Tetrapod Zoology

Babies love Luis Rey

Here’s a recent photo showing the proofs of one of my books. These particular pages (which focus on the ‘dinosaur renaissance’ of the 1960s and 70s) feature a Luis Rey piece: as usual, poor Tenontosaurus is getting dispatched by a Deinonychus gang. As you can see, Emma thought the picture looked neat (Will plays with Lego power miners in the background. The photo has already been featured here at Querencia)…


I sent the photo round to a few friends. Comments so far have included “I think it’s more she is querying the extent of feathering, surely?”, “That is beautiful * you will get it framed!?”, “The colours… THE COLOURS!”, “It’s the Tenontosaurus I feel sorry for”, and “… don’t let her become too interested in those things. One palaeontologist in the family is enough!”. Huh.


  1. #1 Andrea Cau
    June 7, 2009

    One palaeontologist in the family is NOT enough!
    The Next Generation has to create “Fish-grade Zoology” and “Ornithischian Cranial Picture of the Week!”!


  2. #2 Tristram Brelstaff
    June 7, 2009

    My grandfather got me to help with his proof-reading when I was young, too.

  3. #3 Rosel
    June 7, 2009

    Get them addicted young and you got them for life 😉

  4. #4 Zach Miller
    June 7, 2009


    That picture is also in Tom Holtz’s dinosaur book.

  5. #5 Pete Buchholz
    June 7, 2009

    Could we please just have one illustration where Tenontosaurus is kicking the asses of those jerks?


    That’s a cute baby though 🙂

  6. #6 Kevin Schreck
    June 7, 2009

    I would’ve gone nuts over Rey’s gorgeous artwork when I was little. It captivates me today. Beautiful stuff.

  7. #7 Jerzy
    June 7, 2009

    If Emma wanted to tear that picture, she is natural paleontological talent.

    I never knew that Deinonychus was a cross between Muppet Show and Star Wars prequel.

  8. #8 John H
    June 8, 2009

    I’ve been pushing dino documentaries that contact me for advice for years now to try to use Rey’s art for inspiration instead of drab old dino colors (or lack thereof). Like their avoidance of putting feathers on coelurosaurs, they tend to opt for the conservative, boring approach. Too bad. Luis’s time shall come though!

  9. #9 Jerzy
    June 8, 2009

    John H,

    Please, I prefer drab dinos to these muppet show colors. Especially that you have essentially drab, ‘old fashioned’ Terontosaurs with hypercolorful Deinonychus which looks like sewn from pieces of three different puppets: red, black and striped. BTW – how it is supposed to stalk prey with these colors?

    Maybe better advise documentaries to look at modern animals. But then they will copy one to one pattern of thylacine or okapi or panda.

  10. #10 Tor Bertin
    June 8, 2009

    Sorta like the bland colors of the tiger. Agreed.

  11. #11 Stucchi
    June 8, 2009

    Jerzy: like it or not, dinosaurs were not mammals. Evidence indicates that they were like birds. Color vision, bold patterns, striking or vivid colors, brightly colored skin patches. You want to show your Deinonychus with a bright red face and barred feathers? You do it!!

  12. #12 Jerzy
    June 8, 2009


    Man, one thing is artistic sense. This muppet is simply artifical. This strange long hair on body like some arctic creature, contrasting with naked feet, contrasting with feathers on wings and tail which would break on the first fight.

    Second thing is ecological likehood. I can agree that dinosaurs had color vision. Fine. But this doesn’t mean that the ambush predator would have bright colors of a parrot! To the opposite – you could assume that Deinonychus was especially cryptic to fool this Terontosaurs!

    Actually, it is a bit difficult to find a good analogue of color of predatory dinosaurs. It would have to be modern terrestrial predator which hunts birds. Not modern raptors – their colors disappear against the sky.

    If I would draw Deinonychus, I would choose something like small cats, genets, pythons, mamba. Brown, maybe grey or green, and with fine, crisp pattern of spots or stripes.

    I used to draw dinosaurs and illustrate wildlife books (only B/W) but I have no time to would draw you a fine scene how this should be done.

    PS. Even more curious would be large dinosaurian herbivores. Here I would see analog of ostriches and bustards. Incredibly gaudy males (why nobody draw sexual dimorphism in dino colors, hah!?) and very cryptic females with maybe colorful heads, forenecks and underparts.

