Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Boneyard 2.10 arrives in one week

Just a quick note to let you know that the next Boneyard Blog Carnival is a week away. If you write a paleontology blog, blog your paleoart, or even if you've just touched on the subject on a blog that covers other topics, feel free to submit a post to the carnival.

The deadline for submissions is Monday, June 6. Boneyard 2.10 will be posted at Project Dryptosaurus on Tuesday, June 7. As always, you can send your submission to boneyardblogcarnival(at)blogspot(dot)com.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Inside Dinosaurs

Inside Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures (to give it its full title), featuring illustrations by Ted Dewan and words by Steve Parker, was a book I was lucky enough to receive for my sixth birthday in 1993 (also the year in which it was published). It is the successor book to Dewan's Inside the Whale and features quite a number of amazingly intricate (if not so up-to-date these days) cutaways of a range of prehistoric animals, mostly dinosaurs of course. The best ones are all double-page spreads, and some animals (like Diplodocus) are even stretched over multiple spreads. This presents a problem for my tiny scanner, but I've done the best I can.

First up: the front cover, the star of which is Tyrannosaurus, naturally. While beautifully illustrated, it certainly looks rather peculiar - with huge eyes, uniform teeth, and a rather odd neck (once again, begging the question - where do the cervical vertebrae and neck muscles go?)

More Tyrannosaurus inside. This illustration appears to be based on an old T. rex model used in Dorling Kindersley books back in the early '90s. Again, it's a little weird. T. rex illustrations of that period had a habit of perching the head atop a strangely vertical neck, in the manner of the old Godzilla-style tail draggers as depicted by Neve Parker and others. In this case, it looks like the cervical vertebrae articulate with the mandible rather than the back of the head. Note the Heterodontosaurus at the bottom of the picture.

There are a huge number of illustrations in this book, so of course I thought I'd pick out some of the stranger ones. This fat-headed 'carnosaur' Spinosaurus is just fantastic, and very typical of how the animal was depicted in the early '90s (check out the original Carnegie Collection model Spinosaurus, for example). Quite why this animal was ever thought to have four fingers is anybody's guess. On top of it all, he ain't looking too happy about being used as an example of a 'living radiator'. Hey, give the largest theropod his due!

This Stegosaurus, too, is rather...unusual. Well, unusual in that it's somewhat anachronistic - it looks like a refugee from the pre-Dino Renaissance days. The point being made on this page is that Stegosaurus had a tiny, tiny brain - as indeed it did. (At least it has a smile on its face - ignorance is bliss, after all.)

Still, it's easy to mock ("fun, too"), and some of the illustrations in this book really are still quite amazing in their intricacy. Pages 22-23 display an incredibly detailed cutaway Hylaeosaurus, with its armour plating exploded away and its guts exposed for all to see.

The book is very charming and has a wonderful sense of humour throughout, which really engaged me as a kid. In particular, Dewan uses recurring cute green cartoon dinosaurs to illustrate certain points related to both the science of reconstructing dinosaurs and how dinosaur anatomy would have functioned. Often, the latter would involve illustrations of unlikely machines designed to simulate dinosaur bodily functions, with the little green fellas either operating them, or being used as their test subjects, as below with a simulated Euplocephalus tail club. The second image shows a number of the green guys reconstructing an Iguanodon skeleton (complete with an emu for reference). Note also in the first image the dragging Diplodocus tail tip at the bottom of the page - as I have said previously, it was still quite common to have sauropod tails dragging about in the early '90s, even as other dinosaurs got more mobile.

The below illustration is one of my favourites in the book, simply because - if you look closely - you can see an ichthyosaur embryo inside the mother. Wonderful attention to detail, and quite sickeningly adorable. (Ignore the 'Plesiosaurus' label - it's for a different illustration.)

What better place to end than the back cover? Particularly because it allows me to show you an Apatosaurus that wouldn't otherwise fit in my scanner. Commendably, the head is suitably diplodocid-like, although anatomically many of the proportions are wrong - and the hands are near-identical to the feet, complete with multiple long, pointy claws (another common problem in the '90s).

Still, for all its faults, I'd still thoroughly recommend picking up this book if you happen to see it; it's certainly unusual and the illustrations are lavish even if they are not accurate (and have a tendency to be based on art by Sibbick and others). It's a real nostalgia trip if nothing else - and a lot of fun.

P.S. - I'm off to the Netherlands for a week tomorrow, so you might not hear from me 'til I get back (no cheering at the back). I hope to visit the Naturalis museum while I'm there...

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Prehistory and the Press - Part 1

This month saw the end of my three-year stint at university, and the offloading of my undergraduate thesis into the hands of whichever poor souls have to read it. Inevitably, I managed to crowbar in my precious pet hobby pertaining to prehistory, and as such I had a look at palaeontology-related coverage in three UK national newspapers - the Guardian, Daily Telegraph and (oh yes) Daily Mail. I thought it might be fun to share some of my findings in a series of posts (what can I say? I'm short of ideas) starting with this one – all, or at least mostly, about pterosaurs. Launching Pteranodon below by Mark Witton (not the Press Association), from Flickr.

Gravity cannot reach us anymore

One of the most frequent errors made in palaeontology-related articles in newspapers is the use of the word 'dinosaur' to mean anything big, reptilian, and dead. Most frequently, it is pterosaurs that are blighted with the 'dinosaur' tag, even in the 'quality' newspapers – which should be a source of embarrassment. This is not mere pedantry. After all, if someone were to label humans as 'marsupials', they'd quite rightly quickly accumulate an enormous pile of correspondence ridiculing their basic mistake. Someone really ought to make it clear to newspaper journalists that even the most basic fact-checking would reveal the (as Mark Witton put it to me – see below) “non-dinosaury nature” of pterosaurs, and surely this is among the fundamental requirements of journalism?

Tellingly, the articles that make such errors tend not to be written by specialist science journalists (of which there are alarmingly few) but by jobbing freelancers and non-specialists. Nevertheless, if they were to simply copy information provided in press releases, they wouldn't end up calling pterosaurs 'dinosaurs' – and yet they do anyway. One of my favourite examples comes from what was (until very recently) my local newspaper, the venerable Lincolnshire Echo.

Now, you might say criticising some hapless, overstretched regional newspaper hack for their lack of knowledge in this area is rather cruel. And perhaps it is. However, most of the article is copied from a press release sent out by the University of Lincoln, concerning the famous Darwinopterus specimen 'Mrs T', and more specifically the collaboration of the university's own Dr Charles Deeming in the “research team that studied the fossil”. It begins:

The discovery of an ancient fossil, nicknamed ‘Mrs T’, has allowed scientists for the first time to sex pterodactyls [sic] – flying reptiles that lived alongside dinosaurs between 220-65 million years ago.” (Source)

Which is basically fine. However, the Echo hack knew better than to simply copy the press release. They knew that pterosaurs were dinosaurs, and that the word 'dinosaur' was more likely to draw in the casual reader. As such, the introduction to the Echo article reads:

Fresh light could be shed on the sex lives of flying dinosaurs thanks to a scientist from Lincoln.” (Source)
Which, unfortunately, is completely and utterly wrong. And misleading. Still, what does one expect when the 'quality' national papers are making exactly the same mistakes? According to the Daily Telegraph,

A dinosaur the size of a giraffe was capable of launching itself into the air and flying for thousands of miles...” (Source)

I dumped this article - headlined 'Dinosaur the size of a giraffe could fly across continents' - in Mark Witton's lap and asked him about his experiences with the press. His response was pretty typical among the scientists I contacted. (With apologies for the huge blockquote.)

