Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dinosaurs and... Beowulf?

One of my favorite podcasts, MonsterTalk, has once again touched upon dinosaurs, and it's a real doozy. In an interview with researcher Eve Siebert, the MonsterTalk crew discusses attempts to demonstrate a short timeline for Earth's history and the coexistence of dinosaurs and humans with the legendary story Beowulf. I'd never heard of this particular line of reasoning from Young Earth Creationists, and though I thought that the pretzel twists of creationist thinking would never surprise me again, this has done it.

Siebert explains that since YEC proponents seize upon any mention of dragons or similar monsters as referring to dinosaurs, Beowulf is fair game. Creationist writer Bill Cooper, author of a book called After the Flood, conjectures that Grendel was a young Tyrannosaurus. Why? Beowulf tears off Grendel's arm, and therefore it must be small and weak. You know. Like the arm of a Tyrannosaurus. You've surely heard about how comically impotent T. rex arms are, right?

AB. SURD.

There is much more to this, and I recommend listening to the entire episode. As usual, Blake Smith, Benjamin Radford, and Karen Stollznow do a terrific job of digging into monster lore.

Previous posts mentioning MonsterTalk:

Monday, October 29, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Complete Book of Dinosaurs - Part 1

We have the nicest readers here at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs (most of the time), and Jon Davies just happens to be one of them. The scholarly Mr Davies, in a gesture of profoundly moving generosity, has allowed me to borrow a stack of much-loved dinosaur books from his youth so that I might gently poke fun at them. Thank you, Jon, you are a gentleman!

Of course, there was always going to be one book from among the selection that particularly caught my eye, and it'll be quite obvious from the image below why it had to be The Complete Book of Dinosaurs. The cover alone is a source of unending joy - the fat sauropod is quite run-of-the-mill, but the warped theropod is a gloriously twisted, demented monstrosity. Having posted this image on the LITC Facebook page yesterday, it attracted comparisons with the Xenomorph from Alien and a Lovecraftian terror, both of which undoubtedly stem from the mismatched, disturbingly humanoid head. In fact, the front half looks like it belongs in a dinosaurian version of Basket Case.


Thankfully, nothing inside the book is quite this horrifying (which makes you wonder why they slapped such an awful thing on the cover). It's essentially a compendium of 1980s Beverly Halstead dinosaur books, with illustrations mostly from Jenny Halstead, but also occasionally Ross Wardle and Sol Kirby (the latter are taken directly from the abysmal second-rate Zallinger knock-off Dinosaurs of the Earth, which - wouldn't you know it - I reviewed for my first ever LITC post). The late Bev Halstead (he died in 1991, but still whispers in the ear of psychic Daily Mail drones) often had some rather eccentric ideas and held firm against the Dino Renaissance, but nonetheless is responsible for engaging many children with palaeontology - Darren Naish, for example, counts Halstead's The evolution and ecology of the Dinosaurs as one of his earliest dinosaur books.

Jenny Halstead, meanwhile, is a very accomplished artist who is still around today - her website shows off some truly stunning work in the field of anatomical illustration and, more recently, pastels and oil painting. Having said all that, her dinosaurs, er, could have been better. The animals frequently look cartoonish, and body parts drastically change shape and proportion even in the same scene. The scenes featuring Deinonychus (or "deinonychosaurus" as Beverly refers to them at one point) are particularly amusing, as the animals often have outsized googly eyes and comically exaggerated body parts - mostly the sickle claw, which often seems to subsume the entire toe.


Still, there certainly are some unusual scenes in this book. Every dinosaur artist has had a pop at illustrating a gang of Deinonychus reducing a dopey herbivore to hamburger, but how many have shown the animals foraging for frogs in a lake? Happily, this painting is also one of the superior scenes in the book - the lily-covered lake looks lovely, and the flamingo(-like bird)s, while looking a little too close to their modern counterparts, add a pleasing touch of faunal variety. Most importantly, the look of the animals is consistent, and they make some sense anatomically (for the time, of course).


