Friday, August 18, 2017

Dinosaurs of China in Nottingham: part 2 - Feathered Flyers

While the reconstructed skeletons of big scaly beasts dominate the main downstairs area of Dinosaurs of China, the real treasures are upstairs, where far more delicate, intricately preserved and altogether fluffy animals await. While some of our scientist readers will have seen these in person before, DoC is a unique opportunity for us mere laypeople to get up close to feathered beauties from China. And yes, many of them are originals, including Stripy Longtail here!

Notice the fish, bottom left.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dinosaurs of China in Nottingham: part 1 - Ground Shakers

Have you ever wandered among the imposing corridors and grand halls of an historical stately home and thought about how much they could be improved by the addition of dinosaur skeletons? Then boy, do I have an exhibition for you. But more importantly, it's a showcase of numerous impressive skeletal mounts of Chinese dinosaurs, many never seen before outside their native country, along with an array of breathtaking original specimens. Dinosaurs of China is a huge coup for an obscure museum, a wonderful achievement of international co-operation, and a unique opportunity for British dinosaur enthusiasts - and Natee and I were fortunate enough to tour with curator Adam Smith.



Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: Dinosaur Empire

Cover art for Abby Howard's 'Dinosaur Empire' book

The gradual shifting of popular visions of prehistoric life has been a theme of this blog almost since the start. Looking at how old, mid-century or earlier ideas stick around longer than scientific consensus would dictate is fun, but one thing that's been rewarding has been watching in real time as the world embraces modern paleontology's increasingly nuanced and diverse view of dinosaurs.

Another cobblestone in that road has been placed with Abby Howard's wonderful Dinosaur Empire, now available from Amulet Books. Told in comic form, Howard takes the reader on a thorough tour of the Mesozoic, as a paleo-geek named Ms. Lernin takes a child named Ronnie on a time-travel adventure via the wibbly-wobbly power of "science magic." Anyhow, the book is awesome, and you should buy it, and here are five reasons why.

It embraces current palaeontological knowledge in an approachable way.

It's undeniably fun to get together with fellow paleo-geeks and talk prehistory. But sometimes, many of us will readily admit, talking with folks with only a superficial grasp on ancient life can be taxing. Dinosaur Empire is perfectly aimed at helping everyone understand and appreciate the history of life on Earth, no matter how in the dark they are to start - or what old notions they're holding on to. Howard's art is bright and humorous, her animals stylized but recognizable. Mark Witton recently praised Johan Egerkrans for his balance of stylization and anatomical fidelity, and Howard deserves the same praise.

It's funny.

If you're into Howard's comics Junior Scientist Power Hour or The Last Halloween, you'll be happy to hear that Howard's sense of humor is deployed just as effectively here. Using the form to her advantage, animals get to have humorous little reactions to and interactions with their environment and other animals.

An interior page from Abby Howard's 'Dinosaur Empire,' featuring a collection of pterosaurs.
A page dedicated to pterosaurs from Abby Howard's Dinosaur Empire graphic novel. Image courtesy Abrams Books.

It's about more than T. rex, and goes well beyond dinosaurs.

Howard realizes what any of us who have done education with kids realize: they want to hear the biggest hits, and quick. Her character of Ronnie reminds me of many kids I've met - her first order of business is to get to Tyrannosaurus rex. But Dinosaur Empire begins in the Triassic, and readers are soon introduced to aetosaurs, placodonts, ichthyosaurs, thallatosaurs, pterosaurs, insects, and more. Smok wawelski gets a page to itself. Eocaecilia, Castorocauda, Fruitachampsa, Morganucodon, Anatosuchus, Ocepechelon... they're in here. There's a page geeking out about the wonderful and gruesome world of parasitic wasps - in fact, where some books might include stinkin' arthropods as an aside, Howard returns to them multiple times. I was delighted to see how deep Howard went with her cast of critters - and just for good measure, she includes a brief appendix highlighting a collection of animals she couldn't fit in to the main story! I'm writing this with a big silly grin on my face in a tastefully decorated, quiet coffee shop, and I don't care what the other patrons think.