In my experience, most journalists are pretty clueless about even basic aspects of reporting palaeontology, and they don't seem terribly bothered about changing that. Pterosaurs, for instance, are almost always labelled as dinosaurs, despite often very clear statements to the opposite in press releases and God knows how many references to their non-dinosaury nature online. Worst thing is, as with the article you cite, the headlines will often refer to pterosaurs being a type of dinosaur but then, in the text, the journalist will explain that pterosaurs aren't dinosaurs. They contradict themselves, demonstrating either a chronic lack of fact checking or, perhaps more likely, a flippant attitude to accurate reporting.

As a scientist, this is very frustrating: science is all about accurately interpreting the world around us, after all: what's the point in making scientific findings known to the press if they're just going to fudge passing it onto the public?”

Out of the Telegraph and Guardian (which I picked as examples of a right-leaning and left-leaning 'quality' paper, respectively, and because they have different owners), the Telegraph fared a lot worse when it came to basic accuracy. Which is hardly surprising, when they can produce an article discussing pelycosaurs and pterosaurs and refer to them both as 'dinosaurs' with a straight face and are still referring to Tyrannosaurus as “the largest land predators to ever to stalk the earth” – the latter being all the more worrisome, given that it was written by Richard Alleyne, one of the tiny number of Telegraph science specialists.

My main problem – and no doubt some of you will agree – with reporters referring to pterosaurs (or god-knows-what-else) as 'dinosaurs' is that it fosters a cycle of ignorance among the general public as to the true nature of not just dinosaurs, or pterosaurs, or even archosaurs, but the history of life on Earth and the reality of evolution. If people believe that pterosaurs, which are extinct, were 'flying dinosaurs', then they will be blind to the continued evolution and diversification of the real 'flying dinosaurs' that are still around, and will continue to believe – as one commenter on the Telegraph's 'Cannibal T. rex' story put it – that “we do not need to know any more about dinosaurs” because “they're dead”. (Pterosaurs are very interesting in themselves of course, and definitely worthy of continued study. But you catch my drift, I hope.)

There's more, though. Especially on how newspaper journalists fudge things in simplification and create what Ben Goldacre (in Bad Science) has called "a parody of science". Oh boy. Next time!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mesozoic Miscellany #32

Apologies for missing last week's roundup. It ended up being another hectic week. I can easily foresee more of these in the future, as I am set to begin studies for my Master's degree in graphic design in August. I love doing this blog, though, so to ensure that you keep getting good content on a regular basis, I invited Marc Vincent to come aboard. If you missed it, please see his introductory post from yesterday. I think he's going to be a great fit.

New Research

Sauropod Necks
How in the Sam Hill did sauropods get those freakin' long necks? In a long-awaited response to Phil Senter's 2006 proposal that sexual selection may explain how this marvel of the animal kingdom evolved, Matt Wedel, Dave Hone, Darren Naish, and Mike Taylor delve into the question. More at the fellows' respective blogs: SV-Pow, Archosaur Musings, and Tetrapod Zoology.

Dryptosaurus reexamined
Thanks to Steve Brusatte, Roger B.J. Benson, and Mark Norell, the hypothesized status of Dryptosaurus as a primitive tyrannosauroid has received more support. More at AMNH, Beasts Evolved and Theropoda.

The Ashford Maniraptoran
It appears that England was home to a miniscule maniraptoran in the Lower Cretaceous, based on a single cervical vertebra described by Darren Naish and Steven Sweetman. Naish writes at Tetrapod Zoology:
I make no secret of the fact that many of the fossils I publish on are extremely fragmentary, in many cases being single bones. Identifications made on the basis of single bones can very occasionally be horribly, horribly wrong (one personal example: a cervical vertebra that I identified as oviraptorosaurian (Naish & Martill 2002) now seems to be from an abelisauroid), but they can often be made with confidence if the material is good enough, and if it preserves the required informative bits of anatomy.
More at Beasts Evolved, Theropoda, and Palaeoblog. Darren is now tweeting, so be sure to follow him @TetZoo.

Shastasaurus revised
This strange genus of ichthyosaurs from the late Triassic is the subject of recent research into its physiology and life habits, which are compared to those of living beaked whales. Brian Switek covered this at Dinosaur Tracking, and I wrote about it on this blog.

Around the Dinoblogosphere
Dr. Phil Manning of the University of Manchester has been writing a blog for over a year, and I seriously had no idea! This is a serious lapse in my responsibilities, and believe you me, I am not taking it lying down. Well, I kind of am, since I'm lying in bed as I write these words. But I'm very cross with myself. Head to Dinosaur CSI and check out a heck of a fine blog. Thanks to Gary Vecchiarelli for tipping me off to the blog's existence. If you see a glaring omission to my blogroll, or if you're a paleontologist blogs regularly, by all means let me know!

Victoria Arbour pondered the dearth of fossils revealing ankylosaur tail pathologies this week at Pseudoplocephalus.

Anthony Maltese heads to the Niobrara Chalk and tells all at the RMDRC Paleo Lab blog.

Scott Sampson writes about his experiences in sharing his love of the outdoors with his daughter, and how important exploring nature is for children.

Saurian muses on the perpetual challenge of building on fragmentary evidence to build models of ancient worlds.

Gary recapped a Jack Horner lecture on the Project Dryptosaurus blog, which is also home to the next edition of the Boneyard Blog Carnival.

In another excellent post at Paleo Illustrata, Stu Pond writes about the initial steps artists can take as they research their restorations.

On a recent episode of the podcast Natural Selections, Martha Foley and Curt Stager discuss extinctions, inclulding, naturally, dinosaurs. [MP3]

At Paleo King, Nima writes about the roller coaster career of paleoartist David Peters.

Twit Picks
An assortment of links I shared on Twitter in the last two weeks or so.
Paleoart of the Week
On the heels of the Ashford Maniraptoran paper, Matt Martyniuk set himself to the task of creating a restoration, which he gladly admits is highly speculative - as any restoration based on a single cervical vertebra is bound to be. At DinoGoss, he writes that he "essentially restored this as a very small protarchaeopterygid-grade animal, hence the short tail and tightly-folding wing feathers."

Really nice work here. Matt's stuff has a timeless look to it that I love - it could come out of a classic monograph. Check out more of his stuff at DeviantArt and Henteeth.com.

Outrageously Off-Topic Self-Indulgence
A bit of music I made was recently made available on the web. Music has been a hobby of mine for a long time, but not so much now that I've got this blog and am learning the craft of graphic design.

You can check out my tunes at the Laminar Excursion Monthly bandcamp page. It's six tracks long and there are many other quality artists in the series, too. LEM was a 3" CD subscription club run by my buddies Jared and Mike of Flannelgraph and Crossroads of America Records, respectively.

