Tuesday, July 18, 2017

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

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

That and all the sex.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: The Crocodiles Still Wait

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


Friday, June 30, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: June 2017

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

I think I remember that line correctly...

In the News

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

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

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

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

Around the Dinoblogosphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

The LITC AV Club

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

The Empty Wallets Club

The contents page from Taschen's 'Paleoart.'

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

Crowdfunding Spotlight

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

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

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

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

Friday, June 23, 2017

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

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


Monday, June 12, 2017

Explore Mesozoic Ecosystems with Gabriel Ugueto

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

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

Gabriel Ugueto's Ischigualasto Formation Poster

The Ischigualasto Formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Niobrara Formation Poster

The Niobrara Formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Wessex Formation Poster

The Wessex formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Las Hoyas Formation Poster

The Las Hoyas Formation

Gabriel Ugueto's Kayenta Formation Poster

The Kayenta Formation

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

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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Recent Travels and Meetings

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

Marc, Natee, and me! Photo by Jennie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beneath Stan.

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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

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


Saturday, June 3, 2017

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

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

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: May 2017

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

In the News

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

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

Jianianhualong. Read more from Nature and Earth Archives.

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

Around the Dinoblogosphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

The LITC AV Club

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

The Empty Wallets Club

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

Crowdfunding Spotlight

The stem-primate protagonists of Paleocene, © Mike Keesey

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

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

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


An Allosaurus and Stegosaurus face off, illustration © Ken Kokoszka

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

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

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

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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs (Books for Young Explorers)

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

Friday, April 28, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: April 2017

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

In the News

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

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

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

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

Around the Dinoblogosphere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The LITC AV Club

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

Brian Engh revisits Aquilops in his newest paleoart video.

Crowdfunding Spotlight

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

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

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

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

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Private Lives of Animals: Prehistoric Animals - Part 3

Since we've already looked at everything that's more important, let us now turn to the Cenozoic mammals of the wonderful Private Lives of Animals book on extinct beasties. And where better to begin than with a ground sloth with hair so wonderfully painted, you'll want to reach through the screen and run your fingers through it? (Just watch out for fleas and dandruff.)


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Utahraptor competition: the winner!

After consulting with the Chasmo-team, and taking into account the feedback from our readers (i.e. that one comment from Emily Willoughby - thanks, Emily!), I'm happy to present the winner of our Utahraptor competition: Castles Made of Sand by Rhunevild aka Madison H!


Yes, that's a Jimi Hendrix reference (as Madison's deviantArt page make clear), but there's so much more to the piece than that; it's artistically accomplished, the dinosaurs are lightly stylised but still essentially anatomically correct, and it's a single, text-free image that says everything through character and expression. In other words, it fulfils the brief very nicely. Madison also promoted the Utahraptor Project over on deviantArt. Nice work, Madison! Please leave a comment below with an e-mail address or somesuch and I'll be in touch. (By the way, it's very much a healthy dose of wry humour, I'll have you know.)

Thanks again to everyone who entered a piece - it's always a delight to see what our wonderful, talented readership can produce.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Utahraptor competition: the contenders

Just over a month ago, I launched our latest art competition in the name of drawing attention to the Utahraptor Project. The aim was to humorously illustrate how all those dinosaurs ended up caught in quicksand together - disregarding the scientific hypothesis that it was a predator trap, because pish, scientists, what do they know? Below, I'll lay out everything we've received, and although our decision is final, feel free to leave a comment in aid of your preferred winner.

We did get a couple of entries that illustrated Utahraptor (or, in one case, seemingly a JP raptor), but otherwise completely ignored the brief. So they're disregarded here. Sorry, guys. But everyone else is here...starting with Christian A Juul.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Private Lives of Animals: Prehistoric Animals - Part 2

Given the quality of the illustrations, I couldn't possibly feature only the dinosaurs from Prehistoric Animals (part of the Private Lives of Animals series). Here, then, are a few of those otherprehistoricanimals from the Palaeozoic and Mesozoic, as illustrated by Allen, Buonanno, Budicin, Burian, Chito...er...et al. We'll start with a firm favourite - a synapsid with so much pop-culture baggage (sorry, appeal) that it's often considered an Honorary Dinosaur.

Friday, March 31, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: March 2017

Well. That was a month, eh? Before we dive into this wild lunar cycle of paleontological action, I'll put out one more call: if you are a paleoartist and you haven't taken the 2017 Survey of Paleoartists, do it! It's easy and won't take too long.

