I’ve just GOT to write about this.
Recently, a new dinosaur from China has been discovered and named. It is called Yi qi – yes, that’s it’s full scientific genus and species name; not very impressive, is it? Well, it’s name might be boring and unimaginative as hell, but the creature itself is @#$%&*+ mind-blowing as @#$%!!! It’s a feathered therapod – no surprise there, since so many have been found in the past twenty or so years. Yes, it had wings – again, not exactly news-worthy since many other winged dinosaurs have been found, especially in China. But here’s where my jaw hit the floor. The wings in question were not the wings like a bird. They were the wings of a bat.
Yep, that’s right, you heard me correctly. This little beast had bat-wings.
The small pidgeon-sized Yi possessed wings made of thin skin menbranes stretched between elongated fingers, just like the chiropteran wings of a bat. This is something that I’ve never anticipated. Flying feathered reptilian bat-things! The feathers on its neck and body were very primitive – more like thin string-like whisps than real feathers. The creature had three fingers on each hand and an unofficial fourth finger, “Huh?” I can hear all of you saying. To make up for a lack of anchoring points for its wing, one of the bones in the animal’s wrist evolved into a long spike, looking like a finger, which was used to provide more surface area to the wing by stretching it out, thereby generating more lift.
As if all of this wasn’t brain-melting enough, Yi lived 160 million years ago during the tail end of the Middle Jurassic. That means that this baby pre-dates Archaeopteryx by approximately ten million years!!!
Holy flying therapods, Batman!
It must be stated, though, that the stiff inflexible structure of the wings made it unlikely that Yi could literally fly in the full definition of the word. More likely, it was a highly-evolved glider.
For more info on this absolutely…I can’t think of an appropriate advective to express my jubilance…discovery, look here.
Well, it was that time of year again! Every April or so, at around the time of Easter, the Garvies Point Museum and Preserve, located in Glen Cove, Nassau County, New York, holds it annual “Dinosaur Day”. This is one of the days that I really look foward to for a few reasons. First, I get to work at a place that I absolutely love and meet with some good friends. Secondly, I get to be out of NYC for a little while, which is something that I ALWAYS look foward to. Third, I get to talk about a subject that has fascinated me since my earliest days – paleontology.
Veronica, the museum’s de facto head of administration, did a wonderful job along with other members of the museum staff of setting up the classroom where the day’s major activities would be taking place. Recently, the museum’s library was substantially increased. The Sands Point Museum and Preserve had closed down its library a short while ago, and all of the books and papers were sent to the GPM. I should state, though, that almost all of these documents were originally part of the GPM collections anyway, and they just got them back, that’s all. However, Louis (one of the workers at the Garvies Point Museum, but works primarily at the Old Bethpage Village – another place that I really love) has been working hard to re-catalogue all of these books and papers back into the museum’s database.
The name of the event was somewhat misleading, as it concerned all prehistoric life, not just dinosaurs. We had exhibits on primitive mammal-like-reptiles, dinosaurs, and prehistoric mammals.
Here are some pictures of what the room looked like both during and after the hoards of kids showed up.
Most of the really young children gravitated immediately towards the dino toy area and the fossil digsite. The older children and a lot of the adults were interested in the information that I and others were giving. They were especially interested in Dimetrodon, the famous sail-backed pelycosaur from the early Permian Period. I don’t think that I have ever had to say the name”Dimetrodon” so many times within the course of a single day! It seemed to be the only thing that many of them wanted to talk about!
Some of the major topics of interest on this day were: the Permian Mass Extinction, which occured about 251 million years ago, when an estimate 95% of all life was wiped out; of course, T. rex was a favorite; as too was Allosaurus, who competed with its larger relative for attention from the crowds. This was helped in no small part to the fact that we had a lot of Allosaurus “stuff” arrayed for them: a picture of the skull, a hand model, bone casts, a model, and my drawing which you might recognize from an earlier post on this blog.
Finally, here’s a picture of me, “the Dinosaur Man” as several members of the museum staff call me, dressed up as an amateur paleontologist. In addition to my olive drab Garvies Point Museum shirt, I also wore a khaki utility vest, because apparently ALL paleontologists wear khaki utility vests! I thought that wearing it would help to enhance my ethos with the audience, and by my reckoning, it worked.
Here’s a drawing that I did a while ago, but for some reason, my computer screwed it up. It’s only recently that I’ve rescanned it and fixed it up.
Camarasaurus was the most common sauropod dinosaur within the Morrison Formation of western North America during the late Jurassic Period. Other species like Apatosaurus and Diplodocus might be more familiar to the ear, but in terms of the sheer numbers of specimens that have been found, this big guy tops the list. As far as size goes, it was a tad on the small side for a sauropod, measuring only 60 feet long. Its relatively small size (that is, compared with the other larger sauropods that it shared its habitat with) and meaty build likely made it one of the preferred targets for a mob of Allosaurus to take down. The reason why Camarasaurus was the most common species of its kind might be due partly to its smaller-than-average size (smaller stomachs mean more food to go around for everyone, and by extent leads to having larger populations) and partly to its apparently generalistic diet. Creatures which have a specialized diet are often hit hard when catastrophies arise, whereas dinosaurs that are more adaptable and flexible in terms of what they eat come out more favorably.
Many times, you’ll see these dinosaurs illustrated Gregory Paul-style, with thin spindly legs. I decided that the biomechanics of this simply weren’t feasible, and so I gave my animal suitably thicker more elephant-like legs, able to hold up the tens of tons of weight. Also notice that, contrary to other artistic renderings of this species, the neck is NOT held straight vertically upright, but is thrust more fowards in a 45 degree S-shaped curve. This is also one of the few dinosaur drawings that I’ve done in color. In terms of the color pattern, I’ve always imagined Camarasaurus colored in the scheme that you see above, even as a little kid – tan body with broad brown stripes and a somewhat yellowish-tan underbelly. I simply cannot imagine this species colored in any other way.