Oh yeah, I used a dinosaur for my cover art!

Over the years, I did a handful of songs dedicated to dinosaurs or paleontology, including smash hit titles like "Requiem Dinosauria," "Paradigmetrodon," and "The Dinosaur Geneology Bop," all of which are on some moldy cassettes somewhere in my house needing to be digitized so I can release my complete masterworks.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Sharing the love

David suggested that I write a short post introducing myself as the new second author of this blog, so here it is. My name's Marc Vincent, I'm 23, British and have just completed a degree in Journalism, of all things. Naturally, I'm also quite in love with a certain clade of archosaurs, and it's that that's drawn me here. Hopefully I'll be able to churn out posts on at least a semi-regular basis (lack of work ethic not withstanding), and always enjoy reading your comments. Except when it's Matt Martyniuk being right, yet again. Stop embarrassing me, Matt Martyniuk.*

I've got a post in the works based on material gathered during the writing of my undergraduate thesis, which was essentially an analysis of palaeo-related coverage in mainstream UK newspapers - including a few words from Dave Hone and Mark Witton on the subject. I've also got another Vintage Dinosaur Art post lined up for Monday, and at least a few more ideas for the future! I'll still be writing for the Dinosaur Toy Blog, too, about all the daft plastic things that I'm steadily accumulating a worryingly large collection of.

Greetings, then, and it's a real honour to have been asked to contribute to Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs. Hopefully we'll all have a lot of fun.

*I'm joking, obviously. Lova ya Matt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Untangling "Sauropod Swindle!"

World's Largest Dinosaurs at the American Museum of Natural History
The star of "World's Largest Dinosaurs." Photo by Garrett Ziegler, via Flickr.

In a post at The Awl called Sauropod Swindle! The Monstrous Lies of the World's Largest Dinosaurs, Caroline Bankoff and Jonathan Liu write about a recent visit to the current exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History, which aims to go "beyond traditional fossil shows to reveal how dinosaurs actually lived by taking visitors into the amazing anatomy" of the sauropods.

This isn't a dry summary or unthinking string of gee-whiz moments, though. It's a thoroughly disappointed deconstruction of what they see as a major failing of the museum. Museum exhibits rarely receive this level of criticism, and while I find that aspect refreshing, I couldn't help but feel that I was being battered with cleverness during most of the piece.

After an early paragraph offering the entirely reasonable criticism of the small space the exhibition is held in, this is dropped in the reader's lap.
As dino-lovers and museum curators, we tend to be supremacists—and wishful thinkers. Perhaps it’s our bipedality, perhaps it’s the bloodlust, but for too long human beings have constrained our fellow feeling to the vultures and jackals, the terrorists and hysterics, of the dino world. A boy who pretends to be a Tyrannosaur is liable to be made quarterback or goalie (despite his terminally short arms). One who play acts Velociraptor tends to be tracked into college-prep courses and have his internet use monitored. But he who wanders around peacefully as Brachiosaurus or Diplodocus is suspected of autism, or worse. And yet we people aren’t carnivores, not really. Indeed, with ever more, and ever-fatter, human beings—beings, in this country at least, made almost entirely out of corn—it will be the plant-munching sauropod, if any dino at all, that offers us deliverance. Certainly not the gym-toned hunter-killers who by all accounts threw in their lot with the birds long ago.
I quote it at length because it's absolutely absurd, serving as a perfect demonstration of how hard the authors work to shoehorn their (shared, I suppose) ideologies into the piece. I may be off the mark here. There may be a wealth of peer-reviewed studies which look at the ways that our early childhood dinosaur fantasies correlate to our later performance in life. But to me, it reads as cuteness for the sake of it, as a desperate attempt to give silly ol' dinosaurs some larger cultural significance.

The exhibit may or may not be successful; I unfortunately lack the means to visit myself. The writers see AMNH missing the mark, and offer a knot of questions that color the rest of the post and illustrate their assumptions further.
When did this biggest city’s biggest cultural bulwarks get so theropod-craven? How was the public’s inborn need, and love, for dinos so thoroughly co-opted by commerce and ideological coercion? Darkest of all, can a new generation be made to understand the awesome majesty of these creatures in the face of the seeming dereliction of duty of every independent guardian of dino propriety?
I want good, unflinching criticism of museum exhibits. Too often, the media's attention to them involved regurgitated press releases, a practice nicely dubbed "churnalism." This doesn't serve anyone's interests, except for those of the institutional ticket booth. That's an interest I care about, naturally. I have always loved museums. I plan vacations around them. I believe in their intrinsic value as caretakers of knowledge and history. Be that as it may, when they mount exhibitions, they have the duty to do it well. They cannot be exempt from reasoned criticism. Their relationship with commercial entities deserves scrutiny. The prohibitive cost of large special exhibits does, too.

What makes "Sauropod Swindle" so aggravating is that it's not a total piece of garbage. Bankoff and Liu have valid concerns about the way the exhibit has been mounted. They are worth hearing. When they try to color the exhibition as a surreptitious piece of propaganda for its sole sponsor, Bank of America, these complaints are drowned out.

Seriously, they do that.
If the brontosaur’s heart is really no different than a chicken’s when it comes down to the chambers, the valves, the pumping, then B of A is clearly just a friendly up-scaling and streamlining of the Main Street bank in taking savings and making loans, and, perhaps, maximizing value in its own proprietary operations on the side.
This was when I started getting a serious Poe's Law vibe. As commenter Werner Hedgehog wrote, "Reading it made me feel like I was on a date with a too-serious grad student." It's not a universal sentiment; some commenters enjoyed it, as did a respected Tweep, @cambrianexplode. He then wrote that he hoped to write something in a similar vein about the Walking With Dinosaurs live show, which I find entirely appropriate and look forward to reading. After all, the WWD live show is a work of spectacular fiction. It's bound to be loaded with odd socio-political baggage.

Then again, "Sauropod Swindle" may be a big, fat joke of the sort I haven't been trained to understand. Maybe it really is a good example of Poe's Law. In that case, I'll fake a chuckle and hide behind a bottle of beer on the fringe of the in-crowd.

If you've read "Sauropod Swindle," what did you think?

And for more on this exhibit, visit SV-POW!, Pseudoplocephalus, and Dinosaur Tracking.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shastasaurus sucks, in a good way.

It's too easy to think "ichthyosaur" and automatically conjure an image of a vaguely dolphin-shaped Mesozoic reptile, represented by a famous member of the group like Ichthyosaurus or Opthalmosaurus. It becomes just another role-player in the Mesozoic seas that now exist solely in our imaginations. But these were living animals, important members of lost ecosystems. Like a host of other extinct organisms, the deeper scientists look, the more nuanced and fascinating they become.

New research published in PLoS ONE demonstrates just how much you miss if you arrive at a superficial description of these animals and stop there. The study, by the University of Bonn's P. Martin Sander and Xiaohong Chen, Long Cheng, and Xiaofeng Wang of the Wuhan Institute of Geology and Mineral Resources in Hubei, China, takes a look at new fossil material representing the genus Shastasaurus, as well as a reevaluation of S. pacificus.