In the News

Ornithoscelida. This is the name given new clade consisting of ornithischia and theropoda, according to a new phylogenetic study by Matthew Baron with Paul Barrett and David Norman. This new model proposes that the sauropodomorphs and theropods aren't quite as closely related as we've thought, with saurischia redefined to be sauropodomorpha + hererrasauridae. Many interesting implications here. Let's see how is pans out over time. Read more from Darren Naish at TetZoo, Ed Yong at the Atlantic, and Pete Bucholz at Earth Archives.

Anchiornis plus lasers! New research using the technique of laser-stimulated fluorescence has "fleshed out" the little-dinobird-that-could, confirming some hypotheses about soft tissue anatomy in paravians and throwing in some surprises, to boot (no pun intended, but the foot integument has stoked conversation online). Read more from Scott Hartman at Skeletal Drawing, Andrea Cau at Theropoda, and NatGeo.

Want more dinobird soft tissue, eh? A newly described, remarkable specimen of Confuciusornis has been found to preserve soft tissue features of the ankle and foot. "Microscopic analyses of these tissues indicate that they include tendons or ligaments, fibrocartilages and articular cartilages, with microstructure evident at the cellular level. Further chemical analyses reveal that even some of the original molecular residues of these soft tissues may remain, such as fragments of amino acids from collagen, particularly in the fibrocartilage." The authors conclude that Confuciusornis represents a transitional state between the leg posture of ancestral theropods and modern birds. Read the Nature Communications paper and the release from Bristol University.

Daspletosaurus isn't left out of the March integument madness. A new species of the tyrant, D. horneri, has been described by Thomas Carr, based on fossils that have been long awaiting description. Another new tyrannosaur, big whoop, right? Well, this one has major implications for restorations of these Cretaceous poster children. Carr and team studied an extremely well preserved specimen, determining that the face was covered by large scales like those of modern crocodiles, and had no lips. Furthermore, the face was supplied with a powerful web of nerves, making it highly sensitive. Read more from Phys Org, Science, and Eurekalert. Already lots of critiques popping up, but of course we'll have to see what pops up in further publications.

The Burmese amber strikes back. This time, mid-Cretaceous amber containing platycnemid damselflies shows evidence of courtship behavior. The insects possessed the enlarged tibiae of their modern relatives. It's a pretty stunning find, and thankfully the private collector who purchased the amber provided it to scientists so it could be published. Read more at Phys Org and Cosmos.

In the discovered-but-not-described bin, another titanic Mesozoic penguin from New Zealand. This new one is about as large as the largest ancient penguins and was found a few meters above the discovery site of Waimanu manneringi, most ancient of the proud lineage. Read more at Laelaps from Brian Switek.

New research has compared the lower jaws of a whole bunch of therizinosaurs to better understand the feeding adaptations of the various species. Read more about it from Albertonykus at Raptormaniacs.

A late Jurassic turtle has been found to have the ability to retract its neck into its shell. Read more on Platychelys from Jon Tennant at PLOS Paleo Community.

Finally, this one seemed to get buried in the press in February, so I'm including it this month, thanks to Ashley Hall calling attention to it. An absolutely gorgeous new fossil of Eoconfuciusornis from the Yixian Formation, preserving soft tissue of the ovaries and wing.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Writing for Palaeontology Online, Elsa Panciroli provides a comprehensive overview of the earliest mammals.

C.M. Kosemen is back on Youtube! Check out his first entry in his rebooted series, in which he tells the Parable of Darth Atopodentatus the Wise.

Luis V. Rey offers an intriguing look at Yehuecauhceratops, restoring it with big, fleshy nostrils.

On Discover's "Dead Things" blog, Gemma Tarlach is profiling up-and-coming paleontologists. The first profile in the series is all about Sanaa El-Sayed and one heck of a big catfish.

Over at the Paleo-King blog, Nima has estimated how much time a sauropod would have to spend eating each day.

Did you hear about all of the new coelurosaurian Monopoly pieces? A penguin, a rubber duck, and a so-so Tyrannosaurus rex. Read more at Everything Dinosaur.

Want to fight back against anti-science forces? At the SciAm guest blog, Jonathan Foley and Christine Arena have some ideas.

Jordan Mallon shared his most-overlooked paper with Dave Hone in an installment of the "Buried Treasure" series. Read more about "Taphonomy and habitat preference of North American pachycephalosaurids" over at Archosaur Musings.

At Mary Anning's Revenge, Meaghan and Amy shared a couple of their recent paleo talks. Check out the vids, do it.

