A Monumental Distraction… Now finally named: Borealopelta!

nodosaur copy It’s been a while since I do something spiky and scaly… no feathers this time! But I couldn’t resist the temptation: It is not very often there’s a find as this remarkable nodosaur fossil  now at the  Tyrrell Museum, the supreme Dinosaur Mecca  in Alberta, Canada and made public by National Geographic in astounding detail… the carcass, now named as Borealopelta markmitchelli,  originally fell to the bottom of the sea or waterway on its back, but turned  over and with a painstakingly good restoration work   we get an almost life-like gargoyle, a real  snapshot of the animal’s front, fully armoured and looking as if it was alive still! It clarifies a lot about nodosaur armature, and simply  the incredible brightly woven spikes  would be a deterrent.. and a distraction to the odd Acrocanthosaurus, busy following sauropod herds!

It is not the first time I do a spiky one  coloured red… While  Jakob Vinther  fully reaches his conclusions studying melanosome fossilised remains preserved… I picture a reddish handsome devil!nodosaur-fossil-canadian-mine-face.adapt.1900.1

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Bonapartesaurus, a new Gondwana saurolophine.

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Finding new Gondwana hadrosaurs is always an event. I have had the great pleasure and honour to restore this robust new saurolophine for my friend Penélope Cruzado Caballero, that has done her PhD on hadrosaurs!. She has always been the Hadrosaur Ace to my eyes.

Bonapartesaurus rionegrensis, published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology possesses a strange mixture for characters that reminds me of the tall vertebrae (hips and tail) that I found also typical typical of Mexican hadrosaurs, but now represented as South as  late  Campanian–early Maastrichtian of the Salitral Moreno site in Argentina!

Bonapartesaurus  is obviously named not after Napoleon, but after the legendary, charming, and sometimes infamous, Argentinian palaeontologist José Bonaparte (responsible of so many South American dinosaur finds), whom I had the privilege of meeting a SVPCA meeting in Oxford many years ago.

According to Penélope:

Bonapartesaurus  has extremely long sacral spines . The sacrals are very wide anteroposteriorly and narrow lateromedially. While the caudals have a very characteristic baseball bat shape. That is, they widen greatly towards the distal end of the spine.

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The foot has a very large bone regrowth in one of the metatarsals,.We still do not know how it could affect the life of this dinosaur. It is the next new project that I will carry out.DSC_0606.JPGDSC_0602.JPG

It is related to the North American hadrosaurids Prosaurolophus maximus and Saurolophus osborni and the Asian Saurolophus angustirostris.

Measurements: The femur has a length of 96 cm and a diameter of 12.4 cm. The tibia has a length of 81.5 cm. Bonapartesaurus was about 9 meters long.

Associated fauna
They have been found in the same area remains of the titanosauridos Rocasaurus muniozi and Aeolosaurus sp. There are also remains of saltasaurines and sauropod eggs of titanosaurides have been found.
Remains of birds, turtles, coelosaurid theropods and nodosaurid type ankylosaurids were also found.
Among the hadrosaurids found in the site was the species Willinakaqe, that is no longer valid. Among its remains we discovered that there were two different morphotypes, but we have not been able to tell if they are due to sexual dimorphism or two species.

Paleoenvironment:
Alluvial plain of a delta.”

I have taken some liberties (especially considering that  we don’t know how the pathological bone would have looked from the outside) and have added some dromeosaurids to spice up things! The landscape I chose as model was as a tribute to Penélope (who is Spanish)… it is the Asturias coast in Northern Spain where some of the biggest footprints of titanosaurs have been found… a little arbitrary detail to add some meaningful ‘artistic’ content!penelope 1.jpg

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Art, Science… and Neoteny!