  13. #13 Dartian
    June 9, 2009


    I can agree that dinosaurs had color vision. Fine. But this doesn’t mean that the ambush predator would have bright colors of a parrot! To the opposite – you could assume that Deinonychus was especially cryptic

    I’d say this is a reasonable assumption. Among extant birds, the closest dromaeosaur analogues are probably the larger ground-living species on the one hand and raptors on the other. And these birds tend to have relatively drab colours. That doesn’t mean that they can’t/don’t have various differently coloured patterns, but particularly vivid and conspicious hues are relatively rare among raptors and ground-dwellers.

    There are notable exceptions, of course; male galliforms, for example, are relatively large and mostly ground-living birds that may have truly spectacular colours (think peacock). But then they aren’t carnivores like the dromaeosaurs were, and they don’t need to sneak up on large, alert prey with equally keen colour vision as they themselves have.

    My personal guess, for what it’s worth (i.e., not much), is that dromaeosaurs and other small predatory dinosaurs were, at most, about as ‘colourful’ as this extant archosaur.

  14. #14 johannes
    June 9, 2009

    > Could we please just have one illustration where
    > Tenontosaurus is kicking the asses of those jerks?

    Get Tom’s and Luis’ book and see *Astrodon* wrecking havoc on the feathered fowls, avenging his fellow herbivores 🙂

  15. #16 Zach Miller
    June 9, 2009

    I gotta agree with Jerzy. Luis Rey and the Amazing Technicolor Mesozoic always bothered me. A few of his dinosaurs do, sadly, look a little like muppets. A lot of his art is really amazing, but I’ve never been a fan of the bright, BRIGHT colors. That’s not to say I don’t like his art (I do), but I just disagree with a lot of his color choices.

    Then you’ve got Michael Skrepnick on the other hand, whose dinosaurs all tend to be various shades of yellow and brown. Much more conservative and I generally approve of it.

  16. #17 Dawid
    June 9, 2009

    I agree with Dartian. The secretarybird and seriemas were actually the first things that came to mind.
    Personally, I think Deinonychus and similar dinosaurs would be patterned in bold combinations of a few “neutral” colours (eg pale grey and black, or cream and chocolate)Much like secretarybirds, cranes and herons.
    Brightly coloured cere is definitely a possibility though.

    Great blog btw.

  17. #18 William Miller
    June 9, 2009

    It would be relevant, I think, if we could know exactly what a particular theropod ate. One that ate mammals with very poor color vision could probably afford to be brightly colored for breeding purposes without hampering its hunting. (On the other hand, a ‘handicap effect’ like the peacock’s tail could apply: females could select brighter males because they could be successful hunters despite the coloration.)

    If *Deinonychus* really was primarily a pack hunter of big, slow creatures (and I don’t know if that’s actually well supported) it might not matter as much – could, say, *Tenontosaurus* really escape even with good warning?

    Also, D. wasn’t that big; I always imagined them stalking through thick undergrowth till they were practically on top of their prey. Maybe they were green, like a lot of tropical birds?

  18. #19 Don Cox
    June 10, 2009

    Fans of dinosaur and pterodactyl art should check out this site.

    Walt Kelly’s take on these beasts is a little different from Luis Rey’s, but equally imaginative.

  19. #20 Jerzy
    June 10, 2009

    @Don Cox: I much prefer this:

    BTW – what was paleoenvironment of Deinonychus? Rainforest? Semidesert?

  20. #21 David Marjanović
    June 10, 2009

    mammals with very poor color vision

    This might be a placental-only or eutherian-only affair; at least some marsupials still have all four color receptors.

    The extant monotremes have little or no (I forgot) color vision, but that’s clearly convergent, what with the colorless oil droplets in their retina…

  21. #22 Michael Erickson
    June 11, 2009

    Jerzy: Deinonychus’s paleo-habitat consisted of a large river system that was dotted with swamps and dusty plains.