It's a heck of a lot more than just a simple roster of animals.

It's clear that Howard wanted to not only feature the amazing creatures of the past but put them into their context in time and in their environments. IMHO, she totally succeeds, taking the time to explain some foundational concepts of anatomy, evolution, phylogeny, and geology. She talks about protofuzz, pycnofibers, feathers, scales.

An interior page of Abby Howard's 'Dinosaur Empire' featuring a collection of triassic animals.
A page from the Triassic section of Abby Howard's Dinosaur Empire graphic novel. Image courtesy Abrams Books.

Abby Howard's love of prehistoric life is obvious.

Howard's animals are depicted naturalistically. They're nesting, socializing, drinking, feeding, hunting. Shrink-wrapping is markedly absent. Integument is believable, never too over-the-top with color schemes but not avoiding colorful and gaudy display structures, either. It's obvious that Howard wasn't just ticking off a checklist to fit so many of these obscure taxa in the book. She just loves drawing them. And when Ronnie finally gets to see her T. rex, it's a beautiful moment that Howard allows to breathe.

I hope I've made my case. This book deserves to be part of any paleontology book collection. It's perfect for elementary schoolers, but older paleo-geeks will get plenty of joy out of it. Pick it up, and send abundant plaudits Howard's way!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Animals of Yesterday

As regular readers will have noticed, I've received a great many scanned books by e-mail from Charles Leon, all very gratefully received (even the dino sex article). Animals of Yesterday, originally published in 1941 (with this edition arriving in 1966) is mostly a rather run-of-the-mill pre-Renaissance dinosaur book, stocked with the usual Zallingerian swamp beasts. All the same, it does present certain mysteries that I'd love for any readers familiar with museums in Milwaukee to clear up, and moreover it's a book from Charles' personal collection. I feel quite honoured!


Monday, July 31, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: July 2017

July! That really was a month, wasn't it? A mellow month after the sturm und drang of June, but still plenty of fun to be had, so let's start having it.

In the News

Razanandrongobe sakalavae is a new, giant notosuchian from Jurassic Madagascar. Learn more about this fearsome beast from Jon Tennant at PLOS.

Straight out of the nineties: fossils that have been in the Royal Tyrrell Museum since 1993 and 1996 have received new attention, found to be a new species of troodontid. Read about Albertavenator curriei at Live Science.

Drs. Hone and Holtz teamed up for a big overview of spinosaurs. Read about it from Archosaur Musings and grab the paper here [PDF link].

The earliest neornithine bird, Vegavis iaai, was recently the subject of osteohistological research, offering confirmation that it was a diving, foot-propelled bird. Read more from Fernanda Castano at Letters from Gondwana.

Read about the ongoing effort to recover and prepare "Walter," a giant hadrosaur from Rangely, Colorado, by a team from Colorado Northwestern Community College.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Mark Witton interviews artist Johan Egerkrans, who has been doing some fantastic, cartoony prehistoric art lately.

At the Inverse, Jacquelyn Ronson talks to Mike Habib and Jordan Mallon about The Land Before Time and its scientific accuracy.

Darren Naish returns with another post about the big empty space in the noggins of ceratopsians at TetZoo.

At Raptormaniacs, check out some animatronic beasts at the Bristol Zoo.

NatGeo has done an amazing 3D tour of the Suncor nodosaur fossil.

Chris talks dinosaurs and beer at Prehistoric Beast of the Week.

Since industrial operations are digging in places where rock isn't naturally exposed, some unique fossils can turn up. The Royal Tyrrell Museum blog delves into this intersection of industry and science.

Paul Pursglove writes about Wukongopterus lii, now on display in the Dinosaurs of China exhibition at Wollaton Hall, at the Pterosaur database blog.

At the RMDRC blog, Anthony Maltese shares the story of finding a tyrannosaur's ass. Glamorous field work alert!

One of the most enduring questions about theropods -especially non-maniraptorans - is how they used those often small forelimbs. "T. rex trying," anyone? Duane Nash takes a critical look at some of our prevailing assumptions and comes up with some pretty satisfying counterpoints.

