Thursday, April 11, 2013

All Yesterdays Contest Winners!

The time has come, friends. Some months ago, we asked for submissions for our very own All Yesterdays Contest. Since then, we've gotten a veritable tsunami of entries, and have had to winnow down a flood of excellent entries to a mere three. It's been an incredibly difficult task, fraught with hair pulling, gnashing of teeth, and quiet weeping in the night. But finally, the white smoke has lifted from the roof, the decisions are made, and out we come, bearing our choices for the winners of the LITC All Yesterdays Contest. We're very sorry to have kept y'all waiting, but we think you'll like the results.

So what were we looking for? We judged the entries based on whether or not they delivered an interesting artistic style alongside that All Yesterdays inspired speculation we all love. The submissions below represent, to us, the best mixtures of style and imagination.

And so, without further ado.... the winners!


Here at LITC, we're all suckers for a bit of collage, and Jessica Pilhede's sparring troodonts deliver in spades. The simplicity of the image is charming, calling to mind a child's storybook while expressing an artistic style not often used in dinosaurs. While this submission is not quite as speculative as others, the uniqueness of the medium makes it stand out. 

Jessica explains her reasoning thusly. 
The idea for this is basically looking at the vast number of theropods with their enlarged toes and thinking, did ALL of them really use them for the same purpose (usually listed as hunting)? Especially when they vary so much otherwise? They always reminded me of the spurs and spikes of birds like roosters and pheasants and I wonder if some species didn't use them for interspecies conflict, like fighting over a female or territory or what have you. Not saying they would be used ONLY for that, but perhaps as an additional usage? I mean, many unique body parts in the animal kingdom can have multiple uses, just look at giraffe necks. 
As for the dinosaurs themselves, they are meant to be troodonts in a cold climate - much of my references came from looking at photos of capercaillies and black grouses fighting over females in cold environments.
Jessica will get a signed sketch from Asher, depicting any prehistoric creature she so desires.


Mike Keesey's Pop Art Dimetrodon presents a radically different vision of everybody's favorite mammal-like reptile (or, perhaps, reptile-like mammal.) Taking inspiration from Andy Warhol and, apparently, Gary Larsen, this piece is grotesque in all the best ways, suggesting an animal that looks believably ridiculous and strange. The negative space of the background and the subdued coloration really make the art pop.

Mike's thoughts on his piece follow. 
Dimetrodon and its kin have often been described as "mammal-like reptiles", but in fact they are just as closely related to modern reptiles as we are (in terms of shared descent). Creatures like Dimetrodon, Moschops, Lystrosaurus, Cynognathus, Morganucodon, etc. are more properly termed "stem-mammals", meaning that they are not mammals, but are more closely related to mammals than to any other living organisms. 
We can infer, in the absence of direct evidence, that all stem-mammals probably possessed any characteristics shared by us mammals and our closest living non-mammalian relatives, the sauropsids (turtles, tuataras, lizards [including snakes], crocodylians, and birds). But mammalian characteristics not shared by sauropsids are trickier. When did hair evolve? When did lactation evolve? We have a few clues but no definite answers. 
In this piece, I have pushed fur back to an extremely early time – Dimetrodon is one of the furthest stem-mammals from Mammalia proper. While we know that a later stem-mammal, Estemmenosuchus, had glandular skin without any sign of fur, it is possible that fur evolved earlier and was simply lost or reduced in some lineages, as it has been in many mammalian lineages. 
I have also posited parental feeding, but not, strictly speaking, lactation. Other lineages of tetrapod, including caecilians and pigeons, have evolved ways of feeding the young from foodstuffs produced by the mother. The mother Dimetrodon's sides are swollen with nutritious substances which seep out as her pups gobble it up. Is it milk? Sort of and sort of not.  
Finally, I have scrupulously avoided any suggestion that these are in any way reptilian. They do retain some plesiomorphies evidenced in some reptiles and amphibians, such as a sprawling gait, belly scales, and acute color vision, but they lack the dry skin and derived scales of true reptiles. These are moist, glandular creatures, like amphibians and ourselves.
Mike will be receiving a hand selected book of vintage dinosaur art from David Orr, our dread lord and master, himself.


Andrew Dutt's illustration of a bone dropping Dsungaripterus is a thing of beauty. It oozes with style and a simple, yet arresting composition. The graphic design pops beautifully, and the illustration rewards close examination. Not only that, the behavior posited seems not only reasonable, but obvious. It all adds up to an illustration that effortlessly communicates a bit of speculation, with very little explanation necessary. 

