Eye feathers

Here’s a very close up closeup of the eye of one of my favourite birds, the great Indian hornbill. This took a while to get as the individual in question was rather active and while the focus isn’t *quite* right I’m pleased with the outcome. I wanted this shot as hornbills are a really good example of odd feather specialisations with their ‘eyelashes’. These are of course feathers and thus analogous, but not homologous, with the eyelashes of mammals.

Still their presence leads me to wonder if similar things didn’t evolve in theropods or pterosaurs. These feathers are just short and stiff, simple fibers of the kind seen in basal taxa so should be structurally easy to produce. Animals like tyrannosaurs or azhdarchoids probably couldn’t rub or lick their own eyes to clean them, but had large eyeballs that would be vulnerable to dirt etc. or from vision being obscured by rain etc. It seems at least plausible and while I don’t look at these things religiously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen an extinct theropod or pterosaur illustrated with them, and I’ve not seen any discussion in the literature at any point.

11 Responses to “Eye feathers”


  1. 1 Brad McFeeters 14/03/2011 at 1:29 am

    Interesting. I’ve also seen it claimed that dinosaurs should never be restored with white eyes, but apparently some have them.

  2. 2 Marc Vincent 14/03/2011 at 4:12 pm

    A tyrannosaur with ‘eyelashes’? Now that’s something I’d love to see.

    Brad: what reasons have you heard for that?

  3. 3 Albertonykus 15/03/2011 at 7:23 am

    I think some of the tyrannosaurids by Peter Schouten in Feathered Dinosaurs have eyelashes, although the versions I found online aren’t of high enough resolution to reallly discern them.

  4. 4 Maija Karala 15/03/2011 at 9:45 am

    Cassowaries also have awesome eyelash feathers.

    I leafed trough my own dinosaur illustrations. Amateur though they are, at least four of my theropods have “eyelashes”. I think many others may have drawn them, but they tend to be too small details to be seen in low-resolution online or even printed versions.
    Here’s my baby Epidendrosaurus in which the eyelashes can be seen:
    http://eurwentala.deviantart.com/gallery/?offset=24#/d2kle7y

    In Peter Schouten’s Feathered Dinosaurs, most of the theropods whose heads are shown up close have “eyelashes”: Tyrannosaurus, Alioramus, Appalachiosaurus, Garudimimus and so on. Appalachiosaurus even has similar fibers inside it’s nostrils.

  5. 5 Darren Naish 15/03/2011 at 11:34 am

    Yeah, just about all of Schouten’s coelurosaurs (even the tyrannosaurids) have eyelashes – I think I mentioned this in my review of the book. Among the best avian eyelashes are those seen in secretary-birds and ground hornbills. Hummingbird eyelashes are the smallest feathers of all.

  6. 6 David Hone 15/03/2011 at 11:40 am

    Thanks for the various comments on this, nice to see others have already thought of this. Still, always room for a few more!

  7. 7 Marc Vincent 15/03/2011 at 9:30 pm

    Thought I’d check out some of Schouten’s work. Now I will be having nightmares: http://www.wildlifeartist.com.au/showimage.asp?code=F019

    OH GOD WHAT HAVE THEY DONE?

    • 8 David Hone 16/03/2011 at 5:48 am

      Some of his stuff is very nice. But I’m with you on the “sticking a macaw head on a long neck does not an oviraptorosaur make”

    • 9 kattato Garu 17/03/2011 at 9:34 am

      What exactly is the problem with that? There’s no desperately good reason that feathered theropods should not have been brightly cloloured. Hell, Luis Rey regularly gives them colours rarely seen outside of garish tropical insects…

  8. 10 Marc Vincent 17/03/2011 at 4:12 pm

    Kattato: it’s not the colours as such that’s the issue, more that it looks EXACTLY like a macaw, turning Conchoraptor into genetic-experiment-nightmare-fuel. I’m being unfair though, as some of the others are really very good. I’d urge you to read Darren’s review as well, where he goes through some of the anatomical problems with the nonavian theropods.

    • 11 David Hone 17/03/2011 at 9:13 pm

      Yeah, I’m not taking an issue with the colours (well not as such, they are plausible but extreme) but taking patterns that directly lacks (for me) originality, and the head is just wrong.


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