Liz Martin-Silverstone wraps up her "150 Things about Canadian Palaeontology" series with a look at some of the country's truly ancient fossil sites.

The Empty Wallets Club

The cover for Ted Rechlin's 'Jurassic' graphic novel.

Ted Rechlin's new dinosaur graphic novel, Jurassic, is now available from his own Rextooth Studios imprint. Pick it up at Amazon and read more at Rextooth.

Rebecca Groom's Yutyrannus art doll

Rebecca Groom of Palaeoplushies fame unveiled her painstakingly crafted Yutyrannus huali art doll, and it can be yours.

The LITC AV Club

Who's ready for an hour of Dave Hone talking about tyrannosaurs? He offers a fantastic overview of the family. Pull up a seat!

As if that wasn't generous enough, there's a great Q&A portion that the Royal Institution has made available to the masses.

Not enough tyrant action for you yet? No? Well have some more: Dr. Thomas Carr talks about Daspletosaurus horneri.

Saurian is finally here! At the time of this writing, the team is simply awaiting for Steam to approve it. Here's the release trailer for the game.

Finally, Mark Witton has announced his next book, and it's a doozy. Check out his preview video!

Crowdfunding Spotlight

Diane Ramic's 'Coloring Book of (Scientifically Accurate) Paleofauna' Diane Ramic's paleofauna coloring books are pretty wonderful, with an engaging aesthetic that allows colorers plenty of freedom to invent color schemes for the animals. Her second coloring book is being funded via Kickstarter. The campaign lasts until August 6, so hurry up and pledge.

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

So, this has been a tyrannosaur-heavy post. Why stop now? Here's Raph Lomotan's gorgeous Yutyrannus pair.

Raph Lomotan's Yutyrannus painting
Yutyrannus huali © Raph Lomotan, shared here with the artist's permission.

Be sure to follow Raph at DeviantArt. If you're into Star Wars, he's done quite a few beautiful character paintings as well.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Tyrannosaurus Sex: A Love Tail (Omni magazine, Feb 1988)

Beverly Halstead accomplished rather a lot in his life; geologist, palaeontologist, holder of professorships at universities around the world, author and science populariser, and more besides. Halstead (full name Lambert Beverly Halstead) died in 1991, and in spite of having written numerous popular dinosaur books, didn't figure into my childhood dinosaur obsession; I was probably a tiny bit too late. In fact, my first notable encounter with his work was when I got hold of a copy of his 1975 book The Evolution and Ecology of the Dinosaurs back in 2012, a significant book for those a little older than me, and perhaps what first comes to mind for many when they hear Halstead's name.

That and all the sex.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Crocodiles Still Wait

When attempting to flesh out their Mesozoic palaeoart scenes, artists will often throw in a few crocodilians. After all, many of them (although very far from all) closely resembled those we have with us today, which makes referencing a great deal easier. Quite apart from that, having a familiar animal in a scene helps accentuate the strange, exotic nature of beasties of more extinct archosarian clades. In this delightful book, however, one of those 'set dressing' creatures finally gets its time in the spotlight. Many thanks again to Charles Leon for sending me this one.


Friday, June 30, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: June 2017

It's kind of been an annoying month for those of us who don't think science exists to serve our personal preferences as to what prehistoric animals looked like (ahem). And if you're not into childish sensationalism in your science journalism, it's been doubly annoying. So... I made this. Obi-Wan Kenobi says 'Only a Science Headline Writer Deals in Absolutes.'

I think I remember that line correctly...

In the News

Let's start with something light and non-controversial, shall we? Thank goodness for amber, that perennial benefactor of the prehistorically-inclined. The latest gift? A beautiful little enantornithe. Read more from Asher Elbein, writing for Audubon.

New research at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry, the site of a massive Jurassic bonebed dominated by Allosaurus remains, suggests a gradual deposition of carcasses over years of seasonal flooding, rather than a single catastrophic event. Read more from Brian Switek. Randall Irmis writes about iffy coverageof the research at the Natural History Museum of Utah blog.

