Friday, February 8, 2013

Speculation Sketchbook

I've been somewhat productive of late, artistically speaking, and to distract from my failure to get that Gwangi writeup finished in anything approaching a timely manner (I'll get to it, I promise) I thought I'd follow David's lead and show some bits and pieces of recent art. What follows are three scenarios inspired by modern animal behaviors, along with some speculation best read in the voice of Sir David Attenborough. Let his dulcet tones wash over you as you read on.

It's well known that several species of bird use flying as a means of attracting or wooing a mate. A lot  of these behaviors involve synchronized dances or flight patterns, where both partners maneuver around each other in a beautiful duet of motion that seal their love.

That is not what is going on below.

In the Early Cretaceous of nowhere in particular, a male Pterosaur launches into flight after a bland little female, hoping to woo her with his bright blue wings and ostentatious little head crest. Unfortunately, she's uninterested in his attempts, and the little pterosaur gambles about in the air to no avail whatsoever. Perhaps he is a younger male intruding into a larger, more established territory, or perhaps this hypothetical Pterosaur lover is participating in a mating lek. Either way, it won't be a long attempt on his part; this type of flying is energyy expensive, and if he's getting nowhere he'll soon drop back into a branch and wait for another female to fly over.

I will shamelessly admit that this is a fairly generic little pterosaur, primarily because I wanted to restore something with a standard body plan so that the speculative features would really pop. Here we see on both male and female crest made of keratin, as well as a mane of golden fur and inflatable sacs on the male's head. Like many species of bird, he is quite colorful compared to the slightly drabber female.

Meanwhile, in the shadows of the forest below (again, in a location lost to the very mists of time) an act of reproductive perfidy is in the process of taking place.

A female Ornithopod arrives back at the nest, bearing the mangled remains of a small lizard she found whilst rooting about in a rotting log. Her hatchlings are growing fast, and need a constant supply of seeds, insects and meat to keep them healthy. One of the hatchlings is a little needier then the others. Fuzzier, too. And its teeth are quite a bit sharper.

While the mother was away from the nest, relying on the cryptic coloration of the eggs to keep them safe, a small theropod crept in and laid its own egg alongside the others. The hatchling is growing faster then its clutch-mates, and may well soon devour them or drive them away. Nest Parasitism, as this behavior is called, is fairly well known in certain birds. Species like the Cuckoo and the Cowbird have found that pawning off their own fast growing, voracious offspring on other birds is often an extremely successful strategy, and there's no reason to think that that dinosaurs might not have practiced similarly deceitful tricks. Ornithopods may not have been the sole victims--it's equally possible that some were the perpetrators of such schemes.

Finally, from the Late Jurassic comes a scene that may appear unbelievable.

A subadult Torvosaurus is wandering its satiated way through the scrub hills, the late afternoon light playing on its flanks. As it climbs up a slope, it comes upon a pack of resting Dryosaurus. The herbivores are wary, but not frightened--they can tell by the body language of the predator that it isn't hunting. They keep an eye on it as it passes and move out of its way, hooting to each other. Soon the disinterested predator is gone, and the Dryosaurs settle back into silence.

Predators and prey are not constantly at each other's throats, and occasionally seem to show no interest in each other. While it's unlikely that both parties were this nonchalant, the illustration is offered as a slightly different perspective on what a more peaceable dinosaurian encounter might look like.

Anyway, that's what I've been working on for the past little while. Now, of course, it's time for me to start working on my own entry into the LITC All Yesterdays contest. I'm thinking Art Nouveau...


  1. Haha, nest parasitism was one of the things I've been thinking of too.

    These are lovely. Beautiful markings on the Torvosaurus' head.

  2. I have to say it's awesome that so many people are jumping on the AY bandwagon--every time I think I have an original idea, and prepare to do research for it so I can try it out, I see that someone JUST did it. (this time, brood parasites--though to be fair, the idea of therapod parasiting orthopod is brilliant--considering that it makes sense that these guys would feed their young more meat and bugs, because, hey, protein. After all, it's about the only time that Cedar Waxwings get massive amounts of bugs--in the nest. Genius!)

    Soon, I'll be forced to join the AY movement in the only way that will be left: a properly-plumaged Raptor Jesus in actual, traditional, Byzantine Iconography. :-P)

    (No, really--this is an awesome thing that's happening. It means that a LOT of people are now starting to think outside the box. And as I said on Deviant Art to you with an earlier version of this piece, Torvosaurus doesn't get enough love. It needs more.)

    1. Cody, if you do that we may just have to go ahead and award you the entire contest.

  3. That Torvo is so amazing. Excellent stuff, Asher!


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