  22. #23 Michael Erickson
    June 11, 2009

    I must say that I very, very much dislike Luis Rey’s artwork. I seem to be the the only person in the world who feels this way, but I think Luis Rey’s paintings (I have nothing against the pencil drawings) are just plain fugly. Why in the world must every dinosaur be colored like a painted bunting, a tropical parrot, or a rainbow agama lizard? It’s totally unrealistic. And his purple (?) Ouranosaurus with yellow stripes is just gross. What are the chances that a reptile of that size would have such gaudy colors? Evan giant birds (ostriches, emus) are very conservative in their coloration. Another problem I have is that Rey’s art makes people believe that dinosaurs were technicolor cartoon fantasy monsters, rather than what they really were: living, breathing ANIMALS, just like any we see around us today. His work does far more harm than good to the field of palaeoart, a field already plagued with complete junk. I will say, however, that I would take Rey’s art over Robert Walters’ any day. At least Rey’s art is decent in anatomical respects. Walters’ is simply nauseating, both artistically and anatomically. In my opinion it’s even fuglier than Rey’s.

  23. #24 Dartian
    June 12, 2009


    at least some marsupials still have all four color receptors.

    Actually, no. Marsupials have maximally three, not four, cone photoreceptors; no other mammal, as far as we know, possesses more than three cone photoreceptor classes either*. (Marsupials, like other mammals and other vertebrates, also have rod photoreceptors, but these mediate scotopic vision – in other words, they are ‘for seeing in the dark’, not for seeing colours.) Thus far, the visual systems of relatively few marsupial species have been examined in detail, but it seems likely that trichromatic colour vision is widespread and probably primitive among marsupials (Arrese et al., 2002, 2005, 2006).

    * In contrast to the situation with mammals, having four classes of cone photoreceptors – i.e., tetrachromacy – is widespread among other vertebrates.

    Among placentals, trichromatic colour vision has only been found in certain primates. Hominoids, Old World monkeys and one group of New World monkeys, the howler monkeys Alouatta, are uniformly trichromats (except for occasional red-green colourblind humans); in most other New World monkeys and in a few Malagasy lemuroids there is within-species variation where some females are trichromats, and all the males and the remaining females are dichromats (Surridge et al., 2003; Veilleux & Bolnick, 2009).

    Some mammalian taxa do appear to be truly colourblind; i.e., they are monochromats. These include whales, seals, raccoons, flying squirrels, murids, lorisids, galagos and the owl monkey Aotus (Bowmaker et al., 2006). The rest of the placentals that have been investigated so far have dichromatic colour vision.

    The extant monotremes have little or no (I forgot) color vision

    Like the majority of placentals but unlike the majority of marsupials, the platypus has dichromatic colour vision (I don’t know if anyone has investigated the echidnas yet). However, the shortwave-sensitive photoreceptors found in the platypus are of a different type from those found in both marsupials and placentals (Davies et al., 2007).


    Arrese, C.A., Beazley, L.D. & Neumeyer, C. 2006. Behavioural evidence for marsupial trichromacy. Current Biology 16, R193-R194.

    Arrese, C.A., Hart, N.S., Thomas, N., Beazley, L.D. & Shand, J. 2002. Trichromacy in Australian marsupials. Current Biology 12, 657-660.

    Arrese, C.A., Oddy, A.Y., Runham, P.B., Hart, N.S., Shand, J., Hunt, D.M. & Beazley, L.D. 2005. Cone topography and spectral sensitivity in two potentially trichromatic marsupials, the quokka (Setonix brachyurus) and quenda (Isoodon obesulus). Proceedings of the Royal Society B 272, 791-796.

    Bowmaker, J.K. & Hunt, D.M. 2006. Evolution of vertebrate visual pigments. Current Biology 16, R484-R489.

    Davies, W.L., Carvalho, L.S., Cowing, J.A., Beazley, L.D., Hunt, D.M. & Arrese, C.A. 2007. Visual pigments of the platypus: a novel route to mammalian colour vision. Current Biology 17, R161-R163.

    Surridge, A.K., Osorio, D. & Mundy, N.I. 2003. Evolution and selection of trichromatic vision in primates. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18, 198-205.

    Veilleux, C.C. & Bolnick, D.A. 2009. Opsin gene polymorphism predicts trichromacy in a cathemeral lemur. American Journal of Primatology 71, 86-90.

  24. #25 Graham King
    June 20, 2009

    Hi Darren! I’ve not looked in for weeks (busy with photography myself mostly) but I simply have to comment that that is one SUPERB photo – of Will, and Emma with Luis’s book.

    At the Dino conference May 2008 I found Luis a charming guy. His pterosaur book (bought and autographed then) is now in the hands of my own budding-palaeontologist nephew (aged 9).

  25. #26 Albertonykus
    July 1, 2009

    The curse of Tenontosaurus tilletti must be broken!

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