convincing-looking reconstructions of these animals. I'll go so far to say that many of the first reconstructions of feathered non-avian theropods were pretty awful, and certainly not reflective of the integument details preserved in the then-new Chinese fossils. Clinging to the once-fashionable concept of shrink-wrapping, many depictions of dromaeosaurs sported lank, greasy-looking feathers draped over painfully skinny bodies, while others wore veritable explosions of fibres and fluff; big, shaggy masses of feathers that drowned the contours of the animals beneath them. Something of a halfway house between these extremes was struck when patches or rows of feathers were set across a primarily scaly body. Interestingly, whichever of these three approaches was used, dinosaur heads were frequently left scaly, despite good evidence that they shouldn't be (check out the feathers on the face of the fossil below, for instance).

Sinornithosaurus, one of the first dromaeosaur fossils known to show extensive feathering across its entire body. Note the very avian-like feather contours around the neck and the feathers adorning the snout. Image borrowed from here.
Irrespective of the technical skill involved, many of these illustrations produced pretty goofy-looking, almost cartoony animals. It doesn't help, of course, that many palaeoartists insisted - and still do - on portraying Mesozoic reptiles in perspective-heavy, hyperferocious postures, leaping or running towards the viewer with mouths agape, teeth exposed and arms outstretched. The garish colour schemes of many reconstructions didn't help, either. The result was an Internet awash with downright weird and freakish feathered theropods, many of which still float about today or are being perpetually copied by illustrators under the impression that they represent plausible models of dinosaur appearance.

With this in mind, it's not surprising that many laymen think that feathered theropods look silly. Many of the more memorable and longest-lived reconstructions of them are, and perhaps these are what most folks think of when the words 'feathered dinosaur' come to mind. Scaly theropods undeniably looked more intuitively plausible, not to mention more aesthetically pleasing, than a lot of the weird imagery once thrown about by palaeoartists. A definitive move away from this craziness can be seen in more recent works, resulting in much more convincing depictions of feathered Mesozoic theropods (check out those by Emily WilloughbyJohn Conway and Julius Csotonyi for examples). These chaps have clearly gone back to the fossil data, looked at the mechanics and proportions of feathers in modern birds and abandoned overly-dynamic poses to recreate feathered dinosaurs which look like genuine, real animals. Unfortunately, displacing the prevalence of earlier, zanier reconstructions of feathered theropods with more plausible models may not be easy, even with these new artworks. By necessity, the newer, more realistic restorations of feathered dinosaurs are more subdued and muted than the crazier reconstructions that preceded them, so may not make comparable impressions in public minds. Even if these new styles of feathered theropod reconstruction become the norm, we may find it hard to step out of the oddly-shaped shadow set by earlier restorations of feathered theropods.

Playing chicken
The freakishness of some feathered theropod reconstructions may explain why some folks immediately imagine giant, outlandishly dressed birds - parrots, turkeys and the like - when feathered dinosaurs are mentioned. A lot of those brightly coloured reconstructions do resemble these birds more than any others, and their overly dynamic, unusual postures only strengthen these comparisons to birds considered to be a little dim (poultry) or capable of silly behaviours (parrots). I wonder if we could go as far to say that, when used with tight shrink wrapping, the sparse feathering of some reconstructions are also reminiscent of  plucked bird carcasses seen in supermarkets? Either way, although palaeontologists may argue that raptors, ratites and shoebills are ideal kindling for imagining Mesozoic animals, these animals may not have been invoked enough in widely-seen reconstructions to have shaped public imagination. And of course, imagining giant chickens instead of giant birds of prey contributes further to the undermining of dinosaurs as creatures to be idolised and feared.

