Dinosaurs are awesome. We’re pretty sure we’re not the first to voice the opinion on that one. But how can you know anything about a creature that died out millions of years ago? It’s not as though you can pop over to the zoo and observe one, right? Classic dinosaur drama. Many of the clues might be found in the skull. Here are 5 things you could ask yourself to get started making sweet dinosaur art.
Every character needs a setting. Is yours in the Triassic, Jurassic, or Cretaceous? I’m as big a fan of dinosaurs with no-feather-naked-big guns in Jurassic Park as the next silly sod, but if you’re going for scientific-realism, you can’t put a stegosaur in battle with a Tyrannosaurs rex unless you’re ready for a serious spanking from the paleo department.
The big clues to what happened in the daily life of your dinosaur can be found in the skull. Skulls tell us what an animal ate and which senses it relied on for finding food. There’s an old rhyme that goes, “Eyes on the front, animal hunts. Eyes on the side, animal hides.” Or you can remember that prey species have side facing orbits because it gives a wider field of view. Predators have forward facing orbits for better depth perception.
If the orbits are large, there’s a good chance that the creature had sharp eyes or at least could get around in the dark pretty well.
Ask yourself what conditions would make this animal feel safe or threatened?
Imagine you need to bite into a pear. Which teeth did you use? Now imagine you need to bite off a piece of beef jerky. Which teeth did you use? Now look at your dinosaur teeth. Do they have teeth for grinding or tearing? (It’s not as simple a question as you might think!)
Usually top molars overlap lower molars for shearing or grinding action. That is how most herbivores (plant eaters) do. Carnivores tear meat and swallow it pretty much whole. If you have a cat at home, you can watch and see: The cat does not do much chewing compared to your dog.
Which brings us to omnivores (critters that don’t mind mixing veggies with their protein.) Dinosaur communities are pretty split on some of these, so it might depend on who you ask as to who gets labeled as an omnivore. But I shouldn’t get too many letters if I say that Oviraptor was an omnivore. (Suggesting you know the feeding habits of a dinosaur is always a good way to bring out “the crazies.” The feeding habits of ornithomimids have been a classic home of controversy. Enjoy!)
The better to hear you with, my dear! Auditory Bullae, if you want to use words that confuse your spell checker. These are the bony portions of the skull that hold the inner and middle ear. It’s safe to say, the larger this is relative to the overall skull size, the better the sense of hearing.
Back to your cat for an example. Who has large ear holes, and thusly, kick-ass hearing.
It’s all in the nose, ay? That’s what research at University of Calgery suggests (amongst others.) Generally speaking, and we love to speak generally, large nasal passages are indicative of a keen sense of smell. Think of your dog. The dog, assuming you don’t have one of those shivering little mutants, has large nasal passages which give it a great sense of smell.
Since the T. rex had a champion level sniffer, it's fair to conclude the king of the carnivores had a good sense of smell. Not that he smelled good, necessarily. Could the T. rex have used his talents to hunt? Sure. Would he have passed up the chance to scavenge a free meal? Highly unlikely.
Don’t forget to throw in a little imagination. Happy sketching! Cheers!
Kent A. Stevens, 2006. Binocular vision in theropod dinosaurs. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26(2):321-330.
Currie, P.J. 2003. Cranial anatomy of tyrannosaurid dinosaurs from the Late Cretaceous of Alberta, Canada. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica 48 (2): 191–226.
Felipe L. Pinheiro, Marco A. G. França, Marcel B. Lacerda, Richard J. Butler & Cesar L. Schultz 2016. An exceptional fossil skull from South America and the origins of the archosauriform radiation. Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 22817
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE