Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Discovering Dinosaurs

Don't you love it when an otherwise quite run-of-the-mill old dinosaur book hides one or two remarkable secrets? The vast majority of Discovering Dinosaurs is as predictable as anything; it's 1960, so here are some green-and-brown Charles Knight rejects, statically positioned about the place and staring vacantly into the middle distance like they've just been forced to listen to someone explain how carbon dioxide couldn't possibly be a greenhouse gas because 'it's plant food'. However, there's more to Gustav Schrotter's illustrations than is first apparent...as we shall see.

Many thanks yet again to Charles Leon for sending me the scans you see here (and more besides). You're quite the wonderful bloke.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Animals of Long Ago

It seems that in the 1950s and 60s, there was a real explosion in the popularity of dinosaur books for kids. Perhaps it had something to do with broader pop culture trends of the period, such as the sci-fi B-movie boom. Although the Dino Renaissance had yet to take hold, there was a noticeable shift in tone - where dinosaurs were previously seen as evolutionarily unimportant, authors suddenly took great relish in detailing the huge size of their jaws, their flesh-tearing ferociousness, the sheer terror they must have induced in their prey. Animals of Long Ago, published in 1965, is a seminal example of a book from the period; the illustrations are somewhat half-hearted, er, homages, but the text is often rip-roaringly good. Many thanks to Charles Leon for sending me this one!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Mesozoic Miscellany 90

Time for another Mesozoic Miscellany, gathering cool news, blogging, art, and more from around the web over the last month.

One brief note about LITC first. If you're viewing us on the browser, you'll notice that we've added some ads in our sidebar via Project Wonderful, in addition to continuing our tip jar. All proceeds from this will go to moving us over to WordPress and covering related hosting fees. Project Wonderful is a platform particularly popular in the webcomic world. It works by auctioning off ad space and the value of our boxes depend on traffic here as well as click throughs, so don't be bashful about clicking ads that strike your fancy! I'm trying to keep anything too obnoxious off the site. I was pretty happy to find Ashfire Moon through ads, which features some innovative comics, including a "Lost World" inspired tale called "The Heart of the Hollow World."

With that out of the way, on to the dinosaurs!

In the News

Illustration copyright Studio252MYA/ Julio Lacerda
As featured in our 2016 gift guide, Studio 252mya has opened its doors. A project from the team behind Earth Archives and Pteros, the studio sells goods based on the artwork of their international roster of paleoartists and plans on launching an image licensing service soon. Check 'em out now.

Meet the muddy dragon, a new oviraptorosaur out of China. Read more at Science and from Brian Switek at Laelaps.

A new paper described two new late Triassic dinosauromorphs from Brazil, the lagerpetid Ixalerpeton polesinensis and early, carnivorous sauropodomorph Buriolestes schultzi. Read more from Jacquelyn Ronson for the Inverse and Joe Bauwens at Sciency Thoughts. Nice paleoart from Maurílio Oliveira, as well!

Around the Dinoblogosphere

At the Canadian science communication blog Science Borealis, Liz Martin-Silverstone and Raymond Nakamura write a nice article on the practice of paleoart, speaking with Mark Witton and Danielle Dufault.

The Cleveland Museum of Natural History recently hosted Dinofest, and Ashley Hall covered the event at her tumblr, Lady Naturalist.

The nostril openings - or nares - of ceratopsids are rather remarkable. Darren Naish writes about their possible explanations at TetZoo, inspiring a rash of paleoart (unfortunately not organized by any hashtag, so you kind of just have to search it out). Also, don't miss Darren's post on his new book with Paul Barrett, Dinosaurs: How they Lived and Evolved.

At Pseudoplocephalus, Victoria Arbour summed up her experience at SVP 2016 with lots of great photos from the museum, auction, and more.

Sarah Gibson has been writing about the Top 10 Open Access dinosaur descriptions of 2016 at the PLoS Paleo Community Blog, With recent posts on Spiclypeus shipporum and the delightfully named marsupial "lion" Microleo attenboroughi.

Head over to Beyond Bones to read about really, really, really old poop.

The Tetanurae Guy writes about recent travels, including photos from Dinosaur Ridge and its accompanying museum near Denver.

At the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History's Digging the Fossil Record blog, Antoine Bercovici writes about his time out in the field as part of a team mapping sites associated with the K-T Boundary in southwestern North Dakota and southeastern Montana.

At the RMDRC Paleo Lab blog, Anthony Maltese writes about how the lab acquired a fairly complete specimen of the rare Cretaceous turtle Chelospargis and cast a reproduction of the skeleton.

Michael Barton of the Dispersal of Darwin blog writes about Gregory S. Paul's new second edition of the Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs.

Crowdfunding Pick

I've written about the Virtual Museum of Natural History in the past, and figured it would be good to do an update. Their crowdfunding model was changed to a flexible goal, so the fundraising is ongoing. Dave Marshall sent out an email update on the current progress, and it sounds like a lot of fun. He writes:

The technology behind the V-NHM is now complete and we’ve even been able to take a tour around! The user interface is so intuitive to use and loads of fun to just run around with your friends; in fact, one of our trial runs ended up as a 30-minute-long game of chase! It just goes to show that the V-NHM is inherently fun, even before we’ve placed any content in the cabinets. With the website complete, the focus over the coming months will be on curating content, filling cabinets and weaving a narrative between exhibitions. We hope to be able to launch the museum early in 2017.

To contribute to the campaign, head over to Crowd.Science.

Paleoart Pick

For the second year in a row, Raul Ramos pumped out an amazing volume of beautiful paleoart during #DrawDinovember. Hard to pick just one to feature, but I particularly love this backlit Protoceratops.

Protoceratops andrewsi by Raul Ramos, used here with the artist's permission.

Follow Raul on Twitter, Facebook, DeviantArt, and at his site, which promises a store soon.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

The Case of the Stolen Tylosaurus

Do the words "giant Antarctic mosasaur" get your attention? Sure they do. Why wouldn't they? Meet Kaikaifilu hervei. Everything Dinosaur has the story, or read Rodrigo Otero et al's original paper for the princely sum of $37.95 at ScienceDirect.

Unfortunately, the figure in the paper is yet another case of art theft in the scientific literature. And this time, LITC's own Asher Elbein is the victim. Compare the images below.

Figure on left from Otero et al 2016; figure on right from Asher Elbein's DeviantArt account, dated October 16, 2012. Images used here under fair use.

This is plainly an incidence of art theft. It seems that at some point, someone posted Asher's original to Dinopedia, changing the license to a creative commons license (hopefully by the time you're reading this, the site has responded to Asher's DMCA takedown notice by removing it). Then Otero or someone working on the paper found it one one of those two sites and traced it (looks like it is a slightly modified Illustrator auto-trace) without credit or compensation.

Scientists, you cannot just take art for your papers. Asher deserves to be compensated and credited in this paper. How do you people expect artists to produce the work you clearly depend on to illustrate your research if you're not willing to do the bare minimum to credit and compensate?

Some folks haven't liked it when I've said it in the past, but I'll say it again: there is no paleontology outreach without paleoart. Own up to it.


Update: 3pm EST, December 4, 2016

Well, this post certainly inspired conversation. In fact, it is by a long stretch the most commented upon post in LITC history. I appreciate all of the comments, critical and supportive.

There are some takeaways.

First of all, it's clear that the authors of this paper did not willfully infringe Asher's copyright. No one was trying to rip him off. In fact, Rodrigo Otero left a lengthy comment which explained how this happened, but it has since been deleted (more on this below).

So, the most charitable explanation is that the author(s) were unaware of what a Creative Commons license entails - at the very least, it would require attribution, therefore a misattribution would imply an understanding of the license. Since there was no attribution, there's a clear misunderstanding of ethical image use.

This is a misunderstanding many people share. It is not limited to the authors of this one paper. So, in an effort to add to the conversation in a productive way, I'll be putting together at the very least an "Introduction to Creative Commons" post, and perhaps a broader "Image Use Best Practices" post as well, with the goal of dispelling misunderstanding about exactly what a CC license is, and what responsibilities it entails. I have no illusions that this would fix the problem, but it may help. Note that I can be charitable and also call this stuff out. There's really no excuse for not understanding image use guidelines.

I allow that the image was used in a graphical abstract, if not the paper itself, though I had no way to peer over the pay wall to know that. Whether in a graphical abstract or a paper, the point remains. I understand that not everyone enjoys reading angry words from artists. This anger is rooted in a pervasive culture of devaluing artists' work, a problem that even occurs in the vaunted world of science. This anger is warranted, even if you feel blindsided by it. I've had my mind opened to societal problems by the anger of victims, so I'll maintain that muted civility is not the only tool we have to change an unsatisfactory status quo.

Regarding the deleted comment: I'd like to repeat here that I did not delete a single comment on this post. If I delete a comment, I will always provide an explanation. Any removed comments were either deleted by their original poster on purpose or by mistake, or by a Blogger glitch. If you had a comment removed by accident or glitch, I can easily email it to you. Just let me know! All comments are delivered to me by email, so there is record of them in their original form. Then you can repost it. If this seems to be a glitch that's happened repeatedly, I will report to Blogger (though I'm not optimistic that it will be fixed, thus my intention to move to WordPress).

Whoa, that update was longer then the original post! Anyhow, thanks for reading and contributing to the conversation in the comments.

Update: 4:10pm EST, December 4, 2016

Rodrigo Otero has written another comment below, please be sure to read it. Seems we have a good resolution here. Thanks for the comment, Rodrigo!

And yes, as Matt Martyniuk suggests in a comment below, Blogger's comment platform is garbage. I swear I'm intending a WordPress migration as soon as it's feasible.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The 2016 Dinosaur Gift Guide

It's that time of year again, and once more your trusty paleo-bloggers of LITC are here to offer some very cool dinosaur gifts sure to satisfy the enthusiasts of Mesozoic megafauna in your life. As in years past, we will focus on products that look cool, reflect the modern state of paleoart, and come from independent artists and creators.


Taurus Dinosaur Zodiac © Les Valiant, used with the artist's permission.

Dinosaur zodiac! This adorable collection by comic artist Les Valiant on Redbubble is available as individual pieces in various formats, or as a poster of the entire set.


Tyrannosauroidea poster © Gabriel Ungueto, used with the artist's permission

Miami-based artist Gabriel Ungueto has been creating some lovely posters recently, for sale through Redbubble. Choose between Tyrannosauroidea and Dromaeosauridae, Ornithomimosaurs and Alvarezsaurs, or buy 'em all!


Tyrannosaurus Calligram © Scott Elyard, used with the artist's permission

The Alaskan creative duo of Scott Elyard and Raven Amos of Cubelight Graphics have some great new stuff this year. Check out Scott's fantastic dino skull calligraphics, including the tyrannosaur above.


"Aurora Ornatus" © Raven Amos, used with the artist's permission

I also love Raven's Aurora Ornatus, available as a sweet tee at NeatoShop. Who says southerners make the best sweet tees? Hardy har har.


Tyrannosaurus rex © Studio 252MYA/ Franz Anthony, available via Studio 252 MYA and used here with permission.

Studio 252mya is a new paleoart studio featuring an international team of artists. It's been built by the team who also created the sites Earth Archives and Pteros. There's a treasure trove of wonderful art to pick from. I love Franz Anthony's T. rex illustration above, and it sure makes a handsome iPhone case! Also available as a framed print, mug, and more. Be sure to browse their entire shop.


"Allosaurus v. The Extinction" © Natasha Alterici, used with the artist's permission

Artist Natasha Alterici runs a shop on Society 6, featuring her distinctive dinosaur art. I love her hellish Allosaurus v. The Extinction. Plus, all of her proceeds are being donated to the ACLU presently!


The cover of Witton's "Recreating an Age of Reptiles"

Mark Witton published Recreating an Age of Reptiles this year. Signed copies are available in his online shop (along with prints of his work). It costs just a bit more than the unsigned edition. "Rec-A-Rep" a must-have for anyone who cares about paleoart, and a wonderful demonstration of how art and science are inseparable in paleontology. To be further convinced, read our very own Marc Vincent's review from July.


"Spinosaurus" © Francesco Delrio, used with the artist's permission

One of my favorite illustrations of new-look Spinosaurus comes from Francesco Delrio, which manages to make the oddly proportioned beast look graceful. Available as a variety of print formats.


The cover of Naish and Barrett's "Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved"

Darren Naish and Paul Barrett's Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved. Marc reviewed the tome in October, and had high praise: "So, should you get it? Yeah, you should get it. It's essentially the perfect summation of 'where we're up to' with dinosaur science, allowing for differences in opinion and areas where More Research is Needed."



The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite © Brian Engh, used here with the artist's permission.

If you're looking for a stunning piece to stop people in their tracks, Brian Engh's beautful panorama of the Mill Canyon Dinosaur Tracksite should do the trick nicely. Additionally, you can support his work via Patreon, and get early access to an assortment of new originals he's auctioning off. The Patreon-specific auction lasts until December 11, at which point it will be opened to the general public, concluding on December 17.


Mammoth is Mopey by David & Jennie Orr

Finally, if you're new to LITC, you may not be aware of my children's book, Mammoth is Mopey, created with my wife Jennie and published in 2015. This year, we've got a big holiday sale on. Limited edition hardcover copies are only $10 through the end of the year, and as always each one comes with a complimentary ebook, which features an educational appendix that isn't in the print version.


That's a wrap for this year's guide! These are always fun to put together - I always find a new artist or two as I look for items to feature. Of course, many of the products featured in our previous gift guides would still make delightful gifts. So please do browse our 2015 and 2014 (parts one, two, and three) posts as well. Let's support independent creators, the people who bring the current paleontological golden age to vivid life!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Romancing the Tyrant: A review of "My Girlfriend is a T-Rex" Volume 1

I'm happy to bring Tommy Leung aboard today for this guest post! He'll be reviewing the comic My Girlfriend is a T-Rex. A bit about today's guest contributor:

Tommy Leung is a parasitologist / zoologist who writes a blog called Parasite of the Day where he writes about newly published research from the field of parasitology. He has also written about dinosaur parasites and parasites in the fossil record. Additionally he is an illustrator and you can see some of his work here. You can find him on Twitter @The_Episiarch.

Take it away, Tommy!


My Girlfriend is a T-Rex* is a comic / graphic novel series by artist Sanzo (さんぞう). It was originally published as an online webcomic under the title "T-REXな彼女 / T-Rex na Kanojo" and was later licensed for an English release by Seven Seas Entertainment. At its core, it is a tale of boy meets girl, but girl is a large carnivorous theropod dinosaur (sort of). While such a story would usually end rather quickly (and bloodily), in the case of My Girlfriend is a T-Rex, it turns into a tale of blossoming interspecific romance and funny dinosaurian hijinks.

The cover of Sanzo's "My Girlfriend is a T-rex."

In the world of My Girlfriend is a T-Rex, half-human-looking dinosaurs (imagine Centaurs or Mermaids, but with dinosaur bits in place of the horse or fish parts) live in our society, kind of like an urbanite monster girls / boys version of Dinotopia. The explanation for why the dinosaurs look the way that they do was that they had evolved to look more attractive to humans in order to survive in the modern world (a case of evolutionary mimicry?). It is an extremely silly premise, but this series makes no pretence at being anything more than a (largely) slapstick comedy featuring dinosaur monster girls / boys, and it often pokes fun at its own absurdity.

The two main characters of this series are (seemingly) ordinary college student Yuuma Asahikawa who, while taking out the trash late one night, encountered Churio, a female Tyrannosaurus rex who was riffling through the garbage. Despite the best effort of Churio to try and convince him that she is a big scary dinosaur, Yuuma looked past her sharp claws and scaly skin, and fell for her tyrannosaurian charm. Since this fateful encounter, Churio gradually made a switch from scavenging on the streets and sleeping in an abandoned factory, to becoming a somewhat more functional member of society.

The design of the dinosaurian characters in this series places it firmly within the “monster girl / people” subgenre along the likes of A Centaur’s Life, Merman in my Tub, and the very popular Everyday Life With Monster Girls / Monster Musume in featuring half-monster half-human characters in the main cast. Given My Girlfriend is a T-Rex seems like just another comic amidst many released in recent years that features the monster people gimmick, does it have what it takes to distinguish itself from the rest of the monster mash?

There are two main reasons that My Girlfriend is a T-Rex may appeal to a slightly different audience than the usual crowd who would be interested in such monster girl titles. First of all, whereas most other monster girl / people series have mainly featured mythological beings such as centaurs, merfolks, and lamia, My Girlfriend is a T-Rex is unique (as far as I am aware) in having dinosaur-based monster girls in such a slice-of-life setting (if you don’t count Bird Cafe! I guess…) - this alone may pique the interest of Palaeontology / Dinosaur Fans, which I’m guessing includes many readers of this blog. Secondly, it seems largely free of the kind of sexually suggestive (“ecchi”) content found throughout some monster girl titles such as Monster Musume, so My Girlfriend is a T-Rex may be more accessible to readers who find the more risqué aspects of Monster Musume to be off-putting.

Being the titular dinosaur of the series, most of the humour in this comic derives from Churio's antics as she attempts to adapt to modern society and all its trappings. A fair share of the jokes revolve around Churio not fully understanding her own strength as a tyrannosaur, or her instinctive responses to the situations that she finds herself in - which often comes across as being like a mix between a stray puppy and Godzilla. It is worth pointing out that unlike Churio, most of the other dinosaur / pterosaur characters in My Girlfriend is a T-Rex seem to have fully integrated with human society; they have jobs, pay bills, and live generally normal lives, and the human characters in this world seem to take that as a given. So Churio seems to be just a feral outlier.

Aside from Churio’s shenanigans, some of jokes in this series are references or parodies of dinosaurs (at least as they are perceived by the general public) and various dinosaur-based media. For example, those with a keen eye will spot a very obvious reference to Jurassic Park during a conversation between Churio and her friend, Torika, who is some sort of Velociraptor. Also the personalities of the dinosaur characters usually reflect the common popular perception of the dinosaur species that they are based upon. With that said, there are some moments where the character interactions move beyond “Archetype X based upon dinosaur species X” which give those characters a bit more depth.