There's been a streak of new insights into sensitive facial integument in theropods lately, and the newest published research is about Neovenator. Read more from Darren Naish at Tet Zoo (one of the study's coauthors) and Sam Barnett at the Natural Sciences Collections Association blog.

Finally, the story that inspired a thousand online arguments. Nothing like a new paper on tyrannosaur integument to get the people talking. There has been a ton of conversation over the paper itself as well as about the typically awful hot takes from sciencey websites and blogs. Read more from Meig Dickson at Earth Archives. Mark Witton's post is particularly insightful, and I for one will not fuss too much when I concede that my recent Science March sign has been rendered - probably - obsolete.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

At Prehistoric Beast of the Week, Chris has begun reviewing dinosaur figures by Safari, starting with a snazzy Coelophysis. Love the racing stripe.

Give a listen to WICN's Inquiry podcast, which recently featured Anthony J. Martin talking about paleontology, especially ichnology and his book Dinosaurs Without Bones.

At ART Evolved, Herman Diaz returns with more book reviews: Patricia Lauber's How Dinosaurs Came to Be (yay!) and Richard Moody's Dinofile (boo!).

There's a current effort to complete a database of every dinosaur specimen in the world, and Mike Taylor tells us about it at SV-POW.

In her latest post on Canadian paleontology, Liz Martin-Silverstone writes about the country's paleobotanical treasures.

Victoria Arbour visited the "coal age Galapagos," a fossil exposure in Nova Scotia, and found some beautiful stuff. Check it out at Pseudoplocephalus.

The LITC AV Club

PBS Digital Studios has begun a new paleontology video series titled Eons, hosted by Hank Green. Here's episode one, dedicated to trilobites. Subscribe at Youtube to see what they cook up next!

The Empty Wallets Club

The contents page from Taschen's 'Paleoart.'

The contents page of Taschen's Paleoart.
In August, the publishing company Taschen will release Zoë Lescaze's Paleoart, a scholarly look at the history of artistic depicions of ancient life. You know, paleoart.
The collection provides an in-depth look at this neglected niche of art history and shows how the artists charged with imagining extinct creatures often projected their own aesthetic whims onto prehistory, rendering the primordial past with dashes of Romanticism, Impressionism, Japonisme, Fauvism, and Art Nouveau, among other influences.
It looks gorgeous, but it does cost a pretty penny.

Crowdfunding Spotlight

Paleoartist Matt Martyniuk needs a new computer, and if you support him at GoFundMe, you get to help determine what his next project will be. Chip in at his campaign page!

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

Benke Bálint's Atopodentatus is one of my favorite depictions of the Triassic oddball.

Atopodentatus by Benke Bálint, shared here with the artist's permission.

Friday, June 23, 2017

American Museum of Natural History, part 3: no birds, please, we're bird-hips

And so, finally, to the hall of Ornithischian dinosaurs (as a reminder, Baron et al. 2017 isn't to be mentioned). In spite of the tendency of theropods and sauropods to hog the limelight, the AMNH's Other Dinosaur Hall almost manages to outshine the lizard-hipped-themed gallery - almost. There's no beating Rexy's charisma, but his eternal adversary certainly comes close.


Monday, June 12, 2017

Explore Mesozoic Ecosystems with Gabriel Ugueto

Illustrator, designer, and herpetologist Gabriel Ugueto's prolific output never ceases to stun me - a feeling Natee also shares, as the subject came up during our recent meeting. You may recall that Gabriel's posters of various families of non-avian dinosaurs were included in our 2016 gift guide, and may also recognize him as part of the Studio 252mya paleoart team.

Lately, Gabriel has been following up his previous series by designing posters based on various geological formations and the paleofauna they've revealed to us. Laid out phylogenetically, they offer a concise way to take stock of select groups of inhabitants of each of these paleoenvironments. Animals are shown in easy-to-understand lateral and dorsal views, occasionally with details like alternate views of the head with jaws agape. Each poster also includes a helpful scale diagram.

