Gallery and print store

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Pterosaur art you've never seen before! (sort of)

Later this week I’m travelling to the Netherlands to give a talk on pterosaurs at the Museon, The Hague. I’ll be part of a series of public talks on Mesozoic reptile lifestyles celebrating the opening of the Museon's new Dino Jaws exhibition, and it should be a blast. I’ve revisited some of my older pterosaur paintings to add more detail and depth when featuring them in my talk, and thought I’d share the results here. Some of these images aren’t that old really, but, thanks to beefing up my painting rig before Christmas, I find some of my work from even a few months ago can look a lot nicer with just a few hours work. As usual, prints are available of all images shown below.

Arambourgiania: remaining huge in artwork since 2013. See this page for the original.
First up is a tweaked version of my 2013 Arambourgiania, a giraffe, and a standard wife-unit scale bar. There’s not much to say here – I just wanted to put more detail into the pterosaur so it looks better in a close-up panning presentation animation. At some point, hopefully soon, a version of this image featuring two azhdarchids will be published.

An azhdarchid in high-altitude, long distance flight. Original here.
Second, the flying azhdarchid which made a debut at TetZooCon last year. I felt the initial image was a bit flat, so this has more depth added to the background. The depicted animal is a ‘generic’ azhdarchid, although obviously similar to the smaller Quetzalcoatlus species. It’s shown flying rather high – many thousands of feet in the air – on a long-distance flight. Mike Habib and I have droned on about the awesome flight capability of giant azhdarchids for years, and we expect the range and flight speed of smaller azhdarchids – with, say, 5 m wingspans – to be relatively impressive too. They may not have been capable of booming around the planet with the same gusto as their giant cousins, but continent hopping was certainly not beyond them.

The anurognathid Anurognathus ammoni, brought to you by evolutionary processes which wanted Muppets to rule the skies. 
The third reworking shows a species at the other end of the pterosaur size spectrum, the diminutive Anurognathus ammoni. Some readers may recognise this painting from my book. Anurognathids haven’t been covered in much detail at this blog, but that will likely change soon when Mike Habib and I publish a new study on their functional morphology in the near future. This painting alludes to something which we attempt to quantify in that study – prey size. Anurognathids are frequently depicted as hawking relatively large insects like dragonflies, but – based on prey proportions in modern avian insect hawkers, and the delicate build of anurognathid skulls – much smaller insects were probably pursued instead. Catching aerial insects is already difficult enough, so why chase relatively rare, enormous and feisty prey when abundant small midges can be scooped out of the sky with relatively little effort? Because anurognathids aren't big beasts - wingspans of less than 0.5 m are common - their likely prey was probably best measured in millimetres, as shown by the Target Midge in this picture. Other features to note in this painting include the tufted wing tips and completely fuzzy face, both of which are known from fossils and, for the time being at least, unique to anurognathids. The ‘cryptic’ colouration and nocturnality are nods to recent work on these pterosaurs suggesting these pterosaurs were shy, well-hidden creatures which were primarily active at dawn and dusk. More on these neat pterosaurs as time – and manuscript progress – permits.

To finish – because I can’t not post this – here’s a poster for the superhero movie the world deserves, but not the one it needs right now. Image by Jon Davies (@SovanJedi on Twitter – you may recall his equally excellent lampooning of in-your-face dinosaur art from last year).

That logo needs a T-shirt. Image manipulation by Jon Davies.


  1. "Criminals are cowardly - so I adopted an image of fear. Namely, a frog-faced flying reptile."
    -Anurognathus man

  2. Mike from Ottawa22 January 2015 at 18:41

    That Arambourgiania, a giraffe, and a standard wife-unit scale bar image never gets old.

    BTW, just how long is the scale bar?

  3. Whenever I see a human next to a prehistoric creature for scale, I think "press unpause."

    Maybe your distracting friend should be standing a bit further from that Arambourgiania then...