Thursday, August 31, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: August 2017

In the News

Meet Serikornis, a small troodontid whose feathers are utterly lacking in barbules. Read more at Theropoda and NatGeo. And check out the amazing Emily Willoughby illustration, featured at the end of this post as our Moment of Paleoart Zen.

Hot diggity, do I love weird Triassic stuff. Check out the twin-horned terror that is Shringasaurus! Read more at Everything Dinosaur, Letters from Gondwana, and NatGeo.

New research into the famous quad-flippered plesiosaurs looks at how they might have propelled themselves through the water. Coauthor Darren Naish writes all about it at TetZoo. And do check out the video about the research down in the LITC AV Club section of this post.

Patagotitan is the putative "largest dinosaur" now, finally getting published after years of notoriety and even display. And it's coming to Chicago's Field Museum, kicking Sue off of the perch she's occupied for two decades. Read more from Paleo-King, Ben Miller, and Ed Yong at the Atlantic.

Lemmysuchus obtusidens is a new teleosaurid on the scene, made to crush shells. And yes, it's named for Lemmy Koopa. Er, I mean Kilmeister. Read more from Sci News, the Telegraph, and WaPo.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

At Waxing Paleontological, Zach follows up last year's Hopeful Dinosaurs article in the wake of new research that puts Pisanosaurus in the silesaurid bucket.

Mark Witton writes an exhaustive post on the paleoart sin of shrinkwrapping.

Head over to the New York Times, where Asher Elbein has written a great piece on the ongoing saga of the tangled dromaeosaurs of The Utahraptor Project.

Los Angeles will be hosting next year's Flugsaurier conference, and Dave Hone has the details.

You probably like dinosaurs. Otherwise, why are you here? If you like the world-famous LEGO brand of construction bricks too, boy howdy do you want to see Gareth Monger's latest Pteroformer post.

Lisa Buckley's back with another post from the field, in which she discovers her first Cretaceous bird tracks.

Herman Diaz is on a quest to compile a list of every dinosaur natural history book, and you can add your own suggestions at ART Evolved.

Prehistoric Pulp has moved to a new location, so update those bookmarks. Check out the recent review of Michael Crichton's Dragon Teeth.

The Empty Wallets Club

Mary Sanche runs a great Redbubble shop called Thoughts Up North. If you love ceratopsians in brilliant hues, this will be right up your alley. I love her Regaliceratops. Such a frisky pose.

Hey, I got back into the dinosaur heraldry game a little while ago! Here's my Sauropoda family crest design, featuring a Brontosaurus rampant. I have some ideas for others but haven't had the time to really figure them out. But the 'pod lovers are covered. Available on tees, mugs, stickers, and more at my Redbubble Shop.

The LITC AV Club

Draw a coelocanth with Brian Engh!

Listen to Memo Kosemen and Joschua Kn├╝ppe talk paleoart!

Luke Muscutt talks about the awesome new plesiosaur locomotion research!

Crowdfunding Spotlight

We've obviously featured it on this blog in the past, but since Asher's article in the NYT has been published, I'll mention the Utahraptor Project again. Go to GoFundMe to contribute to this monumental effort.

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

It was an obvious pick, but I had to go with Emily Willoughby's stunning Serikornis illustration. The kind of paleoart you just lose yourself in.

Serikornis by Emily Willoughby, shared here with her permission.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Big Animals of Long Ago - The Dinosaurs

Remember being a child in the 1970s? I don't (on account of not yet existing), but having reviewed so many remarkably similar kids' dinosaur books of the era, I feel like I've been there. Tail dragging yet sprightly tyrannosaurs, chunky title fonts, sauropods taking to the land, vibrant yellow-green colour palettes, the oil crisis, flares, the birth of punk; yes, they were probably the days. Let us now introduce Big Animals of Long Ago - The Dinosaurs, yet another identikit children's dino book from 1979. But for one very important twist. (This is another one sent to me by Charles Leon, by the way - cheers fella!)

Friday, August 18, 2017

Dinosaurs of China in Nottingham: part 2 - Feathered Flyers

While the reconstructed skeletons of big scaly beasts dominate the main downstairs area of Dinosaurs of China, the real treasures are upstairs, where far more delicate, intricately preserved and altogether fluffy animals await. While some of our scientist readers will have seen these in person before, DoC is a unique opportunity for us mere laypeople to get up close to feathered beauties from China. And yes, many of them are originals, including Stripy Longtail here!

Notice the fish, bottom left.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Dinosaurs of China in Nottingham: part 1 - Ground Shakers

Have you ever wandered among the imposing corridors and grand halls of an historical stately home and thought about how much they could be improved by the addition of dinosaur skeletons? Then boy, do I have an exhibition for you. But more importantly, it's a showcase of numerous impressive skeletal mounts of Chinese dinosaurs, many never seen before outside their native country, along with an array of breathtaking original specimens. Dinosaurs of China is a huge coup for an obscure museum, a wonderful achievement of international co-operation, and a unique opportunity for British dinosaur enthusiasts - and Natee and I were fortunate enough to tour with curator Adam Smith.



