After watching Dinosaur Revolution, episode one, I was struck with the similarity one scene had to a particular game. One of the creatures depicted, one Gigantoraptor erlianensis (which I’ve discussed before) is shown with a bizarre “mating dance,” reminiscent of the extant lyrebirds. This animal, however, is shown sporting some unusual equipment.

The bizarre blue, fleshy apparatus is a modified dewlap, something one doesn’t regularly see in such extremes, but rather as flappy appendages. But these inflate. Inflatable gular sacs in a bird-like theropod?

I have family who play games, and as such I tend to watch them play. One game is the Monster Hunter series by Capcom, in which players hunt “monsters” in a sort of MMO-style dungeon-crawler, although unlike many of MMO games the fighting is relatively unscripted. In it, there is a “monster” called Qurupeco:

Qurupeco, copyright Capcom.

The similarities are eerie, although I do not presume they are intentional.

Edit: I meant to add this descriptive element, but posted first. Oops.

Qurupeco is also an interesting encounter in the game, as it has a tendency to mimic the sounds of other monsters, and this tends to summon them. The behavior it exhibits is not mating behavior, however, but threat or “summoning” signs: The huge throat sac makes sounds a la elephant seal nasal sacs, which it also has. Moreover, the tail bears a broad “fan” of expansive flesh, rather than feathers. It’s bipedal, has large (albeit fleshy) wings [the “monsters” of the game are separated into “dragon” and “false drake” and other lineages of plausible yet arcane physiology], and looks like nothing more than a toothy large Gigantoraptor.

Now, there are additional reasons to consider the similarities, but I will get to them in a while. There’s more to say, and this post was certainly inspired by future presentations at SVP, but must wait for those presentations to occur, and the embargo to be lifted.

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20 Responses to Qurupeco

  1. Leonardo A. says:

    It is the 1st time ever I contribute to this very interesting blog with a commment; many compliments for the well chosen subject.

    That said, you wrote: “Inflatable gular sacs in a bird-like theropod?”
    The answer is: “absolutely yes!” But you don’t have to look for imaginary animal from some videogame.

    Here’s the Temminck’s Tragopan [Tragopan temminckii], that shows the very same characters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temminck%27s_Tragopan

    And here’s the Youtube video:

    So, designers from “Dinosaur Revolution” have simply “stolen” that weird look.
    Hope you enjoy watching this avian theropod!

    Leonardo A.

    • Thank you! and excellent! I was unaware of this morphology.

    • The fact that the Gigantoraptor’s display is basically identical to that species of tragopan (which was shown in the show as an example of colorful bird plumage) is one of the many problems I had with Dinosaur Revolution. At least come up with something unique.

      The Qurupeco’s display looks like a frigate bird to me.

  2. The tragopan display was indeed the specific reference for the DR Gigantoraptor throat pouch. I supported the idea of some wattles or other soft tissue displays on various dinosaurs, but I agree they matched it too closely here.

  3. PeleoStudent says:

    “The fact that the Gigantoraptor’s display is basically identical to that species of tragopan (which was shown in the show as an example of colorful bird plumage) is one of the many problems I had with Dinosaur Revolution. At least come up with something unique.”

    “I agree they matched it too closely here”

    Aside from other problems with the show (didn’t see it, yet…), why is this such an issue? Coming up with something unique for this particular scenario means that you’re making an educational show which presents a hypothetical mating dance that has no grounds in reality whatsoever – which would only make things worse.
    Maybe the coloration could have been different – but again, why is it such a big issue? Although it is unlikely that two species separated by millions of years have the same pattern, reusing the existing one helps achieve a more natural look (as opposed to something an artist would come up with).
    I’m not saying that artist shouldn’t try to be creative when it comes to life restorations, but that this simply cannot be among the most important of problems present here.
    Otherwise, they might just as well put on a show about dragons.

    • There are a variety of bird display dances that are less elaborate in guestures, but that’s not really the issue. That was more to deal with the elaborate fleshy appendages, which are just copied physiology. The mere size of the animal implies that a constraint on other large bodied birds would imply such appendages would be extraordinarily expensive to produce and maintain, with a level of energetic consumption for a huge (omnivorous?) bird like animal. Ostriches, which also have a display dance, use colored feathers, rather than fleshy appendages, to display their wares. But they only have to maintain feathers in general, and male ostriches keep their colored feathers year-round. So it seems stretching the incredulity for those unaware of birds like the tragopan. It’s certainly an elegant show, but I think it went too far when it could have done as much without the fleshy thingies.

