|Spinosaurus, big and small versions, poking about a stream in Cretaceous Morocco. Someone's about to ask if these chaps should have humps or sails - head to Palaeontology Online for my thoughts on this, and read on for why it doesn't resemble the (in?)famous National Geographic thumbnail.|
The goal of the Palaeontology Online piece is not another 'how to?' guide to palaeoart, but a piece specifically targeted at those who want to know how accurate our restorations are. I've attempted to outline the reliability of standard palaeoart methods including phylogenetic bracketing, restoring musculoskeletal systems, placing fatty tissues, choosing integument types and, of course, deciding on colours and patterns. Note that the few years of optimism we've had for restoring fossil colour using melanosomes are over, because several new studies have highlighted numerous concerns with this technique: more on that at Palaeontology Online. All Yesterdays gets further mainstreamification, as does the mysterious, unexplained 'Support Original Palaeoart' logo (more on that in due time), and there's some philosophising over the goal of palaeoartists: are we actually bothered about 'the truth', or more concerned with making plausible art in line with fossil and biological evidence? OK, that's enough signposting for now: point your browser this way for the full piece, and be sure to leave any feedback below.
Just a quick note on the Spinosaurus illustrations here and in the article: they are not based on the thumbnail image of a unusual Spinosaurus skeleton at the National Geographic website, despite this spawning much excitement, umpteen new spinosaur renditions and revisions to Spinosaurus illustrations all over the Web. As stressed at Palaeontology Online, palaeoart is a scientific process requiring verified and trustworthy data. We have no idea how reliable the radical National Geographic depiction of Spinosaurus is because no information about the mount has been made public, and the image itself is tiny: it's silly to think there's enough resolution there to understand its anatomy. Moreover, there's enough counter-intuitive and weird morphology in that tiny photo to justify waiting for the data behind the mount to be published so it's accuracy can be evaluated. I'm not saying it's wrong, but I am joining the chorus of bona fide theropod experts in suggesting restraint against adopting it as the 'definitive new look' for Spinosaurus until we know more about it. The reconstructions here and at Palaeontology Online are based on Scott Hartman's skeletal: the appearance of the juveniles is speculative.
Coming soon (probably): exciting news from the world of sauropods!
UPDATE (02/09/14): Like buses, it seems palaeoart articles all arrive at the same time. Head to Tetrapod Zoology for Darren Naish's detailed article on the changing life appearance of dinosaurs.