The shastasaurs are an odd offshoot of the ichthyosaur family, with short, slender snouts that appear to be truly toothless. While not entirely unknown in the ichthyosaur fossil record, toothlessness this plainly obvious is a unique characteristic of Shastosaurus: the upper surface of the Shastosaurus dentary, one of the lower jawbones, is smooth with no trace of grooves or pits for teeth. In others, toothlessness may be a mere artifact of poor preservation.

In seeking an explanation for these strange features, the authors draw a comparison to a living family of the ocean dwellers, the beaked whales of the family Ziphiidae, which have reduced dentition and similarly proportioned snouts as well as enlarged hyoid bones. In the PLoS ONE paper, the team writes, "the ziphiid whales are suction feeders in which the tongue is pulled back rapidly by strong retractor muscles that are attached to hypertrophied hyoid bones. In this way, prey items are taken up by the negative pressure generated in the oral cavity, obviating the need for teeth to hold them before swallowing."

Cuvier's Beaked Whale, shared by Navy Currents Magazine on Flickr.

The Ziphiids are a poorly understood family overall, with only a few species having been the subject of study. One thing we do know is that they are some of the whale family's gold medal divers, able to hunt deep water cephalopods and fish and crustaceans from near the sea floor, sometimes as deep as 500 meters. The authors paint a picture of Triassic oceans populated by a diverse range of ichthyosaurs including swift-swimming Shastasaurus in the open ocean, diving deep to prey on bioluminescent cephalopods, among other benthic delicacies. They suggest that as oxygen levels rose at the end of the Triassic, gill-breathing fish were able to supplant many of the creatures the ichthyosaurs relied on, instigating the dramatic decrease in ichthyosaur diversity in the Jurassic, presaging the family's eventual extinction. Except, naturally, in the imagination of a bizarre primate millions of years later.

What I'm getting at here is... let's see some Shastasaurus hunting glowing cephalopods, paleoartists!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Bronto the Dinosaur


This week in the Vintage Dinosaur Art series, we pay a visit to Bronto the Dinosaur, a storybook published in 1968 by Rand McNally, written by a school teacher and author named Dorothy Thompson Landis. These illustrations are the work of prolific children's book illustrator George Wilde.

GeorgeWilde 4

The story, and therefore Wilde's illustrations, seems to be inspired by the outmoded trope that the sauropods lived their lives partially submerged in water, to support their great weight, though I shudder to think of the raisin-skin they would have had on their legs. The basis of this idea is described in paleontologist William Diller Matthew's Dinosaurs, published by the American Museum of Natural History in 1915 as part of their "Handbook Series." In the chapter dedicated to sauropods, called "The Amphibious Dinosaurs," Matthew writes:
The teeth of the Brontosaurus indicate that it was an herbivorous animal, feeding on soft vegetable food. Three opinions as to the habitat of Amphibious Dinosaurs have been held by scientific authorities. The first, advocated by Professor Owen, who described the first specimens found sixty years ago (1841-60) and supported especially by Professor Cope, has been most generally adopted. This regards the animals as spending their lives entirely in shallow water, partly immersed, wading about on the bottom, or perhaps occasionally swimming, but unable to emerge entirely upon dry land. More recently, Professor Osborn has advocated the view that they resorted occasionally to the land for egg laying or other purposes, and still more recently the view has been taken by Mr. Riggs and the late Professor Hatcher that they were chiefly terrestrial animals. The writer inclines to the view of Owen and Cope, whose unequalled knowledge of comparative anatomy renders their opinion on this doubtful question especially authoritative.
The "Mr. Riggs" Matthew mentions here was Elmer S. Riggs of the Field Museum, and he wasn't only ahead of the curve considering the habitat of the giant sauropods. He also wrote that Apatosaurus and "Brontosaurus" were the same animal in 1903, more than 80 years before beloved "Brontosaurus" fell out of usage.

GeorgeWilde 1

Another possible reason for an amphibious lifestyle, provided by Landis in Bronto the Dinosaur, is safety. The evil Allosaurus, afraid of water, sits on dry land, grumbling to himself as Bronto and his mom cuddle waist deep in the swamp.

GeorgeWilde 3

Check out the feet on that allosaur! You can only wonder where Wilde got the idea to extend those toes to that extreme.

As is my usual habit, I've saved my favorite illustration for last. Here, Bronto has supposedly fallen from his mother's "long, strong tail," which would indeed have to be pretty darned strong to support his weight. But it sure as heck looks like what's happening here is that mama is administering a harsh caudal beatdown to the poor youngster.

GeorgeWilde 2

For a bit more from this title, you can check out the cropped profile-pic ready versions available at the site Vintage Avatars. An affectionate round of applause to Flickr user TNT138 for sharing these scans with the Vintage Dinosaur Art pool. Got old dino books of your own, sitting forlornly on the shelf? Pop 'em in the scanner and share them with us. It feels amazing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Captain Marshall Field Expeditions for Vertebrate Paleontology

Noon camp in Arroyo

The Field Museum Library has shared a collection of photographs from the institution's expeditions to South America in the 1920's. The expeditions were undertaken with the goal of finding Cenozoic mammals and comparing them to their northern hemisphere counterparts, but at least a couple dinosaurs popped up, as well. Not just any dinosaurs. Huge dinosaurs. Enormous Argentinian sauropods like Antarctosaurus and Argyrosaurus, which to this day aren't well-understood or studied.

John B. Abbott excavating dinosaur femur
Geology preparator John B. Abbott with Antarctosaurus femur

Argyrosaurus femur in situ
Argyrosaurus femur in situ

Some mammals turned up as well, of course, including Megatherium, Scelidodon, and Panochthus.

Excavation of fossils of Megatherium
Elmer S. Riggs excavates a Megatherium

Excavating skeleton of Scelidodon
Unidentified worker digs up Scelidodon

Robert Thorne at Panochtus skeleton
Robert Thorne with Panochtus, a glyptodont

The bulk of the collection, however, is made up of photos taken during the groups' travels, capturing snapshots of life in Argentina in the '20s. See more.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Big, Different, and Gone

Dr. Jack Horner, one of the two or three most famous paleontologists in the western hemisphere, if not the world, has become known as a radical lumper, pushing to cull the taxonomic ranks of dinosaurs. In November, he spoke at a TEDx event in Vancouver, arguing that the twelve dinosaurian denizens of the end-Cretaceous Hell Creek Formation could be cut down to seven.

Acknowledging the way many media outlets fumbled his and John Scannella's Triceratops and Torosaurus paper earlier in 2010, Horner makes clear once again that it is Torosaurus that would be dropped from usage, not the massively popular Triceratops. Unfortunately for me, he offers no remorse for proposing to kill my personal favorite dinosaur name of all time, Anatotitan, which he maintains is merely a mature Edmontosaurus. I'm willing to grant that he's on to something here, and hope that this debate continues vigorously. I like the way he presents the Hell Creek as a distinct package of dinosaurs, as it seems to be an easy concept for the general public to understand. I'd like to see more of this. It might help clear up the muddled view of dinosaurs many people have, in which they all kind of existed at the same time, some foggy eons ago.