Gabriel Ugueto's Ischigualasto Formation Poster

The Ischigualasto Formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Niobrara Formation Poster

The Niobrara Formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Wessex Formation Poster

The Wessex formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Las Hoyas Formation Poster

The Las Hoyas Formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Kayenta Formation Poster

The Kayenta Formation

As someone who especially enjoys learning about prehistoric animals in context with their contemporaries, I really appreciate this undertaking - and it doesn't hurt that Gabriel's illustrations are beautiful and his layouts are attractive and easy to digest. The posters are available at Gabriel's Redbubble shop; links in the image captions above will take you directly to each poster's shop listing. Keep an eye out for his next design, dedicated to the Oxford Clay.

Follow Gabriel on Twitter, Redbubble, ArtStation, and Instagram, where he often shares works-in-progress and close-ups of individual animals - as well as a selfie game so fierce he handily earns the title #Paleobae. Thanks to Gabriel for allowing me to share his work here, now let's get them up on some walls!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Recent Travels and Meetings

The Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs team have been real globe trekkers lately. Marc visited New York, Asher got to see Iceland, and for the last three weeks - neatly bookended by her birthday and our anniversary - Jennie and I have been traveling in the UK and Spain. Since the last time I was here was a mere four months after LITC was born, I was finally able to meet LITC's two most veteran contributors, Marc and Natee, in person.

Marc, Natee, and me! Photo by Jennie.

We spent a couple of days in May hanging out. First, Marc took us all down to Birling Gap and we enjoyed a day of seaside hill-walking, pub-visiting, and riding a taxi back to Marc's car as a thrashing rain fell. The next day, we took advantage of sunshine - actual sunshine, the kind we have here in the States - and walked the expansive grounds of Kew Gardens.

When Dave Hone saw that we were nearby and reached out, we all decided to meet up after Kew Gardens, and had a terrific meal at a Japanese restaurant called Hare & Tortoise. We excitedly talked about paleoart, aberrant cranial morphology, and Dave's scientific immortality, granted by the almighty Bellubrunnus.

Natee and Marc check out a certain newly published book as Dave Hone and his friend Christine catch me in the act of taking a photo. It is not easy to snap a candid photo of Dave Hone, friends.
Jennie and Natee bond over teh noms.

Jennie and I then spent a week in southern Spain, enjoying the historical and natural treasures of Málaga and Ronda, before traveling to Cheshire to spend the remainder of the trip with our dear friend Marci and her family. This included a few days in southern Wales, among the highlands, waterfalls, and castles of Brecon Beacons.

Al Cazaba in Málaga.
Ronda.
Little Moreton Hall.
Carreg Cennan Castle in Brecon Beacons National Park.

Before we returned to the states, however, we got to meet up with Gareth Monger, whose art has regularly appeared here at LITC, at the Manchester Museum. He was accompanied by his wife, Jess, and daughter, Alice. As Gareth and I are both type-loving graphic designers who also love paleontology, we had plenty to keep us constantly chatting. And the Mongers were even game to accompany Jennie and me on a hunt for a good gift for our dog-sitters back home! Another successful transition from the web to IRL.

Gareth and I at the Manchester train station. Photo by Jennie.

The Manchester Museum's paleontology hall deserves a few words. It isn't huge, but it's packed with great stuff. There's a cast of Stan, which may not be unique, but the placement on a tall pedestal allows visitors to walk beneath the tyrant, getting views one doesn't usually see.

Beneath Stan.

There's more than Stan, of course. There are wings of the hall dedicated to marine reptiles and Triassic reptiles, with models accompanying cabinets of fossils. The museum's enormous Carboniferous tree is a truly impressive specimen, and as someone who lives and hikes upon Carboniferous limestones, shales, and sandstones, it was a wonderful change of pace from the plant fragments I usually see. And as reassurance to visitors who are eager to skip straight to dinosaurs, there's a Gorgosaurus cast in the museum's entry hall - like Stan, it comes from from the Black Hills Institute.

Marine life of the Mesozoic.
One impressive tree fossil.
The Triassic reptiles, with models of Rhynchosaurus and... dang it, I forgot to note which species the big Rauisuchian fellow is.
The museum's recently acquired Gorgosaurus mount, in the entry hall.