While the main focus is on Churio and her interactions with Yuuma, there is also a cast of both human and dinosaur / pterosaur supporting characters who get their share of story. One noteworthy side character is Kram - a socially awkward ankylosaur who has difficulty communicating with people and conveying her emotions. Also, her best intentions are often thwarted by her own heavily armoured body. Kram’s more introverted and introspective personality acts a nice contrast to Churio’s blunt and impulsive temperament, and I hope we will see more of her in the next volume since she has appeared only in one chapter so far.

On a side note, the translation assumes that the reader has some familiarity with Japanese honorifics such as kōhai (underclassman / junior) and oniichan (“big / older brother”). While such words are familiar enough to regular manga readers or anime viewers, it might take a bit of getting used to for those who have not been exposed to such material. But, it should not be too difficult to work out what their English equivalents might be given their context.

My final verdict? My Girlfriend is a T-Rex might be one of the more accessible monster girl titles available as it avoids some of the tropes of that subgenre which people may find off-putting. While the humour in this series isn’t all that sophisticated, it works and I found it to be a really fun read. You should definitely check it out if you like the idea of a light-hearted, fish-out-of-water (or tyrannosaur out of Cretaceous?) slice-of-life comedy with a dinosaurian twist. Or if you are curious about the monster girl subgenre, but find Monster Musume too lewd or A Centaur’s Life a bit too weird, you might want to give this one a go instead, and spend an afternoon with some cute dinosaurian monster girls.

Overall score: 75/100

*Yes, I know the proper way to abbreviate Tyrannosaurus rex is T. rex - but that is the series’ official title.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs of the Southwest - Part 2

Following my previous post on the dinosaurs featured in the McLoughlin-illustrated 1970s quirk-fest Dinosaurs of the Southwest, I received, oh, at good handful of requests to follow up with a post on the book's otherprehistoricanimals. So here they are, starting with the only pterosaur that ever seems to matter, Pteranodon! But what's going on with that neck?


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs of the Southwest

Among followers of the palaeo arts, John McLoughlin is probably best known for his astonishing 1979 opus, Archosauria: A New Look at the Old Dinosaur. Strikingly ahead of its time in some places and eyebrow-raisingly wacky in others, it showcased McLoughlin's unique, monochrome art style and forward-thinking approach to dinosaur science. However, Archosauria wasn't McLoughlin's first foray into palaeo-illustration - three years earlier, he helped bring to life Ronald Paul Ratkevich's Dinosaurs of the Southwest, a book all about the prehistoric denizens of the more south-westerly parts of the USA. It's a fascinating mishmash of the old, the (then) new, and the slightly eccentric.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Mesozoic Miscellany 89: Conference-palooza Edition

Autumn is a huge time in paleontology happenings and October 2016 was no exception, with the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology meeting, TetZooCon, and the Dinosaur Society conference and Dinosaur Days festival all occurring within the month. So let's take a look at some of the news coverage and blogging that has resulted from this celestial alignment in the paleo-cosmos.

In the News

Tree-down? Ground-up? Michael Habib presented new research into this long-standing debate on how the first feathered dinosaurs took to the air, finding that as long as they weren't too heavy, early birds and bird-like critters could manage just fine with a leap from terra firma. Read more at ScienceNews.

Lee Hall of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History presented a poster at SVP about Dunkleosteus intra-specific combat. Read more at Earth Touch News.

One of the big splashes coming out of SVP over social media was a presentation on a new fossilized Iguanodon brain. Read more at Fernanda Castano's blog, from Michael Greshko at NatGeo, and from Sarah Kaplan for the Washington Post.

Tetrapodophis is back in the news. Last year, it was announced to the public as being a crucial early member of the snake family tree - a "snake with legs." New research, which analyzed the counterpart slab to the original fossil, has come to a different conclusion - it's a marine reptile, a dolichosaur. While such disagreements are hardly rare in paleontology, this controversy is complicated by the fact that the original Tetrapodophis fossil was merely on loan to Solnhofen's Bürgermeister-Müller Museum, and now is back in private hands and may not be accessible for further research - especially research that may knock it down a few pegs. Read more from Carolyn Gramling for Science and Michael Greshko for NatGeo.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

LITC's newest contributor, Victoria Arbour, has written an important post about the gender disparity of talks at the SVP meeting, and the reasons behind it. It's got a great comment thread going, as well!

At the SVP blog, Andy Farke provides reflects on this year's SVP meeting.

Luis Rey was nonplussed by Howgate's BANDit talk at Dinosaur Days, who used Rey's artwork in support of pseudoscience.

Mentioned last time around, but should be included in this roundup: Darren Naish provides a summary of the events at TetZooCon, including his own presentation, the wonderfully titled "Dinosaur Sex Wars."

The crew of A Dinosaur A Day shared the results of their readership survey, seeking to parse out the demographics of the paleo community on Tumblr. They presented it as a poster at SVP, too.

If you missed it, check out our own coverage of these events - Asher traveled to SVP and Marc headed to TetZooCon.

Albertonykus made his second trip to SVP this year, and has his own breakdown up at Raptormaniacs, including presenting his own poster. And he also made his way across the Atlantic to attend TetZooCon.

The PLOS online community voted on the top ten open access vertebrate fossil descriptions of 2016, which was announced at SVP. Read the full list at PLOS.

Tristan Stock wrote extensive notes on all of the SVP talks he was able to attend, and you can check them out at Notions of a Most Peculiar Dinosaur Nerd.

At SV-POW, Matt Wedel shared photos from his SVP book signing with legendary paleoartist Mark Hallett for their new book, The Sauropod Dinosaurs: Life in the Age of Giants.

Arguably, no paleoartist harnesses the power of the web better than Mark Witton, and in his latest post he's created a fascinating inner dialogue exploring the arguments for and against putting filamentous integument on sauropodomorphs. Also, a look at the terrific cover slide for his talk at Dinosaur Days!