One of my favorite podcasts is In Defense of Plants, so I was extra excited to see that Dr. Caroline Strömberg stopped by to talk paleobotany. She discusses her specialty in researching phytoliths, silica particles produced by certain plants, and gives a wonderful overview of the science.

At New Views on Old Bones, Paul Barrett has been writing about an expedition to Lake Kariba in Zimbabwe, in search of Early Jurassic fossils. Check out parts one, two, and the recently published finale.

Duane writes about "the longest tenured and most successful marine tetrapod family of all time," the plesiosaurs, at Antediluvian Salad.

Some good posts on female paleontologists for Women's History Month: Learn about American paleontologist Mignon Talbot at the Tetanurae Guy and read about Mary Anning from Fernanda Castano.

The Empty Wallets Club

Cover for Abby Howard's book, Dinosaur Empire

Comic artist Abby Howard (Junior Scientist Power Hour) announced her new book, Dinosaur Empire!, due to be released in August by Amulet Books. It looks amazing - a trip through the entire Mesozoic, with fauna that clearly is based on contemporary science. Check out her announcement comic, and then preorder it!

Cover for Steve White's book, Dinosaur Art 2

Dinosaur Art, the 2012 paleoart book edited by Steve White and published by Titan Books, was such a big deal that we dedicated a whole week to it. The book got a lot of press, but I think it's fair to say that LITC provided the most in-depth analysis you'll find, as each contributor to the blog provided a review, and we published an interview with White. So LITC is pretty excited that its sequel is coming this October! This time, we'll be treated to the work of Willoughby, Witton, Lacerda, Atuchin, and more.

Tyrannosaurus rex illustration by Raven Amos with text saying Science Made Dinosaurs Awesome!
Raven Amos has added another terrific design to her NeatoShop storefront, taking direct aim at the myopic, small-minded, backwards-thinking, and utterly annoying "science ruined dinosaurs" crowd. Science made dinosaurs awesome!

Book cover for Patrick Murphy's Dinosaurs A-Z: Dinosaur Classics
Illustrator Patrick Murphy has released his first book, an introduction to dinosaurs for kids 9 and up. Order it here!

The LITC AV Club

Wound up with more videos than usual, so why not give them their own special section?

Here's short n' sweet PBS News Hour feature on Julius Csotonyi's paleaort. Thanks to Michael Ryan of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (and Palaeoblog) for giving big ups to paleoart.

Larry Witmer talks about a sweet, sweet Triceratops brain endocast.

The Royal Tyrrell Museum's speaker series recently featured Peter Larson, who spoke on his research tracking theropod diversity and disparity in the late Cretaceous.

Filmmaker Lexi Marsh is challenging "a lost legacy" with The Bearded Lady Project. Her 20 minute short film, focusing on Dr. Ellen Currano, debuted early this month at the University of Wyoming at Laramie. Read Carolyn Gramling's great interview with Marsh at Science. Check out the trailer above, too.

Crowdfunding Spotlight

The Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs has just embarked on another field trip to educate the children of Mongolia about their country's priceless natural heritage. They can always use donations to fund their efforts, or you can visit their shop and pick up a shirt, mug, or print to support them.

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

I am a fan of Joschua Knüppe's naturalistic paleoartwork, and when I saw his latest pterosaur illustration for Pteros, I immediately asked for permission to feature it here. Gegepterus changi is a ctenochasmatid pterosaur hailing from the Early Cretaceous Yixian Formation.

Gegepterus changi, illustrated by Joschua Knüppe, and shared here with the artist's permission.

Read more about lil' G at Pteros. Keep up with Joschua at DeviantArt and Facebook.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

It's Utahraptor Week

We've talked about the Utahraptor Project a few times here at LITC, and three weeks ago we launched our latest art challenge to help promote it. To help combine efforts to spread the word about Jim Kirkland's crowdfunding effort to free those dinosaurs from that slab of rock, this week has been declared Utahraptor week, thanks to the Earth Archives/ Studio 252MYA crew. Check out the #utahraptorweek hashtag on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram), and help spread the word by using it yourself and sharing others' posts.

Here are a couple videos about this pretty awesome discovery: Jim Kirkland tells the story of the find and National Geographic depicts the effort it took to move the block o' raptors from its original site of discovery.

To help support this research:

Friday, March 24, 2017

2017 Survey of Paleoartists: One Week Left!

Just a quick note: there's one week left to respond to the 2017 Survey of Paleoartists. If you missed my earlier post on the survey, please read it to learn more. And head to bit.ly/paleoartsurvey to take it! It will only take a few minutes, and is relevant for hobbyist and professional alike.

