The ongoing Spinosaurus Saga… now a nesting ground.

Faithful to my traditional custom of showing extreme views, I was compelled to do one with Spinosaurus. I had taken several pictures of a then intriguing, spectacular Spinosaurus skull fragment that was on display in Italy many years ago. Unbeknownst to me in those ages, the upper jaw was displayed upside down, as if it were the lower jaw! You can imagine my surprise when years later I discovered that in reality it was the upper jaw.

So what I did was: turn my pictures around and do a full study of how the jaws would look on a full frontal view. The results showed that Spinosaurus, contrary to many depictions including the obvious Jurassic Park one, had a skull that was even narrower than expected, almost gavial-like and that that the conical teeth were splayed outwards. It can be argued that that way it was better suitable for catching fish… But the evidence is not conclusive… many outspreading jaws are not specifically designed for fish-catching. The teeth sere rather big, conical as expected and surprising for any theropod. No wonder the Spinosaurus remains were once considered not to be a dinosaur’s.

Here’s my preliminary study that required quite a few modifications in the final stages. Spinosaurus is a puzzle that is far from being resolved. However, I still stick with the notion that the current evidence we have so far continues to show us a water dwelling-swamp dwelling animal that would be very cumbersome walking on land. It is virtually impossible that this animal would be running around in two legs, despite the current trend that has preference for the Ideal (as much as I’d love to be proven wrong…sorry Scott Hartman!). The hands are oustpread as in any theropod but more so if this animal was adapted for a virtually quadrupedal stance… more evidence is needed!, so this may change any time soon. The little mounds I depicted here are crocodile-like nests. The sauropods in the background are Paralititan

This is an ongoing project that will continue to be modified and show advances as we gather more evidence. This new reconstruction overrides the previous ones , especially in details of the tail. The final product will be shown in full in our future Kickstarter project by Hector Splintersaurus Munive and myself. A nesting ground seems apt since a baby Spinosaurus model is in the making and will be part of the project!

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Ubirajara, the controversy rages on.

At the moment these pictures were happening, I couldn’t post them for obvious reasons… this is Hector “Splintersaurus” Munive and Dahlia Castillo working on the first-ever model of Ubirajara, the strange, protofeathered and exotically ornate Sinosauropteryx-like theropod from Brazil I had reconstructed a while ago and was commenting in the previous post. He was basing this sculpture (soon to be released) on the technical drawing by the authors of the paper, and my own reconstruction…

Interestingly enough, I’ve just got this important article (courtesy of Marcos Pinheiro)

It seems that the publication of such valuable specimen is in trouble after all, and the paper has been withdrawn from Science magazine.

“This type of letter is normal, but usually discussing academic issues. In this case, it was different. In addition to discussing some points about the description of the dinosaur, we asked ethical questions, which are of interest to Brazilian society. The main point is regarding the legality of this fossil being out of the country, ” paleontologist Taissa Rodrigues told Sputnik Brasil.

So what next for Ubirajara? Ruffling feathers is say little… I hope this matter gets settled as soon as possible! I’d very much like to hear the opinions scientific and otherwise from the Brazilian palaeontologists.

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Having Fun with the new, revolutionary Ubirajara jubatus.

A while ago I received a commission regarding a very secret new paper about to be released. A Brazilian specimen’s reconstruction by the team of Dino Frey et al that was simply staggering… basically it looked like a very ornamented version of Sinosauropteryx or Compsognathus . I was very pleased to be selected to do the job, after all Sinosauropteryx or Compsognathus-like dinosaurs are some of my all time favourirtes and my actual “feathered dinosaur” saviour in 1997, when we, the Feathered Gang were all vindicated for the first time on stone…

This time, however, the stone specimen in question was a bit of a mess. Only a mass of protofeathers with two (or more?) protruding long (apparently straight) quills, which location frankly I couldn’t make sense very well as it was very incomplete, disarticulated and quite messy. Quite a lot of imagination was needed to reconstruct it, especially the external integument, that, for me, calls for bright, exotic iridescent colours .

I thought the reconstruction made by the authors was very courageous and I followed it closely. There was an issue though: the straight quills were a dilemma… were they there, where they complete? I started to play with its purported shoulder location. It was to look like a display items similar to the Bird of Paradise, with an extra hump of matted wills along its torso. After several attempts the authors seemed to agree to my last attempt, but after all it wasn’t precise enough for them so it didn’t make it to the finalised paper (link enclosed)

I now have seen the published paper more in detail, but it still seems to me that there are many possibilities for the allocation of those filaments or ornaments… so for simple fun, I’m showing you here the whole process of trying to make an incredible animal believable…. My two favourites are the ones featured on top… but please be my guest: you can select which one you prefer!

And here is the paper… I’m sure it will ruffle some feathers!

