Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Anomalocaridid Gallery

It's time for...
One of the most unusual sets of animals to have ever existed on our planet, the Anomalocaridids. They were so bizarre in fact, that each of the various parts of them that were found in isolation were thought to be separate organisms.
Despite clearly being related to Arthropods, they are too different to be included in that group. Modern thinking places them in the phylum Lobopodia, the group from which all hard shelled Arthropods are believed to have evolved from.
They were the dominate predators of the early Cambrian, with remains known from this time period all across the world. Despite losing this apex position in the food chain the family group would survive 100 million years into the Devonian where they appear to have finally met with extinction.
So come now and meet, Stephen Gould's "bizarre wonders" of early complex life...

Silhouette of an Icon by Craig Dylke

Since I was retooling my Anomalocaris model for this gallery anyway, I thought I might as well retool my most popular image on the internet, with this anatomically improved version of the piece.

Deadly Stalkers of a Crystal Sea by Nima Sassani

A few hundred miles south of what would become the Burgess shale, two Anomalocaris saron are on the hunt for soft-bodied prey, ignoring an armored Helmetia, the trilobite Brachyaspidion, and several small arthropods. Also present are Sanctacaris and Hallucigenia, and I'll let everyone guess what everything else is :)

Hurdia & Aysheaia by Rachael Revelle

The First Great Predator by Craig Dylke
An Anomalocaris plunges into a swarming school in the water high above the Burgess Shale. Despite its size advantage and the inherent speed this would grant it, the Anomalocaris still must work to snatch one of these active swimming creatures from the school. These other animals include the small enigmatic Nectocaris, common Canadaspis, and the large Odaraia.
The inspiration for this piece was a desire to see an active depiction of Burgess life. Life in both senses, the organisms and how they lived their lives. Normally pictures of the Burgess Shale tend to show small numbers of these animals in relatively calm subdued interactions (sometimes due to philosophic beliefs about primitive life, as discussed by Gould in Wonderful Life, and others for visual simplicity to not overwhelm the viewer). I wanted something that felt like a still from a nature documentary, and also told a story.
Sadly much of the detail is lost in the small version so please be sure to check out a larger version here.

Anomalocaris and the Burgess Shale by Peter Bond

A predator on the hunt, amongst the rich diversity of the shallow Canadian Cambrian waters. This piece was created in one long 13-hour session on August 17th, and documented through live-blogging on Bond's Blog. For a behind-the-scenes look at it's creation, click here.
Anomalocarid Dress sketch (A work in progress) by Glendon Mellow
For a long while now I've had an idea to do a series of Precambrian-inspired clothing. Anomalocaris is supposed to be (in my mind) similar to the whole preying mantis/black widow/femme fatale aesthetic. I had a model pose for me, I especially wanted to capture the shoulders. Apparently, that is quite an uncomfortable combination of hip and neck tilts.

Terror of the Reef by Craig Dylke

A lone Anomalocaris lurks over a "forest" of sponges. Vauxia being the cactus like ones (anyone know the bowl shaped on is called again?).

I created this picture with the idea of shrinking Anomalocaris, by showing it in its environment. In most versions of the Burgess Shale as in books and the web, Anomalocaris is made out to be an unfathomable giant, which granted for its time it was in comparison, but yet no animal comes close to dwarfing its environment. I wanted a piece that showed the first super predator as the tiny thing it was...

Anomalocaris canadensis by Mo Hassan
A quick and simple felt-pen sketch of a single Anomalocaris canadensis in three different views.

Oddity of the Devonian by Peter Bond
A Schinderhannes, the surprising Devonian Anomalocarid, painted in water colour in the 30 minutes leading up to this gallery's posting.

Once Upon a Claw by Craig Dylke

More than 90-95% (probably more like 98-99%, but I'm no expert) Anomalocaris fossils come in the form of shed, molted, or broken off pieces of them. Most of these being their large clawed tentacle like arms. With such an abundance of these being preserved in the fossils record, to me, this suggests they were quite a common occurrence on the sea floor of the Cambrian.

Since early life wasn't smothered to extinction in these discarded claws, it stands to reason that they must have served some sort of positive ecological role to Cambrian reefs. This piece is how I envision such claws being assimilated and utilized by Cambrian communities. A illustration to the powerful irony of nature, one day your the greatest killer around and the next your the greatest giver of life!

Please be sure to check out the larger version of this piece to see more of the detail.

Anomalocaris Regret by Peter Bond
The next morning, Mr. Anomalocaris wakes feeling regret as memories of the party celebrating Burgess Shale's Centenary the night before flood back to him...

 Amplectobelua symbrachiata by David Tana

Amplectobelua symbrachiata, a Cambrian anomalocaridid that despite being one of the smaller members of its clade, was still a giant compared to the animals it preyed upon.  
 Pencil on paper, scanned, colored in Adobe Photoshop

That wraps up our journey back to the deep past of the Cambrian. Be sure to join us in two months time for...

The Sauropods...
Remember to send in those submissions to our email artevolved@gmail.com (with any desired accompanying text blurb and your website or blog's link), and watch out for plenty of Sauropod discussion and "making of"s for this gallery's Anomalocarises.