In this talk, I find the way Horner sells himself as something of a rogue paleontologist pretty interesting. I don't use the word "rogue" to imply that his ideas are absolutely crazy, but in that he's willing to do things like cut into dinosaur bones at the Museum of the Rockies, whereas other museums consider their collections too precious to risk. Perhaps "maverick" would be a better word here. Many of his big laughs come from the way he packs his observations in a pragmatic, blue collar, almost John Wayne-y persona. This is an old tradition in science: establishing oneself as a member of the masses, willing to get dirty while effete intellectuals bandy about theories in the parlors of academia.

If you've got a free twenty minutes, check it all out for yourself. The video from his November talk is posted below.

H/T to Melissa Zhang, who shared this with the Facebook Paleontology group.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Vintage Dinosaur Art Guest Post: Dinosaurs! Magazine

Today, we welcome back Marc Vincent, who contributes his second entry in the Vintage Dinosaur Art series. His first, which was posted just over a month ago, was well-received, and I'm sure this one will be just as popular. So, without further ado...


I've unearthed a childhood relic from the darkest recesses of my parents' loft – the first issue of Dinosaurs! magazine, carbon dated back to the halcyon pre-Jurassic Park days of 1992.

Dinosaurs! was published by Orbis Publishing, with venerable palaeontologist and Iguanodon fan Dr. David Norman as consultant. It ran for no less than 104 issues, lasting into 1995 – quite impressive, even if the 104th issue was an index. Many of the dinosaurs featured in the magazine during its run were pretty new to science – again, impressive for a kids' magazine. Admittedly, some of the animals profiled turned out to either be completely different from how they were initially perceived – Majungasaurus was pictured as a pachycephalosaur (and named “Majungatholus”) - or chimeric cock-ups like “Ultrasauros”, Jim Jensen's 'biggest dinosaur EVAR'. But still – not bad.

While I could wax nostalgic about the magazine all day, it suits this blog's focus to look at one issue alone – and why not the very first? As has been noted here before, early 1990s dinosaur art often looks, to modern eyes, like a strange blend of traditional, phylotarded 'monsters' with more modern ideas of active, dynamic animals – and so it is with the first issue of Dinosaurs!.

First – the front cover. Never mind the dented tyrannosaur hogging the limelight – it's only shaped in that strange way because it had a pair of similarly-strangely shaped 3D glasses stuck on top of it. Note instead the rather odd T. rex head at the top, complete with what look like capacious cheeks, and get used to it 'cos it pops up again repeatedly inside (what exactly is meant to be going on with the cervical vertebrae I don't know). Look at the price too – a mere thirty pence! Of course, that would be at least four thousand pounds in today's money.

The earlier issues of Dinosaurs! featured illustrations by one Neil Llloyd. His Tyrannosaurus is undoubtedly modern in many respects, with its elevated tail, horizontal posture and bulging musculature – and yet, like so many 1990s dinosaur restorations, it nevertheless look historic. The proportions are all wrong, and the shape of the skull (with 'arches' over the eyes) and uniform teeth are very strange. Note too the elongated, spindly forelimbs, which prove that Jurassic Park was by no means alone in giving Tyrannosaurus twig-like forelimbs back in the early '90s.

Looking positively more retrograde is this Tyrannosaurus just a couple of pages further in, apparently licensed from an old Kingfisher book. Although the tail is elevated, this is a classically fat-bodied, under-muscled theropod with anachronistic prey (here, Parasaurolophus, also looking rather peculiar). Watching this fat old monster waddle around on its apparently atrophied legs certainly would've been a sight.

As well as profiling one dinosaur in detail each issue, the magazine also took a brief look at a couple of other genera. In the first issue we are served Avaceratops and Dicraeosaurus, both illustrated again by Neil Lloyd, who apparently was very fond of brown. I've selected Dicraeosaurus here as it's doing rather odd things with its (admittedly elevated) tail. What the hell?

Naturally, the debut issue included a guide on 'how to spot a dinosaur', which featured a charmingly old-fashioned 'dinosaur parade' to give an idea of the creatures' scale relative to each other and an apparently very short man dressed for a funeral (a pleasant coincidence, as he is about to be stepped on by an obese brachiosaur). While Edmontosaurus looks rather dainty, Tyrannosaurus has come off far worse, with fat legs, a bizarrely-shaped head and no neck. The bald Deinonychus, while commendably up and active, is also huge, even if one compares it with the other dinosaurs rather than the tiny man. The Pteranodon – which, by the way, they do point out is not a dinosaur – is a simple Burian rip-off.

More Tyrannosaurus I'm afraid. Then again, one really can't have enough Tyrannosaurus in a day. Every issue would feature the primary profiled dinosaur in a suitably dramatic artwork on the centre spread (called 'Giants of the Past'). Here Lloyd's strange Tyrannosaurus is savaging what looks like a Euoplocephalus, but is identified in the accompanying text as Ankylosaurus (the 1990s, eh?) - two brown dinosaurs in a brown world. The ankylosaur is probably just grateful to the T. rex for livening things up a bit – it looks like a rather drab world in which to live. (Of course, a swift blow to the leg would follow.) Present in the background but, alas, cut off by my rather small scanner are three generic small ceratopsians and three tail-dragging generic sauropods. Back in the early '90s, it was still pretty common to see sauropods trailing their tails all over the place, even if other dinosaurs had long since abandoned the practice.

Penultimately – part of a comic by Pat Williams, detailing the discovery of “Iguanodon anglicus” by Gideon Mantell. Did Mantell really scream “EUREKA!” when he found a scrambled collection of fossil bones? Was Baron Cuvier really that confused? Who cares – it's fun. Check out that 'modern' Iguanodon too. Wild.

Dinosaurs! played an important role in my childhood love of dinosaurs, and undoubtedly contributed to making me the man I am today. Sorry, Dr Norman. Here's your back page Q&A for the finale – cartoons by Deirdre McHale. The first issue featured sensible questions, but later on they were sent in by readers, so naturally they degenerated into things like “Who would win in a fight – Tyrannosaurus or Smilodon?”, which to his credit Dr Norman gamely answered (if you were wondering, he dodged giving a definitive answer, but hinted at Smilodon for the win. Yeah, right). Oh, and he told one correspondent that he didn't think there were any feathered dinosaurs. Tee hee.


I'd like to thank Marc for submitting another tremendously entertaining guest post. Be a peach and keep up with him at the Dinosaur Toy Blog and Twitter.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mesozoic Miscellany #31

New Research

Tarbo Teen!
A wonderfully preserved juvenile Tarbosaurus skull has revealed that they more than likely hunted different prey than adults of the species, which was probably a wise decision for the youngsters. Of course, this practice is part of our own development too; the Gerber corporation created the first baby foods to stem a rising tide of infanticides caused by babies reaching for their father's steak dinners. More from SVP, Beasts Evolved, Saurian, Palaeoblog, and The Bite Stuff.

Basal sauropodomorph teen!
Yep, another juvenile specimen, representing a new taxon called Arcusaurus, not to be confused with the abelisaur Aucasaurus. More at Chinleana and Jurassic Journeys, where Matt Bonnan describes early Jurassic Arcusaurus as a relict of an earlier time, representing a lone Jurassic survivor of the bipedal sauropodomorphs. He writes, "Africa was not simply a monolithic desert sprinkled with small prosauropod sauropodomorphs like Massospondylus. Instead, there were pockets of diversity and evolutionary novelty in this region of the world that deserve closer inspection."