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Paleoart in Mexico 2. Metepec and Beyond.

In the previous post I chronicled a bit of the the creative power that Mexico exercises on me and my different collaborations each time we go down there.

Meet some more P-art produced under our shared spell!

Meet Frida Soteno… she might be only 15, but she has already won awards for outstanding art and clay work and is progressing at a breathtaking pace. She got her painting skills mostly from her mom, Blanca Jimenez. Somehow I managed to convert her to paleo art via this excellent notebook that she bound herself … there might be more in the future, who knows?

When her dad Israel Soteno and myself started working on the Spinosaurus jar Metepec style little did we know things were going to get complicated.

Little did we know what would happen when we put the jar in the extremely talented hands of Pichón López and his wife Diana that turned the vase into a masterwork of paleo-surrealism…

Then there’s the Paleo-Mexican food! The workshop of Héctor Splintersaurus Munive was also responsible for these amazing sugar dinosaur skulls and the special Day of the Dead Dinosaur bread (chocolate bones and all!). Velafrons, Labocania and Yehuecauhceratops.

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The Next Project will be coming from Mexico (again).

It was that time of the year, again. There were only two things that made would made us brave the elements and risk everything in these horrible pandemic times: going back to the Soteno family in Metepec and continue my work with Héctor “Splintersaurus” Munive in the Spinosaurus project. soon to be unleashed in Kickstarter! We found that despite everything, Mexico is well prepared regarding the very much needed precautions. We avoided any public transport and every place you go was well sanitised, usage of masks compulsory and our temperature was taken at the entrance of virtually every place.

Besides directly landing and having a fixed base in Metepec, Toluca, our only other outing to Mexico City was when we had the pleasure and privilege to be transported directly to Héctor and Dahlia’s magnificent studio in Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl, a rather alien place for most turists… but hey, we are no tourists in Mexico!

After going through Sebastian‘s emblematic “Coyote” at the entrance of the city (yes, he was an old teacher of mine from San Carlos Academy more than 40 years ago!) we reached Héctor and Dahlia’s workshop…it was a chaotic albeit well organised place where the tools are always ready and the casts abounded everywhere. I even found a whole mural of mine right at the living room!

And yes, we got on directly to a double online session of dinosaur chat AND drawings… unfortunately out of reach of the personal presence of so many dinofans that would have liked to be there… all were absent except perhaps a handful of the greatest, including the mighty Yadira Albor and family with Kinich (a veritable future paleoartist) and the ineffable Isaac Camacho (youngest and greatest dinoexpert ever… every palaeontologist should be scared to lose their jobs to him!) with his mom Jana Ceja. Thanks to Julius Csotonyi for carnotaur inspiration!

Needless to say we got on quickly to premiere a first glance of Héctor’s models for the project. I have already written a good deal as introductory text and all my Spinosaurus sketches and illustrations are going to be featured inside the (probably) 50 page booklet, and posters accompanying Hector’s awesome 1:10 Spinosaurus skull cast.

The project might include, one day, either a full scale Spinosaurus skull or even a great baby Spinosaurus coming out on an egg. Héctor was adamant to get this done based on the hypothetical sketches I’ve already gave him and can be seen in other blogs here. On top of that we had an in situ, step by step casting session of my biggest, better preserved, Spinosaurus tooth I got from Morocco a long time ago, a cast that is going to also be an award included in the project.

This excellent day culminated with a fantastic meal, previewing Hector and Dahla’s new restaurant-in-the-making “Eating With Dinosausrs” previewing of the wonderful Txapataraptor (chicken, what else?) and Deinosuchus Arrachera sandwiches… crocodile bread included!

But it was time to get back to our Soteno family in Metepec and Israel was giving me a hand to finish this awesome Spinosaurs jar, Metepec Style! Israel and I spent a couple of evenings finishing it… a culmination of the Spinosaurus season.

… but little did I know what was going to happen when I took the piece to to be ‘esmaltada” by the extremely talented Pichones Family from Metepec. They went wild! I gave them some instructions as to what could be done with it, but at the end they took the upper hand and finished this masterpiece in their own inimitable style! Take that dinoart lovers… here’s an almost Picasso like rendering of Spinosaurus!

Even the horrid, nightmarish trips wit Iberia were worth the aggravation at the end (They certainly did not cater Txapataraptor in the menu). I thank you Metepec and Mexico once again for making bearable these unbearable times. Hope we’ll meet again soon!

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…and now for the Spinosaurus Apotheosis Downfall.

I will leave this here. Almost no words necessary… needless to say there will be comparisons and zoologists will know where this scene is coming from, only that it is at such colossal scale that is difficult to think of it as “realistic”… at least is not a JP chimerical T. rex vs Spinosaurus… this is Carcharodontosaurus vs Spinosaurus.