Crowdfunding Pick

If you're looking for some nifty new prehistorically-themed attire, check out the Permia Kickstarter, which was launched in conjunction with SVP, where they had a booth in the exhibition hall. This new fashion and art brand has been working with graphic artist Diana Hlevnjak, who is working from skeletal diagrams by Scott Hartman. Perks include tees as well as art prints.

Paleoart Pick

Man of Principle Brian Engh could not pass up the chance to paint a prehistoric shark tearing into the carcass of a giant monster fish. So watch his process video, in which he takes us from beginning to end on his new Xiphactinus illustration, commissioned by Rebecca Hunt-Foster to accompany her new research on a specimen of the implacable ichthyodectid. She presented a poster on her research at SVP this year.

Brian Engh's "Resurrecting Xiphactinus" video, featured on his new Youtube page, Dinosaurs Reanimated.

Also of note, congrats to Danielle Dufault for her Lanzendorf Award in the scientific illustration category!

The other winners this year were Tim Quady of Blue Rhino Studio in the 3D category and Franco Tempesta for his Dakotaraptor vs. Tyrannosaurus in the 2D category. April Neander won the National Geographic Digital Modeling and Animation award. Congrats to all of the winners!

Friday, November 4, 2016

SVP 2016 report (with Bonus VDA from Bill Berry!)


Hello, folks! I'm coming to you at the tail end of an immensely busy and interesting month. In the past four weeks I've been in Montreal, Ottawa, New York and Washington, visiting a mix of family, friends, and professional contacts. I sold my first story to the Smithsonian, did a quick piece about possibly-carnivorous ankylosaurs for the Atlantic (co-starring LITC contributor Victoria Arbour) and have generally been running around like a small theropod with its head cut off. The culmination of the month was a visit to scenic Salt Lake City for the 2016 meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Mesozoic Miscellany 88

It's been a while! For various personal and professional reasons, the last few months have been a roller coaster. I've been working on this roundup for a while and decided it was time to put a bow on it. I hope to have another one put together soon to cover the blogging and news coming out of the recent SVP conference and the Dinosaur Society's Dinosaur Days. Let's get to it!

In the News

Sometimes, research is splashy enough on its own to attract mainstream coverage. "The Biggest Whatzit!" "The First Whatchamacallit!" Unfortunately, the majority of discoveries don't have an obvious hook - no matter how excited those of us who follow paleontology may be. Luckily, there's paleoart to save the day! Case in point: a stunning reconstruction of Psittacosaurus by Bob Nicholls, demonstrating the counter-shading apparent in a beautiful fossil specimen. Read more from Bristol University, Pop Sci, and Nat Geo.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Alton Dooley shares his views on how to effectively work those popular "sandbox" approximations of dig sites into museum exhibits.

At Extinct Monsters, Ben wrote about the new natural history arm of the Google Cultural Learning Institute, providing helpful criticism for a project that doesn't hit a home run every time, but seems to be a good start in making important natural history collections and exhibits available online.

Lisa Buckley takes a deep dive into fossil collectiong laws in Alberta, in response to an article at the Inverse,Exploring Canada's Socialist Dinosaur Paradise.

Paleoaerie devoted a week to prehistoric sharks in August. Start here!.

The big Hell Creek hadrosaur in Saurian has stirred up some taxonomic controversy, and Matt Martyniuk is here to sort it out.

Mark Witton pays tribute to the wonderfully big-headed erythrosuchids.

Speaking of heads, Zach at Waxing Paleontological takes on the heads of titanosaurs.

Listen to Cara Santa Maria interview Mike Habib on the Talk Nerdy podcast!

TetZooCon 2016 has come and gone, and Darren has a write-up at the TetZoo blog, as does Albertonykus. Marc and Niroot attended, and I'm hoping that one day when I'm not bound by the school year, I'll be able to pop over the pond to attend. The event looks like so much fun.

Crowdfunding Pick

Over the years, paleontology enthusiasts have been hearing about an incredible discovery in Utah: a collection of well-preserved Utahraptor specimens that had been trapped in quicksand. Well, it's finally being prepped, but it's a huge job: the block of sandstone trapping the fossils weighs 9 tons, and there's an awful lot of work needed to free the dinosaurs within. That's where we come in. A funding campaign has been launched to help bring these charismatic raptors to light once more. Utah State Paleontologist Jim Kirkland has all the details.

Paleoart Pick

Francisco Riolobos Bianco AKA Franxurio has paid tribute to the dinosaurs of his homeland with a series of anachronistic scenes depicting various species of Mesozoic dinosaur in Seville. The series is called Paleopureza, and it is delightful.

'Familia de Protoceratops en el cruce de Marco Sancho con Santa Rufina' by Francisco Riolobos Bianco, used with the artist's permission.

It must be noted that Francisco is a champ at #DrawDinovember, twisting it to feature animals that aren't dinosaurs. Follow Franxurio at Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

The Little Corner of Weirdness

Tim "the Toolman" Taylor, fighting dinosaurs. It was a thing that happened.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: How to Draw Dinosaurs


How to Draw Dinosaurs (by John Raymond, who appears to have been both author and illustrator; first published in 1977 and my copy from 1985) is an intriguing book that I picked up at a thrift shop several years ago. Part of “The Working Artist Series”, it’s a fairly large-format learn-to-draw book with the typical step-by-step instructions for how to replicate the finished drawing, although the steps are at times somewhat inscrutable to my eye. A major bonus, though, is the inclusion several sheets of tracing paper bound in front of the ‘finished’ drawings. The first part of the book also includes about 30 pages of drawing instruction and tips, including notes about materials, shading, lines, perspective, and how to break down complex forms into simple shapes. It’s a great start and I had high hopes for what I’d find inside, especially given the attractive (if retro) Stegosaurus on the cover.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wacky Hole

Imagine you've acquired a long-standing scenic tourist attraction, consisting of a series of impressive show caves at the end of a lush limestone valley with a gentle river running through it, the water feeding a Victorian paper mill. What might you do to draw even more visitors in? Some extra scenic gardens, maybe? A water feature or two? Or do you haphazardly slap in a truckload of enormous, garishly coloured, hilariously dated dinosaur models and a pirate-themed crazy golf course? If you're 'circus entrepreneur' Gerry Cottle, there can only be one choice.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Dinosaurs: How They Lived and Evolved - Marc's review

As anyone who's been there will attest, the NHM (London) doesn't seem to care a jot what hideous CG imagery it slaps on the merchandise in its tack-o-rama dinosaur shop. Notably, the same few hideous stock images appear again and again; there's a Triceratops with human molars, a bunny-handed, gorilla suit Velociraptor, a T. rex with a skull that's been through a mangle and retro JP dangly-arms, and a boringly generic wide-mouth Giganotosaurus with teeth that go all the way back. Sadly, it's the latter that's found its way onto the cover of their latest dinosaur publication - Dinosaurs: How they Lived and Evolved, by Darren Naish and Paul Barrett. Thank you, marketing twonks. Fear not though, dear reader, for this is a book that one certainly shouldn't judge by its cover.

