Owl legs lie

May 12, 2017

Here is your occasional reminder of how very misleading feathers can be in understanding the true shape of an animal. An owl:

And the same owl showing a bit of leg:

And here are the two photos side by side:

We’ve often told you here on SV-POW! that necks lie. But legs lie, as well. Not to mention arms. Which is why so most of our life restorations of dinosaurs (theropods at least) probably look nothing like these animals looked in life.

Credit: I got the owl images from this Japanese page, but I have no idea where they originated. There are copies all over the Web, and figuring out which are the originals — if they’re even still up — would be a major research project. At any rate, you ought to be told that they are not my photos.

9 Responses to “Owl legs lie”

  1. “Contour feathers”

    there, that ought to suffice.


  2. Marco Says:

    Hello SVPOW team,
    I m searching some good picture of Apatosaurus ajax, Brontosaurus excelsus and whatever is louisae now, cervical and dorsal vert…
    I found “only” a Great multiview picture of A.ajax cervical and a drawing of B.excelsus holotype cervical, can I ask your Help?
    Thank you and sorry for the off-topic.

  3. Mike Taylor Says:

    There are no good photos of the cervicals of the Brontosaurus excelsus holotype YPM 1980, because the cervicals became essentially unavailable to science before colour photography became widespread. They were patched up with plaster and painted, so no-one can tell what is bone and what is reconstruction; and they were mounted in sequence above head-height so that the anterior and posterior aspects are obscured. Here at SV-POW! towers, we live in hope that the Yale Peabody Museum will one day get the funding it needs to demount that skeleton and reprepare the bones to modern standards. (Does anyone know what the situation is on this?)

    On the some-kind-of-apatosaur louisae holotype CM 3018, things should be better, as just this kind of reprep-and-remount project was carried out relatively recently. So there should be good, comprehensive photos of all the vertebrae from multiple aspects. But if they exist, I’ve not seen them — again, does anyone know the current status?

  4. Marco Says:

    Thank you Dr. Taylor,
    So I will use some of the interpretative drawing for both this taxa and the multiview Photo for A.ajax.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    I would say bird legs lie more than non avian dinosaur legs. Birds have legs tucked extremely close to the body because of their short tail, shifting the center of gravity and the feet closer to the middle of the body anteroposteriorly. Dinosaurs have long tails or are quadrupedal, so it is less likely that this kind of hidden leg would occur except perhaps in a sitting animal (especially a maniraptoran where there would be long feathers to further obscure the body). Modern bird leg posture is very different from that of non-avian dinosaurs or pterosaurs.

  6. Dale mcinnes Says:

    I’d hate to think of stegosaurs and ceratopsians as THAT deceiving !!!!

  7. Brad Lichtenstein Says:

    It looks to me as if the handler isn’t just lifting up feathers that cover the leg, but rotating the entire abdomen – specifically, lifting the rear, which would perforce straightens the legs. Just this week, I tried reminding my kids just this week about a vaguely similar demonstration on a live owl, which was more designed to show how little meat there really was underneath it all, rather than on leg posture, but the handler didn’t just lift the rear, he mostly just stuck his hands in to show how deep the fluff was.

  8. Mike Taylor Says:

    It is true that the attitude of the owl’s torso is different — more horizontal — in the second photo. But it’s still the case the its feet are on the surface, and his legs reach up to the elevated torso. Which is not what most people would expect.

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