Always trying to find new alternatives…

T rex Study copyTyrannosaurus rex has been depicted in every possible guise we can imagine… the next reconstruction always pretending to be more accurate than the previous. It is the favourite dinosaur par excellence. So I decided to have another try… a new possibility based on some beautiful pictures of vultures I have seen. Might not be that original and perhaps is a work in process… but I also attempted (timidly) to give it a beak instead of the usual lizard/crocodile snout. Given that the latest thinking covers most of the teeth, instead of lips I added a horny coverage. Indeed, the attraction of T. rex has always been the display of the powerful banana sized teeth in all their glory.

However, in my casts of T. rex jaws it is evident that even if they are fully fitted inside their sockets  (that in most of the skulls are not), there is a good part of the tooth inside soft tissue (being gums or something else) quite distinct from the enamel, that is supposed to be the visible part. In this reconstruction there >is< a T. rex skull behind all the external coverage.

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I have always opted   for the crocodile smile and overlapping upper jaw with the teeth in full show… this may not be the case although we might be proven wrong once again. In the meantime, for your perusal, here’s yet another trial on how T. rex may have looked while having a restful banquet.

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Bajadasaurus…where extremes reach a tipping point!

Bajadasaurus copy 2.jpgDinosaurs continue to be the source of amazement beyond all expectations. Now is the turn of sauropods, with the newly described South American dicraeosaurid Bajadasaurus. If you thought that the elongated cervical spines along the neck of Amargasaurus were a bit too much (and source of a lot of controversy)… think again while looking at Bajadasaurus: Same spines but twisted, facing permanently forward!

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The authors of the paper portray Bajadasaurus  spines as  defence/offence structures. However looking at it at a glance, those spines look extremely long,  thin and fragile and not horn cores as they have been described.  Imagining a neck-to-neck combat of two Bajadasaurus is easy to expect the spines shattered to pieces… this is no porcupine… it is a several tonne-long-necked animal, A sizeable theropod  wouldn’t have been impaled by the horns either.  This may have implications also for Amargasarus... Remember this old illustration?186.Amargasaurus copy.jpgWere the elongated vertebral spines really covered in keratin and used as “horns”  or were they props for a fantastic double dorsal neck sail that served as display, swinging from one side to another?  If we think about it: a theropod would have also been extremely impressed by such expanded neck, probably ornate with strips of colour for effect.

I see the option I’m depicting more feasible: It would have been indeed a fantastic display if they were sporting forward facing sails, tipped with pointy keratin sheaths, like exaggerated Trojan Horse manes. I can’t picture them as some sort of antelopes, unless the horns were exclusively for rattling noisy displays.Bajadasaurus copy2.jpg

The paper is here. The controversy continues…. and our fascination for the Dinosauria never wanes!

Bajadasaurus

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Dryptosaurus/Laelaps tribute to Charles R. Knight.

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When I saw the pictures, I knew I had to do something about it. Coinciding with a project I’m working in (let’s call it “Dinosaur Goredom”… and this is the second instalment… there are already many more I’m keeping in the vaults for later publication),   the now very famous skeletal recreation of a 1896 painting by Charles R. Knight can be admired  at the New Jersey State Museum and is simply remarkable… a specific picture of the two Dryptosaurus skeletons mounted leaping over each other in fierce battle.

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 I saw this in the internet (the excellent photographer is probably John Meszaros) and inspired me to do a fleshed reconstruction in extreme angles… not at all like Knight’s  classical, seminal version. Knight’s did a First… a rare attempt to make dinosaurs look agile and not swamp ridden or tail dragging as far back as the Great Old Age of “paleo art”. Quite a contrast with Zallinger many years later, I must say…

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In 1866 Dryptosaurus  was found and it was one of the first carnivorous dinosaurs from North America ever discovered. It was named  Laelaps by Edward Drinker Cope.  Renamed by Othniel C. Marsh  after its name became a “waste basket”,   today is considered a “Tyrannosauroid”, related to Eotyrannus,  about seven meters long and lightly built…. perhaps it might be also considered a relative of Yutyrannus .

I’m starting to address the problem of “lips” in dinosaurs… something that I had probably overlooked  in many previous restorations, where the lipless, crocodilian smile was preeminent. Lips are advocated by many, if not most, these days thanks to,  among others, Mark Witton and (even more extreme view) Greg S. Paul. However, an intriguing possibility crossed my mind while studying my foramina-ridden premaxilla cast of “Stan” the T. rex: the jaws had lizard-like lips like those of varanids? Or perhaps something else? I might be correcting  some of the old artwork and proposing new ideas in the future. One thing is obvious: A Tyrannosaurus like “Stan” couldn’t have possibly shown those extremely long and prominent teeth… the roots have clear marks that show where they were  inside the sockets; add soft tissue and only about half  of the teeth would ‘show’. The thing is: would the teeth be completely covered as in lizards, or they protruded from some sort of gums and then the jaws had fused scales creating prospective beaks instead of “lips” as the foramina might also suggest?