South American quickies
And both papers are freely available! Campinasuchus is a new Cretaceous baurusuchid (PDF) and Drusilasaura is a new titanosaur from Argentina (PDF).

Around the Dinoblogosphere
Austin has shared his final preview of his Terrordactyl comic, and it's a doozy.

Really, why in the heck were sauropod necks so frackin' long? Mike Taylor poses the question anew.

At Project Dryptosaurus, Gary has been covering his visit to the Morris Museum's Dino Day with a whole slew of videos and photos. Start here and check out what went down.

At The Dragon's Tales, Will Baird writes about new insights into Dollo's Law, paleontologist Louis Dollo's assertion that once a particular line of organisms has evolved a trait, evolution can't "reverse."

Head to TetZoo, where Darren Naish looks at the history of the "sauropod viviparity meme," including the ways cryptozoologists have latched onto it, oddly enough.

If you're a fan of Vintage Dinosaur Art posts here, head over to Beasts Evolved, where Taylor breaks down an 80's title dedicated to that ever-popular Nessie protoype, Plesiosaurus.

Saurian provides an in-depth review of the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences' recent all-Albertosaurus spectacular.

Twit Picks
This normally where I share a brief list of stuff I tweeted all up in peoples' grills this week. Well, after Blogger's shutdown yesterday, Twitter is following suit with chronic over-capacity syndrome. So I'll share this new video from the American Museum of Natural History, which I tweeted about yesterday.

Paleoart of the Week
This piece of artwork is not available on its own in a large version, but Gary Vecchiarelli of Project Dryptosaurus has put the Morris Museum on my to-do list, for sure. Check out these glimpses of their new mural, by Karen Carr. A smaller version is viewable on the museum's site.

Outrageously Off-Topic Indulgence
Okay, it's definitely not outrageously off-topic, but deserving of a shout-out is The Why Evolution is True youtube channel. So many delicious science docs.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Splendidly Adorned Deinonychus

About a month ago, I shared one of Paul Heaston's recent pieces in a Mesozoic Miscellany post, an ink drawing of Yangchuanosaurus. Lately, he's been uploading new color versions of his illustrations, including this beautiful Deinonychus. Head over to his set of dinosaur artwork and enjoy more of his reconstructions. If you want to see his dinosaurs in person, head to San Antonio, Texas, where he works for Dinosaur Quest.

deinonychus color
Illustration by Paul Heaston, via Flickr.

For more of Paul's work, follow him at Three Letter Word for Art and take a nice, long look at his really impressive portfolio.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Interview with Jurassic Park Legacy's Terry Alan Davis, Jr.

Ever since visiting the Dinosaur Journey museum in Fruita, CO when he was three, Terry Alan Davis, Jr. has had dinosaurs on the brain. That love has come to manifest itself in running Jurassic Park Legacy, a huge Jurassic Park website that's full of everything you'd need to know about the franchise in all of its forms. To that end, he also created the Jurassic Park Encyclopedia. In this interview, we delve into the world of Jurassic Park fandom and discuss where it's been and where Terry hopes it will go.

Terry at the Burpee, IL Paleofest this year
When did you first become aware of Jurassic Park? For me, I remember reading a preview in Entertainment Weekly, then I read the book in anticipation of the movie.

It was about 1989/1990, my mother was taking me to get a new dinosaur book and we saw a little ad for a new release for the Jurassic Park book. I so wanted it, but being five years old I was dino-crazy and she insisted it was a book for big kids and that eventually I could read it when I was older. Then when I was about seven I ran into the ad at a theater and subsequent teaser for Jurassic Park the motion picture. Immediately I was thrilled and wanted to see it. I was nine when it came out and my first toys were Robert Muldoon and Young Tyrannosaurus rex. My T. rex kicked my Batman and Aliens toys' butt as any dinosaur toy should have at that point.

How did JP Legacy get its start? How has the community grown? Has it taken any extra effort from you to make it grow?

I used to be a Moderator on a Jurassic Park site called inGenNET back from early 2000, then switched to Jurassic Park Database from 2001/2002 to 2003 and '03 was when I started JPL with the Encyclopedia as our flagship feature. The Encyclopedia actually has changed a lot of hands from over the years before finally settling on JPL. I joined up and had a good idea for the Encyclopedia project at inGenNET essentially; I got the project practically handed to me. I began this when I was 15 and the mission was a clear "what's on Isla Nublar? What are all the fifteen species present?" and it became something more after I realized what I was attempting to do. The Encyclopedia project essentially has grown from that simple question to being something more of "What are the canon definitions for the JP universe?" and so forth. At the moment we're focused on identifying and educating the public on the key differences between the film animal and the real life animal essentially as the original mission I feel has been satisfied essentially.

The community has grown considerably since the state of despair it was originally in, amazingly. A lot of the fandom was crushed in regards to Jurassic Park 3 and what it did to the franchise and it did turn fan against fan for the longest time. So I set JPL out to be that beacon of hope to unite the fans and restore that kind of peace the community had before JP3. I believe JPL still remains the beacon of hope today for people to come and discuss Jurassic Park and all things prehistoric in a nice friendly environment. Another sort of hampering presence in the community is the lack of Jurassic Park 4. Some fans have given up hope of JP4, but where that's happened JPL has inspired a lot of efforts of fan-created ventures to catch the eye of Universal and let them know we would like a fourth film or a tv series at this point. I personally would love a JP TV series. I have an idea I'd love to put to use.

It's taken a lot of effort on my staff and me to make it grow. Like I said with the negative state of the fandom and the franchise not expanding and being a relatively under utilized license a lot of fans have just fallen out of it or developed a harsh opinion towards the powers that be or with each other for those reasons. I think the biggest challenge though, but it was also JPL's success in a lot of ways was to overcome the hostile viewpoints of the fans and remember the good and get people to remember the good of it. We try to encourage a friendly environment because a lot of people still come on here to escape from life's hostilities though and talk about what they love.

The Jurassic Park Enyclopedia, one of Terry's creations

Concerning dinosaur projects on television, do you think that Terra Nova will be a good way to gauge the viability of a JP series?

I think Terra Nova stands a good chance to attempt to bring back at least the dinosaur vibe to the public eye and maybe that might be enough to bring back Jurassic Park. The only problem is that it's on FOX and shows on FOX usually don't last long sadly. Sci-fi shows on Fox have just not done well save for The X-Files and Fringe. I hope this one does well though, and I think it will from what I've seen of the previews it does look promising. I can't say for certain what kind of effect it would have on Jurassic Park and the franchise's movement (or lack there of) at this point. Terra Nova though is certainly a viable property at this point to gauge that definitely.

The truth is, I wish Terra Nova was a Jurassic Park television series because of the story-telling possibilities with it and the fact that JP needs to go a different direction. If the franchise is to continue, that's where it needs to go to keep active interest, break new ground like the first movie did, and reach a new audience of fans, a television series with Jurassic Park is probably best. Speaking of which, I have a wonderful idea for a JP TV series also if someone from Universal is reading your site. They should call me!