Real dinosaurs vs. celebrity dinosaurs
Much of what we've covered here could be summed up as a bit of a PR fumble for feathered theropods, and it may seem that a concerted effort by artists and scientists could sway public opinion in coming years. This could be the case, but it will be a bit of an uphill struggle. A century of popular dinosaur books, movies and documentaries have cemented the appearance of some species so solidly that, for some, they have become definitive, final versions. This contrasts markedly with the way that palaeoart traditionally works. Our reconstructions vary with developments in scientific thinking, palaeoartistic fashions and with the individual flourishes of different artists, so it's hard to crystallise definitive concepts of given species. But a popular film, TV programme or book can set the appearance and behaviour of its creatures by making them cool, memorable and iconic, and then spawn a host of imitators which solidify the mould further.

The quill knobs on the ulna of Velociraptor, betraying the presence of large, vaned feathers along its forearms. Image borrowed from here.
Of course, the catalyst for this post, the Jurassic Park franchise, is particularly liable here. The JP Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor have become well-known movie characters, with expected behaviours and appearances for not just Jurassic Park but any mention of them in other media. Tyrannosaurus is typeset as an unstoppable tank of a dinosaur with an armour-piercing bite. Velociraptor is forever a man sized, cunning hunter. Both have transcended their status as actual animals to share ranks with Pinhead, Dracula and Freddy Kruger. We know how to recognise them and what they're going to do in a given scenario. As with any iconic character, suggested changes to their well-loved formulas are not welcomed. Fans are instinctively wary of change to these animals as they are with alterations to any characters of a major franchise. The fickleness of some fans is mind blowing: remember the ridiculous backlash to Daniel Craig taking over the James Bond mantle because, among other reasons, he has blonde hair?

The upshot of these attitudes is that palaeontologists hoping to make feathery theropods popular have to win over fans of recognisable and marketable characters. This includes convincing television and movie producers that feathery reconstructions are not only more credible, but also as marketable as scaly variants. We have to remember that fans of dinosaur franchises constitute a much greater revenue source than those with interests in credible portrayal of palaeontological science, and they therefore hold a lot more sway with media production companies than scientists ever will. This is where the points made above combine to a critical mass: the push for wider depiction of feathered dinosaurs is being perceived through shonky reconstructions, with a public largely naive to recent palaeontological discoveries, and argues for the removal of perceived awesomeness from well known and loved 'characters'. Palaeontologists singing the praises of feathers are being greeted with the same warmth as someone suggesting that we swap the head of Geiger's Alien creature with that of Alf, or that the next Terminator assassin would look better in a turtle neck and slacks instead of biker leathers.

So, where does this leave us?
The irony of so much Feather Resistance being exposed in the light of Jurassic Park 4 is that a major movie featuring well-rendered, plausible reconstructions of feathered dinosaurs could silence a lot of feather critics. This needs to happen eventually. Feathered Mesozoic dinosaurs are fact. Feathered coelurosaurs, the dinosaurs people are interested beyond all others, are fact. Products and people that do not embrace this are at least 20 years out of date, and, so far as I can see, there is no good reason for staying so far behind the times. Naive concepts of dinosaurs and their world, ignorance of palaeoartistic methods, a dislike of change and the fumbling of early attempts to bring feathered dinosaurs to life are poor reasons to keep popular depictions of dinosaurs decades out of date. How long will it take for people to relinquish the idea that their favourite dinosaurs were scaly, fantastic dragons and accept them, and their feathers, for what they actually were?


  1. Excellent post Mark. It is nice to see this subject actually being debated now as opposed to being a slanging match (which it has degenerated to in some areas).

    I think your point about overcoming more or less 200 years of what is, after all, a scaly and monstrous dinosaurian tradition is well founded.It is what you get used to, what you know and when you are taken out of that comfort zone, when something threatens that familiarity, you tend to react to change with apathy and indifference - even hostility.

    I agree that it is hard to fathom the objection to feathered dromaeosaurs in JP4. Why can't the film be made to reflect the current facts as we know them? The vast majority of dinosaurs would still be reptillian in appearance anyway..........

    1. Yes. I think we are at a point now where it's only wilful ignorance that keeps us from depicting dinosaurs accurately. As has been pointed out time and again in many discussions about the new Jurassic Park movie, there's plenty of ways to incorporate feathered dinosaurs into the franchise, and modern VFX are more than capable of the task. Whether it's JP or another franchise, we're simply waiting for a director who's bold enough to overturn the dinosaur stereotype to show them in a new light.