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Dinosaurios Hechos En Mexico. Monterrey and beyond. Our latest Dinosaur Saga.

 

When the “Dinosaurios Hechos En Mexico”  exhibition at the Planetario Alfa opened  a few months ago I was impressed by  the pictures, even if I couldn’t be at the opening. I knew that between Peter Norton‘s Gondwana Studios and myself teaming with top Mexican palaeontologists  René Hernández, Angel Ramírez and Ricardo Servín Pichardo we all have done a good job…  But what I wasn’t expecting is how impressed I would be seeing it in person.

Despite a few technical glitches  -Angel noted immediately there were a couple of mistakes  among the locations’s in the information panel and, given the size of the murals I also noticed some unfinished touches in my own digital paintings-   we could only be in awe of the excellent printing and mounting job.  The 3D dramatic quality of the murals came out of the walls, almost literally, rivalling with the inevitable animatronic sculptures. Perhaps the rivalry was too much in some cases like Yehuecauhceratops. where my Angel Ramírez-corrected version showed at the back of the old version of the ceratopsian! Or the paradox of seeing the  tyrannosauroid Labonania with “feathers “(mural) and without feathers (animatronic)!

The murals were also used to an even bigger effect and size in the Planetario Alfa stand  at the Monterrey Book Fair at the Parque Fundidora, where Carmen Naranjo gave the first  of her famous workshops for kids.

We all worked relentlessly for two days, including  another  workshop for children by Carmen Naranjo, guided tours of the exhibition by the three of us culminating in a sell-out conference by René Hernandez, Angel Ramírez and myself (unfortunately Ricardo Servín was not there)  that, being at the end of Saturday  was perhaps too much for parents staying at the museum with their children since ten o’clock in the morning!

In all we have to thank the Planetario Alfa staff and organisers , including of course Rosy Bustindui,  Maya María, Norma Guajardo and Angélica Flores for  their support and a very successful sold-out Dino Fest weekend. Hope this can be repeated soon. I think the pictures speak for themselves. Tens of thousands have visited and continue to visit the exhibition.

Next weekend, yet another event at the Museo de Geología this time in in Mexico City, where there was a round of weekly talks regarding  the first mounted Mexican dinosaur commonly known as Isauria (Latirhinus) organised by Arturo PC (with special thanks to him for this opportunity). The Geology Museum at the Santa María La Ribera quarter is such a familiar place for me. I had again the opportunity and pleasure  to meet quite a few paleo-fans, give some prints and even sign some  old and new, well-used books!

But the icing of the cake was an extraordinary conference/meeting at Ricardo Servín Pichardo and René Hernández paleobiology workshop at the UNAM. “Bringing Dinosaurs Back To Life and “Dinosaurios Hechos En Mexico” met with no sore-throats, no nerves… just plain fun with an extremely receptive audience of students.

Among them was the indefatigable, multi-talented sculptor and Gaston Design illustrious pupil,  Héctor Munive “Splintersaurus” and his son Elliott, that surprised me with a couple of really memorable presents: an exquisite, multicoloured with thousands-beads, skull of T. rex Huichol style”  and a fabulous miniature sculpture by  the extremely talented eleven-year-old, paleontoartist (as Angel Ramírez liked to call us), Elliot Munive of a Therizinosaurus over the nest, mirroring and complementing closely a painting of mine with the same theme.

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I was simply overwhelmed. The classroom session lasted for three hours and continued for another three hours and more, meeting  of friends, signing posters for the student attendants, and signing, you guessed it, copies of the Holtz/Rey Random House “Dinosaurs: The Most Complete Encyclopedia For All Ages” that is still quite popular.

I would like to add a special mention to César Daniel García… in his words: he was giving-up  studying Palaeontology until changing his mind after my talk at the classroom in the UNAM. I think that was a moment that made worthwhile the whole effort of this trip. Wishing him all the luck he deserves.

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I would like to extend may special thanks to René and all the students (too many to name) and  Ricardo Servín Pichardo (the rising paleo-star in the old René Hernández classroom and now responsible not only for many achievements like directing the restoration of Diplodocus or Isauria, but also for the education of many future palaeontologists), Rubén Molina Pérez and Eduardo Varela that  stayed  with us until the very end, and also the hospitality of Angel Ramírez, Rosario Chavarría and Angel’s wonderful mom! Angel left us to go on a trip to the North that will give us a surprise dinosaur discovery very soon… and I will be ready to reconstruct it with his advice as usual!