This reminds me of something from a long time ago.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Inside Dinosaurs

Hello LITC readers - Victoria Arbour signing in! After several years of enjoying vintage dinosaur art posts as a reader myself, I’m very excited to be jumping in with my own contributions here from time to time! I thought I’d start with one of my very favourite dinosaur books given to me when I was 10 years old: 1993’s Inside Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Creatures, written by Steve Parker and illustrated by Ted Dewan, and published by Scholastic Canada. Although I’ve kept this book on my shelf through grad school and now into my postdoc, I hadn’t cracked it open in many years. What a treat to revisit this book – a lushly illustrated, information-dense, modern take on dinosaurs that is utterly unique in its approach. I hope you’ll enjoy this sample!

Inside Dinosaurs is a book about dinosaur palaeobiology and covers topics that are still receiving a lot of research interest today. Most of the book features two-page spreads on specific topics with amazing cutaway diagrams that let you peer under the skin of dinosaurs. But first, we start with a great primer on the kinds of data that palaeontologists work with: skeletal anatomy, looking at gross anatomy and fine details, comparisons with modern animals, and dealing with missing data. And leading the charge is good old Iguanodon, a classic ‘intro to dinosaurs’ taxon if there ever was one. You’ll note throughout the book a couple of charming and quirky approaches to the presentation: many pages feature human-engineered structures as comparisons with biological structures, small green globular dinosaurs clamber all over everything, and our human-dinosaur size silhouettes are all musicians.

I love this rad Deinonychus, caught in a supremely dynamic leap that is marred only by the absence of feathers (forgiveable given it’s 1993 publication date). This is a great example of the kind of illustrations found throughout the book, where dinosaurs are shown in various stages of unraveling in order to showcase aspects of anatomy fitting the theme of that page. I particularly like the inclusion of the mechanical toe, and the fish-eating Baryonyx making a cameo at the bottom of the page.

Each two-page spread features at least one large dinosaur in full view, and it’s easy to overlook the smaller diagrams that highlight interesting aspects of dinosaur anatomy. It’s one of the things that makes the book so rewarding to come back to and pore over – it’s hard not to dislike this little diagram of a Protoceratops egg and embryo.

As a person who spends a lot of time thinking about ankylosaurs and animal weapons, I have to wonder if some of my interest and ideas can be traced to this particular spread. I’m pleased to note that the ankylosaurid’s tail anatomy is accurately presented: tail clubs are like mallets! I have some different ideas about how the tail muscles were arranged on the pelvis, but it’s still really cool to see this kind of detail presented in an illustrated dinosaur book for kids. We’ll come back to that sauropod tail later.

Long before CT scanners let us peer inside hadrosaur heads, artists tried their hands at reconstructing just what was going on inside those crazy nasal crests. This Corythosaurus holds up pretty well, and I like the comparison with musical instrument sounds. (Corythosaurus is a French horn, Edmontosaurus is a trumpet, and Parasaurolophus is a clarinet!)

The dinosaur that most shows its age in the book is Spinosaurus, shown here in full “carnosaur” garb with Allosaurus-like head, four-fingered hand, and a relatively short, stocky body. Whether or not you agree with the aquatic Spinosaurus hypothesis, this one is definitely wrong. The book also prefers the idea of ectothermic dinosaurs but notes that this idea was not universally accepted - overall, the book does a great job of exploring alternate hypotheses for all kinds of things, and also emphasizes that structures often have multiple functions that aren't mutually exclusive.

True to it’s title, “Other Prehistoric Animals” that are not dinosaurs make an appearance towards the end of the book: pages about marine reptiles, pterosaurs, ancient invertebrates, and this excellent Probelesodon, a Mesozoic mammal that doesn’t exactly pop up in dinosaur books every day.

One of the most fun things in the book is the Diplodocus cutaway, with bleeds across six pages and three different topics (click to embiggen for full sauropodan glory)! We first meet Dippy in a discussion about necks, move on to a page about quadrupedality in sauropods, and finish at the tip of the tail on that page all about, well, tails!

This is just a small sample of what's inside Inside Dinosaurs. It's a great book that holds up really well given its publication date, and I’d love to see an updated version done by the same author and artist and in the same style, but featuring all the new information we know today: a feathered Deinonychus, an updated Spinosaurus, all the new things we know about how dinosaurs grew, pages about dinosaur pathologies, you name it! It remains one of my favourites, and I hope you’ll check it out in person if you can. Until next time!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

TetZooCon 2016

Yes, it's still going. The third annual TetZooCon was held on October 1, 2016 in the same venue as before, the WWT London Wetland Centre, and you know Natee (Niroot) and I wouldn't have missed it for anything. I'm quite sure more-or-less every reader of this blog also reads Tetrapod Zoology, and if you don't, well, you should go and read author Darren Naish's entire blogging back catalogue right now. Don't worry, civilisation will probably still be here when you're finished. In any case, grab a beer, glass of wine or nice cup of tea, and let's take a look at what happened this year. (All photos are by Natee - see the complete gallery on the Fezbooks.)