  2. its no mystery people know the truth ok some of them they know those dinosaur are birds the won badit scientist try to pass off as dinosaurs look at spinosauridae and know its a reptile probly link with crocodilian and it is .and protofeathers are collogen fiber and no coelophysis type of dinosaurs every found with feathers those fake dinosaurs the dinobird all have long arms a bird flight feature big bird brain teeth replacement is different from real dinosaurs and microraptor was a true bird with flight feathers and flight sternum. oviraptor was found with a pygostyle. therizinosaur group inner ears is of a bird the wrist is moon shape like modern birds that help them fly better with good wrist movement dinosaurs have bad wrist movement the best was 18 degree a turkey 59 degree microraptor 60 degree eoconfuciusornis zhengi 55 degree 2 therizinosaur 26 degree 39 degree sinornithosaurus 35 degree oviraptor close reltive 76 degree. velociraptor qull nob is been debated another scientist fine different finding I doubt that was qull nob only strong flyer have qull nob velociraptor was a flightless bird it was too big. all dinosaurs were armo on there backs they could not climb trees to lose the armo like iguana monitor lizard basilisk chameleon they have no croc bums tuatara not a tree climber look like a croc.tuatara can take cold and dinosaurs closes reltive is the turtle .reason they not buying feather dinosaurs all bird link turn out not to be true fast growing by the bone tissue evidence it was false bird mother bone in t.rex false and they know about protoavis and they not getting all imformation from badit scientist they keep lefting out some of the detail. jack horner said steven has the last call on feather dinosaur on j4

  3. and bird are knee runner they have fix femur the thigh bone they do not run like dinosaurs they have special bird knee on top of giant ankle .dinosaurs have crocodilian knee with very small ankle.dinosaur is a prehistoric crocodilian just a prehistoric alligator so all the movies were wrong

    1. OK, this again, with added conspiracy theory about the withholding of information about a highly controversial and probably unimportant specimen. What can I say? The evidence of a dinosaurian origin for birds is so well documented and accessible that I refuse to get into a debate over them. Even if your points here were valid, there would still be hundreds of compelling arguments against your proposed taxonomy.

    2. The fossil record of coelurasaurs evolving into birds is extremely, extremely clear. The evidence for pseudosuchians evolving into crocs is also fairly substantial and essentially irrefutable. In any case, we also see quite a large number of crocodiliformes in the fossil record which coexist with dinosaurs, and predate them.

      You also fail to provide us with any taxonomy, such that I can't understand clearly weather you are trying to say dinosaurs are pseudosuchians. ( very unlikely ) or that modern crocs are descended from dinosaurs and other, older pseudosuchians are not. ( downright impossible).

      In neither case does the link between birds and dinosaurs have anything to do with that.

      Also, piece of advice: having at least intelligible spelling and grammar is useful for getting your quack hypotheses understood. Being able to make or at least explain a phylogenetic tree is better, and presenting actual evidence is even better.

  4. I undoubtedly agree but, and I know you don't want to talk about that, the tidbit of news is no longer visible in the original source and so probably is false.

    And in case someone strongly opposed of feathered dinosaurs in JP4 happens to pass through here: frogs DON'T have scales!

    1. Thanks Henrique: have updated the text about the link accordingly.

  5. What is not mentioned, is that when it comes to public perception, especially when it came to Jurassic Park, the debate over whether feathers were present in dinosaurs wasn't even academic: There was a lively debate at the time, still going strong despite Gauthier's early and Holtz' and Novas' later phylogenetic work, about the "origin of birds." The first "feathered dinosaur" fossils weren't discovered until a few years after JP was written and then released, and the concept of feathering on dinosaurs may have struck various people sideways. Nowadays, we might even think that Crichton had a "valid" claim to doubt it, and his work, and the movie and thus franchise that descended from it, are products of this doubt. Reasonable skepticism, heralded at the time.

