|The first illustration of a hypothetical "pro-avis" by Pycraft, 1906|
|Nopcsa's 1907 feathered, Compsognathus-like|
"pro-avis" model at the Grant Museum, London.
|Beebe's "tetrapteryx", 1915.|
|Speculative reconstruction of a Triassic "carnavian" dinosaur|
leaving feather traces in its trackway, from Ellenberger 1974.
The thecodont origin of birds did not truly give way to a dinosaur origin until the 1970s, after John Ostrom described the similarities between Archaeopteryx and Deinonychus. If dinosaurs were the new closest relatives of birds, then at least the most bird-like among them should be depicted with feathers (Ostrom himself disagreed with this though, and, according to Bakker, he fought the idea that Deinonychus should be feathered). Of course, which dinosaurs were most closely related to birds, and just how much of a gap remained between them and Archaeopteryx, allowed for considerable wiggle room and speculation.
|A "carnavian" track maker |
parachuting, from Ellenberger 1974.
|Landry's influential 1975 restoration of "Syntarsus".|
|"Syntarsus" by Stout, 1976.|
One of my favorite derivatives of Landry's Syntarsus illustration is one made in 1976 by William Stout and reproduced in Don Glut's 1982 edition of The New Dinosaur Dictionary. Though Glut pointed out that the feathers were speculative, they're probably less inaccurate than the legless snake it's eating! Also included in Glut's revised dictionary was one of the first illustrations of the theropod Kakuru, by Mark Hallett. Though just as speculative as Ellenberger's drawing (Kakuru is known only from two limb bones), it has more of a modern feel. The reclining theropod is decked out in long, filamentous feathers, rather than the broad, scale-like feathers of Landry's Syntarsus. It's worth noting that all of these early drawings of feathered dinosaurs had bare or scaly faces. This method of emphasizing the transitional character of early feathered theropods was probably inspired by traditional portrayals of Archaeopteryx, a "bird" with the head of a "reptile."
|Feathered ornithischians, by Lorene Bjorklund, from|
The Warm-Blooded Dinosaurs, 1979.
A few very early books featuring extremely prescient feathered dinosaurs came in 1978 and 1979. First, Julian May brought us perhaps the first renaissance-era dinosaur book for kids, The Warm-Blooded Dinosaurs, which featured not only a feathered Struthiomimus by Lorene Bjorklund on the cover, but several feathered ornithischians inside. An Iguanodon looks sort of ambiguously feathered (it might just be the crosshatched style), and interestingly, has a abrupt transition to a croc-scutes tail very similar to Kulindadromeus. There's also a skeletal of Microvenator with a fuzzy, Greg Paul style silhouette outline. The next year, Archosauria: A New Look at the Old Dinosaur by John McLoughlin includes some species with feathered faces for the first time, like his amazing, feathered Coelurus. It's odd as a modern reader to see that in both of these books, it's the more basal dinosaurs shown with feathers. Primitive ornithopods and "coelurosaurs" (considered a paraphyletic grade of early, ancestral dinosaurs at the time) like Syntarsus, Coelurus, and Saltopus are given feathers while deinonychosaurs like Saurornithoides and Deinonychus are not. The influence of the thecodont theory was still going strong, with birds thought to have evolved from the earliest dinosaurs rather than deinonychosaurs, which were exclusively known from the Cretaceous at that time.
|Kakuru by Mark Hallett, from Glut 1982.|
After Syntarsus, the next non-avialan to become consistently depicted with feathers was Avimimus. From its first discovery, Avimimus was interpreted (and in some cases, like the supposed lack of a tail, misinterpreted) as being as birdlike or more than Archaeopteryx. Though commonly misreported online as having quill knobs, Avimimus actually had a flat ridge on the ulna which has been interpreted as a similar kind of support for the soft tissue of a feathered wing. Though not the same kind of direct evidence as quill knobs would be, most paleoartists ran with the suggestion, and most early Avimimus illustrations did portray it with feathers. John Sibbick restored it that way for David Norman's 1985 Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs, and his version is a down-right throwback to the "pro-aves" of the early 1900s, with long, scale-like feathers on the outstretched arms and tail.
|The first(?) feathered Deinonychus,|
a statuette by Otter Zell, 1984.
|Two early restorations of Avimimus. Left: by Sergai Kurzanov, looking very bird-y.|
Right: By John Sibbick from Norman's Encyclopedia, looking very much like Heilmann's "pro-avis."
|A modern feathered dinosaur:|
Tianyulong sculpture by Jason Brougham, 2016.