The world is really lacking dinosaur entertainment though. It feels like the dino-craze has come and gone, but here's hoping it gets resurrected. Terra Nova is hopefully going to bring the dino-craze back. Kids have Dinosaur Train, Dino Dan, and a couple small things in there, but it's not enough as it's all geared towards preschoolers and young kids. I grew up when Dino-Riders, Dinosaucers, things like Dink (which ripped off The Land Before Time in a big way) and a couple other cartoons were the big thing. I also recall that it felt like there was a documentary on A&E, Discovery, or PBS practically every day concerning dinosaurs. Terra Nova is a good idea to try to push for in terms of "dino-tainment" and in some capacity who knows the fan following it might spawn might bring people over to another Spielberg-dinosaur franchise to back that into returning, but I'm cautiously optimistic about it. I heard there's going to be "fictional" dinosaurs in it and that might be interesting - all I can say is I hope they follow scientific plausibility with that. Time will tell on that one, though. Personally most of the JP community wants to see Reign of the Dinosaurs more so because of the realistic nature of it.

Where do you fall on the JP3 spectrum? Love it, hate it, tolerate it?

Truthfully, my view is mixed on it and it varies from month-to-month. I consider it an experiment in another's hands that could have been done better, but did alright as a summer film in total. I guess my biggest issue aside from the hyper-intelligent JP Velociraptors and the barbarian Spinosaurus is story-telling wise it has little to offer when compared to the original and the subsequent sequel. A lot of people complained about The Lost World: Jurassic Park because it differed from the source material, but in a way The Lost World was good in the aspect because it did provide an interesting and layered storyline. The biggest problem with JP films is you know who is going to end up a meat snack and who isn't basically and that's a problem in all three. There should be an element of surprise here and there. What would have been better for the third film is the original idea involving Grant being a really darker character and some experiences on the mainland in a Costa Rican village involving, you guessed it, dinosaurs. This idea? Great! It showed Dr. Grant going into a down hill spiral and coming back up, the repercussions these "real" dinosaurs were having on the world with people going to Costa Rica to try to see them and other little things. One problem though is I think the influence of one of the producers was to do another "rescue mission" and this idea they had was abandoned for something that just didn't work and seemed like it took a basic plot you saw in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, a re-hash - but not as sophisticated as the second film in regards to plot. It slapped the fans in the face when Jurassic Park was meant to be a "grown-up and intelligent" franchise.

As a result with this new idea the script suffered through a majority of problems from suspending belief on down to just circumventing pre-established film canon without explanation for the changes on-screen save for props scattered throughout the previous two films, with some similarities to paleontology of having a keen eye you have to move through the frames of the film and knowledge of the science from the novel. If you don't have a good eye and read the novels to understand the science, you miss the explanation for things like the JP Velociraptor (Deinonychus) and Pteranodon changes present in the third film. Does the general audience care? No. That's also probably why they didn't make the time to tell much of a story in JP3. A lot of fans just loathe it because of how things were frankly as well as the over-exaggeration of the Raptor intelligence to the whole thing with Eric Kirby (Trevor Morgan's character) being stranded on Isla Sorna for eight weeks and how unlikely that would be for his own survival.

Now I give due credit where it should be given in this next part. I'm glad there's a third film from the fan viewpoint, but again we got cheated on plot. I do feel that Joe Johnston did a lot of saving though with Sam Neill's reprisal of Dr. Grant. It makes the film bearable to watch and had a good idea for Spinosaurus to be included as the new "antagonist" if even some of the behaviors were overdone and the introduction was poorly executed as it made the rest of the film rather anti-climatic. In retrospect, JP3 set out to do what it did. It was a popular summer flick to catch the audience in the mid-summer and offer them dinosaurs it also did better than Planet of the Apes did that summer. To me and the other fans it'll never compare completely to the other two films as anything spectacular. There are others though that praise it and love it completely and totally. More power to them is all I can say there.

Is it safe to assume that you were horrified by the supposed JP4 script treatment that went around a few years ago? The one with the enhanced raptor super soldiers? I don't know how close that ever came to reality, but it seems that the franchise has dodged a bullet.

I really was considering writing an angry letter to all those involved with it and saying how the fandom would boycott it. We want a fourth film, yes, but it has to have quality in it and not just be a SyFy original movie basically. So in other words I was very thoroughly utterly horrified that the franchise was considered for such a terrible and gross abomination. We saw the concept art and while the artist is good at what he does we think the concept was too mad scientist-ish and really does not do the original idea of Jurassic Park justice in the slightest. One fan on the JPLegacy Boards, Dinoslayer, called them "Homocraptor saylensis" in jest, but the name has stuck to them by all rights. The etymology is a funny story when you think about it: "Human Plunderer (Crap) from Sayles" was essentially a way to slap John Sayles for the idea. JPIV was heading in the B-movie direction at this point and I'm glad the concept died and hasn't resurrected itself since. Thankfully it's gone back to the pit from where it came, but the idea should be literally lit on fire and shot into outer space at this point for the unbelievably cheesy terrible lameness it offered.

In your opinion, what have been the best "spin-offs" of the franchise?

Aside from The Lost World: Jurassic Park I've loved a lot of stuff, but I'd love to see something that's told within the Film canon and uses it instead of going about it for all intents and purposes it's "own way". Telltale Games's approaching "Jurassic Park: The Game" seems to be looking better and better for that. Some of the worthy games I enjoyed, despite the canonicity issues, are like Trespasser and Operation Genesis. I even enjoyed "Jurassic Park" for Sega CD and "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" for Playstation. Comics wise? JP hasn't really had the best reputation in. Redemption flopped and the Topps Comics that were out were just plain wacky with Hyper Intelligent Raptors and Great Apes in the Amazon. I haven't done much reading into Devils in the Desert by IDW, but some are hailing it as a good comic that expands the film story line possibly. We're pending data evaluations on that for sure to analyze and see if it fits the canon at all. There hasn't been much in the term of books for Jurassic Park aside from the original two novels and the pre-teen adventures starring Eric Kirby (shudder). The problem with Jurassic Park is despite the popularity it's heavily under-utilized by people and kind of just forgotten about, but loved by all at once. Only lately has it started to come back. The problem is a few of the fans, knowing this, gave up on the market and we at JPL have been trying to lure them back - but that's hard when there so few properties out there. I'd love to see Jurassic Park get the "Star Wars treatment" essentially and it would be popular if people would hype it. The market is there, it just needs to be approached properly.

Do you think one problem is that Jurassic Park lacks its own Roddenberry or Lucas? Crichton seems to have not cared about being caretaker of a franchise, and Spielberg has far too many interests to be the "Jurassic Park Guy."

YES! I mean err... yes. It is exactly the problem and that is why I am sort of the de facto one for it at the moment. I've come in to take over that role with my enthusiasm and knowledge of the franchise and story and what Crichton I felt intended. Many-a-time I have said Jurassic Park as a whole gets treated as the step child franchise where it seems like nobody really cares about it and yet everybody knows about it at the same time. JP in the '90s had the potential to be as big as Star Wars and more or less was the "Star Wars of the '90s" but something happened. I have heard stories about Spielberg just being over-saturated with the merchandising and throwing things out, but again these are rumors to me. Rumors can be wrong of course.