    This "skepticism" merely became more entrenched with the work being developed to disprove the value of Sinosauropteryx prima to the debate: It wasn't merely an aspect of resistance to reasonable ideas; there was a concrete basis for some to argue that birds weren't dinosaurs and couldn't be feathered.

    It was the despair of Storrs Olson that makes me realize, at least, that there was a deep, philosophical schism between those who studied birds; either those primarily invested in modern birds and the recent past, and the basal lineages of the deep past, and thus more concerned with the nitty and gritty of deep origins. The ABSRDity of rejection derived for the most part by a historical convention to what were, in some cases, strongly religiously-influenced views on the nature of kinds and the origin of birds in a theological sense, the kind that Heilmann and Beebe were involved in. The concept of the protobird as a lizard-descendant would force the schism between groups studying bird origins into the public square (of a sort) and was coincident with the release of Jurassic Park.

    I do not think one can divorce the anti-dinobird group from the debate on feathers, largely because these scientists represented a small, but vocal opposition "school" and one which strongly tempered the debate in the late 1990s and for the first half of Aughts. They still exist, they still teach, and they still produce papers which -- despite all reason -- still get published.

    1. I think this is why most people overlook the lack of feathers in the first and second Jurassic Park films: feathered dinosaurs may have been predicted by some, but we didn't have the smoking gun evidence we now have in abundance. The second JP film was probably put into production at the last moment it could to successfully dodge the feathers issue. I can't remember if there was a feather uproar about the third one (even acknowledging the token filaments on some of the Velociraptors). I guess all the fuss over the new film is because the incontrovertible evidence of feathers has spread even further down the theropod tree, and the series has lost its momentum.

  6. Mark, this post is fantastic and it will forevermore be my go-to response whenever some tool* or other goes, "mah childhood!" over what an actual once-living on this actual planet animal's skin is or is not covered with.

    1. Thanks Trish. I did wonder if this would end up being used as a place to send folks 'against' the idea of feathered dinosaurs. I'm sure I have plenty of interesting comments to look forward to when some of them arrive...

  7. there is a credibility issues when national geographic did a story on shieldcroc its a big dinosaurs find and did say the magic word dinosaurs is the ancestor of crocodilian or the possilbyty or hypothesis to be fair now suddenly dumb. I am not buying it this shows they did not clean up there act since archaeoraptor fraud. and when the ostrich protein link to t.rex fraud no rebuttel in the press you have to look hard to find it even the scientist who did the evidence said it was a fraud. and still use it today like the protofeather fast growth rate bone tissue evidence. I guest when they said flightless bird is not link with flying bird but is link with dinosaurs now they saying all flightless bird came from a flying bird.i suspect bandit is also keeping imformation too there embarrass that dinosaurs turn out to be crocs. when the great paul sereno saw diversity in crocodilian brain system just like dinosaurs brain diversity in crocodilian brain system and say no link and supercroc large size and say no link its a problem. and the anti god allso join the party many in the media.and now the evidence have to be true if it come from fanfare or hype or propaganda. by evidence I see its over scientist is taken the public for a ride dinosaurs is a prehistoric alligator misidentified of dinosaurs days are number

  8. it is a credibility issue when protofeathers were found with shark dolphin and sea snake and still use in the press.sinosauropteryx was found with hepatic piston a crocodilian breathing system other compsognathus was found complete skin fossil of hand and it was scalely sopose to be closes to bird a protobird.alaska dinosaurs on pbs was a fraud saying that dinosaurs was a special reptile and is close to birds because it live in the cold subtropic alligator are found in the cold subtropic all claim there ancestor sopose to turn into dinosaurs and they found crocodilian fossil in Alaska in dinosaurs time and dwarf caiman can hunt in 40 degree of water with no problem. when are the dinocrocs going to get a headline I dare you to put it on a headline you sopose to be fair and blance .dinocrocs credibile evidence link them to dinosaurs and well known scientist sopporter these croc from 150 millon years ago to 85 millon years they more like dinosaurs than modern crocs most of them pristichampsus is more in the modern group is just all new crocs. all myth they do not change that much since 85 millon years ago that false they even have won with no mandibular fenestra dwarf caiman has no web feet they were diverse but nothing like the dinocrocs even link with the turtle short tail dinosaurs is going to have short tail too. won even have a monkey face very short mouth.scientest can not ignore dinocrocs its scientific evidence

  9. and dinocrocs have been known for a long time with sebecus with real ziphodont teeth.they not buying feather dinosaurs because they are not scary or cool looking I am glad its not true if its true I have no problem with it .