Things get weirder a bit further in. While making it clear that Deinonychus was a highly agile and alert creature, Bev Halstead nevertheless maintains that "deinonychosaurs were cold blooded and needed the sun's heat". As such, we are treated to this truly strange image of juvenile dromaeosaurs sunning themselves on rocks like lizards, with their legs sprawling out to the sides...somehow. Note also how the individuals on the right hand side start to resemble those little squishy plastic finger puppets with wobbly arms. In fact, by far the best aspect of this painting is the very well observed blue-and-red lizard located in the bottom right hand corner, which I've cropped out because I am, in the end, heartless and cruel. And you're not here for lizards.


GODZILLA! Nah, it's just Tyrannosaurus. But what's it doing here? Well, since the tubby waddling softy could only scavenge the kills of other dinosaurs, it evolved the astonishing ability to travel backwards through time in order to meet its colossal energy needs by eating animals that had died close by in the distant past. In fairness, the little guys aren't described as being Deinonychus but, well, come on now.

I'm particularly fond of the fellow in the bottom left, who looks very contented with his meal of stringy viscera. Bless.


Halstead's sauropods are fat - often grotesquely so - and definitely owe something to Caselli's. The Apatosaurus in the background of this scene looks like it would move a lot quicker if it rolled along sideways, while the babies are quite sluglike in their rotundity; all of them sport so many rolls of lard that they make Eric Pickles look almost svelte by comparison. Noteworthy are the blunted, 'brontosaur' heads - indeed, the title of the book in which these illustrations first appeared is A Brontosaur (or so it says here).


In spite of their stumpy, seemingly near-useless limbs (good only for pointing into the middle distance), a few of the baby brontosaurs manage to survive into adulthood, at which point the adult males must fight for dominance of the herd using their tails and...er...what is that? A tumour? According to Bev Halstead,
"The two dinosaurs stood side by side, head to tail, for this was the way they would fight...The apatosaur that was stronger of perhaps younger would have the advantage. The bony lump gave him added force."
So there you go - it's a 'bony lump', and actually quite beneficial. Just don't ask why none of the other apatosaurs have one. This is the lucky deformed brontosaur that could.


And finally...some rip-offs. These Barosaurus look positively sleek and dynamic when compared with their bloated brontosaur brothers, and with good reason - they're ultimately all based on a Bakker drawing. In Bakker's original, the tail of one barosaur disappeared behind the body of another, which itself had a tail affected by foreshortening - thus giving rise to the artistic meme of the short-tailed Barosaurus. In reality, of course, the animal would have resembled a slightly longer-necked Diplodocus. Darren Naish (him again!) covered all this back in Tetrapod Zoology Mk II, and his article's well worth a read if you haven't done so already - you'll note that the animal in the background of the below scene owes much to the frightening 'Cox 1975' Barosaurus as featured by Darren.


Come back next time for pterosaurs, Jenny Halstead-style!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Mesozoic Miscellany 55: SVP Fallout


'Tis the season for SVP news and roundups! The great gathering of vertebrate paleontologists has, as always, led to a windfall of interesting stories, some of which can be found below. You may notice that our fearless leader David is not handling this. The truth is, he's insanely busy, so I'm stepping in to help pick up the slack. Let's take a look at what's new in the world of dinosaur paleontology!

Brian Switek's Dinosaur Tracking has a quick roundup of the annual SVP meeting. It sounds like there's some interesting research coming down the pipeline. Torvosaurus embryos? Evidence of giant Oviraptors in North America?  Mixed crocodile and dinosaur nests? Can't wait.

Microraptor's ability to fly has been somewhat in contention since it was discovered, and a new study is suggesting a method by which they might have flown. Scientific American has a nice writeup. Head on over to Science News as well to see a different take. Don't forget to admire the gorgeous David Krentz digital model on both.

It's long been assumed that bone headed dinosaurs used their skulls to hammer opponents, though as always, there's been a fight over what exactly this entailed. By studying injury patterns on skulls and skeletons, the SVP blog notes, it's possible to infer some behaviors in different species of pachycephalosaurid.

