Julius Csotonyi book and preview

Julius Csotonyi is the latest and perhaps best dino illustrator I have seen. A rare combination of supreme talent and vivid imagination, the work of Julius Csotonyi just blows my mind. Here’s a link to a Wired preview of the book.

Figure 1. Click to link to book preview and Wired article online for Julius Csotonyi. Just fantastic!!

Figure 1. Click to link to book preview and Wired article online for Julius Csotonyi. Just fantastic!!

 

Fantastic New Paleoartist: Andrey Atuchin

Once again, I’m going to send you to another website to see the dino-wonders wrought by a new paleoartist: Andrey Atuchin and to read his interview. His talent for light, form and detail are well worth the visit.

Atuchin also has his own website: http://dinoart1.narod.ru

And his own Deviant Art page: http://olorotitan.deviantart.com

Figure 1 Demandasaurus and company by Andrey Atuchin. Click to go to his website.

Figure 1 Demandasaurus and company by Andrey Atuchin. Click to go to his website.

Highest marks for this very talented young artist.

Tribute to Doug Henderson, Paleoartist

Perhaps no other paleoartist cares more about the environment of his subjects than does Doug Henderson. Sometimes it is hard to find the animals in the layout filled with rotting logs and misty swamps. Henderson paints with light and so takes his creations beyond mere graphics and elevates it to art. Now there is a YouTube video tribute that is linked here. I enjoy all of Henderson’s artwork. He never fails to amaze.

Click to view YouTube video of Doug Henderson paleo artwork.

Click to view YouTube video of Doug Henderson paleo artwork.

Robert Nicholls – A New Paleoartist

I’m always the last one to know about new talent.
Today, it’s Robert Nicholls, a paleo artist whose website can be accessed here.

 Kronosaurus by Robert Nicholls.

Figure 1. Kronosaurus by Robert Nicholls.

Hylonomus sculpture by Robert Nicholls.

Figure 2. Hylonomus sculpture by Robert Nicholls.

Leedsichthys by Robert Nicholls.

Figure 3. Leedsichthys by Robert Nicholls.

With exciting POVs, moody lighting and good morphologies Nicholls’ work stands at the forefront of what’s out there now.

Nicholls will next be working with the Bristol Dinosaur Project with details and more images here.

Jason Brougham Deinonychus skeleton model

This is excellent!

Figure 1. Deinonychus skeleton model by Jason Brougham. Click to learn more.

Figure 1. Deinonychus skeleton model by Jason Brougham. Click to learn more.

And if you haven’t become acquainted with artist/scientist, Jason Brougham, I hope you do so now. Incredible and accurate detail, dynamic pose and very birdy.

Lateral view of Deinonychus by Jason Brougham.

Figure 2. Lateral view of Deinonychus by Jason Brougham.

It’s not very often that a skeleton seems this alive.

See more at jasonbrougham.com

Scathing Book Review – Pterosaurs by Mark Witton 2013 – part 2

I finally got the new Witton pterosaur book from Amazon.
Most of the topics you’ll read here have been posted before.

pterosaurs-wittonWith his new book, Pterosaurs, Witton (2013) continues to stick his head in the sand (or wear his professional blinders), avoiding and dismissing the best testable evidence for pterosaur origins, wing shape, take-off, phylogeny, ontogeny, morphology, gender identification and reproduction. (Which is why the Pterosaur Heresies is needed, to right these wrongs). Here’s yet another expert disfiguring pterosaurs big time.

Of  course his artwork is beautiful, flaws and all. And his writing style is friendly, informative and a joy to read, until you come up against bogus information and images. Then you wonder why has the world gone topsy-turvy, where amateurs provide better, more accurate evidence and more parsimonious explanations than professionals do?!

And it’s not just that we disagree.
I am pointing out factual errors here that can be tested by looking at specimens.