  10. it is a credibility issue they have known that velociraptor mite be a bird before the jurassic park movie was made they should not have use them just confuse the public more. Gregory s.paul said that before that were flightless bird that jaw was not of dinosaurs type was more like archaeopteryx

  11. "Feathered dinosaurs aren't scary"

    I figured that had something to do w/the "Reptiles Are Abhorrent" trope ( ).

    "A lot of those brightly coloured reconstructions do resemble these birds more than any others, and their overly dynamic, unusual postures only strengthen these comparisons to birds known for being a little stupid (poultry) or capable of silly behaviours (parrots)."

    To be fair, "chickens probably fall about mid-range on the intelligence scale of birds” (“chickens+probably+fall+about+mid-+range+on+the+intelligence+scale+of+birds”&hl=en&sa=X&ei=fnRxUbaRLZK-9gTGpoDABg&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=“chickens%20probably%20fall%20about%20mid-%20range%20on%20the%20intelligence%20scale%20of%20birds”&f=false ).

    "The irony of so much Feather Resistance being exposed in the light of Jurassic Park 4 is that a major movie featuring well-rendered, plausible reconstructions of feathered dinosaurs could silence a lot of feather critics. This needs to happen eventually"

    Won't this happen in December w/WWD 3D?

    1. Hi Hadiaz,

      Thanks for the comment. I'd not made the connection between scales and 'baddies' in fiction, but I guess this is fairly true. As the TVTropes article points out, though, some dinosaurs are weirdly exempt from this. Triceratops may be scaly, but it's still a 'good guy'. But yes, I'm sure the cultural association of scales with all things evil and unholy only boosts the coolness of scaly dinosaurs. We all know bad guys are cooler than the good guys.

      Re. Chickens. Yes, point taken. I initially had that sentence reflecting the fact that chickens are associated with being a bit dim, rather than actually being stupid, but changed it for reasons of readability. Will amend the post shortly.

      On WWD3D. That should have properly feathered dinosaurs in it, yes, and hopefully it'll help swing the Feather Resistance around to appreciate fully-feathered dinosaurs as much as older, scaly representations. I don't think it will do this as much as a JP-esque film will, though. WWD3D (presumably) won't show dinosaurs and people together, so may not convey feathered theropods as a real threat to relatable movie characters. Dinotasia and Planet Dinosaur are perhaps relevant here, as neither of these silenced the Feather Resistance.

      Would be great if I'm proved wrong on this, though. Am certainly looking forward to seeing WWD3D when it comes out.

    2. Sorry for jumping in so late but as an "early adapter" of dromaeosurs and the like as "birdy" any present controversy seems absurd to me. Not scary? Anyone here remember John McLoughlin's re- created Moscow and Washington in The Helix and the Sword, with their golden eagle plumage, in 1983? No evidence yet of the feather insertions, but the nature of the beast was apparent to John, and Bakker, and Ostrom.

      More scary? I am a falconer all my life and have seen golden eagles kill pronghorn in the wild and canid predators in Asia. Anyone who is not scared by a golden eagle in yarak will likely be taught a lesson. I think hot-blooded feathered dinosaurs are splendid, and far more threatening than something whose muscles and nerves shut down when the sun goes behind a cloud.

  12. it want silence me .dinosaurs color skin is like modern crocodilian I doubt its any different .i can not beleave still debating dinosaurs descendants its clearly a crocodilian

  13. Replies
    1. OK Coelophysis, this is your 13th comment about this in two weeks. You've made your point, and others are clearly not interested in discussing it with you. Time to stop posting about it.