Finally, we had a few spare hours down in London before our flight to grab dinner, and since we had been so entranced by Hare & Tortoise I messaged Natee to see if they could meet us for one more meal. Invitation enthusiastically accepted, we got one more visit in before flying back. Our shared love for ice cream vies for dominance with our love of paleontology!

All in all, an utterly enjoyable vacation, enriched by meeting face to face with long-time online friends. I hope we can visit the UK before another 8 years elapses, and have more time to meet even more paleo-folk. Now, back to reality. Paleoart survey results coming soon...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

American Museum of Natural History, part 2: birds, near-birds, and wide loads

Since the AMNH has so much more to offer than Sexy Rexy and the Indeterminate Apatosaurine Formerly Known as Brontosaurus, let's once again take a walk down its expansive corridors. Or at least, the dinosaur galleries. Although I've already looked at the Saurischian gallery's biggest stars, there's a lot more going on in there besides...notably, an unabashed examination of how Birds Are Dinosaurs. Because they are, you know.


Saturday, June 3, 2017

American Museum of Natural History, part 1: big dead icons

For someone from a tiny island in the Old World, the United States can't half seem like an intimidating place. There's the sheer vastness of it, of course; that's obvious. There are the angry, impatient reactions you get from absolutely everyone at the airport when you arrive. And then there's the fact that you can't ever know what you'll really pay for something, because 'sales tax' (a la VAT) is never included on any price tags. Oh, and when you go to buy a bottle of Diet Coke, you'll find that it reads "20 oz", whatever that means. But all of it's worth it - even the horrific indigestion when you try to stomach their gigantic food portions - to visit the American Museum of Natural History in New York.* Blimey, it's a very good museum.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: May 2017

On account of my globe-trekking this month, I finished up the round-up earlier than usual. So if cool stuff happened in the last 10 days of May, I'll include them next time around.

In the News

What do you do when you've got an awesome new ankylosaur to share with the world, but fear that this awesomebro world isn't gonna show up for a stinkin' ornithischian? Name it Zuul crurivastator, of course. Check out the excellent page dedicated to Zuul from the Royal Ontario Museum and read more from coauthor and awesome name-chooser Victoria Arbour, Brian Switek, Fernanda Castano, and Rachel Feltman.

One month, two hot new Thyreophorans in the news. The Suncor nodosaur has been fully revealed to the public, and it is a stunner. We've been hearing about this one since 2011, so it's pretty awesome to see this beauty. Paleontologist Dr. Donald Henderson describes it as "a perfectly three-dimensionally preserved, uncrushed, armoured dinosaur complete with all the armour in place, original scales perfectly aligned with the armour, all the fingers and toes (very rare), and probable stomach contents." It's truly remarkable, easily mistaken for a sculpture of a dinosaur than a fossil. Read more from Henderson at the Guardian's "Lost Worlds" blog, the Royal Tyrell Museum blog, and Michael Greshko for NatGeo.

Jianianhualong. Read more from Nature and Earth Archives.

Any terrestrial, non-avian dinosaur material from the eastern US is precious, and this month, we got another piece of the puzzle: it seems that ceratopsians lived in Appalachia, too. Read more from co-author Andy Farke and read the paper at PeerJ.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Mark Witton wrote about the amphibious ichthyosaur hypothesis, including some great old art.

SV-POW's Matt Wedel talked sauropods on Fist Full of Podcasts recently.

Liz Martin-Silverstone wrote about a bunch of significant fossils from Canada in her continuing series on the nation's paleontological heritage.

At Dinosaurpalaeo, Heinrich Mallison wrote about Haarlem's Teylers museum. As you may recall, Marc Vincent also wrote about Teylers back in 2013 here ate LITC.

Paul Pursglove writes about the Biddulph Grange Gardens pterosaur at the Pterosaur Database blog.

While pterosaurs are on your mind, check out the Dinosaur Toy Blog's review of the new CollectA Dimorphodon.

The LITC AV Club

Since the amazing tar sands nodosaur has hit the press with a splash, check out this Royal Tyrrell Museum video from 2012 about the discovery.