Ornithomimus specimens in Canada have been found with different stages of feather growth, including feathery wings. Brian Switek breaks the find down for those in a hurry, and Time's Science Blog gives it a slightly longer treatment. Not Exactly Rocket Science and New Scientist also both have the story.  (For a hilariously out of date Ornithomimus, stroll on over to The Dinosaur Toy Blog and enjoy the monstrosity.)

How did Tyrannosaurus dismember a dead Triceratops? Nature's blog--and new research-- suggests a likely scenario.

Has the true identity of "Predator X" been bugging you? Over at Laelaps, Brian Switek unmasks this pliosaur of mystery.

To lip, or not to lip? Jaime Headden has an ongoing and very interesting series of posts exploring soft tissue reconstruction in dinosaurs. It's lengthy, but the comment threads are lively and the posts are well illustrated. Part onepart two, Turtle meme dance break, part three, and part four.

It's not all serious business at SVP. Pseudoplocephalus spins a tale of whoopee cushion chairs and dance parties. The more I read these roundups, the more determined I am to actually go one of these days.

And finally, Julio Lacerda delivers what may be one of my new favorite bits of paleoart. His website is here; his DeviantArt page is here. He's awesome and you should check him out.



That about wraps it up for this news cycle! What are you folks most excited about?


Thursday, October 25, 2012

Raptor Rendezvous 2012

Shawnee

That there is Shawnee, a young example of the extant theropod species Haliaeetus leucocephalus, the bald eagle. I met him recently at Indiana Raptor Center, a group I've been working with for a year now (and have written about a few times). This weekend is their big fundraising event, the Raptor Rendezvous. If you're a local-to-me reader (as in, if you live in southern Indiana or thereabouts, it would be well worth your time to drive to Nashville, Indiana for one or both days of the event. I'll also have some artwork in the auction and photographs for sale, and you can say "hello" if you recognize me. I'll be the exhausted grad student.

Shawnee is not ready for primetime yet, but you will get to see a ton of great birds up close, including this charmer, a Tyto alba named Oberon.

Oberon the Barn Owl

Here's the raptor center's press release, which has all of the pertinent information.
Indiana Raptor Center (InRC), located in Nashville IN, is presenting the second annual Raptor Rendezvous Festival in Brown County on October 27 and 28. Events include a rendezvous tent on Saturday, Oct. 27, 9 am – 5 pm, located in the Nashville Village Green at Main and Jefferson Streets, complete with re-enactment falconers and live birds, an education display about InRC, and a trading post full of handmade goods, InRC merchandise, small collectible antiques and vintage curiosities, the sale of which supports InRC.

On October 28 the cap-off event of the weekend is a 4 hour extravaganza at the Brown County State Park Abe Martin Lodge, 1 pm – 5 pm. Included will be a silent auction, beverages and concessions and a bird of prey display including approximately 20 bird of prey species from FIVE Indiana and Illinois rehabilitation and education centers.

Special guest from Illinois Raptor Center will be Jack Nuzzo presenting a golden eagle, and a few others seldom seen in Brown County. Charly Taylor from WildCare in Bloomington, Kathy Hershey from Utopia Wildlife in Columbus, Brittany Davis of Eagle Creek in Indianapolis, and the crew from InRC will present area favorites like the bald eagle, barn owl, and some exotic raptor species from other parts of the world.

Admission to all events is free, donations are accepted, and cameras are welcome. This true Raptor Rendezvous will be the largest bird of prey program ever offered in the state of Indiana, larger even than our event last year! All proceeds from the weekend will be used to support the birds of the Indiana Raptor Center, including the provision of food, veterinary care, and shelter maintenance for both full-time residents and our rehabilitation patients.

Truly a wonderful, family event full of fun and information, and a few new surprises!
Read more about my adventures with InRC here, here, here, here, and here. And feel free to join their facebook group, too.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: one last look at The Age of Dinosaurs: A Photographic Record

A final airing for Jane Burton's glorious photographs, with a little 1980s nuttiness along the way! In case you've missed them, check out part 1 and part 2, too.

