Critter of the Week: Compsognathus

Meet Twig. He’s a lot more travel-sized, if you’re looking for a dinosaur that’s not a bird.  He makes up for his size by being extra fluffy and huggable.  Can you resist that fuzzy tail?


Twig_eye change

Twig may be small, but he’s not nearly as teeny as most “educational” sources would have you believe.  Almost all the dinosaur books I’ve come across claim this little guy as the smallest dinosaur. “As big as a chicken” is the phrase often used.

Twig would have you know he’s the size of a turkey, not a chicken (makes a big difference if you’re standing right next to it).  All those other reports are actually based off a German fossil of a juvenile compy, not an adult.  Another well-preserved fossil was discovered in France in the 1970’s, but paleontologists weren’t sure it was a compy until more recent years.

Twig doesn’t mind the confusion though.  He’s not really bothered by much as long as he can snatch a lizard or two out of the bushes. 🙂

Just for fun, here’s a picture of Jurassic Park’s Compsognathus.  This picture is from the Jurassic Park Wikia, but did not have any credit associated with it.  It looks like it was cut from a screenshot of Jurassic Park: The Lost World.  It’s really quite a nice little puppet, and the film makers were able to give it the very lifelike, birdy movements described in the first book of the series.


The model has a few glaring inaccuracies, but I really enjoyed watching it in the film anyway.

  • Shrinkwrapped skin on muscle on bone, with no soft tissue in between.
  • Two fingers instead of three
  • Broken bunny arms
  • The lack of feathers is not technically inaccurate, because some relatives preserve feathers, and others preserve scales on the tail. So it’s a coin toss really, at least until we can find more data.  🙂


Making progress…

You may have noticed a few changes to the most recent critters of the week.  Do you like it?

I was having a bit of a problem.  Because some animals have much larger eyes than others.  For the larger dinosaurs and other prehistoric critters, I could have a tiny dot for an eye and it would work just fine.  Probably because the eyes would be pretty tiny compared to the big body anyway.

For smaller animals, or critters with particularly large eyes the dot-eye style posed a problem.

It looked downright weird to have a tiny dot-eye, because the critter was supposed to have larger eyes…but then I end up with a soulless black hole of an eye…


I hoped the spark of shiny light would make it work, but as my style has developed into more detailed textures, it just looks out of place.

So I’ve started sneaking in some color in the larger eyes, to experiment, and I’ve been much happier with the result.  It’s most obvious in Cassie and Twig, but Skittles has some color in there too.

Cassie headSkittles headtwig_head

I think I shall keep it this way, and update future critters.  I think these eyes are just as cute, and lend themselves to far more expression.  I always did want a Pixar-inspired feel for the style anyway, so I really like how these guys are turning out. 🙂 I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. 😀

Only problem…now I can’t go the easy way out and stylize the humans with dot-eyes either…which means I’ll just have to practice my figure drawing. 😛

You might see some sketches of Pete, or the family who comes to visit pretty soon. 😀


Coming Next Week…

Why, oh why must everyone call her ugly?  I really don’t know.  She may not be winning any beauty contests, but she’s a real sweet heart with anyone she meets. 🙂

Share your guess in the comments! She’s one of the critters over on the critter page. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Critter of the Week: Compsognathus

  1. I like the updated eyes, actually. 😀 I also think that it gives them more personality.

    Was there a special purpose for the floofy tail, besides warmth, balance, etc?


    1. Thank you Brownie, I’m glad you like the change too! 🙂

      Floofy, feathery tails are cute and adorable, but there are many practical uses. Thick layers of feathers are just as useful for staying cool as for staying warm.

      An Australian study comparing kangaroos and emus showed that the thick layers of dark feathers were so effective at keeping the bird cool, they have no problem being active in the heat of the day.

      Kangaroos have to stay in the shade, and lick their arms to cool down.

      Fluffy tails are also good for balance, communication with other animals, or even a slippery target for predators.

      Much better to have a long tail with easily seen colors, so a predator snatches at the thing that’s moving. You might live to see another day with only a chunk of tail or few feathers missing, instead of your head. 😀


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