Case in point
Earlier we talked about the first few chapters of Pterosaurs in which Witton ignores the four outgroup taxa closest to pterosaurs: Langobardisaurus, Cosesaurus, Sharovipteryx and Longisquama. Witton did produce his version of Sharovipteryx, which explains much of the problem and why he dismissed it. Here it is (Fig.1). See if you can see where Witton pays little heed to accuracy.

Figure 2. This is what scientists call complete fantasy and total disregard for data. Upper images from Witton 2013, in which he simply made up the proportions of the pedal elements for Sharovipteryx. No wonder he didn't see the phylogenetic connection to pterosaurs! Below, the actual proportions traced from an 8x10 transparency taken after personal examination of the fossil. Like pterosaurs, cosesaurs, langobardisaurs,  Tanystropheus and Huehuecuetzpalli, Sharovipteryx had a short metatarsal 5 and an elongated p5.1. It's a key trait for this clade. Don't tell me pterosaurs just appeared out of nowhere. Here's the evidence of kinship.

Figure 2. This is what scientists call complete fantasy and total disregard for data. Upper images from Witton 2013, in which he simply made up the proportions of the pedal elements for Sharovipteryx. Lower image from yours truly after examining the specimen firsthand. No wonder he didn’t see the phylogenetic connection to pterosaurs! Like pterosaurs, cosesaurs, langobardisaurs, Tanystropheus and Huehuecuetzpalli, Sharovipteryx had a short metatarsal 5 and an elongated p5.1. It’s a key trait for this clade. Don’t tell me pterosaurs just appeared out of nowhere. Here’s the evidence of kinship.

I rolled my eyes so far back that I actually saw my brain.
Witton (2013) disfigured Sharovipteryx by completely imagining the proportions of the pedal elements. There’s not even a feeble attempt at accuracy here. And because Witton put his blinders on he completely missed the unique morphological similarities in the pes shared by Sharovipteryx and pterosaurs. This is why I earlier stated that Witton was ill-prepared to write a book on pterosaurs. This is not about ‘not knowing’ the correct data. This is about ‘not wanting to know’ the correct data, which has been around for forty years.

If you are of the opinion
that my work (Fig. 1) is flawed, check out the original paper, Sharov (1971), who made the same tracing.

And if you’re friends with Mark
Yes, he’s a great guy and tries hard, but he fkd up here. Don’t run to his defense. There is no defense for this. Earlier Witton slammed ReptileEvolution.com in general. Here, as elsewhere, I’m being surgically precise with my critique. I’m simply trying to lift the blinders off those who profess to be experts in pterosaurs. If you’re an expert, act like it. Be professional. Test ideas and observations. Don’t just follow tradition, especially when you profess to not know the answer. And for Pete’s sake, don’t make up things out of your imagination.

Note that,
even in his figure of Sharovipteryx, Witton ignores several other key traits shared with pterosaurs to the exclusion of basal archosaurs: 1) Elongated and retracted naris (long premaxilla); 2) Large orbit, or is that the antorbital fenestra?; 3) Short torso (knee can reach the shoulder); 4) Elongated ilium (capturing more than four sacrals); 5) Attenuated caudals with chevrons parallel and appressed to centra; 6) Tibia longer than femur: 7) Fibula attenuated and 8) the big one, uropatagia (soft tissue trailing the hind limbs (Witton invents most of the soft tissue in front of the femur. See Fig 3.)). Evidently Witton eschews hard evidence and phylogenetic analysis. I find it answers many, many problems.

Figure 2. Sharovipteryx mirabilis in various views. No pycnofibers added yet. Click to learn more.

Figure 3. Sharovipteryx mirabilis in various views. Trailing membrane on the hand is guesswork based on phylogenetic bracketing. Note, there is a soft tissue flap in front of the femur, but it does not connect to the torso, which, in reality is circular in dorsal view with wide flat ribs. And yes, Sharovipteryx has prepubes, a pterosaurian trait inherited from Cosesaurus.