While this book is really all about the photography (of course), there are a small number of illustrations in the opening chapter which, to be honest, aren't really much to write home about. However, at least one is amusing in that it appears to be a lesson in the science of reconstructing extinct animals, as intended for pre-Dino Renaissance palaeoartists.
  1. Start with a thorough, modern skeletal reconstruction.
  2. Carefully apply musculature, based on knowledge of the skeleton and comparisons with living animals.
  3. Ignore all that shit and just draw something that basically resembles what you think the animal in question should look like. Dinosaurs were pathetic evolutionary dead-ends, so be sure to give them spindly limbs incapable of carrying their comically ponderous bulk.

For crying out loud, the skeletal reconstruction won't fit inside the life restoration, never mind the muscular reconstruction. What was the artist (Alan Male, if you were wondering) thinking? At least the hadrosaur is waving hello, albeit while delivering a rather withering look from its not-entirely-in-proportion face.

Back to the photography...we're safe there. In spite of the book's title, a lot of the best photographs actually feature Palaeozoic animals, going back as far as the Carboniferous (yes, the title of this blog series is revealed to be a swizz once again). This study of the minor celebrity and Permian synapsid Dimetrodon is very lovely; a moody depiction of the ever-popular creature rising at dawn, complete with a layer of fog to add that desired element of primordial mystery. The composition and lighting are excellent, and really draw attention to the animal's most famous feature.

Although it's somewhat less convincing overall (the waves in the background photograph make the animals look like the miniatures that they are), the models in this shot of Tanystropheus and Nothosaurus are still wonderful. The eye is drawn immediately to the two sparring nothosaurs in the centre of the scene, flashing their teeth at one another; once again, it creates a sense of the everyday drama of these animals' lives without resorting to over-the-top action and/or motion blur. The careful way that the models have been arranged helps enhance the feel that this is a casual snapshot of real creatures - it's just a shame about the backdrop...

While the main subject of the image below is the therapsid Lycaenops (depicted with very fetching stripy green skin), it's hard to avoid being drawn to the hulking brown brute behind it - what could it be? In fact, it's a rather odd-looking reconstruction of Pareiasaurus, which was closely related to the more popularly known Scutosaurus, and would have looked pretty similar. Still, I love the way that the fanged carnivore is made to look a pipsqueak by the bulky herbivore - it's good to see a pareiasaur standing its ground. Dougal Dixon would like to remind us, however, that
"[Lycaenops] has nothing to fear from the great plant-eater which it could easily kill if it were hungry."
Yeah, whatever, Dougal.

This scene, depicting a Cynognathus family group, is effective for similar reasons to the Dimetrodon picture - it's superbly and evocatively lit (but hasn't scanned well, for which I can only apologise), and while portraying the animals in near-silhouette may seem like a bit of a cop-out, closer inspection reveals that a lot of fine details have been put into the models. The poses are very well observed, too, particularly the juvenile raising its head as if begging for food from its mother.

Dougal Dixon posits that Lystrosaurus, the dicynodont famous for enjoying a global hegemony in the Early Triassic that would make Rupert Murdoch furious with envy, lived an amphibious lifestyle like a modern hippopotamus. Exactly how well-supported this idea is these days I'm not sure, but I have the feeling the answer is 'not very' (readers should feel free to enlighten me!). Regardless, the photo is quite well done, if a little uninteresting. You know, someone really ought to animate its stumpy limbs paddling along, and then we can all stare at it a while listening to a suitable musical accompaniment.

FINALLY...one of the best photos in the book. The Longisquama model is a marvel - packed with extremely fine detail, gloriously painted and shot in pin-sharp focus. These days, Longisquama is best known as the prime candidate for the ancestor of birds, something that Dougal Dixon very presciently mentions:
"It is thought that these specialised scales [on its back] represent an early stage in the evolution of feathers, and so this line of animals could possibly have developed into birds."
Genius. Of course, you do have to ignore all the evidence supporting a dinosaurian origin for the birds, including skeletal, integumentary and even behavioural links in sufficient stacks of specimens to fill the warehouse from Raiders of the Lost Ark. But that's easily done with a bit of harumphing and moving of goalposts, so that's OK.