We can imagine a slow motion ambush finally break into a frenzy. I’m turning the tables around. We have seen Spinosaurus playing the crocodile against other predators and non predators, and of course we know it was a fish-eating machine… but Carcharodontosaurus might have known precisely where the Spinosaurus was more vulnerable to attack.

Fanciful indeed but not as much as other flights of fancy.

I’m also celebrating that I’m again working with Anusuya Chinsamy in an update of our old book African Dinosaurs that she herself will be publishing very soon…

This is also a great opportunity to upset Hector Munive “Splintersaurus” adding this to our own pet project about his cherished Spinosaurus… project soon to be released that is going to surprise everybody (hopefully)… in the meantime I leave you with an invitation to the opening of Héctor and Dalia’s new Museum restaurant in Mexico “Comiendo Con Dinosaurios” (Eating With Dinosaurs)…date still to be announced, but most probably will be around the Day of the Dead this deadly year 2020!

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My Spinosaurus finally takes to the waters…

Lately, this blog is in danger of becoming an obsessive fan club of the Spinosaurus saga, but I couldn’t resist the temptation of finally doing a water-bound restoration of our favourite fisher kings… I understand that the paleo-art market may be saturated of images of him doing what he did best, but… political scourges, lock-downs , coronaviruses and above all, an overall horrid 2020 won’t stop any paloartistic passion for long!

Rest assured: this restoration is based in the most accurate references possible, bone by bone. Looking at the different fossils and reconstructions, I’m really starting to agree that the Spinosaurus genus must have had several different species with different characteristics, some were more sturdy than the others, but I’ll leave that for following studies and the ever elusive final restoration of a complete skeleton.

In the meantime for reasons of space I had the main protagonist hunting a smalli-ish Coelacanth. We know there were many bigger species living with Spinosaurus, but the gavial-like jaws were probably not powerful enough to deal with the enormous species of lungfish, sharks or sawfishes that were also contemporary according to Ibrahim et al.

It’s been a very long time since my first Spinosaurus reconstruction from 2001 (or so) and you can see much has changed! Will it change even more in the future?

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Yet More Spinosaurus! A matter of legs. The Ideal Vs Scientific papers.

I have always been a fan of the skeletal models from a very talented Chinese, popular sculptor that I found via Internet 袁圣钊 (Yuan Shengzhao). I recommend any serious collector to get in contact with him. Not only his replicas are accurate but he is willing to collaborate when you raise any objections.

I like perfectionism and that is what happened here. I purchased his new Spinosaurus skeletal model, hoping that such serious 3D reproductions would be accurate to the maximum.

When it arrived, it was indeed an exquisite replica of a modern Spinosaurus skeleton… only there was a problem. I noted that the proportion of the legs were not based on the paper by Sereno, Ibrahim et al… but it was a perfect source to look at Spinosaurus from what anyone would consider the new “Ideal” …the skeleton was in fully fledged aquatic mode and the legs size were “perfect”… only that the perfection was for an ideal model that is still not verified by the evidence…!

So noting that, I made him aware that the legs ‘should’ heve been at least a quarter shorter… and to my amazement he offered to correct it based on the Ibrahim model… and here you have it.

He sent me the corrected legs and now I have TWO sets of legs that I can compare (and maybe change in the future, who knows!).

So everything goes down to the legs…Yes you might like the longer legs better, but actually the final product is the one I display now and will serve me for future refereece in my new aquatic reconstructions of Spinosaurus…. this is a sketch of one that will be finished very soon.

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Spinosaurus Revisited Part 2. Spinosaur hysteria!

  • Spinosaurus SerenoEXTR copy 2There is a veritable flood of commentary and new restorations of Spinosaurus on the internet.  Most of the commentary is based on false assumptions that feverishly support this or that “Ideal” image of this poorly known, biggest of all theropods. If it is bigger than T. rex it must have been a scary monster and a fierce predator, not a useless aquatic wimp… isn’t it? Especially if most of the prejudices come from a B monster movie!

The story of the reconstruction of Spinosaurus is rather truculent, to say the least… and when Ibrahim et al produced the first restoration based on the known remains, well, he opened the flood. At first glance “everybody” (including me, the legs did not seem to match the rest of the body) concluded Ibrahim was wrong… there were two animals there in different stages of growth. After the tempers settled, the model stayed; at least it had to be a biped and/or it walked on its knuckles like a gorilla (only no dinosaur hand had knuckles)… whatever other possibilities except that it might have been indeed the first fully aquatic theropod and could not have walked on land as most restorations today show him…very convincing  CG ones included!  

But gravity doesn’t lie. All the walking restorations I have seen need to strengthen the legs or at least make them small but massive.  Nevertheless, the precarious balance that the real reconstructed skeleton of this animal show, sustained by its very long tail, trunk and neck, small pelvis and incredibly short legs that look weakly muscled, could not possibly support its whole 15-meter long, multi-ton frame freely walking on solid ground like any other theropod.