Simply having an elongated pedal digit 5 puts Sharovipteryx and pterosaurs outside of virtually all archosauriforms (they have vestiges) and squarely in kinship with tritosaur lizards, like Huehuecuetzpalli, which shares some of the traits listed above.

Witton doesn’t like pterosaurs as highly derived lizards
Witton (2013, p. 17) reports, “There seems little similarity between the skulls of pterosaurs and the highly modified, mobile skulls of squamates, or any similarity between the trunk and limb skeletons of each group.” This is, of course, bogus data (imprecise to untrue) to draw you off. Pterosaurs are not related to squamates (Iguania and Scleroglossa), but to a third, more basal lepidosaur clade, the Tritosauria, that did not have a mobile skull and did not fuse the ankle bones. Again, putting his blinders on, and following in the footsteps of Dr. David Unwin, Witton does not introduce his readers to the following lepidosaurs: Huehuecuetzpalli, Macrocnemus, Cosesaurus and Longisquama, all of which demonstrate a gradually increasing list of pterosaur traits as detailed here.

In order to further dismiss my work, Witton references Hone and Benton (2007) which has been lauded as one of the worst papers of all time based on the fact that they set up a battle between the fenestrasaurs and archosaurs, then eliminated the fenestrasaurs from consideration and declared archosaurs the winners. They also had typos in their matrix (found by Bennett 2012) which they used to dismiss data. And there were many other problems listed here. I just want to ask Dr. Witton, “Where is the critical thinking?” I know it’s easy to cozy up to your friends’ work and difficult to accept others’, but really, you have to examine the evidence without bias.

Final pertinent note
Witton reports that my work has received little attention due to my “highly controversial techniques used in his analyses and anatomical interpretations.” At least I don’t just make the stuff up (see Fig. 1) !!!!! Dr. Witton, this is really “the pot calling the kettle black.” Please look at the specimen or get precise references next time. It will solve lots of problems and get us back on the right track.

As always, if anyone has better data, I am known to frequently make corrections wherever warranted. Just made a bunch this week.

More later.

References
Bennett SC 2012. 
The phylogenetic position of the Pterosauria within the Archosauromorpha re-examined. Historical Biology. iFirst article, 2012, 1–19.
Peters D 2000. A Redescription of Four Prolacertiform Genera and Implications for Pterosaur Phylogenesis. Rivista Italiana di Paleontologia e Stratigrafia 106 (3): 293–336.
Peters D 2011. A Catalog of Pterosaur Pedes for Trackmaker Identification. Ichnos 18(2):114-141. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10420940.2011.573605
Sharov AG 1971. New flying reptiles from the Mesozoic of Kazakhstan and Kirghizia. – Transactions of the Paleontological Institute, Akademia Nauk, USSR, Moscow, 130: 104–113 [in Russian].

Therapsids 1982 – A Tribute To Artist Mark Hallett

When I turned to this page in Science Digest, November 1982, my life changed. The next 30 years were largely devoted to learning more and contributing whenever possible to the science of paleontology (much to the distress of paleontologists everywhere). But enough about me. Let’s talk about the artist who designed this page, the original source of all this continuing inspiration.

The March of the Mammals (actually the synapsid family tree) as illustrated by Mark Hallett in the November issue of Science Digest, page 62. This image caught my eye and changed my life.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. The March of the Mammals as illustrated by Mark Hallett in the November 1982 issue of Science Digest, page 62. This fantastic image caught my eye, stirred my imagination and changed my life. The stains, tape and wrinkles attest to its importance over the last 30 years.

 Mark Hallett at work.

Figure 2. Mark Hallett at work.