DSC02931There’s hardly anything more thrilling for me than customising a fossil cast. It combines hard observation, painting and modelling skills and using the right materials. Above all, it is ideal to have a good reference you can use to copy to the last detail, but as you’ll be able to see, if you don’t have a proper Larry Witmer-style lab, this is not always possible. It is great to be able to alternate  from my computer painting to three dimensional work, and is very educational.  The results, although not perfect, have been better than  I expected, even if I feel I’m just an amateur in the matter. Thanks to the good advice of Peter Norton of Gondwana Studios, having been frustrated for a long time with the use of acrylic paints on resin casts, I found that  combination of enamels,  airbrush and brushes can achieve  the effects I was searching for. And there’s a lot more to investigate at the level of materials.

In the examples you see here, the biggest problem was trying to find the correct references  to use to finish painting the slabs… this Microraptor cast ( originally meant for the Dinosaur rEvolution exhibition) has been popular for a while and exhibited in different states of restoration  (some paint it with feathers, some without) .  Finding good pictures of the original fossil as reference was going to be difficult… and when I found them, they were not optimal… nevertheless having one picture is better than nothing, and armed with a good magnifying glass it became evident that the original has not been fully prep yet (not sure where it is now). It its very interesting that thanks to the lack of preparation, the feathers are almost invisible… but going over the photographs in detail I was able to find some of the evasive traces: a tuff of grey feathers at the end of the tail and some faint feather traces alongside the arms and legs. Enhancing the delicate claws and finding a “missing” tooth in the cast was challenging too.

This Confuciusornis cast was a different matter: I did not have pictures of  the original fossil so I had to use several other references and a lot of guesswork, specially considering that the cast shows the skeleton sideways!… and with this Berlin Archaeopteryx cast things were easier.

After all the detail of the slabs,  a T. rex predentary  was also quite a challenge of a different sort, especially if you consider that the teeth enamel itself represented a drastic change in texture and colour…  And there you have it: a lesson in Art, Science (and also…Surrealism) hanging on my wall…  as always.

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As an aside bonus, some non-dinosaurian stuff!  Being the Neotenic Ape I am, a collection of casts wouldn’t be complete without a good selection of hominid skulls (only two of them I customised myself) to understand where all this comes from. This collection has been a great source of personal study… and confirms to me that the mosaic of human evolution is indeed a struggle of adult apes trying to become the ultimate infantile ape: ourselves! You can see the frontal lobes struggling to bump out and create a forehead… and one of the most striking  examples is the Neanderthal boy as compared to the adult: this big-headed boy features are the winners  in our own species: Homo sapiens sapiens! There’s nothing more didactic than having all of them together on a table and “play the puzzle”… it would be so easy for creationists to learn… with an open mind of course!

 Never underestimate the power of the Runaway Brain theory, and the enormous sex display machine we have evolved inside our heads… we are no doubt neotenic apes  still playing with our inner and outer toys even as we die of old age… and we artists are good proof of it!DSC01388

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When Cardiff went an extra mile for Hatching the Past (Dinosaur Babies)!

 

I frankly thought that, after seeing so many settings of Gondwana Studio’s  Hatching The Past I was never going to be surprised by attending  yet another opening… boy was I wrong! First of all the team of the Museum of Wales decided that our exhibition was as important as it should be,  really worth the wonderful settings of the museum, and organised an opening event to remember… A labour of love. Children swarmed everywhere (obviously)  and were treated to music, theatre, pantomime dinosaurs and even a short introductory video that showed the reason of the enormous dinosaur footprints you had to follow to get into the museum AND avoid the broken column and statue that left that violent entrance of the pesky Tarbosaurus  of the exhibition!  