Keep your pencils sharp, people.
My views are booming! February has been the best month in terms of the level of views on this website, with over 800 views! That breaks every other month’s record.
I’m also happy to say that one of my artworks is going to appear in an academic publication on prehistoric fish. Don’t know just when yet, so I don’t want to give away too much.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, then you’ve likely heard that there will be a fourth Jurassic Park movie released this year called Jurassic World. There have been rumors of a fourth movie ever since the third one came out when I was a freshman in high school fourteen years ago. However, this movie was stuck in what’s known as “development hell” ever since that time.
Among the new features of this movie is a mosasaur, which I am totally geeking out about since I LOVE mosasaurs! They are some of my favorite prehistoric animals. However, the creature that is getting the most press is a large tyrannosaur-esque creature which goes by the name of either Diabolus rex or Indominus rex, depending on which website you look at. This creature is a genetic hybrid of a T. rex, a Velociraptor, a venemos pit viper, and a cuttlefish. I wasn’t really sure how something like that would look, and there were a few speculative concept drawings and photoshopped images circulating on the intenet. However, I’ve recently seen a picture of what the beast in question actually looks like, and all I can say is…wow, and not “wow” in a good way, either.
Actually, the exact words that came out of my mouth when I first saw a clear picture of it was, “Wow, that’s ugly enough to be an abelisaur!” I’m sure fans of the abelisaurs are going to either laugh at that statement or hate me for it. The abelisaurs were a group of primitive carnivorous dinosaurs that lived in South America, Africa, and Europe during the middle to late Cretaceous Period. They are closely related to the ceratosaurs, another primitive theropod family. Both abelisaurs and ceratosaurs have osteoderms – bony bumps embedded in the skin. They all adhered to a more or less uniform body form: large boxy head, short puny arms that would make tyrannosaur arms look “pumped”, and thin slashing teeth. The most famous and most easily recognized member of the abelisaur family is Carnotaurus, “the meat-eating bull”, which was featured as the main villain in the computer animated Disney movie Dinosaur back in 2000. However, based upon the hybrid dinosaur’s skull structure, it actually bears more of a resemblance to another famed abelisaur, Majungasaurus (also called Majungatholus, but that name has since fallen out of usage, since it has been proven that the two are actually the same species).
The second thing that I said when I saw it was Danny Glover’s famous quote from the movie Predator 2: “You are one ugly mother-“.
In truth, I was disappointed with the animal’s appearance. To my sense of aesthetics, it appeared ugly, crude, more dragon-like than dinosaur-like. To see a picture of the beast, click here.
- “Abelisauridae”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abelisauridae
- “Ceratosaurus”. https://dinosaursandbarbarians.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/ceratosaurus/
- “The presence and usage of osteoderms in dinosaur paleo-art”. https://dinosaursandbarbarians.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/the-presence-and-usage-of-osteoderms-in-dinosaur-paleo-art/
Today, I learned some very heart-breaking news. Stephen Czerkas, one of the true greats of paleo-art, recently died. He was 63 years old. The cause of death was liver cancer.
Czerkas was famous for his life-sized dinosaur sculptures, and he developed a very distinctive style – you could immediately recognize a Czerkas sculpture. His horned Allosaurus graced many children’s dinosaur books and TV shows, and his life-sized Carnotaurus was truly epic. However, his most famous work was his pack of Deinonychus raptors. Czerkas was one of the first paleo-artists to have his theropods adorned with feathers, and he also discovered that at least some species of sauropods had spines on their backs, which was incorporated into the BBC series Walking with Dinosaurs.
To all of those dino-lovers of my generation – those who came of age during the 1990s – Stephen Czerkas’ work would have been an integral part of your life. Czerkas was one of THE paleo-artists of the late 1980s and early 1990s, the time when I was becoming exposed to dinosaurs and other prehistoric life. The sheer awesomeness of his work influenced me profoundly both as an artist and as a person who dedicated his life to studying the past.
The paleontological and artistic spheres have lost one of the true greats of their domain, but his work will last and I dare say will continue to influence artists, scientists, and children generations from now.
RIP Stephen Andrew Czerkas (1951-2015) :(
I can now boast that I am an award-winning author. My history book Four Days in September: The Battle of Teutoburg has been selected for Trafford Publishing’s “Gold Seal of Literary Excellence”, which will be posted on the book’s front cover from now on. Granted, it’s an in-house award, certainly not the Pulitzer Prize, but it certainly helps to enhance my academic and literary “street cred”.
The book won this award because it was given a positive review by The US Review of Books. Not only that, but my book has been classified by the USRB as a “recommended” book, meaning that the book’s content is considered to be of high quality, and people who are interested in this particular subject ought to read it. To be classified as a recommended book is rather rare. According to the USRB website, this rating is used less than 20% of the time.
I was and still am very self-conscious about the numerous spelling errors in the book. However, as one British author and historian who reviewed my book wrote to me in an e-mail (whose name I will not disclose due to privacy), overall content and subject matter is more important than the spelling. The reviewer from the USRB also had the same sentiment. According to the USRB website, a recommended book “is a high quality book…Recommended nonfiction books are well organized, reveal deep insight and knowledge, and fulfill its intended mission with merit” (http://www.theusreview.com/USRfaq.html#recommended). I’m flattered that the reviewer thought so highly of my work.
You can read the USRB review of my book here. Hopefully, this will lead to bigger and better things.