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.)