The drama was perfectly set for the general enjoyment… and Carmen and I felt privileged to see all my familiar pieces with the wonderful casts of Peter Norton in this  luscious, spacious setting. The dramatic light enhanced the specimens and enormous murals… different from any previous Hatching The Past events…

For us  adult attendants there was an extra surprise: they have on loan the ORIGINAL, almost legendary,  Therizinosaur eggs with embryos marvellously prepared by Terry Manning! We almost fainted at their mere sight (first time for me)… the detail is astounding and the preparation exquisite.  All this tells you a lot: not only regarding the great work  and efforts of the team at the Museum of Wales, but of the versatility of the exhibition itself, enhanced by the guests of honour: the original Therizinosaur embryos.  Don’t miss it this time either… everybody should enjoy the enhanced Hatching the Past once again, and again!

Many thanks to our hosts headed by the gracious Cindy Howells, that took us in a general tour of the museum and its vaults, filled with hundreds of thousands of precious specimens, from gigantic ichthyosaurs to microscopic algae … it included even 1830’s Henry De La Beche original drawing of Mary Anning’s fossil reptiles!

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She made our first visit the the Museum of Wales  even more relevant. I’m looking forward to continue to work with them in the near future. Hard to beat this setting of Hatching the Past in the Museum of Wales!

Fro right to left: John Nudds, Cindy Howells, Chris Moore, myself . Picture taker: Tracey Marler. Thanks to all!DSC03152 2.JPG

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Utahraptor’s Week changes everything…

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Scott Hartman has blown everybody’s mind with his new skeletal restoration of the intriguing giant dromeosaur. I seized the opportunity to actually “finish” my “Archaeopteryx Family” mural touring with the recent show by Silver Plume Exhibitions’ “Dinosaurs Take Flight, The Art of Archaeopteryx” and that might be arriving to your town very  soon, albeit (for the time being) still with the old incomplete mural… The reason it was incomplete was not the mystery surrounding Utahraptor: it was meant to show only part of it so the size would be somehow more appreciated and the rest of Archie’s family highlighted…

But, since Jim Kirkland presented it for the first time, given the new evidence, and having been requested by many,  I can show the new, full Utahraptor in all its weird glory.  Since Dakotaraptor is mostly unknown (and partly a chimaera), this the better known, ultimate giant dromeosaur! I say “weird” because Scott has shown us an unusually large-headed monster with limbs that are actually not what we were expecting. The animal is powerful indeed, but the hands and feet are small by comparison… all the force lays in the head, and short torso. The tail is also not as long as previously thought and more flexible, without those Velociraptor and Deinonychus stiffing rods.

So here, presenting it for the first time: the full mural! I don’t thing there’s a weirder, more magnificent  and diverse family in the animal kingdom… I’d like to add more members in the future!Raptor FamilyNEWCopy copy.jpg

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The Ceratopsians from Aldama…

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Our Mexican dinosaur spree continues! Presenting a herd of mid-sized chasmosaurine ceratosians from the region of Aldama, Chihuahua, Mexico indicates that there were more species relative to Nasutoceratops. The Museo del Mammut in the northern state of Chihuahua has tried this reconstruction, but with the clear exception of the frill and some other cranial fragments,  the museum present us here with a charming chimaera concocted with various unrelated dinosaur remains!

Ceratópsido Aldama So after working with René HernándezAngel Ramírez has set up and tried to reconstruct the animal based on its Nasutoceratops affinities… although it is not known, it probably had no nose horn and, just as in Yehuecauhceratops, the frill shows parietals that are wider than the squamosal.

Centrosaurino Aldama 2016According the fossils around it, it was hunted by small tyrannosaurs with Daspletosaurus or Albertosaurus characteristics and there were big tree trunks, since the region wasn’t as coastal as the others I have been depicting. Yet another window into the fragmentary, but abundant, fossil material from Mexico.

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Proud to present: Dinosaur rEvolution. Secrets of Survival, The Motion Picture. Live in Tasmania!

DSC06702Please click in the links…  Gondwana Studios Exhibitions

The Dinosaur rEvolution – Secrets of Survival Video by the Royal Society of Tasmania

Things are evolving very quickly… these videos  are just the starting point… and there will be more in the future with revised, added material and  a whole bunch of  revamped, updated information.

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