The problem is the idea for that has been abandoned. Did you know at one point it was considered for an animated series? I think William Stout was attached to it briefly and did some sketches, I recall seeing some work with a plesiosaur somewhere and it being in Prehistoric Times at some point. The whole concept and franchise itself has been abandoned much like the idea of the dinosaur park is in the film and it's just a darn shame. Sure we have IDW producing the Jurassic Park comic series now, TellTale and their awesome efforts to revitalize the franchise, the 2009 toy line that the only plus point was the huge T. rex of it. The point is it'd be nice if a collector series of JP figures would be released and the films did make it back to a more public consciousness again either re-playing for the 20th anniversary coming up or what have you. The fandom is there, waiting - Universal just needs to see that. As I said I'd love to work on a JP TV show if given the opportunity even though I don't have the experience, but I love to write and spin ideas with people for that concept. I'd personally love to see a novel related to the films written or a book series even at this point. JP also serves a dual-purpose and it could even educate the public about paleontology and all things prehistoric as a whole or serve as a launch point for some to elevate the interest in the field.

It must be a great feeling to be taken seriously by Telltale. Understanding that you can't give away too much, what about the new game do you feel is particularly faithful to the core of the franchise? Do you think it could revitalize the franchise?

The extent of our involvement is really small, but mostly we've been doing contests and I got invited out to San Francisco for the Jurassic Magnitude event. I got to play a demo of the game and quite enjoyed it. I found out that they've mostly been checking the encyclopedia and the research on the site I started oh so long ago. That's actually really cool in my book that the fans matter so much to them. I hope it helps them make an awesome game in the end. Right now I saw recently they're delayed until the fall and while that's too bad and I'm saddened by that, but I see it as a good thing. I see it as that they are taking their time and they have mine as well as JPL's support there.

Years ago, "Trespasser" was supposed to be released as the digital sequel to "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" and due to the complexity of the engine, the mechanics of the game, and the overall movie/novel hybridization the game itself flopped. You can see the game as an addition to the films, but when you look at the details is when the game gets problematic in terms of the canon. I love "Trespasser" despite the problems, and for a while it was considered one of the best Jurassic Park games out there. "Operation Genesis" is also a fan favorite in the mix too. I do find myself wishing that extra care had been taken into making "Trespasser" fit in the film canon, but it disrupts the film canon as it tries to alter the continuity with the contradictory nature of the island map and some of what Hammond says in it, making it more like it borrowed stuff from the novel without making it work first.

Telltale's JP game is promising to not "overwrite" the canon as all these previous titles have, but more or less supplement the canon with the game itself. I think this is going to be a hit personally either way, but I do like the precision they're taking at this point. In the end we're going to know for sure how loyal it is, but from the demo I played in San Francisco back in February it does look like they took a lot of attention to canonical elements such as the uniforms the park staff wear to the jeeps (some issues there, but it's barely noticeable), and on down to the coloration of the dinosaurs. I was only upset about one thing and that was the T. rex roar, which at the time was borrowed from the Dino-Crisis/Carnivores games. Thankfully they've changed this from what I heard/saw recently in the new version of the trailer.

Telltale's aim though, as it was expressed to me, was to revitalize the franchise with this title. JPL has been doing what we can to help them with that and Telltale has been helpful in allowing us. Mostly they've been cooperative with our contests with offering a free game code for folks to receive a copy. Even after the delay was announced we were pleased to hear the codes will stay good for "Jurassic Park" and this is great. We thank them for helping us fans and we hope to find ways to promote the game for them if even it proves itself not to be film canon from when we do our analysis of it. We have a research ethic after all that we do take seriously and who knows maybe they can help retcon it if we notice any problems, which would be nice for once to have some sort of explanation out there officially for things instead of "digging through evidence" without clear connections.

Terry's take on Dryptosaurus
How did your partnership with Project Dryptosaurus come about? What are your goals?

I met Gary through an e-mail one day about a link exchange for JPL. He and I began talking about my desire to help out more with the actual science even though my qualifications are an associate's degree in computer programming. The fact is I want to put my skills to use working in the field and to further paleontology as a whole. Project: Dryptosaurus I feel as an excellent opportunity for this as I help manage the social media aspects of the site and promote Dryptosaurus. I've desired to be a paleontologist since I was three or four. That was after of course I found out I couldn't be a dinosaur. As time goes on and financial situations change you begin to step away and face the reality of life. I had that and I didn't ask the questions I probably should have asked when I was in high school, due to people giving me strange looks about being a paleontologist. I encountered that a lot and it's a shame.

The idea with helping with Project Dryptosaurus is I like to educate the public as well about dinosaurs and Gary's mission is similar to what I want to do with Megalosaurus eventually. Dryptosaurus is possibly one of the most important fossils in American history though, and it's a piece of American culture that should be more recognized in my opinion. I do make it a point more than ever before to go beyond and learn about the actual animals because they're more stunning than anything we see produced for dramatic license whether it is film, video game, or even novel. To help me I've been independently reading The Dinosauria Second Edition on my own as well as numerous other paleontology books. Some of them have been a difficult (and often long) reads for someone who's highest biology level was in high school. Thankfully I remember enough of biology and that being my major then that I understand a lot of what's being thrown at me in that book. Skeletal terminology I've had to go out and search for diagrams of how things relate in order to help as I'm a visual person that responds better to having essentially a diagram in front of me.

In my spare time, I actually draw paleoart and I'm honing my skills here and there to be better. A put one piece I really liked on the Dryptosaurus Fan Art album to show off. A good resource to help me is SkeletalDrawing and Greg Paul's work inspired me a bit despite the issues there as of late. I do the art for me and friends and I don't take commission. I can easily learn the anatomy without paying oodles to go out and study the fossils myself which on a shoe-string budget is practically impossible for me presently. I learn and make my own style though. For instance I have this habit to feather mane my male Tyrannosaurs. Why I do this I just don't know.

Terry's Chasmosaurus

I seem to have gotten off tangent a bit here, so I'll conclude. I think learning the history of this planet is important in order to understand where we're heading down the line from here. I hope to help contribute in the future of the field in any way I can and I eventually plan to go back to school to work into the long-term idea of getting my masters and eventually even getting my doctorate to do the work that I so enjoy as a hobby at this moment. I am always looking though for volunteer opportunities in the interim until I can do that though. It's just a shame that I haven't got the museum up in Cleveland to get back in contact with me about it as I understand they're busy and I try not to pester people. I admit, with them not getting back in contact with me I have found other ways to help, but I would welcome the opportunity to work even in the prep lab in Cleveland or giving tours in that wing of the museum. Something more so I don't just seem like a guy who likes dinosaurs and Jurassic Park only.

* * *

Thanks for sitting in the virtual interview chair, Terry! Head over to JP Legacy to check out the wealth of information they've gathered there, stay up to date with the Jurassic Innards blog, and take part in the forum. All images provided by Terry, and are his property.