  14. This is well written and I do concur with it. Jurassic Park dinosaurs(are their other kin) will never be real dinosaurs. They're just the popular ones, man-made in origin both in fiction and in reality. But everyone needs to realize that true reality can never pander to our desires. It can never be man made. It is ironically one of the reasons for why I like Michael Crichton's story so much, it addressed the possibility of humanity being never able to best nature, even by redecorating it we still need humility to what lies beyond our perception.

    What the dinosaur based entertainment culture does need is a reboot that better allows us to learn and admire that other new, yet to be discovered coolness of animals that may have had more traits than what the public gives them credit for. Like stated in the article it is a hard obstacle to pass and reshape. It depends on dinosaur fans as much as it depends on the science. Personally I'm open for some variety.

  15. My standard response to anyone who thinks feathered dinosaurs are silly or stupid is this:

    Go stand nose to beak with an adult bald eagle - and then tell me how not-scary feathered dinosaurs are.

    1. +1 (as someone who actually did this)

  16. I think in some ways the aversion to feathered dinosaurs is that they look too cute. When you look at mounts of say, Deinonychus they are ugly. What happened to ugly dinosaurs? I usually lean toward Luis V. Rey. His dinosaurs are sufficiently ugly. I mean even Tyrannosaurs look cute, they always looked pretty ugly to me. Now a lot of illustrations look like teddy bears. I mean no disrespect to other paleo artists either. After Doug Henderson, John Conway is my favorite. I just take my predators like a grizzly bear not a polar bear. I know, I know a polar bear is just dangerous as a grizzly, but it still looks ridiculously cute. We need to make our feathered dinos bad mamajamas again... People will come around.

  17. Although I personally agree with the no-feather crowd that dinosaurs look cooler with scales, I nevertheless think they should be given feathers if that's what the evidence suggests. Just because I find something aesthetically displeasing doesn't mean it's not science. Mind you, in the unlikely event I ever become a deity and create my own universe, there won't be a feathered dinosaur to be found. ;)

    Funnily enough, there's a scene in the original Jurassic novel where Hammond and Wu are discussing modifying the dinosaurs to fit in with visitors' preconceptions - Version 4.4 - and they could easily use that in the upcoming film. "Yes, we know they had feathers. But people are expecting scales, so we gave them scales."

  18. If you still want your ancient scaly scary beasts just go back a few million years more to the crocodylomorphs like postosuchus. They look just like the old ideas of dinosaurs while still having features like four-chambered hearts and upright legs to make them quick and active.

    1. Heck, you don't even have to go that far back. As far as I know, Ceratosaurus and Carnotaurus were scaly and armoured.

  19. "A lot of folks seem to think that palaeontologists and palaeoartists make up dinosaur appearance as they go along, perhaps with a few scraps of evidence to point them in the right direction, but otherwise working within almost limitless possibilities. In such a scenario, personal choice about attributes like integument would play a large role. Of course, this could not be further from the truth. A good palaeoartist reconstructs extinct animals as rigorously as possible, with as much information as possible, using increasingly good fossil data and phylogenetic analyses to inform animal proportions, musculature, integuments, environments and behaviour. A lot of folks would be very surprised at how much data can be obtained from one skeleton nowadays, and how much of that can be used to inform a reconstruction."

    I honestly despise the "well we've never seen a real dinosaur before so who cares what's right or wrong?" argument. It feels like a legitimate act of disrespect against the field of paleontology on the whole because it completely ignores everything that paleontologists have learned in the past century alone.
    I enjoyed Jurassic World myself, but the lacking in the accuracy department becomes a lot more noticeable after you've learned so much about prehistory and I have to admit gets pretty distracting (the T. rex I can forgive, since she's from the first movie long before any of this stuff was mainstream knowledge, but it's still jarring to see the ridge-backed Mosasaurus, naked raptors, draconic pterosaurs and scrawny hadrosaurs).