Twig gets an Update

Twig the Compsognathus gets the spotlight today, and he’s excited about his new look.

Compsognathus lived in Late Jurassic Europe. Only two fossil specimens are known for sure, a juvenile from the Solnhofen of Germany, and a turkey-sized adult in France. Since the chicken-sized juvenile from Germany was the first found and the only one known for many years, some books still say that Compsognathus was the “size of a chicken.” Twig would like to point out that he might be small, but he’s not that small.

A happy Compsognathus strolls through the scrubby brush on his island home.

The Solnholfen archipelago was tropical at the time, but very dry, and may have been rather similar to what the Galapagos islands are like today. Low, scrubby, desert-hardy plants, dominated by sea-faring flyers. The pterosaurs may have congregated on the islands in the millions just like colonies of seabirds do today, while creatures like Compsognathus may have arrived on floating debris carried by storms and learned to make the best of things. So who else lives in Twig’s neighborhood?

Ron the Rhamphorhynchus is bigger than Twig, though he usually looks about the same size when his wings are folded up. Tango the Archaeopteryx is about half his size, and does not like to play tag. Terry the Pterodactylus is about the same size as Tango. Other neighbors not yet featured in the pet shop include…

  • Gnathosaurus: small pterosaur with flattened needle teeth that look like a spoonbill bird
  • Scaphognathus: Rhamphorhynchus cousin with a flashy crest and no flag on its tail
  • Ardeadactylus: A large pterosaur built like a heron, but related to Pterodactylus
  • Cycnorhamphus: an even larger pterosaur with an unusual, curved bill that looks a bit like a flamingo, only pointing up instead of down.
  • Anurognathus: a tiny, flat-faced pterosaur that looks very much like a bat.

There are others of course, but this is the short list, and doesn’t include the huge diversity of fish, sharks, crocodilians, lizards, tuatara relatives, and marine reptiles that crawled across the land or cruised the shallow sea. The Solnhofen is every bit as diverse and wacky as the Galapagos islands today, and are definitely worth exploring. (On my to-do list after I finish the Morrison Formation)

One question you may ask is about the fluff. Do we really know if Compsognathus had feathers?

Short answer? We don’t, and we need more fossils.

Long answer? A few relatives of Compsognathus are definitely preserved with fluff, a little like the downy fuzz we might see in ducklings. I say ducklings because chicken chicks really have to be careful not to get wet or they get sick, while ducklings are pretty hardy and the fuzz is generally nicely insulating. But perhaps this is more about the weakness of tiny chicks in general, and not so much to do with the nature of their fuzz. I’m no expert. I could be completely wrong in comparing dino fuzz to chick fluff.

On the other hand, we also have other relatives of Compsognathus (and possibly skin imprints on Compsognathus itself, though I’m not sure on that) that appear to have scaly skin. Some have said that scaly skin doesn’t rule out feathers, especially since these impressions come from areas like the legs, underside of the tail, or belly. Others claim to see faint impressions of feathers on some of these fossils as well as the scales (visible under UV light), so it’s possible that what appears scaly is an artifact of decomposition. Bottom line, there is nothing absolutely certain in a lot of these smaller dinosaurs, and so artists are free to experiment with appearance.

Many of us like fluffy pets, so I’ve chosen a more superficially bird-like appearance.

Of course now that Twig has an official update he has been added to Redbubble and is available for adoption! I am seriously considering getting a large floor pillow so that I can have a life-size Compsognathus in my house. 😀

If you want to adopt Twig, just click on his picture below. That’ll take you to Redbubble, where you can choose a life-size Compsognathus or a more pocket-size one on something else that suits what you might need.

See you November 1st for the next Critter of the Month!

I hope you don’t mind getting wet, because this swimming critter loves to splash!

Share your guess in the comments! He’ll be one of the critters over on the critter page. 🙂

7 thoughts on “Twig gets an Update

  1. I think you made everyone’s dream come true by turning him into a life-size pillow. Now you really CAN snuggle Twig in all his floofy glory!

    I really like how you’re experimenting with textures! The background has a nice rough/organic look, and his feathers are a great mix between soft/floofy and slightly more coarse. 😀 Is this the first CotM you’ve made with Procreate?

    Very interesting to see the diversity of Twig’s neighborhood, too! Haha, “Tango the Archaeopteryx is about half his size, and does not like to play tag.” I wonder what that could be referencing? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Brownie! The kids have been begging me for a snuggleable, life-size Twig, so I may have to adopt him for Christmas. 😀

      Gulper is actually the first critter to be created in Procreate, but lately I’ve really been pushing my skills and experimenting with brushes and new techniques. Now that I have a relatively comfortable system I can really have some fun with other sorts of things like light, and how to increase focus using colors, contrast, and texture. There’s a Youtube channel I’ve found to be very helpful, and I’m excited to use the techniques he shows in future paintings. He has a couple of videos with secrets from the pros to really give a painting that final polish. I still have a long way to go, but it’s actuallt been really fun revisiting some of these older critters to see how I can make it better. 🙂

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  2. I appreciate the work you put to your newer artistry and research. Additionally, in a comment to another comment from your previous post, you said you had a bias towards North American creatures. I’d like to know some non-NA Jurassic critters you find interesting. Perhaps even share your favorite new species of the past decade as well as 2020-2022 (as of now).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you like him. I’ve always done a lot of research with my illustrations, but I think my skill is improving, and that is always a good thing when it comes to showing the fruits of tat research.

      To be fair, I think many of us have a bit of a bias for North American dinosaurs, simply because they’ve been famous for so long and were popular with the general public for so long. In a similar vein, the creatures outside of North America that I really like tend to be from well known formations or really big new finds, like Solnhofen creatures or the big news around Yi Qi. Because of that it’s always good to reach out into new territory.

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      1. One more thing: I just read your newest DinoToyForum post and you said the Protoceras was named Buck while the Drepanosaurus is unnamed. As for name suggestions, I could go with Timothy (the nickname I gave Sobble; I compared it to Drepanosaurus three years ago), Drayden (I just think it’s good alliteration and the thing kind of look draconian and Drayden is a Dragon-type gym leader within Pokémon), and Falce (the Italian word for sickle; Drepanosaurus is known from Italy and means “sickle lizard”).

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