It is a fact that dinosaurology is extremely popular in Mexico, and considering the material that is constantly being excavated and brought to the fore these last years, I think that an exhibition like the one  at the Planetario Alfa is mandatory anywhere in the country, but specially in Mexico City, if possible enhanced and expanded with even more restorations, murals and  mounted casts of Mexican Dinosaurs…  and we have not only plans but the resources…any takers?DSC_2567

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Welcome to Dinosaur Goredom!

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I was familiar with a specimen of Tyrannosaurus rex named “Wyrex”  for a long time. Dr. Bob Bakker sent me a few pictures of Wyrex pebbly skin… but nothing else. We were at that time discussing the possibility of T. rex feathers. For me the fragment of the pebbly skin of Wyrex looked almost subcutaneous … but that is not the issue I’m addressing in this post. When I finally saw the mounted skeleton of Wyrex, it left me dumbfounded. I was impressed beyond anything that I have seen since the reconstruction of Deinocheirus:  more than half of the tail was bitten off by another T. rexand Wyrex survived the attack! It’s a horrifying sight indeed… and the simple thought of how that animal not only survived it but managed to balance a heavily unbalanced body got my mind reeling for a long time.  Indeed the worst enemy of T. rex in his environment was… T. rex!

For me the most problematic part of the fossil is the mechanical… how this animal healed such massive stump and could have walked? Was it protected and fed by a group of tyrannosaurs? The trail represents such important device for attaching leg muscles and balancing a horizontal body with a massive head! How the famous “shark on stilts” would have managed?… these seem mere academic questions: it did survive!

 It was time to illustrate it. As pathologies go this must be the most spectacular. Right at this moment I’m working in a project that is taking all my time and that will be the delight of so many dino-gore fans. And unlike empty, phoney dinosaur battles  in the movies, I am going to show  blood, guts and  and harm  in excruciating  detail! … well, more or less! In the next months I will be showing some other material … and I have noticed the wincing of horror in the face of some that have seen some of the pictures… after all we hate seeing our favourite dinosaurs being harmed don’t we? Or perhaps… not?

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rEvolution in Queensland!

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Just a little tour of Gondwana Studious new Dinosaur rEvolution, Secrets of Survival mount in the Museum of Tropical  Queensland… even if the space still doesn’t allow for the full scope and extent of the exhibition, we are getting there little by little! The exhibition continues its merry path all over Australia.

 Museum of Tropical Queensland Exhibitions

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Three Unforgettable Days in Copenhagen…

It all started with Mogens Trolle chairing the important, traditional Danish event Wine and Science … this year inside a much more massive auditorium (250 people at the Christian Hansen Auditorium).  “The True Looks of Dinosaurs” event would be shared  by Jakob Vinther and yours truly… It was a special day at every level: not only the very receptive audience was simply magnificent, but it was also Jakob’s firs conference in Danish with his whole family present!… we talked  about colours in very different terms: scientific discoveries  paired with history lessons and imagination… But also mostly we talked about how the image of dinosaurs has changed our collective perceptions through the years. Monsters? Not anymore.

 

Jacob surprised u with this very fine cast of Sinosauropteryx, finished with an extraordinary “painting” technique that transfers the actual information of the fossil. We really enjoyed the curious and inquisitive nature  of the Danish audience. A privilege talking to them!

 

As planned, next day I landed  at Gondwana Studios  “Dinosaur Familier” that is having yet another unprecedented success at the Geology Museum. A successful drawing marathon session that was the second I’ve done in Denmark over the last two years. I liked to see the progress of many  burgeoning paleo artists and I even had some collaborative games: someone may draw something and I’d finished it!

 

Since it was snowing outside as soon as I finished I revised once again the magnificent exhibition… those  troupes of Protoceratops and Psittacosaurus are so special!… Plus the Tarbosaurus juvenile… and massive adult skull (as admired by Carmen here). But nothing compares to the children’s art being exhibited… great colouring of some of my sketches, but mostly great new, original artwork.

 

The next day, the second marathon sitting and even better! Happy customers, and I got some feedback that I will cherish the rest of my life. Job done. The cast is vast and I don’t have the name of everybody unfortunately… Special thanks for their support  goes to  Mogens Trolle and his team, including our special friends Thomas Bang Holm, Bent Lindow, Cæcilie Ryhl OlssonKatrine Hansen and Marie Rubæk Holm. I’d also like to give special thanks to cinematography ace Anders Drud Jordan and his family, and very specially also Christopher Ries and Lisbeth Petersen.

 

And for those who would like to join us colouring… here are some old samples!

 

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