And with that cheap shot out of the way, I'm all done! Don't worry - the recycling of books ends here, as I'm being loaned some all new tomes via the magic of the mail by a very kind reader. Stick around! Pretty please.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Return of Devil Dinosaur!

Once, long ago, a very brilliant man created a dinosaur for Marvel Comics. He painted it red, bestowed on it the gift of variable anatomy, and sent it on wild adventures that even today still quiver with childish insanity. But the audience faded away, and this monster, this Devil Dinosaur, faded away with them.

Then lots of things happened. If you don't read Marvel Comics, then they won't make sense. If you do read Marvel Comics, then they still won't make sense. It's really best not to worry about them. You could seek out Fallen Angels or Heroes for Hire, but that would only distract you from reading what may be the best Marvel comic to ever have a dinosaur in it.

I am referring, of course, to  Warren Ellis's Nextwave.


These are not the dinosaurs. They are bonus dinosaurs.

Imagine a radical guitar solo, somehow transcribed on paper through the medium of costumed pretty people hitting things, freed from the cruel shackles of continuity, character or sanity. Five minor Marvel characters, rejects and C-list superheroes, running through the dusty toy chests of Marvel intellectual property, seeking to stop the terrorist Beyond Corporation from product testing WMDs on the American populace. What evil mastermind could be behind this diabolical plot to destroy humanity? Who is responsible for the Samurai Gundam, the dragon with a pants fetish, and weaponized koalas? Who stands ready to be revealed as the greatest supervillain of all time?

Who indeed. 

I'm not sure what prompted Warren Ellis to chose Devil Dinosaur for the role of criminal mastermind, but I strongly suspect it was for the sole purpose of this image. There's something sublime in the juxtaposition of smoking jacket, ascot, pistol and fang. What better to symbolize the heights of patrician villainy? This incarnation of Devil Dinosaur is more then just old money. He is the oldest money. See the insouciance with which the pistol dangles from his tiny claws! See that plutocratic sneer arch over yellowing fangs! Devil Dinosaur is every inch the corrupt status quo, looming in aristocratic snobbery over the peons of the earth. A leftover from the Gilded Age...of Reptiles.

And as befits a patrician supervillain, he is also crazy racist.



In fact, this incarnation of Devil Dinosaur has something of a complex about monkeys. Perhaps it stems from the self loathing that comes from dressing in monkey-created smoking jackets, sipping monkey-created champagne, and waving around giant monkey-created pistols. "Stop making ideas!" he snarls at the superheroes. Ideas are antithetical to this denizen of the past. Like all aristocracy, Devil Dinosaur creates nothing. He merely lounges on the work of others, hating himself for doing so and proudly boasting of the paradise that will come when all of the underclasses are gone.


True freedom, posits Nextwave, can only be achieved by overthrowing the parasitic dinosaurian plutocracy and thwarting its evil designs on the common man. The only way to stop him, as with all corrupt aristocrats, is to kick his spherical mansion off of its floating war platform, let it bounce off the mountain below, and then explode.  



Sic Semper Tyrannus, Devil Dinosaur.






Friday, October 19, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Illustrated Dinosaur Encyclopedia - Part 2.2

Yesterday, I mentioned that the sauropods in this book aren't especially good, drawing particular attention to the somewhat half-finished looking Saltasaurus. Actually, they're quite typical of the time - rather anachronistic, unwieldy, bloated, irrelevant and ugly, not unlike the British Royal Family. While other dinosaurs were receiving a facelift, sauropods tended to get left behind a little - although they were hauled out of the swamps, they still tended to drag their tails around everywhere like outsized thunder lizards. The artistic execution remains pretty good here, though, and I am particularly fond of the glassy, cold black eyes. Like a doll's eyes.


