Wednesday, May 31, 2017

This Mesozoic Month: May 2017

On account of my globe-trekking this month, I finished up the round-up earlier than usual. So if cool stuff happened in the last 10 days of May, I'll include them next time around.

In the News

What do you do when you've got an awesome new ankylosaur to share with the world, but fear that this awesomebro world isn't gonna show up for a stinkin' ornithischian? Name it Zuul crurivastator, of course. Check out the excellent page dedicated to Zuul from the Royal Ontario Museum and read more from coauthor and awesome name-chooser Victoria Arbour, Brian Switek, Fernanda Castano, and Rachel Feltman.

One month, two hot new Thyreophorans in the news. The Suncor nodosaur has been fully revealed to the public, and it is a stunner. We've been hearing about this one since 2011, so it's pretty awesome to see this beauty. Paleontologist Dr. Donald Henderson describes it as "a perfectly three-dimensionally preserved, uncrushed, armoured dinosaur complete with all the armour in place, original scales perfectly aligned with the armour, all the fingers and toes (very rare), and probable stomach contents." It's truly remarkable, easily mistaken for a sculpture of a dinosaur than a fossil. Read more from Henderson at the Guardian's "Lost Worlds" blog, the Royal Tyrell Museum blog, and Michael Greshko for NatGeo.

Jianianhualong. Read more from Nature and Earth Archives.

Any terrestrial, non-avian dinosaur material from the eastern US is precious, and this month, we got another piece of the puzzle: it seems that ceratopsians lived in Appalachia, too. Read more from co-author Andy Farke and read the paper at PeerJ.

Around the Dinoblogosphere

Mark Witton wrote about the amphibious ichthyosaur hypothesis, including some great old art.

SV-POW's Matt Wedel talked sauropods on Fist Full of Podcasts recently.

Liz Martin-Silverstone wrote about a bunch of significant fossils from Canada in her continuing series on the nation's paleontological heritage.

At Dinosaurpalaeo, Heinrich Mallison wrote about Haarlem's Teylers museum. As you may recall, Marc Vincent also wrote about Teylers back in 2013 here ate LITC.

Paul Pursglove writes about the Biddulph Grange Gardens pterosaur at the Pterosaur Database blog.

While pterosaurs are on your mind, check out the Dinosaur Toy Blog's review of the new CollectA Dimorphodon.

The LITC AV Club

Since the amazing tar sands nodosaur has hit the press with a splash, check out this Royal Tyrrell Museum video from 2012 about the discovery.

The Empty Wallets Club

Check out Gareth Monger's celebration of extant dinosaurs, a new design series that sprung from a logo commission that was rejected. Turning lemons to lemonade, and all that. His first featured a sweet minimalist ibis, and he followed that up with a pheasant.

Crowdfunding Spotlight

The stem-primate protagonists of Paleocene, © Mike Keesey

Mike Keesey's Paleocene is coming to print! It funded already, but the campaign is still active for another week. Head to Kickstarter to make your pledge. I've written about the comic here before, because I freakin' love it. Here's Mike's explanation of his inspiration:

Back in 2000, my friend Michael Kirkbride pitched me the idea of a comic book set after the cataclysmic end of the “Age of Reptiles”. The story would center on little mammals struggling for dominance in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I was instantly taken with the idea. There's a ton of fiction about dinosaurs, but barely anything about what happened just after the Mesozoic Era ended.

But I didn't return to the idea until fifteen years later. Now a single parent, I thought about what it would be like to raise children in the aftermath of a global catastrophe. And so I began to write Paleocene as the story of a mother proto-primate, stuck with her children in the last tree standing, wondering where her mate has disappeared to.

An Allosaurus and Stegosaurus face off, illustration © Ken Kokoszka

Colorado artist Ken Kokoszka's Kickstarter campaign to fund a book of his #Dinovember art has fully funded, but you can still get in on the action. In the campaign description, he writes, "As I delved into these drawings I had the opportunity to revel in the new science that had developed in paleontology since I had last researched the ancient animals. So many new discoveries have been unearthed over the last two decades that it felt like every drawing was the start of a new research project." A sentiment many of us can relate to!