The Empty Wallets Club

Check out Gareth Monger's celebration of extant dinosaurs, a new design series that sprung from a logo commission that was rejected. Turning lemons to lemonade, and all that. His first featured a sweet minimalist ibis, and he followed that up with a pheasant.

Crowdfunding Spotlight

The stem-primate protagonists of Paleocene, © Mike Keesey

Mike Keesey's Paleocene is coming to print! It funded already, but the campaign is still active for another week. Head to Kickstarter to make your pledge. I've written about the comic here before, because I freakin' love it. Here's Mike's explanation of his inspiration:

Back in 2000, my friend Michael Kirkbride pitched me the idea of a comic book set after the cataclysmic end of the “Age of Reptiles”. The story would center on little mammals struggling for dominance in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I was instantly taken with the idea. There's a ton of fiction about dinosaurs, but barely anything about what happened just after the Mesozoic Era ended.

But I didn't return to the idea until fifteen years later. Now a single parent, I thought about what it would be like to raise children in the aftermath of a global catastrophe. And so I began to write Paleocene as the story of a mother proto-primate, stuck with her children in the last tree standing, wondering where her mate has disappeared to.


An Allosaurus and Stegosaurus face off, illustration © Ken Kokoszka

Colorado artist Ken Kokoszka's Kickstarter campaign to fund a book of his #Dinovember art has fully funded, but you can still get in on the action. In the campaign description, he writes, "As I delved into these drawings I had the opportunity to revel in the new science that had developed in paleontology since I had last researched the ancient animals. So many new discoveries have been unearthed over the last two decades that it felt like every drawing was the start of a new research project." A sentiment many of us can relate to!

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

Zuul! When you've got an awesome portrait by Danielle Dufault, why not? I love the personality in this piece, and the striking green coloration is a nice change of pace for a thyreophoran (queue an avalanche of links to green ankylosaurs in the comments).

Zuul crurivastator ilustrated by Danielle Dufault, © Royal Ontario Museum.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book review: Maja Säfström’s "Animals of a Bygone Era: An Illustrated Compendium"

“Dinosaurs have intentionally been left out of this book to give some attention to less popular – but still fascinating – creatures that once lived on this planet.”

Thus begins Maja Säfström’s Animals of a Bygone Era: An Illustrated Compendium, a new book that I suspect will be of great interest to this blog’s readers, dinosaurs or no. Besides, Maja’s not technically correct – there are some wonderful avian dinosaurs that made the cut. And there are plenty of Mesozoic relations of the dinosaurs proper.

The cover for Maja Säfström’s Animals of a Bygone Era: An Illustrated Compendium © 2017 Ten Speed Press

The aesthetic is simple, but indirect. Säfström approaches her subjects with more of an eye for their alien charm than for strict fidelity to their anatomy. Rendered in stark black and white, with great attention paid to textural, patterned line work, her animals will appeal to those of you who appreciate a fanciful take on paleoillustration. There’s a cock-eyed, occasionally Seussian quality to the work that I find eminently appealing.

Säfström’s writing is plain-spoken, jargon-light, and witty, with some of the jokey dialogue given to her creatures reminding me of Rosemary Mosco’s Bird and Moon comics. “Wings are overrated – look at my beak instead. It’s huge! Best Regards, Terror Bird,” says a terror bird. The educational content varies from simple facts like the size of the eyes of Opthalmosaurus or the diet of Gigantopithecus to brief references to changing paleontological viewpoints on oddballs like Helicoprion.

No book is without small sins, of course (take it from me, the knucklehead who messed up the extinction date of the mammoths). The biggest one I saw here was the repetition of the old canard that the giant azhdarchids’ flight capabilities were questionable, but this just gives Säfström the opportunity to discover the glory that is Wittonalia.

The Helicoprion spread from Maja Säfström’s Animals of a Bygone Era: An Illustrated Compendium © 2017 Ten Speed Press

Small quibbles like that do not take away from the value of this book, which is populated by a wide array of often-overlooked prehistoric animals. Säfström lovingly introduces readers to such animals as Synthetoceras, Nuralagus rex, Coryphodon, Sharovipteryx, Pteraspis, and Macrauchenia. At the risk of alienating myself from present company, there were even animals here I’d never heard of, such as the “horned gopher” Ceratogaulus.