Andrew has this to say about his work. 
Dsungaripterus is usually thought of as a “shell-crusher”: its upturned beak tip would have been used to remove shellfish from sandy, muddy beaches and its knobbly, flat teeth at the back end of its jaws would have been ideal for crushing the shells and exoskeletons of its prey. However, Dsungaripterus remains are found in locations that were many kilometers inland at the time it lived, and carbon & oxygen isotope analysis of bones and teeth confirm that Dsungaripterus inhabited terrestrial environments as opposed to marine. 
So what does a flying reptile with crushing jaws living in a terrestrial environment sustain itself with? Surely Dsungaripterus wouldn’t pass on small terrestrial vertebrates if it came across them, but it probably put those knobbly teeth and strong jaws (for a pterosaur) to good use. Its beak could have probed into carcasses and with its jaws it could have crushed bones to obtain nutritious bone marrow. If its bite wasn’t strong enough to shatter larger bones, it could have engaged in a behavior similar to the one practiced by today’s Bearded Vulture: fly high up over cliffs and rocky outcrops and drop the bone in order to smash it against the rocks below. 
As for appearance, I depicted Dungaripterus with an erect mane of pycnofibers along its neck, yellow facial skin, and dark facial bristles forming a “beard”, all of which were inspired on Bearded and Egyptian Vultures. I also expanded the bony crest with keratinous tissue featuring black and white bands for intraspecific display and red gular skin for some extra pizzazz.

Andrew will receive a beautiful copy of Dinosaur Art from Marc, with sketches from both Marc and Niroot themselves!

Lets have a big hand to all of our entrants, and thank you so much for making this contest such a success! Keep drawing, folks, and may all your yesterdays be amazing.


  1. Oh my goodness, thank you so much for the third place - I never thought I'd stand the chance! This means all my cursing over glued together fingers, miniscule bits of paper everywhere and bigger pieces that refused to stick together were all worth it. Thank you again! :D

  2. Woohoo!

    (And I learned something I hadn't known about Dsungaripterus.)

  3. I knew Mike's would win something. I KNEW IT AS SOON AS I SAW IT.

    Congrats to all three of the winners, nice stuff. :)

  4. Many congratulations to the winners and to all the entrants!

    I apologise too for having taken such an inordinate time to make my decisions (yes, I'm afraid it was me who kept everyone waiting so long). But it was tough. I confess my relief that we didn't receive anything like the number of entries for the official contest held by the book's authors, or we would really have been here all year...

  5. Can't argue w/the 1st place winner: Not only is it beautiful in its simplicity, but it's scientific speculation in the best sense, so much so that I can't believe it's never been suggested b-4; Makes me hope that someone finds gut contents either confirming or rejecting it. I also can't argue w/the 3rd place winner: While the speculation itself has been suggested several times b-4 (Jane Burton & Luis Rey come to mind), the art style is both unique & pleasing to the eye. However, I can argue w/the 2nd place winner. Specifically, covering a large terrestrial ectotherm's back w/furry insulation & thus, preventing it from warming up. No offense meant, though, as I really like the Sunday comic art style & the idea of caecilian-esque parental feeding as a precursor to mammalian lactation.

    1. It's clearer in the other version made for the other contest, but the hair is mostly limited to the very tip-top of the sail, part of the tail, and the eyelashes. It's minimal on the sides and absent from the rest of the sail.

      Also, to be clear, I don't really believe that Dimetrodon had hair or nursed its young. But can we rule it out entirely?

    2. "It's minimal on the sides and absent from the rest of the sail."

      Fair enough.

      "Also, to be clear, I don't really believe that Dimetrodon had hair or nursed its young. But can we rule it out entirely?"

      That reminds me: I should mention that IDK anything about the origins & evolution of mammalian lactation. I just think caecilian-esque parental feeding is really cool.

    3. Thanks! I don't think anyone else knows much about it, either, except that mammary glands are somehow related to sweat glands, and that nipples are a therian innovation absent in monotremes (and therefore very likely absent in all stem-mammals). If there is more information out there, I'd love to know of it!

  6. Awesome stuff! Good choices, all of them. And forget Gary Larson, Mike Keesey's piece feels like some kind of bizarre interstitial frame in a Flash Gordon or Conan comic. Terrifying in that Neal Adams-era kind of way.

    1. Thanks, that's a little more what I was going for (Flash Gordon especially). Also, minor point, the Pop Artist I had in mind was Lichtenstein, not Warhol.

    2. I apparently didn't tweak that Asher had written 'Worhol' up there, but I did have Lichtenstein in mind.

  7. That Lichtenstein-style Dimetrodon is delightfully creepy. I thank you for tonight's nightmare fuel. :-)

    (seriously, the talent that has been shown by this competition is amaaaazing.)

  8. After seeing a sample of the awesome work that was submitted to the contest, I never thought I would get first place! Thank you!!

    It's good to see how you got so many paleo-minded artists thinking a little bit more beyond our general fascination with creatures long gone. For my piece especially, it got me thinking of all the plausible kinds of problem-solving, intelligence, tool use, etc. for which we don't have, and most likely will never have, fossil evidence of.

    I hope you guys get a chance to post some more of the submissions, the different artistic styles and concepts are all unique and awesome in their own way. For the opportunity to share our art and ideas within our little community, thanks again! :)

    1. Andrew, would you be able to send me a (direct) message with your address, please; unless you've done so already to the blog's email? I'm afraid I hadn't checked...

    2. Sure thing, I'll send it to the blog's email.

  9. Congratulations! All three of these are wonderful! I'm a real sucker for collage too.


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