Melanistic dinosaurs

On a trip to the Natural history Museum in London aged about 10 my parents bought me a poster of various dinosaurs to colour in. I remember quite vividly tackling it with my felt-tipped pens and deciding that one thing I really needed to include was a black dinosaur. The Iguanodon I selected of course was a grave disappointment since I obliterated all of the black lines that delineated it’s arms and legs and scales (and of course the eye and nostril) so that I basically was left with a black blob filling (as I recall) the lower right portion of my poster.

I have on occasion nudged palaeoartists with a few suggestions in the past (like here and here) and this is another for the list – let’s have some more black dinosaurs. After all, not only is black quite a common colour in some animals (at the least there are plenty of black, or at least grey, birds) but dinosaurs would have suffered from the same mutations as other animals and the possibility of a melanistic Tyrannosaurs or Velociraptor to go with things like melanistic penguins or zebras would make a nice image as well as of course more common melanisitc animals like black leopards. So let’s see some black dinosaurs, or albinos or amelanisitc ones, the odd one must have existed from time to time.

11 Responses to “Melanistic dinosaurs”


  1. 1 Ian 12/03/2010 at 9:34 am

    Greg Paul actually illustrated a melanistic Deinonychus (labeled as Velociraptor antirrhopus) in Predatory Dinosaurs of the World, so not every artist ignores this possibility.

    • 2 David Hone 12/03/2010 at 10:26 am

      I’m not suggesting people deliberately ignore it, more don’t seem to illustrate it (which is not quite the same thing). I’m not surprised it’s been done, but I’m surprised it’s not been done more often. Still, I freely admit that while i really like palaeoart, I don’t go off hunting it down regularly or consume huge amounts so I may well have missed plenty of unusually pigmented dinosaurs, and though it worth a few lines.

    • 3 mattvr 12/03/2010 at 4:11 pm

      Most of Greg Paul’s art is in B&W so we can fantasize about chromatically challenged dinosaurs as much as we like!

      Something to think about, depicting an animal as pure black has its challenges artistically speaking.
      Getting black to ‘read’ correctly and losing detail and visual information are just some of the challenges, particularly in Palaoeart where the client will usually want their subject to be as accurate and readable as possible.

      • 4 David Hone 12/03/2010 at 4:24 pm

        “Something to think about, depicting an animal as pure black has its challenges artistically speaking.”

        Even more so when you have a black felt-tip and a poster, but yes I know it’s trick for proper artists as well as artistically-challenged children.

  2. 5 Tor Bertin 12/03/2010 at 11:24 am

    Brian Engh is doing a scene of a couple spinosaurs fishing in a river bed for the upcoming review (half of the image will be underwater and half above water, to give a representations of the broader ecosystem underneath). I suggested that he paint the sail in alternating red and black vertical bands, as a sort of threat display.

    So, that will be at least one.😉

  3. 6 Mo Hassan 13/03/2010 at 12:15 am

    I drew a melanistic (mostly!) Velociraptor last year, it can be seen here: http://subhumanfreak.blogspot.com/2008/11/art-12-velociraptor-mongoliensis.html

    • 7 Alan 14/03/2010 at 2:19 am

      Going by what I know of colour mutations in birds, melanism is actually not very common in domesticated birds of various groups. Much commoner are various forms of albinism or leucism, pattern mutations (generally referred to as “pied”), or colour variants resulting from the absence of one or both of the elements that combine to form colours in the normal form. For example, in budgerigars a mutation in the gene producing yellow pigment converts the wild green form to blue, whereas a similar mutation in the blue producing gene results in a yellow bird. Combining the two results in a visually white bird that still retains the melanin pattern, and is therefore not an albino.

      • 8 David Hone 14/03/2010 at 9:30 am

        Obviously there’s a huge variety of potential chromatic errors out there, but of course my appeal was for generally dark dinosaurs as well as melanistic mutants. Still, interesting to note that it seems to be relatively rare in birds, it’s certainly pretty common in mammals.

      • 9 Dr. Nick 18/04/2010 at 3:18 am

        Melanism seems to be pretty common in ducks. Many domestic ducks are genetically melanistic under their white feathers, a feature that can emerge when they hybridize with wild mallards, resulting in an overall darkly colored duck with white patches.

      • 10 David Hone 18/04/2010 at 11:56 am

        Do you know of any data out there on how common this is?


  1. 1 More odd melanism « Dave Hone’s Archosaur Musings Trackback on 11/04/2010 at 9:37 am
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