Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ichthyosaur Odds and Ends

I have been a little bit obsessed with the alien creatures of the deep sea for the last week or so. I blame last week's research on the shastasaurids, a cool group of ichthyosaurs whose short snout, long bodies, and enlarged hyoids make them out to be precursors to the bodyplan of today's beaked whales.

In my post about the Shastasaurus paper, I shared my infatuation with the vision of shastasaurs diving deep to hunt bioluminescent cephalopods, and ended my post with a friendly challenge to paleoartists to make this happen. I'm happy to report that at least one has responded! Here's a take on that theme by Maija Karala, who posted it at DeviantArt.

Illustration © Maija Karala, via DeviantArt.

This little obsession has also added a stop on my future road trip that keeps getting bigger and bigger. In northeastern Nye County, Nevada is Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, where over three dozen ichthyosaurs have found their final watery resting places transformed into arid desert by the Earth's intractable geological processes. In addition to multiple skeletal remains in situ, the site boasts this enormous mural of Shonisaurus, the specific ichthyosaur discovered on the site. It's a bit outdated, as Shonisaurus is now believed not to have sported a dorsal fin, given its close affinity to Shastasaurus.

Shonisaur Painting at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park
Photo by AlishaV, via Flickr.

I'd feel like a failure of a blogger if I mentioned Shonisaurus without sharing illustrator Shyama Golden's recent surreal take on it, housing what appears to be the call center of Sterling Cooper.

Illustration © Shyama Golden, via Flickr.

Finally, I'll share one more place that my deep sea imaginings have taken me: the Youtube channel of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute. Here's a new one posted this week, exploring the diverse forms of gelatinous dwellers of the deep. As you watch it, take a moment to think about how lucky we are to be a part of this endlessly wonderful natural world. Maybe you're having a crummy day. Maybe it will help. It helps me.


  1. Ichthyosaurs are my favorite marine reptiles-- second only to pliosaurs, of course.

  2. It's hard to pick! No one will fault you for flip-floppin' on this one. i've got a soft spot for Platecarpus for some reason.


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