Of course, there's also that brachiosaur in the background which appears to be, well, tiny, due to an unfortunate perspective quirk caused by the ferns in the background. I dunno, maybe it's a baby.

Meanwhile, this Diplodocus looks rather like the Invicta toy, which in turn strongly resembles palaeoart by Burian, among others. Fortunately, that also means it is possessed of a more convincingly organic, fluid quality than the brachiosaur, and is definitely one of the better sauropods in the book (even if they still insist on the tail-dragging). I'm also fond of the rearing individual in the background (although I have the feeling that it's been cribbed from somewhere) - if nothing else, it instantly livens up the composition of the scene.

Euoplocephalus, being cool. I like this one - the pose provides a decent overview of the animal, but the twisty head and braced forelimbs add a little interest and liveliness beyond that of a boring Diagnostic Lateral View (DLV). It's also very nicely and evocatively lit in a way that hints at the animal's sheer bulk and presence, even if the hips haven't been made wide enough. Unfortunately, someone placed a rather distracting little detail in the background.

Many artists have attempted to illustrate an ankylosaur smacking a tyrannosaur with its tail club, and virtually none of them have done it well. This is no exception to the rule, with both parties looking rather limp and inert; this is especially true of the tyrannosaur, whose arms seem to have been broken in a number of places (presumably through the SHEER FORCE OF THE IMPACT).

This has to be one of the more unusual 'post-tripod' illustrations of Iguanodon that I've ever seen. Even when taking the perspective into consideration, that is one seriously pin-headed beastie. To make matters worse, this massive, pillar-limbed creature is supposed to be "Iguanodon mantelli" (aka Dollodon seelyi, or possibly Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis), which was actually a rather slender and short-armed creature, much smaller than the more famous Iguanodon bernissartensis. Having said all that, I once again have the feeling that this is a rip-off of a piece by a more established palaeoartist, but can't quite put my finger on which one. As they might say in The Beano, "Help me, readers!"

And finally: you've got to wonder what they're looking at. Maybe an anachronistic mutant Tyrannosaurus has come tramping over the hill nearby a la the Rite of Spring segment in Fantasia. The keen-eyed will spot the Sibbick riffs here - in fact, the theropod looks rather like his 1980s Dilophosaurus with the crests removed.

That's all for now! If I've missed any of your favourites, then please do alert me in the comments and I'll compile a farewell post containing them all...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Illustrated Dinosaur Encyclopedia - Part 2.1

In a break with convention, I'm splitting this week's post into two parts. Any complaints? No? Good.

You'll recall 1988's The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs from a couple of weeks back. Like several thousand other dinosaur books in the 1980s it was written, although not illustrated, by good ol' Dougal Dixon, or 'Dixie Doug' as he wasn't known. Illustration duties went to Andrew Robinson and David Johnston, but unfortunately the individual pieces aren't credited.

The book comes across as something of a second-rate version of the Norman/Sibbick encyclopedia from earlier in that most beloved of decades, which I covered slavishly a short while ago. Many of the illustrations look remarkably similar to Sibbick's, although it can be difficult to tell when they weren't simply based on the same skeletal mounts or palaeoart memes.

 
These Plateosaurus certainly look very familiar, but then it was popular among many artists to show the animal as both an upright biped and impossi-quadruped - all the better to demonstrate the animal's supposed range of motion. Whatever the case, while these obviously can't match up to the artistic flair of a Sibbick, they're nice enough - if a little wrinkly. Actually, they remind me of nothing so much as mid-range dinosaur toys from the early '90s, which often looked like oddly pointy prunes.


Speaking of pointy things, this Styracosaurus marks a welcome departure from the majority of the illustrations in the book in that it's not depicted in lateral view, heading right. Always a spectacular-looking animal when seen head-on, the creature's menacing, confrontational aspect is only enhanced by the artist's penchant for sinister red eyes. That, and it's clearly heading towards the viewer with some speed, kicking up a cloud of dust that's worthy of Sibbick himself (who was always a fan of bilious gritty stuff).


