Tuesday, July 18, 2017

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

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

That and all the sex.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Crocodiles Still Wait

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


Friday, June 30, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: June 2017

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

I think I remember that line correctly...

In the News

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

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

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

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

Around the Dinoblogosphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

The LITC AV Club

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

The Empty Wallets Club

The contents page from Taschen's 'Paleoart.'

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

Crowdfunding Spotlight

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

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

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

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

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

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


Monday, June 12, 2017

Explore Mesozoic Ecosystems with Gabriel Ugueto

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

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

Gabriel Ugueto's Ischigualasto Formation Poster

The Ischigualasto Formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Niobrara Formation Poster

The Niobrara Formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Wessex Formation Poster

The Wessex formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Las Hoyas Formation Poster

The Las Hoyas Formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Kayenta Formation Poster

The Kayenta Formation

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

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Recent Travels and Meetings

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

Marc, Natee, and me! Photo by Jennie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beneath Stan.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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

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


Saturday, June 3, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: May 2017

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

In the News

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

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

Jianianhualong. Read more from Nature and Earth Archives.

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

Around the Dinoblogosphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

The LITC AV Club

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

The Empty Wallets Club

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

Crowdfunding Spotlight

The stem-primate protagonists of Paleocene, © Mike Keesey

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

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

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


An Allosaurus and Stegosaurus face off, illustration © Ken Kokoszka

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

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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