Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Chapter 2: Avian Diversity & Classification

Back on track!

Chapter 2, as mentioned in the previous post, was a highly anticipated chapter for me. I like to skim the chapters before I read them to get a quick overview of what I'll be reading. While that is helpful, I tend to get stuck on the small captions with interesting images or diagrams (which helps when I take the quizzes, but is super distracting!). Because of this,  I knew the evolution of birds and their ancestry to dinosaurs were going to be covered in this chapter. (Yay!)

Just to be brief, this chapter covered everything from phylogeny, classification, defining a species, genetic variation, and avian diversity to the origins of birds, extinction, and avian orders and families. The origin of birds through the evolution of certain bipedal theropods (Maniraptora), was a fascinating read. Of course, not all dinosaurs are bird descendants, but all birds can be proven to be descendants from particular dinosaurs. I've already been familiar with some extinct species of early birds, moas, dodos, etc, but I was eager to learn about other, earlier descendants, such as Confuciusornis, Hesperornis, and Ichthyornis.

Sketch of Skeleton of Hesperornis, 9x12, graphite

As an young artist, I loved studying the animals I loved through their skeletal and muscular structures, sketching from anatomy books from my library (and scaring some of my art teachers!). While I was just drawing what I thought was interesting, I now realize that I wanted to learn more about what was going on underneath what I was drawing on the surface of these animals. I've credited this early interest in anatomy to helping me draw well, along with being able to draw a lot from memory. This knowledge helped to create more fantastic beings too, including dragons, basilisks, and other creatures. Since I had the excuse to, I created my own rendition of a bird-like Maniraptoran, likely one of the earliest "bird-dinosaurs." Even while not 100% accurate, I still enjoyed the challenge!

Artist's Interpretation of Maniraptoran, 9x12, graphite on paper

More sketches (add color studies!) to follow soon -- Next Chapter is How Birds Evolve!

This project is made possible by support of the Indiana Arts Commission, a state agency.

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