So I suggested that when (and if) Spinosaurus needed to use the land to lay eggs, he might have been some sort of dinosaurian walrus or some sort of Ambulocetus-like dinosaur that in a few million years might have become the first dino-whale! That is exciting to think for any scientist, but not for the Idealists. The Ideal now is trying to adamantly continue to prove that it is, in reality, two specimens of Spinosaurus in one… unfortunately for the idealists, they have no proof,  the tail finally appeared and according to Cristiano Dal Sasso the tail fits perfectly well and its elongated vertebrae creating a fin that looks exactly what you can expect for a rather elegant, fully aquatic animal.

  • 95174322_10222463399003407_7953047906154446848_o

I trust my friend Cristiano Dal Sasso more than I trust the idealists. Until more is known of a complete skeleton of Spinosaurus found in situ, the evidence is currently showing us a very odd aquatic dinosaur, with also the bone density of an aquatic animal. Spinosaurs skulls, in general, have been always odd and many doubted spinosaurs were dinosaurs at the beginning.  The model of Ibrahim et al continues to be current. This may change in the future who knows?

So I set my hands to work again on one of the old reconstructions that I did first for Anusuya Chinsamy‘s Dinosaurs from Africa,  and that has been evolving through the years. Yes, this is a biped Spinosaurus trying to find a place to lay her eggs. Note the theropod hands, based on Alan Gishlick’s work on the hand of raptors… this is obviously not a raptor, but the outwardly hyperexpanded digits are typically theropodian and could have helped in this bipedal-quadrupedal posture. The puny legs might have helped in the dragging of the body. You may notice my earlier takes of this same painting in this blog!

Very sorry that for the time being the Idealists can’t have their monster back. Can’t believe all this controversy is simply trying to get back a B-Movie monster but it is consistent with my thesis about Dinosaur Iconography embedded and twisted by the Media! In any case, I’d be very scared if I was a fish!SpinoBaby modified


And yes! I’m looking forward to seeing the 3D model by Hector Munive of a baby Spinosaurus I designed for him… watch this space!


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Even more interesting NEW Mexican Dinosaurs.

Titan newV3 copy 3Mexico’s Palaeontology is hard work… at all levels! The numerous but very fragmentary material has palaeontologists squabbling and scratching their heads as to what the myriad of fragments are. This time I have selected two new remarkable new discoveries: Claudia Serrano has just described fragments from a large Ornithomimosaur that she classifies as a Deinocheirid and called it Paraxenisaurus. If this is so, it is a revolutionary discovery, since no deinocheirid has been discovered in the American Continent. It makes sense though because we know that Tyrannosaurus ancestors most probably originated in Europe and went through to Asia to arrive in the Americas… but surely we can’t assume Paraxenisaurus is just-as Deinocheirus, with its many peculiarities, hump and strange skull. We need more evidence than just robust bits of legs and feet and other parts of the skeleton of this big ornithomimosaur (unfortunately no skull).

Nevertheless, as seen in the background of the picture, I depicted Paraxenisaurus as a large, really derived Deinocheirus-like ornithomimid (it might have also been a relative of Garudimimus or Beishalong) compared in size with a flock of other speculative ornithomimids “Saltillomimus”,(invalid genus) closely related to some of the many Mexico has produced., like Tototlmimus and others.

The other main protagonist is no other than Titanoceratops, a reasonably large ceratopsian with massive recurved horns… here in a mating ritual.

It is the role of the “paleo artist” to use the evidence and actually go beyond and start speculating. For a few professional palaeontologists and paleo-people, this may result in a cacophonous “noise” of species living in contradicting environments. For what we know, most of the species known from the north of Mexico are from the familiar Cretaceous fauna… most of the Ceratopsians are chasmosaurines Nasutoceratops-like;  hadrosaurs are either lambeosaurid or Kritosaurus or Edmontosaurus-like and ornithomimimids include now Deinocheirus-like big ones! And not only that, many species across Mexico have Mexican peculiarities that suggest common ancestors, even with time-spans of millions of years in between them!

I have done two versions of this mural… the second includes an intruding Velafrons.

In reality, this artwork should be subdivided in at least three illustrations… but or the sake of art I have combined them in yet another possible Mexican palaeofauna tableau… You can call this a Covid19 work in process…subject to alterations, corrections and modifications in the future! This is what Paleoart is all about… a marriage between raw data and speculation… we risk it to see if it survives the final evidence tests!Titan new. copy 3

Thank you Claudia Serrano Brañas, Angel Ramírez and Ruben Molina for expert feedback and headaches!

For more information read Claudia Serrano’s new paper on Paraxenisaurus.

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