EPIDENDROSAURUS(=SCANSORIOPTERYX, foreground) AND A NEW RECONSTRUCTION OF
Acrylics and inks on cardboard.
The series of paintings called "New Chinese Revolution" were intended to follow up closely the enormous variety of dinosaur discoveries coming from the Yixian deposits in the Liaoning Province (China) expecting that there will always be new discoveries around the corner. And we haven't been disappointed. This new instalment is dedicated exclusively to the hypothetical dinosaur life high in the trees. Precious little is known about arboreal dinosaurs. Even if the probability of their arboreality has always remained more than an educated possibility, fully convincing hard evidence has been lacking for a very long time... That finally had to change with the discovery of animals like Epidendrosaurs (=Scansoriopteryx) a tiny, fully feathered theropod hatchling with apparent prehensile feet and opposable hallux, but with a difference: The third hand digit is almost twice the size of the second digit giving it a strange (almost pterosaurian!) look. An animal with such a specialised digit most probably represents the first hard evidence of dinosaur arborealism. It is difficult to think of a terrestrial animal with such enormous, specialised hands. I have depicted a couple of Epidendrosaurus (adults) here using their hypertrophied, specialised third digit for spearing grubs like a modern Aye-aye lemur. Some primitive characteristics of the skeleton (including a pelvis even more primitive than Archaeopteryx) are probably due to the fact that the fossil is a hatchling.
Click on the picture to see 2 closeups!
In the background, a troupe of Microraptors jump and glide from branch to
branch using their "four wings" as battering parachutes. The long feathers
lined around the arms and the whole of the leg probably acted in a
similar way as the rigid tufts of matted hair around the body of the
modern lemur Propithecus (as reported in Feduccia 93) that helped the
animal "glide" and to withstand the falls, while keeping strong legs,
fully cursorial locomotor faculties and bipedalism. Is this the origin of
the kind of flight we see today in modern birds? It seems more feasible
than an exclusively cursorial ground-up theory... and the hard evidence
seems to back up this theory (as recently presented in Ken Dial's video
shown as part the itinerant "Feathered Dinosaurs" exhibition of how
birds "run-up" trees instead "flying up" them, see more details in the
article "A reappraisal of possible scenarios for dinosaur and bird
evolution" in this website). Incredibly as it seems the theories of how
flight and birds evolved have gone full circle: Now we have the famous
"Proavis" as envisioned by Gerhard Heilmann in 1927... only not in the same
way. Heilmann's "Proavis" has become a sort of prophecy in its time of
what we know now as just another dromaeosaurid dinosaur.
To see previous New Chinese Revolution part 1 Click Here; and to see previous New Chinese Revolution part 2 Click Here;