A Moment of Paleoart Zen

Zuul! When you've got an awesome portrait by Danielle Dufault, why not? I love the personality in this piece, and the striking green coloration is a nice change of pace for a thyreophoran (queue an avalanche of links to green ankylosaurs in the comments).

Zuul crurivastator ilustrated by Danielle Dufault, © Royal Ontario Museum.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book review: Maja Säfström’s "Animals of a Bygone Era: An Illustrated Compendium"

“Dinosaurs have intentionally been left out of this book to give some attention to less popular – but still fascinating – creatures that once lived on this planet.”

Thus begins Maja Säfström’s Animals of a Bygone Era: An Illustrated Compendium, a new book that I suspect will be of great interest to this blog’s readers, dinosaurs or no. Besides, Maja’s not technically correct – there are some wonderful avian dinosaurs that made the cut. And there are plenty of Mesozoic relations of the dinosaurs proper.

The cover for Maja Säfström’s Animals of a Bygone Era: An Illustrated Compendium © 2017 Ten Speed Press

The aesthetic is simple, but indirect. Säfström approaches her subjects with more of an eye for their alien charm than for strict fidelity to their anatomy. Rendered in stark black and white, with great attention paid to textural, patterned line work, her animals will appeal to those of you who appreciate a fanciful take on paleoillustration. There’s a cock-eyed, occasionally Seussian quality to the work that I find eminently appealing.

Säfström’s writing is plain-spoken, jargon-light, and witty, with some of the jokey dialogue given to her creatures reminding me of Rosemary Mosco’s Bird and Moon comics. “Wings are overrated – look at my beak instead. It’s huge! Best Regards, Terror Bird,” says a terror bird. The educational content varies from simple facts like the size of the eyes of Opthalmosaurus or the diet of Gigantopithecus to brief references to changing paleontological viewpoints on oddballs like Helicoprion.

No book is without small sins, of course (take it from me, the knucklehead who messed up the extinction date of the mammoths). The biggest one I saw here was the repetition of the old canard that the giant azhdarchids’ flight capabilities were questionable, but this just gives Säfström the opportunity to discover the glory that is Wittonalia.

The Helicoprion spread from Maja Säfström’s Animals of a Bygone Era: An Illustrated Compendium © 2017 Ten Speed Press

Small quibbles like that do not take away from the value of this book, which is populated by a wide array of often-overlooked prehistoric animals. Säfström lovingly introduces readers to such animals as Synthetoceras, Nuralagus rex, Coryphodon, Sharovipteryx, Pteraspis, and Macrauchenia. At the risk of alienating myself from present company, there were even animals here I’d never heard of, such as the “horned gopher” Ceratogaulus.

I’ve seen an upswing of interest in highly stylized paleoillustration online lately, much of this thanks to Johan Egerkrans’ stunning pieces recently shared with the Paleoartists group on Facebook. While more surreal than Egerkrans' work, I imagine there could be a healthy crossover between the two artists’ fan base. As someone who primarily works in this vein, it’s heartening to see support for such work, and I hope that Animals of a Bygone Era finds its audience.

Buy it here and read Säfström's post about it at her site.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Vintage Dinosaur Art: Dinosaurs (Books for Young Explorers)

Once again, Charles Leon has sent me a real peach. Dinosaurs (part of the National Geographic Society's Books for Young Explorers series) was published in 1972 and features artwork by Jay H Matternes, with text from Kathryn Jackson. Matternes was an accomplished palaeoartist, but given that his speciality and main area of interest was apparently fossil primates (particularly hominids), his name will be unfamiliar to many dinosaur enthusiasts (it certainly was to me). In spite of this, his work here is beautifully painted and easily a match for near enough anything else around at the time.