This is the art of Mark Hallett
We all learn something of great value from Mark Hallett and his work. To see his art is to behold talent, insight and technique that is sure to inspire. To see his studio, festooned with a vast menagerie of dino-things, is to think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

The above article in Science Digest (Fig. 1, Class Struggle: The Rise of the Mammal, text and illustrations by Mark Hallett) opened my eyes to a subject I had not thought much about since the days of those Marx dinosaur toys in the 1960s. Inspired by what I saw and excited by the new world that Hallett presented, I started gathering all the data I could about dinosaurs and other odd reptiles. Shortly thereafter I started putting together “Giants of Land, Sea and Air – Past and Present” and thereafter several other books and websites. Before long there were full scale dinosaurs in the garage, papers, abstracts and visits to local schools as a guest speaker. I dropped paying clients to focus on the work, and I found my passion — all because of this one gorgeous page of therapsids.

An inspiration to us all
I learned how to illustrate by trying to copy Mark Hallett’s work and there was a lot of it back then. Today Mark has his own website at hallettpaleoart.com featuring on the homepage his famous sauropod family on the mudflats (I like the narrow wings on his pterosaurs!).

A poster combining many of the dinosaurs from Mark's Zoobook: Dinosaurs.

Figure 3. A poster combining many of the dinosaurs from Hallett’s Zoobook: Dinosaurs. Just drink in the glory and wonder!

Mark Hallett's art for the cover of a Seismosaurus book.

Figure 4. Mark Hallett’s art for the cover of a Seismosaurus book. Remember books? They are the phylogenetic ancestors of pdf files.

Hallett has has created dinosaur art for National Geographic, Disney, Universal Studios and many more, including several children’s magazines. His work for Zoobooks, Dinosaurs (1984), was my guidebook and inspiration for skin color, pose, etc. For many, including yours truly, it was an introduction to all that was new about dinosaurs.

I had the pleasure of meeting Hallett several times and always found him engaging and encouraging.

Sadly, Science Digest lasted only another four years, ceasing publication in 1986 under competitive pressure from two new science magazines, Omni and Discover. I have to confess, for those last four years I kept thumbing through Science Digest hoping to recapture that initial buzz. And now you know.

Looking toward the future
I hope others will likewise consider Mark Hallett as their virtual mentor and inspiration and take it all to the next level. I know many of you caught the same buzz.

The “Imaginary Pterosaur” Artist, Helder da Rocha and his peek into Rio Ptero 2013

Helder da Rocha builds pterosaurs. Lots of them!
And you can read all about them at his blog, The Imaginary Pterosaur at WordPress.com.

Helder da Rocha, sculptor of the Imaginary Pterosaur  and its blog.

Figure 1. Helder da Rocha, a wonderful pterosaur sculptor and blogger.

In his own words
“Helder da Rocha is a nomadic computer scientist, traveller, writer, actor, musician and visual artist who lives (most of the time) in São Paulo, Brazil. Some of his other works can be found in this Flickr gallery or in his personal website. He can be contacted via email (helder dot darocha at gmail dot com) or Facebook.

South America in the Early Cretaceous
The home of many of the most spectacular pterosaurs of all time is Brazil and da Rocha is right where he needs to be to access these wonders of the Early Cretaceous. Brazil was also home for the third pterosaur symposium, Rio Ptero 2013.

Rio Ptero 2013 Exhibitor
Da Rocha was an exhibitor at Rio Ptero 2013 and provided many wonderful photos (Fig. 2) of the symposium at his blogsite. There’s even a YouTube video of the event. Well worth seeing! Here are several of da Rocha’s pterosaur skeleton sculptures, centerpieces for the Rio Pterosaur art show.

Figure 2. Pterosaur bone sculptures by Hector da Rocha as centerpieces for Rio Ptero 2013.

Figure 2. Pterosaur bone sculptures by Helder da Rocha as centerpieces for Rio Ptero 2013.

Da Rocha also exhibited at the First Brazilian Dinosaur Symposium with more images of his work here.

Beginning with Guidraco
Inspired by the skull-only pterosaur Guidraco (Fig. 3), da Rocha set out to imagine the rest of it. Hence the title of his blog. He did pretty well. Here is his first blog post dated March 2012.