Friday, August 11, 2017

Book Review: Dinosaur Empire

Cover art for Abby Howard's 'Dinosaur Empire' book

The gradual shifting of popular visions of prehistoric life has been a theme of this blog almost since the start. Looking at how old, mid-century or earlier ideas stick around longer than scientific consensus would dictate is fun, but one thing that's been rewarding has been watching in real time as the world embraces modern paleontology's increasingly nuanced and diverse view of dinosaurs.

Another cobblestone in that road has been placed with Abby Howard's wonderful Dinosaur Empire, now available from Amulet Books. Told in comic form, Howard takes the reader on a thorough tour of the Mesozoic, as a paleo-geek named Ms. Lernin takes a child named Ronnie on a time-travel adventure via the wibbly-wobbly power of "science magic." Anyhow, the book is awesome, and you should buy it, and here are five reasons why.

It embraces current palaeontological knowledge in an approachable way.

It's undeniably fun to get together with fellow paleo-geeks and talk prehistory. But sometimes, many of us will readily admit, talking with folks with only a superficial grasp on ancient life can be taxing. Dinosaur Empire is perfectly aimed at helping everyone understand and appreciate the history of life on Earth, no matter how in the dark they are to start - or what old notions they're holding on to. Howard's art is bright and humorous, her animals stylized but recognizable. Mark Witton recently praised Johan Egerkrans for his balance of stylization and anatomical fidelity, and Howard deserves the same praise.

It's funny.

If you're into Howard's comics Junior Scientist Power Hour or The Last Halloween, you'll be happy to hear that Howard's sense of humor is deployed just as effectively here. Using the form to her advantage, animals get to have humorous little reactions to and interactions with their environment and other animals.

An interior page from Abby Howard's 'Dinosaur Empire,' featuring a collection of pterosaurs.
A page dedicated to pterosaurs from Abby Howard's Dinosaur Empire graphic novel. Image courtesy Abrams Books.

It's about more than T. rex, and goes well beyond dinosaurs.

Howard realizes what any of us who have done education with kids realize: they want to hear the biggest hits, and quick. Her character of Ronnie reminds me of many kids I've met - her first order of business is to get to Tyrannosaurus rex. But Dinosaur Empire begins in the Triassic, and readers are soon introduced to aetosaurs, placodonts, ichthyosaurs, thallatosaurs, pterosaurs, insects, and more. Smok wawelski gets a page to itself. Eocaecilia, Castorocauda, Fruitachampsa, Morganucodon, Anatosuchus, Ocepechelon... they're in here. There's a page geeking out about the wonderful and gruesome world of parasitic wasps - in fact, where some books might include stinkin' arthropods as an aside, Howard returns to them multiple times. I was delighted to see how deep Howard went with her cast of critters - and just for good measure, she includes a brief appendix highlighting a collection of animals she couldn't fit in to the main story! I'm writing this with a big silly grin on my face in a tastefully decorated, quiet coffee shop, and I don't care what the other patrons think.

It's a heck of a lot more than just a simple roster of animals.

It's clear that Howard wanted to not only feature the amazing creatures of the past but put them into their context in time and in their environments. IMHO, she totally succeeds, taking the time to explain some foundational concepts of anatomy, evolution, phylogeny, and geology. She talks about protofuzz, pycnofibers, feathers, scales.

An interior page of Abby Howard's 'Dinosaur Empire' featuring a collection of triassic animals.
A page from the Triassic section of Abby Howard's Dinosaur Empire graphic novel. Image courtesy Abrams Books.

Abby Howard's love of prehistoric life is obvious.

Howard's animals are depicted naturalistically. They're nesting, socializing, drinking, feeding, hunting. Shrink-wrapping is markedly absent. Integument is believable, never too over-the-top with color schemes but not avoiding colorful and gaudy display structures, either. It's obvious that Howard wasn't just ticking off a checklist to fit so many of these obscure taxa in the book. She just loves drawing them. And when Ronnie finally gets to see her T. rex, it's a beautiful moment that Howard allows to breathe.

I hope I've made my case. This book deserves to be part of any paleontology book collection. It's perfect for elementary schoolers, but older paleo-geeks will get plenty of joy out of it. Pick it up, and send abundant plaudits Howard's way!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Animals of Yesterday

As regular readers will have noticed, I've received a great many scanned books by e-mail from Charles Leon, all very gratefully received (even the dino sex article). Animals of Yesterday, originally published in 1941 (with this edition arriving in 1966) is mostly a rather run-of-the-mill pre-Renaissance dinosaur book, stocked with the usual Zallingerian swamp beasts. All the same, it does present certain mysteries that I'd love for any readers familiar with museums in Milwaukee to clear up, and moreover it's a book from Charles' personal collection. I feel quite honoured!