FISH!!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs of Canada

Five years ago (wait...what?!), I wrote a VDA post on W.E. Swinton's book on dinosaurs for London's Natural History Museum, which featured a number of artworks by Neave Parker. Professor William Elgin Swinton (for it was he) moved to Canada after his stint at (what is now) the NHM, and in 1965 he wrote the book we're looking at here - Dinosaurs of Canada. Neave Parker had, unfortunately, died a few years prior, but his influence is keenly felt in the illustrations by Paul Geraghty, which are as wonderfully stylised as they are (very) obviously dated. I don't half love a slightly concerned-looking tyrannosaur.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Book of Big Beasts

After my thinly disguised plea for new material from readers in the previous post, I've been lucky to receive a cavalcade of scanned and photographed Vintage Dinosaur Art from a number of lovely Chasmoheads. Thank you, all! I'll be featuring said submissions over the next few weeks, starting with this - Book of Big Beasts, published in 1954 in the US and written/illustrated by Bettina L Kramer and Harold V Kramer. (I'm not entirely sure who did what; do fill me in if you know.) The BBB comes courtesy of reader David Landis.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs (The Open Gate Library)

As you might imagine (and as I'm sure I've repeatedly said over the last three or so years), it's become increasingly difficult to find truly old books to use in Vintage Dinosaur Art posts. In recent months, all of my best eBay purchases seem to be from a single store, the aptly titled 'World of Rare Books'. When one does have the opportunity to cover a decades-old, illustration-heavy publication, it's typically full of tiresome Charles Knight rip-offs loitering around remarkably sparse backdrops, typically with all the vibrant colour of an original Game Boy screen. And I won't lie - this is pretty much one of those. However, there are just enough amusing quirks in here to make it worthwhile. Just check out that gnarly Ceratosaurus...

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Port Lympne's Dinosaur Forest

Port Lympne (pronounced like 'limb') is a wildlife park in Kent, not too far from Hythe, which along with Howletts zoo (nearer Canterbury) is run by the Aspinall Foundation. Port Lympne houses a huge variety of mammal species, and notably features safari truck rides through a sprawling 'savannah' paddock, as well as a number of very rare species that you won't see in many other parks. As of this year, it also features life-size model dinosaurs (andotherprehistoricanimals) designed by industry stalwarts Wolter Design. They're (often) huge, numerous, colourful, varied and actually rather good. Here's a selection.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Predatory Dinosaurs of the World - Part 3

Who asked for one more round of Predatory Dinosaurs of the World? No? Well you're getting it anyway. If it's any consolation, you might not have expected to see Dimetrodon and Eryops showing up in a book with such a title, and yet here they are. Pesky Dimetrodon, always sticking its giant fin in where it isn't welcome.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Recreating an Age of Reptiles: Marc's review

While recent years have seen a number of books that celebrate palaeoart for its own sake (rather than featuring it in a purely illustrative context), not enough of them feature explanations by the artists as to why they made this or that choice when restoring long-dead animals. Why that colour pattern? Why that crest of scales? Why that unusual plumage distribution? Informed speculation is an absolute necessity, but it doesn't mean that (good) palaeoartists are just pulling the lever on an extinct beastie fruit machine and cobbling together the results. Perhaps the best aspect of Mark Witton's new book, Recreating an Age of Reptiles (aka Rec-a-Rep), is that Mark consistently provides the informed thinking behind his speculative choices, as well as explaining the science that forms the foundation of all his art. It's easily one of the best palaeoart books in years, and not just because Mark's artwork is often very lovely.

Images copyright Mark Witton, used with permission. Remember, "there's a special circle of hell...located halfway up Satan's bottom" for art thievin' types. (And book pirates.)

Friday, July 8, 2016

Mesozoic Miscellany 87

In the News

Cool news regarding a shared origin of feathers, hair, and scales: Nicolas Di-Poï and Michel Milinkovitch of the University of Geneva have published research tracing them all to the shared ancestors of modern birds, mammals, and reptiles. It all has to do with placodes, thickenings of the skin in embryos which had until now not been observed in developing reptiles, though the same genes had been found to control these three forms of integument. Read more at CS Monitor and Cosmos Magazine.

Not everyday you get to see 100 millon-year-old enantornithine wings in amber! Amazing stuff. More from NatGeo, WaPo, and Earth Archives.

New research studying tooth wear patterns reveals that the Leptoceratops chewed like a mammal.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Missed this last year, but saw it pop up on the old Facebook recently. An interview with the one and only Dr. Tom Holtz.

The conflict between private and public interests in fossils isn't going away. At the Inverse, Jacqueline Ronson writes about an important sauropod skeleton from Montana that's in the hands of a private firm, the Judith River Dinosaur Institute.

Trish Arnold offers up a slab of 1993 pop-paleontology goodness with an issue of Time magazine featuring... Mononykus on the cover, of all things.

Meet the pterosaurs of the Liverpool World Museum, courtesy Paul Pursglove at the Pterosaur Database.

She's headed for Toronto soon, and Victoria Arbour offers a tour of North Carolina geology before she leaves.

Tristan Stock is not a fan of the "Montanaspinus" prank from last month.

At Letters from Gondwana, Fernanda Castano writes about the end-Permian and end-Triassic extinctions.

Gareth Monger celebrates the humble conodont - which has been gone from this planet since the end-Triassic - in a new design riffing on the poster for Alien 3.

Crowdfunding Pick

Mongolia is undoubtedly one of the most important countries in the history of palaeontology, but too many important fossils have been taken away. A new crowdfunding effort seeks to bring the wonder of Mongolia's scientific treasures to the country's children via a moveable museum. "Kids in the communities we visit will board the moveable museum to experience the interactive exhibits, and join classroom activities about dinosaurs, fossils and the relationship of dinosaurs to modern birds." Pledge your support today!

Paleoart Pick

Mark Witton's long-awaited book of palaeoart is out now! Pick up Recreating an Age of Reptiles at Lulu. Sit back to enjoy this launch video from Mark.