Da Rocha takes his readers through the process of building Guidraco and later, other large pterosaurs. Here (fig. 3) is the skull carved from foam at an early stage of construction.

 Guidraco sculpture by Helder da Rocha at an early stage of construction.

Figure 3. Guidraco sculpture by Helder da Rocha at an early stage of construction.

Step-by-step instruction
I applaud da Rocha’s talents and efforts at creating full scale pterosaur skeletons. If you want to learn how he does it, he tells you, step-by-step in his blog.

Minor issues
I can’t agree with the way da Rocha puts a few of the bones together (for instance, he mounted Tupuxuara doing a forelimb leap with medial hands facing posteriorly, and the pteroids should be on the proximal carpals, not emerging from the preaxial carpals, fig. 4). Apparently others also had issues with his pterosaurs poses. Da Rocha reports, “I would like to thank Christopher Bennett, Darren Naish, Nathan Carroll, Ashley Poust, David Unwin and Felipe Pinheiro for pointing out inaccuracies in the assembly, which I was able to fix.” 

Be careful, Helder.
I only know a few of those names. Some of those experts have promoted a raft of falsifiable hypotheses in the past, all documented at PterosaurHeresies.Wordpress.com. The world of pterosaurs is filled with opinions based on evidence and other opinions that ignore the evidence, which is why the PterosaurHeresies blog has been created — to separate one from the other.

Tupuxuara by Helder da Rocha in a controversial forelimb launch pose with medial hands facing posteriorly.

Figure 4. Tupuxuara by Helder da Rocha in a controversial forelimb launch pose with medial hands facing posteriorly.

Helder Da Rocha is a young man with talent,
drive and decades of creative production ahead of him. I see him as a future leader in the world of pterosaurs. His foam sculpture techniques appear to create accurate work that is lighter, cheaper and faster to create than traditional sculpture techniques.

References
Helder da Rocha’s Imaginary pterosaur blogsite

John Conway – Paleoartist extraordinaire

John Conway is a paleoartist whose work deserves a wider audience. I encourage all readers to check out his website here.

Conway has the eye of a true artist. His work is simply beautiful. He also brings new insight into familiar and not so familiar specimens. His choice of colors, point-of-view and lighting are unique and more than satisfying. His work invites close inspection and admiration. His work evokes mood and involvement.

Here’s a selection from his homepage.

The art of John Conway. Click to go to his website.

Figure 1. The art of John Conway. Click to go to enlarge and go to his website.

Sure I have the usual rant/quibbles
about his Rhamphorhynchus (he followed the invalidated Sordes cruropatagium model of Sharov/Bakhurina/Unwin), but those are easily overlooked when seduced by his talents for portraying it. In any case, Conway illustrated this falsified hypothesis more clearly than anyone else ever and, in doing so, answered the persistent question: “Was the cloaca above or below the ‘cruropatagium’?” [Conway indicates it was below, evidently, making sex a wee bit more difficult, but excrement did not stain the membrane].

Earlier I also made notes on his Pteranodon proportions.

Don’t miss his Anhanguera cutaway. It’s a classic. Be sure to run your mouse over the “Skeleton :: Musculature :: Pulmonary :: External” caption to see all four images. A truly amazing illustration.

Julio Lacerda – Paleoartist c’est magnifique!

The casual paleoartist, Julio Lacerda is featured today. Perhaps not a literal student of Larry Felder, but in the same stylistic ballpark. Lacerda at 19 is already showing world-class talent and understanding of his subject matter and their environs.

Figure 1. Rahonavis by Julio Lacerda. Exquisite in every sense.

Figure 1. Click to enlarge. Rahonavis by Julio Lacerda. Exquisite in every sense.

Dsungaripertus by Julio Lacerda. Subline in every sense.

Figure 2. Dsungaripertus by Julio Lacerda. Subline in every sense.

more Lacerda art here

and here

and here