I’ve seen an upswing of interest in highly stylized paleoillustration online lately, much of this thanks to Johan Egerkrans’ stunning pieces recently shared with the Paleoartists group on Facebook. While more surreal than Egerkrans' work, I imagine there could be a healthy crossover between the two artists’ fan base. As someone who primarily works in this vein, it’s heartening to see support for such work, and I hope that Animals of a Bygone Era finds its audience.

Buy it here and read Säfström's post about it at her site.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs (Books for Young Explorers)

Once again, Charles Leon has sent me a real peach. Dinosaurs (part of the National Geographic Society's Books for Young Explorers series) was published in 1972 and features artwork by Jay H Matternes, with text from Kathryn Jackson. Matternes was an accomplished palaeoartist, but given that his speciality and main area of interest was apparently fossil primates (particularly hominids), his name will be unfamiliar to many dinosaur enthusiasts (it certainly was to me). In spite of this, his work here is beautifully painted and easily a match for near enough anything else around at the time.

Friday, April 28, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: April 2017

Not the roller coaster that March was, but April's been another nifty month in matters paleontological, and that's no foolin'!

In the News

Edmontosaurus lovers, heads up. The cranium of E. regalis is the subject of a new paper in PLoS One. Brian Switek has been writing a cool series called "The Dead Zoo" for Omni, and he profiled the mighty duckbill, taking into account all of this new information we've been getting about it over the last decade.

A new paper describes the earliest, basalmost phytosaur of all: Diandongosuchus fuyuaensis.

There's a wee lil' new microraptorine on the block, Zhongjianosaurus. Read more at Theropoda and Letters from Gondwana.

If early, early archosaurs are your thing - and why wouldn't they be, after all - you're in luck. The description of Teleocrater rhadinus in Nature fills in some gaps down at the base of the tree. Hear Liz Martin-Silverstone talk about it on Palaeocast.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Sarah Gibson did a two-part interview with Brian Engh at the PLOS Paleo Community blog. Check out part one and part two.

I wasn't able to attend Paleofest as I'd hoped, but David Prus is here with a write-up of his visit to the annual prehistoric bonanza in Rockford, IL.

At Earth Archives, Vasika Udurawane has begun a series on the evolution of plants. Start here.

Matt Martyniuk is back with another "You're Doing it Wrong" post. This time he covers the bill of Pteranodon.

At Pseudoplocephalus, Victoria pays a visit to a biomechanics exhibit at the Ontario Science Centre.

Zach writes about the snouty thallatosaurs at Waxing Paleontological. "The more I read about the Triassic," he writes, "the weirder it gets."

As Saurian gets closer to its pre-release, the team have released a new devlog teasing the field guide book.

Herman's back with a book review attack, upping one that rocks, dissing one that lacks. Hit it!

At Tyrannosauroidea Central, Thomas Carr writed about the implications of the recent publication of Daspletosaurus horneri: ontogeny and the anagenesis hypothesis.

Check out the sweet paleo-themed dinner plate Paul Pursglove found.

The LITC AV Club

The Royal Tyrrell Museum's speaker series continues, with a presentation on the halisaurine mosasaurs by Dr. Takuya Konishi of the University of Cincinnati.

Brian Engh revisits Aquilops in his newest paleoart video.

Crowdfunding Spotlight

Following up her portrait series on the diversity of the paleontology community, Thea Boodhoo is working on organizing a workshop on diversity at this August's SVP meeting in Calgary. They need funds to make the workshop a great experience for all attendees. Head to GoFundMe to help out.

After her successful set of prehistoric enamel pins funded a couple months ago, Jessy Smith is back with a set of Mesozic megafauna. Pledge at Kickstarter.

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

I love this Rodrigo Vega illustration of a gnarly-looking Yacarerani boliviensis, a notosuchian from the Late Cretaceous.

Yacarerani boliviensis © Rodrigo Vega, used here with the artist's permission.