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Research Cougar/Cheetah

By rath8325 - Posted on 18 February 2009

So far, researchers have only found the fossil skull of Dinaelurus crassus.  They have extrapolated certain features, such as a shortened face (as compared to its cousin, Nimravus) and enlarged nasal passages (cheetahs have those in order to get enough air into their lungs while chasing prey at more than 70 mph), to guess that this animal was a cheetah-like cursorial predator.

To envision Ratha's body structure, I looked at illustrations of cheetah and puma skeletons in Turner and Anton's book.  I blended the two, giving her essentially the back legs of a cheetah, (made more robust)  for speed and power. She also has a long cheetah-like tail for balance in jumps and turns. Her front legs and shoulders are like those of a "stretched" puma, for power in pulling down and wrestling prey.

As you can see in the annotated sketch below, I drew the bones first, then outlined the body based on musculature. As described in the book, she is a solid fawn rather than spotted, but I gave her the cheetah "tear-line" facial markings since I was inspired by the cover of the original Ratha's Challenge.


Sketch by Clare Bell 2006

Like a puma, Ratha has a slightly raised rump, and she has similar jumping abilities. She also climbs trees like a puma.  Her top speed in a sprint is less than a cheetah, but greater than a puma.  She probably has greater endurance than a cheetah.

This sketch was a good first step, but I wasn't completely satisfied with it. 

The hindquarters looked too large as compared to the forequarters, and the head looked too small. To get a brain-to-body ratio closer to that of a human, I had to enlarge the head without distorting it.

I wasted many pieces of paper trying.  It wasn't until I determined the head shape by doing the Dinaelurus illumina skull sculpture shown below that I got close to what I wanted.

Dinaelurus illumina sapiens skull model by Clare Bell 2006


>Then I was able to blend the head and body shapes in a revised working sketch.


Dinaelurus illumina - revised skeleton - sketch copyright by Clare Bell 2006


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