A foggy morning. Water laps gently on a rocky shore, a rhythmic sound accompanying the gentle hum of insects. Mist hugs the forest margin, creeping along the ground; it shrinks back as the heat of the rising sun burns away the last remnants of night. From the fog steps a bizarre sight: a long legged, quadrupedal animal, the forelimbs are huge, a long spar folded against the arm and projecting upwards. At the end of a short, thick neck is a large head, surmounted by round crest. The head ends in a narrow point, and the tip of the jaws curve upwards. The edges of the jaw gleam in the light, the beak extends along the length of the mouth – there are no teeth.
Shrink-wrapping is a process by which a thin film is stretched taut over an object. The closer the film to the object, the tighter the two conform. The term applies the same way when it comes to paleontological reconstruction of formerly living animals. It generally only applies to how thin the skin is, which reveals the underlying tissues in some detail.
The question of paleontology is that: Should you shrink-wrap your fossil animal reconstructions? The answer to this is trickier than it might seem at first. Really, the answer is yes and no. Below I will explain why.
Look at the surface of an animal, you will see what the animal looks like. Look beneath the surface, you will see why it looks that way. I’ve done a few musculature studies of fossil animals over the years, and these have been useful as both self-teaching method (to learn anatomy and muscle tone and art style) and also a way to show the differences between animals. I’ve not done a large variety, though. I have archosaurs, but of them there are no birds (egregious!) and even then, it’s “archosaurs” only so far as theropods, an ornithischian, and a croc. I need to expand my repertoire. That said, here’s what I’ve done.
Muscle studies for archosaurs. At top, Hexinlusaurus multidens He & Cai, 1983, Terrestrisuchus gracilis Crush, 1984, Shuvuuia deserti Chiappe, Norell & Clark, 1998, Rinchenia mongoliensis Barsbold, 1986, and at bottom a generic “segnosaur” or therizinosaurid.
Posted in Art, Paleobiology, Paleontology, Reconstruction
Tagged Alvarezsaurs, Archosaurs, Crurotarsans, Dinsoaurs, muscle study, Ornithischians, Ornithopods, Oviraptorids, Restoration and Reconstruction, Therizinosauroids, Theropods
Yesterday — on April 1st, which is about as warning bells as they come — I uploaded a post with a host of new art. This post is as much an admission that that post, somewhat subtly, is a joke. Well, sorta.
You see, it was my intention to use a little parody to poke at how fossils become reconstructed into living animals, the degrees to which some will validate a theory no matter how tenuous the claim is. Comparisons to this include, but aren’t limited to, the “always snarling” theropod, pterosaurs whose wing membranes look exactly as they had died, that the body outline of a flattened animal reflects that animal’s true outline, etc. (I could also say it extends to putting cheeks on dinosaurs or giving theropods croc faces, but I do that so often.) So I’ve annotated the post, shown below, to expose what I’m really thinking here.
Over the course of looking at the new specimen of Edmontosaurus (Bell et al., 2014) sporting an odd accretion, I had an epiphany: The “cock’s comb” was, in fact, merely a segment of the neck, falsely and purposely isolated by the vagaries of taphonomy. There used to be more of it. But it occurs to me that I was wrong, that there is, in fact, an eboshi-shaped soft-tissue crest, or a “cock’s comb.” (Also, the shape of many eboshi is exactly the shape of the bony crest in several oviraptorids, a useful comparison as they also adorn the head.)
Quite the priestly sort, this one, not the plebian I drew earlier. Continue reading
[Caption of this figure is pretty long, so it's placed at the bottom.]
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Last year, when dealing with the apparent basal oviraptorid Wulatelong gobiensis (Xu et al., 2013) I created a graphical chart of many caenagnathid and oviraptorid hands, so that readers could view the rampant diversity (and diagnostic value) in oviraptorosaur hands. It wasn’t complete. I knew of Gigantoraptor erlianensis but had not included it, not that I can do much with it given the authors never supplied measurements for its hand, nor had I done non-caenagnathoids (the group that only includes Caenagnathidae and Oviraptoridae). The arrival of Anzu wyliei allows for a revision of this chart, shown above. I include this as a new post to bring attention to it, and allow use of the original one at the original link.
When Helmut Tischlinger and Eberhard “Dino” Frey team up for a paper, you know it’s gonna be good. Almost certainly, there will be UV involved. The pterosaur fossils of the Solnhofen are especially UV reflective, which brings out obscure or often hidden aspects, including soft-tissue that is simply not visible under normal light.
Their latest is a beautiful specimen of a juvenile pterosaur, a maturing “flapling.” Caught in the act of growing, the fossil even preserves several replacement teeth growing in. Some details are hard to see (the sternum is obscured and small, the palate shattered inside the skull) but others are amazing.
The Painten “pro-pterodactyloid” of Tischlinger and Frey (2014). Images modified from the paper as provided by Dave Hone.