  4. PaleoStudent says:

    Aah, I see. You’re saying that it’s unlikely that such an expensive morphophysiology would be favored by evolution, when the same results can be achieved in a less costly way. Thanks.

    I’ve read a breakdown of issues with movie monsters somewhere (maybe even here on your blog) – which emphasized why just scaling things up (like with giant, house-sized ants and the King-Kong) isn’t plausible – not without major structural and physiological changes (if at all possible). So, this is something along the same lines – you can’t just copy a feature without taking other factors into consideration?

    • The tragopan certainly seems to favor an expensive strategy, and thus provides the exception. The benefit is that the bird is more likely to have its genes passed on this way, for being flashier and better … but it’s still expensive. It is also peculiar among other display-oriented birds, except in cases like turkey, lyrebird, birds-of-paradise or peafowl, which use feather-based displays whose cost to the body are constant and costly. The issue is that there are birds that do not make such expensive displays, and thus there should be (at least) a 50% chance the given animal will not have such an elaborate arrangement.

      • PaleoStudent says:

        “thus there should be (at least) a 50% chance the given animal will not have such an elaborate arrangement”

        And, if you were consulted for the show, and asked to pick a dinosaur that is to display such a characteristic, would the body size of the animal play a role in your decision?
        That is, is this percentage likely to be higher for large animals?

        Also, I think that dinosaur shows that feature hypothetical morphology should most definitively include a narrator that is to explain to the audience what is hypothetical and what comes from scientific data – otherwise, whatever educational value the show has is diminished by the fact that its viewers could get confused and misinformed.

        • Yes. I’d like to think that larger and bulkier animals, as at least suggested by whales and terrestrial herbivores, become more, rather than less, drab and relatively uniform in coloration. It’s still there, and there is still patterning, but coloration for display or obfuscation would seem less useful when you are ridiculously huge.

  5. David Krentz says:

    The Gigantoraptors bib is modeled almost exactly on Temmnicks Tragopan. Check it out on YouTube or Life of Birds! Most bizarre.

  6. PaleoStudent says:

    Dinosaur Revolution…
    Just seen several clips from the show on YouTube.
    The main problem I have with the series is that the animators appear to have never really observed real animals in nature – and it is their job to do so – if they are want animate quality, convincing creature effects, that is. I happen to know know a thing or two about animation, and observation and proper use of reference material are key skills.

    I can forgive some of the flaws, but not the fact that all animals (1) look and move in a way too mammal-like, and (2) showcase almost human like facial expressions and behaviors (especially at times), so that it feels a lot like a cartoon; and finally, (3) I’ve seen a scene which features T. rex (well, two of them fighting), and I must say I’m amazed how utterly ridiculous it looks – they are textured in such a way that the white pattern on their heads forms an obvious skull shape – and obviously just to make them look “more cool” and “awesome” (or whatever).
    Not to mention that one of them bites off the others “forearm” and then stops in the middle of the fight to triumphally swallow it.

    Just look at it o_O:

    What the hell?!
    Have the producers consulted any paleontologist at all?
    Oh, yeah, there’s also a (4): what kind of script is that?! Again, it’s as if they figured they are making an experimental cartoon instead.

    P.S. Sorry for the rant…
    P.P.S. Also, I noticed that feathers are still few and apart when it comes to dinosaur shows. This is probably in part due to some kind of inertia – people have related to the popular image of dinosaurs, which is pretty much that one of Jurassic Park; however, there’s something else: things like convincing hair and feathers are still expensive and not easy to create for small VFX studios, especially with inexperienced animators. But few years form now, there will be no excuse.

