Drawing Dinosaurs 101: Ornithischian Posture Variation


This is the first entry in a series of tutorials regarding how to…well…draw dinosaurs and other lovely prehistoric freaks from your favorite childhood books. Unfortunately, my job is to screw up all preconceived notions on these animals, so please withhold your nostalgia for your sake. A lot of illusions and material spoonfed to a majority of us since we were kids are going to break. Fair warnings are fair!

Anyhow, our first topic of discussion will involve a group of dinosaurs I’ve neglected to mention on this blog as of yet – the Ornithischians. Dinosaurs are split into two main groups – Saurischia (“lizard-hipped”) and Ornithischia (“bird-hipped”). Saurischians are composed of the theropods (T. rexVelociraptorSpinosaurus, & co.) and sauropods (BrontosaurusBrachiosaurusArgentinosaurus, & co.). Ornithischians are…everything else. Stegosaurs, ceratopsians, ankylosaurs, hadrosaurs, and the list goes on. I’ve lumped them all together because they, mostly, all share a similar body configuration and shape. We will break down how to draw individual species of prehistoric animals in separate postings.

From basal Ornithischians to the more diverse, recognizable groups, I tend to follow something called the square root rule.As in, most of these animals’ bodies actually look like square roots!

Consider the figure below.

example 1.png

Above is a Stegosaurus, and directly underneath it is a Parasaurolophus. Highlighted in a transparent red is a square root. The shape of these animals is dependent upon this basic idea, where the back leading to the tail is the highest point of the animal, and the head is about ~3/4 to ~1/2 the way up, in respect to the back. Tails were held high, parallel to the ground, and, in the case of hadrosaurs and their relatives, reinforced with fused ossified structures that made them very stiff.

This rule applies to some basal Ornithischians, ornithopods (hadrosaurs, their relatives, and close ancestors), stegosaurs, and pachycephalosaurs.

example 2.png

But, of course, this is science. There are exceptions to every rule we make. With the case of ceratopsians and ankylosaurs, there’s not much to say for overall posture. Note that the tails are still held above the ground, and the body is a much more relaxed slope (when you don’t take into account of the fancy head ornamentation of ceratopsians). Ceratopsians were rather boxed-shaped, as well. Their tails weren’t terribly long. They were, in fact, rather stubby for dinosaurs.

This is the opposite for ankylosaurs, as their tails and body armor were their main sources of defense. The tails had tapering stiffness towards the end, a la ossified reinforcement, to accent the classic swinging-club attack.

These postures stand true as of 2016. As research continues and new discoveries are made, it is very possible that these will change with time. But, as always, that’s the beauty of paleontology.

Next time, we’ll tackle our first step-by-step process: Stegosaurus.

Until then!