I love how he expressed the idea of "credibility" in palaeoart. His point that many depictions of prehistoric life can depict equally valid hypotheses is in line with my feelings over the past few years. Wouldn't it be great if at least some palaeontology press releases or media coverage included multiple reconstructions, driving home the point that there are no concrete answers for many of our questions? Anyhow. Pick up a copy of the book.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Predatory Dinosaurs of the World - Part 2

It's back - Greg Paul's 1988 magnum opus, Predatory Dinosaurs of the World. As we established in the first post, it's long deserved its prime position in the Palaeoart Hall of Fame, having been not only highly prescient but also hugely influential on almost everyone interested in reconstructing Mesozoic theropods. It was stuffed with the sort of truly fantastic and uniquely observed artwork you just didn't see anywhere else - theropods fighting ritualistically, having a nap, and gathering in family groups around a carcass.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mesozoic Miscellany 86

In the News

The most complete ctenochasmid pterosaur to date has been described in PLoS One, a juvenile specimen of Gladocephaloideus.

Two new (but pretty scrappy) theropods from Patagonia have been described: the carcharodontosauroid Taurovenator and the megaraptoran Aoniraptor. Check out the PDF here. These come from "a single locality located in northwestern Río Negro province, Patagonia, Argentina. This theropod association is composed of abelisauroids, two different-sized carcharodontosaurid allosauroids, a coelurosaur of uncertain relationships, a megaraptoran tyrannosauroid, and a possible unenlagiid paravian."

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Darren Naish has been writing a series on our current understanding of that beloved clade, Maniraptora. Start there, and then hit parts two and three. Oh yeah: like cassowaries? Darren wrote about them, too.

At the PLoS One paleo blog, Jon Tennant writes about sexing a T.rex.

"With a little help from his knife-wielding Grandmother Maribel, and friends Starlee and Captain Jim, Nate opens a restaurant that secretly serves dinosaur meat." So... read more from Prehistoric Pulp.

Brian Switek interviewed Victoria Arbour about her recent investigation into "Ankylosaur Fight Club," the paleoart depictions of battlin' tank-o-saurs and the physical evidence that exists for such interactions.

Beyond Bones, the Houston Museum of Natural History blog, told the story of the Chicxulub crater recently.

What the heck were dromaeosaurs doing with their wingy-army-thingies? Duane Nash has some ideas.

I recently priced tickets for a trip to New York City to see the "Dinosaurs Among Us" exhibition. I'm hoping it moves to a closer museum! For a preview, Albertonykus just visited and has a report for us at Raptormaniacs.

Check out Rebecca Groom's plushie Dakotaraptor, a perk in the Saurian Kickstarter at the $600 pledge level (currently sold out).

Speaking of Saurian, check out their recent post on the Hell Creek hadrosaur, and their reasoning for what they're calling it (even though I'll be whispering "Anatotitan" when I encounter it).

At Expedition Live!, Dr. Lindsay Zanno has been chronicling this summer's field work, including the not so hellish Hell Creek and a very good day which may have seen the discovery of a beauty of a Triceratops skull.

Crowdfunding Pick

On the crowdfunding platform Walacea, you can help Stephen Durham of the Paleontological Research Institute in Ithaca, New York fund his lab's work in Amino Acid Racemization geochronology, which can help us learn more about past climate change through mollusk shells. There is just a bit over two weeks left on the campaign, with about a third of the goal reached.

An update on another campaign from Walacea: The Virtual Museum of Natural History did not reach its initial funding goal, but the team is rethinking some aspects and keeping the campaign open-ended. So the more they get, the better they can make the app! Head over and kick in some money to help the team make this very cool educational tool.

Paleoart Pick

Check out Fred Wierum's Brontosmash animation. Gloriously retro depiction of a contemporary behavioral hypothesis.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Grapplers

I think about fighting theropods a lot. Since you're visiting this blog, you likely do as well: the scenario of two multi-ton predators going at it with tooth, talon and claw has long been a staple of paleoart, and remains one of the most popular subjects of dinosaur illustration. These kinds of fights certainly occurred occasionally--there's fossil evidence of some really nasty disagreements between tyrannosaurs, for example--but they've largely become either bloodless or cliche. Since I'm not personally interested in sketching gore, I thought a less-typical type of theropod fight might be fun to take a swing at.

But what sort of model to draw from? Perhaps certain big theropods settled things with showy displays and bellowing, but this doesn't always make for a compelling illustration, especially for an artist working with limited time. So I started thinking about some of the most compelling (and goofy) grapplers in the extant animal kingdom. I speak, of course, of monitors.



What's interesting about the conflict here is how quickly it's decided by weight and technique. Big dragons can easily kill each other, and sometimes they do. But mating disputes tend to be more ritualized affairs. Whether or not big theropods did something similar is hard to say--we don't really have a good analogue for the big-armed, big-clawed theropod body type anymore, since birds lack meathook forelimbs and crocodiles don't precisely wrestle. (Though as Darren Naish points out, passarine fights can get really unpleasant, and anybody who's encountered an annoyed swan is aware of how much use they get out of their wings in a scuffle.) It's possible that big theropod fights ended where most human fights do--on the ground. But I wanted to take the Monitor model of conflict for an artistic spin.

Abelisaurs were my first pick, in part because I found the idea of mostly armless dinosaurs neck-wrestling to be kind of fun. These are intended to be fairly generic, although they're based on Aucasaurus. The resulting fight is more of a shoving match, with both animals working on a fairly narrow margin of balance.




Still, it didn't seem quite right to me. So after more scribbling, I came up with a twist on the idea I liked better. Megalosaurs like Torvosaurus have big, hefty arms and powerful necks and chests: perfect for grappling dinosaurs. 




The result: two male Torvosaurs in the breeding season duke it out. Like the Komodo battle in the earlier clip, this tussle will be over pretty quickly: the male on the right is a bit smaller, likely younger, and has bitten off rather more than he can chew. I've chosen to emphasize the big, muscled forelimbs. Likely these battles would have been at least a bit bloody--everyone involved having massive claws--but I wanted to focus on the technique involved. Here's the finished sketch.





 Pretty goofy looking. But sometimes it works out that way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Tyrannosaur Chronicles competition: the winners

So who wins a copy of Doctor Dave's magnum opus? Predictably, we had a slew of excellent entries for this competition (eventually), but in the end we did have to pick that half dozen. And so, in no particular order (because they all win the same prize, after all), here they are - with commentary from Niroot and I.