The artist was clearly aiming for a similar effect with this Panoplosaurus (or is it Edmontonia?), but unfortunately fell a little short, mostly thanks to that rather awkward right forepaw. Everyone do the Nodosaur Shuffle! Still, this is a nicely painted scene, with lovely, crisp detailing on the ankylosaur and parched riverbed.

This Saltasaurus is an odd one - unlike most of the other illustrations in the book (including the Panoplosaurus) it's rather muddy and sloppy-looking, even if the dinosaur is bedecked in yet another pattern seemingly evolved to send attacking theropods wandering drunkenly away in a cross-eyed stupor. The left manus also seems to have been borrowed from a different animal, and looks a bit like the rear scoop on a JCB. Sauropods don't tend to do too well in this book...but more on that tomorrow.

Ah, that's better! Much more careful detailing on this Stegoceras, a livery the right side of '1970s curtains' on the lairy-o-meter and, superbly, a pair of individuals going 'head to head' (ahem) in the back. But wait, what's this?

...

Well now...I'm quite lost for words. Was the expression of intense pain really necessary? I mean, you don't see zebras collapse in the middle of the Serengeti, their faces contorted into grotesque grimaces of equine agony, now do you? I blame Dougal Dixon for this. I bet he sneaked into the artist's studio in the dead of night, dressed in an oversized trenchcoat and wide-brimmed hat, cigarette dangling from his mouth and muttered through clenched teeth "I'll tells ya what the kids gotta see, son. Dixie Doug's gonna teach them a little life lesson right here in his blessed dinosaur book."

More tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

More Campus Fossil Hunting at Indiana University

Today is National Fossil Day in the US, and I prepared for it with a recent visit to the geosciences building on the Indiana University campus. Students walking to the nearby schools of business or informatics may not realize that just through the building's doors, a treasure trove of fossils are available for viewing. So, I once again snapped some photos of some of the fossils available for the IU community to enjoy. Though there aren't any dinosaurs, I'm sure this blog's audience will appreciate these collections. These are all phone shots, taken through glass in suboptimal lighting conditions, but they cleaned up reasonably well in Camera Raw, so I'm not ashamed to share them.

First up, the collection of the late Dr. Bruce Masters, a micropaleontologist who bequeathed his wide-ranging fossil collection to the university a little over a decade ago. Here are a couple of teeth from a mastodon and mammoth, respectively.

Mastodon tooth

Mammoth tooth

A nice specimen of the tabilate coral Halysites...

Silurian coral

A eurypteryid from New York...

Eurypteris lacustris

A beautiful Hoplocrioceras ammonite...

Hoplocrioceras phillipi

Some nice Crawfordsville, IN crinoids...

Onychocrinus exculptus

Scytalocrinus robustus

A delicious Diacalymene trilobite...

Diacalymene clavicula

The Eocene perch Priscacara...

Priscacara cypha

Near the Masters collection was a display featuring a "Rock of the Month," in this case a delta slope siltstone from the Mississippian featuring ichnofossils: burrows attributed to the ichnotaxon Zoophycos.

Siltstone with Zoophycos burrows

A prominent local trilobite, and Ohio's state fossil to boot, is Isotelus, and another display case featured a mess of specimens of Isotelus iowaensis of varying sizes and states of preservation. They were all collected by Indiana's first state geologist, David Dale Owen, in Missouri in the mid-19th century. Not the flashiest trilobite, but a good, workmanlike build. It's nice to sit and gaze at such a nice assemblage of them.

Isotelus iowaensis

Isotelus iowaensis

Isotelus iowaensis

Isotelus iowaensis

Isotelus iowaensis

If you ever find yourself in Bloomington with some time to spare, I highly recommend strolling over to the geosciences building and enjoying their collections. They've all been nicely labeled, and as with this Isotelus display, feature interpretive diagrams and historical information. We really deserve a small natural history museum, but in the meantime it's good to know that the workers in our geosciences department remain dedicated to sharing their collections.