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Re: Restoring Dinosaurs (was Hadrosaur necks, etc.)

Regarding dinosaur restorations:

>Even so, it seems fair to assume that there was more than one sauropod 
genus with spiky elements, and hence, that there is some basis for 
applying these features to other sauropod genera.  The point is that at 
this point we cannot prove the case one way or another because such 
details are so rarely preserved as fossils.

I totally agree. When the evidence on spikes and other dermal devices is 
so slim, restorations frequently must be left to personal preference of 
the illustrator.

>To the critics, I ask this question:  Given that there are perhaps two 
dozen skin impressions attributed to specific dinosaur types, how would 
YOU go about restoring the unknown hides of the hundreds of known 
dinosaur genera remaining?  If you were Stephen Czerkas you would work 
from known impressions of the most closely related animals, scaling them 
up or down as needed, in order to produce a hypothetical approximation 
of a correct integument.  You would put _Centrosaurus_ and 
_Chasmosaurus_ skin on your _Styracosaurus_, for example, because 
_Centrosaurus_ and _Chasmosaurus_ are the closest relatives for which 
you have good impressions. . .<part deleted> . . .

Again, I agree totally. I should state here though that there is 
considerable variation in the soft-tissue anatomy of animals living 
today. Take, for example, a lion and a tiger. Although they're nearly 
identical at the skeletal level, both have drastically different 
physical appearances--one with a large mane in the males and a very drab 
tan color, and the other with orange and black stripes. The same applies 
to birds and many other animals.

For the sake of completeness, I should discuss the relative lack of 
variation in some animals, notably elephants, rhinos, etc. The 
coloration is relatively consistant (gray). Maybe a correlation between 
size and color (the bigger the drabber?)?

Also, from what hadrosaur and ceratopsian skin impressions have been 
unearthed, there seems to have been some variation between taxa of size, 
shape and orientation of scales, etc. Unfortunately, there have been no 
in-depth comparative studies of skin that I know of (and yes, 
insufficient fossils may be a problem here, too).

>It seems to me that protofeathers or feathers of some sort can 
reasonably be applied to restorations of any small theropod which is a 
member of the clade comprised of the last common ancestor of 
_Sinosauropteryx_ and _Archaeopteryx_ and all of their descendants. 

I agree again, but see latter part of this message for more on this.

>As to those professional illustrators who slavishly ape the 
restorations of other artists with no knowledge of the subject 
(especially going back to the works of Knight and Burian), they do so at 
their peril, and they are not doing their jobs.  

This is what I was mainly thinking of when writing my original post--the 
problem is not those who do the primary research. I applaud those who do 
their homework before setting brush to canvas. Problems arise when 
illustrators (particularly in the popular press) just "ape" others' 
work. (see next paragraph)

>Would the public be better served by images of dinosaurs that are drab 
and featureless?  

Unfortunately, I think the answer would be yes in all too many cases. 
I'm all for decorated dinosaurs--spines, feathers, frills and dewlaps 
are a fact of life for many animals. But, most of the books I've seen in 
kids' libraries are not illustrated by Paul, Franczak or any other 
highly-qualified paleoartist. Many of these popular books depict 
hyper-colored dinosaurs with frills coming from any possible angle. The 
oft-repeated feathered Syntarsus? I don't think it's likely. And then 
there is the infamous "spitting" Dilophosaurus. . . Most kids that I've 
talked to have accepted it as fact. The only way to solve this problem 
is with research, education and outreach.

In summary, I largely agree with Ralph's statements. I have a tremendous 
amount of respect for paleoartists--they have skills I can only dream 
of. The main intent of my message is to state that there was an 
incredible amount of variation in dinosaurs. You can't do justice to 
this variation by giving all hadrosaurs identical frills or all 
sauropods identical spikes. The one key word here: moderation.

Signing off,
Andy Farke

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