A look at the results so far is pretty interesting, and I look forward to publishing what we find out. So far, we've had 331 respondents from 33 countries. If you're a paleoartist, please add your voice, and share the link far and wide.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Canadian paleontologists tell their stories in "Dino Trails"

A great new series of short documentaries on Canadian paleontology was just released on YouTube by TELUS Optik. "Dino Trails," a project by filmmaker Brandy Yanchyk, kicks off with a profile of Phil Currie and Eva Koppelhus. This episode also features our own Victoria Arbour, who talks a bit about our favorite clobberin' thyreophorans. Subsequent episodes give a chance to see the Suncor nodosaur in prep, tag along on a fossil hunt with Wendy Sloboda of Wendiceratops fame, and spend a nice chunk of time with the Tumbler Ridge dinosaur tracks, featuring friend of LITC Lisa Buckley. And so much more!

I appreciated Yanchyk's focus on the stories of discovery, study, and the people who do it. As researchers tell their stories, a running theme of the importance of protecting our fossil heritage emerges, and they offer impassioned arguments for their various fields of study. Sit back and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Private Lives of Animals: Prehistoric Animals - Part 1

It Came From the 1970s! Originally published in Italy in 1971, Prehistoric Animals is part of the Privates Lives of Animals series, which otherwise featured entirely extant wildlife. When I posted a little something from this book on Facebook, it quickly became apparent that a number of people, including palaeontologists and artists, remember this book very fondly from their childhoods. It isn't surprising - the art in this book combines a surprisingly high level of technical proficiency with flagrant Knight/Zallinger/Burian copying and a healthy dollop of pulp. Why, they even managed to get Burian himself involved. Many thanks to Benjamin Hillier for sending me this one - it's a corker! (Just see how many 'homages' you can spot to classic palaeoart pieces on the cover alone.)


Friday, March 10, 2017

The Stomping Grounds: A Dinosaur Art Zine

Recently, there has been some back-and-forth on Facebook about what capital-P paleoart is, as John Conway proposed some guidelines for the Paleoartists group. While certain genres of dinosaur art - for instance Jurassic Park fan art - aren't too hard to rule out, other forms are a harder call. The group has been debating whether fantastical pieces based on close anatomical study of ancient life are allowable. Others have mused about how stylized something can be and still count as paleoart. I've certainly wondered that about Mammoth is Mopey. And it's a balancing act we've played at LITC, for instance with our 2013 All Yesterdays competition. But while we may debate the place and the value of Rigorous Paleoart vs. "mere" illustrations of prehistoric life, I think we can all agree that it's good for pop culture to be permeated with more depictions of prehistoric beasts based on contemporary paleontology.

This leads us to the subject of today's post. As I was traipsing through the dinosaur realms of DeviantArt recently, I came across a wonderful stylized Amargasaurus illustration by Tanya Kozak, AKA Virsiris. It looked like it could have been a still from a dinosaur cartoon I'd definitely watch. The description said that the illustration was part of Stomping Grounds, a dinosaur art zine. I followed the link to Gumroad and picked up a copy. It's sold on a pay-what-you-want scheme.

Carnotaurus © Tanya Kozak, shared here with the artist's permission.

Released about a year ago,Stomping Grounds couldn't be simpler in its execution. It is focused solely on illustration, without any text besides credits for the creators. I'd have appreciated a bit of background information on the species and the artist's rationale for each illustration, and I'd think it would justify a bump up from pay-what-you-want to a set price to cover the additional layout work required.

The zine is decidedly not filled with capital-P paleoart, but that's not the intent. This is a celebration of dinosaurs. Kozak invited a range of artists, many of whom work in animation, to contribute. So it's not surprising that the art bursts with character, like Squeedge's slavering Cryolophosaurus in pink plumage or Kari Fry's Dracorex standoff. My personal favorite was Neogeen's Troodon flock, dramatically rendered in red and drab green, all fully feathered. More than any other piece in the collection, Neogeen's suggests a wider world and I'd love to see it stretched out into a comic or animated piece. Kozak, whose Amargasaurus led me to the zine in the first place, has a few pieces in the zine, with standouts like a fierce Mosasaurus , a Carnotaurus with subtly but effectively exaggerated features, and a fuzzy, ready-for-cartoon-villainy Dilophosaurus.

The zine is well worth picking up and throwing a few buck the artists' way. It's heartening to see artists who aren't scientific illustrators continuing to absorb the good news of our current paleontological golden age. Head to Gumroad to download for free or name your price.