    • Stefanus says:

      Well, the show was going to be un-narrated so they must have anthropomorphism and something which were “awesome’ to the general public going on, otherwise it’s going to be “dull” and “weird” for those ordinary viewers…

      *Sorry if this hijacked your chat with Qilong btw…

      • When reconstructing fossil behavior, I think it is impossible to avoid “anthropomorphism.” We are human, thus we view the world through human eyes. An animal views the world through animal eyes. If you are thinking like an animal, it is likely that you are one. Thus whenever we have the opportunity to create or infer behavior, we do so because we perceive it as the correct view: Two animals nuzzling “care,” the mother defending her cubs “cares,” and so forth. So I think the cries of anthropomorphism as a criticism of the show, while apt, are not effective in discounting their use.

  7. David Krentz says:

    I’m personally responsible for choosing a traggapan bib. I stand by my choice to do this. It was important for a GENERAL audience ( can I use larger font for that word?) to CLEARLY see a modern analogy applied to a dinosaur.

    Yes, the dinos had anthropamorhism because there was a story to serve. That is my job. As a funny side note I’d like to tell this story.
    During the Utahraptor story the young Cedarosaurus is ganged up on by the Utahs as the rest of the herd stands by to watch. This is what happens in the Battle of Krugar and many other instances. Thats what real animals did, and do ( even though they are ‘smart’ mammals’) and we chose to convey that as well to give a sense of realism.
    I have read many critiques on line from dinosaur fans that “they just stood there and did nothing while the juvenile was being ganged up on”. Yet, if they adults came rushing in right away to save their baby we would have been accused to excessive anthropmorphism.

    • I should be careful to say that I have no problem with the story and the episodes. Unlike some others, I actually and thoroughly enjoyed the program, and felt that it is one of the better presentations I have seen since JP. Because of this, I have very, very limited criticisms. My personal favorite is the baby allosaur in Ep. 2 and his “skullball” moment. Episode 2 was, I think, a great story in its entirety. As I said, we cannot divorce anthropomorphism from our observations; we are both benefited and prejudiced in this regard, but simply being aware of it is a good thing. I think the storytelling was quite well done, and the modelling very nice. The tragopan-crested Gigantoraptor is just a silly “look,” and that’s it as far as I am concerned. Everything else was more or less great.

    • PaleoStudent says:

      @David Krentz:
      Don’t get me wrong, my issue is with how the show was approached in the conceptualization phase. It feels as if it doesn’t know if it want’s to be a dinosaur cartoon or a more serious popular science show.
      A longer rant available further down…

      BTW, if you are this David Krentz (http://www.davidkrentz.com/davidkrentz/David_Krentz.html), then you sure have done some great work, and can take pride in your amazing art skills.
      Respect. :D

  8. PaleoStudent says:

    The anthropomorphism that bothers me is mostly related to hints of human-like facial expressions, especially in the eye region. I understand this is one of the fundamental tools to convey emotion in character animation, but for scientific programs (even the popular ones) this cannot work.
    Also, some reactions seem unconvincing – out of context if you will. There’s just something that feels wrong about how they move, or how they vocalize.

    It is simply the responsibility of the animation team to study animal motion and behavior. Jaime A. Headden mentioned JP: in terms of how realistic (or realistic-looking) the motion and the behavior of the dinosaurs was, JP2 has unsurpassed creature effect even to this day (yes, I’m saying that the (non-human) creature effects were better than in JP3, or Avatar, or whatever).
    You could say there are some anthropomorphic characteristics in JP2, but these are just perceptual – there are NO out-of-place human-like behaviors or motions in JP2. And the dinosaurs still have character, and aren’t dull to look at.
    That’s because JP1 & JP2 guys did their research (sure, there were other things wrong with their dinos, but for completely different reasons). Today, animation studios just copy whatever blockbuster seems to work for them – and the errors that one team inevitably made pile up.
    The more you copy, the less you rely on reference, the more further from realism it gets.

    Now, David Krentz said the show was designed for general audience. If that means “super-broad audience”, than it’s all fine.
    The anthropomorphism was probably one of the requirements to begin with.

    But if general audience means anyone who is vaguely interested to learn something about dinosaurs, than I don’t think this is what that kind of people would be the most eager to see. I think, in that case, a more serious approach to the subject matter would be in order.

    • PaleoStudent says:

      I mean, why people assume that the real thing is inherently boring?
      Or that science is inherently boring?

      So that everything needs to be “made better” for TV?

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