Emily Willoughby

Paleoart and bird illustration

Microraptor Takeoff December 2012

Medium: Photoshop CS4
Time taken: ~80 hours
Published in: Dyke et al. (2013)
High-resolution: Purchase Print

This painting is a depiction of Microraptor gui gliding down from a rock, which is a rock and not a tree branch because (in my opinion, at least) there is not yet enough evidence for the idea that Microraptor was arboreal, so it's possible that it didn't spend very much time in trees at all. Here it is chasing Pompiloperus, a species of early Cretaceous Jehol digger wasp. Insect-chasing was unlikely to be something that Microraptor did often, but as we can learn from All Yesterdays, animals commonly do things they don't do commonly.

This is old news at this point, but the main impetus for deciding to redo the old drawing was the Microraptor color study, which revealed a few finer points of the animal: that its long-assumed headcrest was more likely to be an artifact of smushed feathers in fossilization, that at least some Microraptor had a pair of long tail ribbons extending back from the fan, and most notably, that the animal's feathers were iridescent, perhaps shiny blue-black like a crow.

There seems to be some debate at present about whether Microraptor's legwings were typically held perpendicular to the metatarsals or more in parallel when gliding, so I painted them somewhat intermediate - a likely position for takeoff, I think.