Thursday, March 28, 2013

What sort of research do you use for palaeo-art?

I'm getting ready a couple more posts on All Yesterday's and the recent "movement" it has spurred (if through anything else all the recent contests surrounding it).

In getting my posts ready a thought crossed my mind that is a good topic of discussion.

What if any types of academic research do you reference, if any at all, when you are looking for inspiration to create your palaeo-art?

Feel free to either reply in the comment section, or if you'd really like your answer fleshed out, feel free to write up a guest post and email it to


I personally tend to read, at least these days, mostly taphonomy and palaeogeography related research. This is mostly due to the fact I tend to find tidbits of environmental information that set up interesting scenarios and settings for prehistoric critters to live in.

Additionally I did mostly geology science courses at University. I understand that end of the science more than anatomy. While I certainly can follow basic anatomy, the details tend to bore/bog me down, and I am not versed enough to draw any meaningful conclusions from it by myself. I certain will skim the discussion and conclusion sections of anatomic descriptions and there is definitely great info to be found in these papers, but typical find the most inspiration from taphonomy and palaeogeography papers (plus having to find ways to get them through the paywalls limits my paper tracking efforts).

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Good, Semi-good, and Bad Dino Sources 1

This post was inspired by Holtz's "A Dinosaur Lover's Bookshelf" ( ). It's nothing formal, just a list of what I (as a non-expert dino fan) think are especially notable dino sources (for better or worse) & why. Even still, I hope that at least some of you will get something out of it. 2 more things of note: 1) Just in case you were wondering, the sources aren't listed in any particular order; 2) If you don't know what I mean by "casual readers"/"the enthusiast"/"the specialist", see Miller's "Paleo Reading List" ( ).


Holtz's "Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages" ( ) & Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs" ( ) are the best encyclopedic & non-encyclopedic dino books, respectively, for casual readers. Taylor's review of the former ( ) & Amazon's synopsis of the latter ( ) sum up most of the reasons why, but not the most important reason: Holtz & the NHM keeps updates on "Supplementary Information for Holtz's Dinosaurs" ( ) & "The Dino Directory" ( ), respectively, when parts of said books become outdated.

Hone ("David Hone": ) reminds me of a young Holtz in both research ( ) & outreach ( ). I hope he writes dino books like Holtz too, someday. Until then, see his technical papers (for free) under "Academic" & his blogs ("Lost Worlds"/"Archosaur Musings" for casual readers/the enthusiast, respectively) under "Outreach".

You could say Conway et al. ("All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals": ) are the A-Team of paleoart: Naish does the paleontology ("Darren Naish | palaeozoological researcher, consultant, author, lecturer": );* Conway does the art ("John Conway's Art": ); Kosemen drives the van ("C. M. Kosemen": ). ;)

*Naish's popular dino books (excluding "All Yesterdays: Unique and Speculative Views of Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals", which is for the enthusiast)/blogs are for casual readers/the enthusiast, respectively.


Cau ("AndreaCau": ) is a consistently good source of phylogenetic info for the enthusiast (See "5. Blog, articoli/recensioni giornalistiche e pagine web dedicate alle mie ricerche")/the specialist (See "3. Pubblicazioni / Publications"). However, he's also a consistently hit-&-miss source of other biological info for the enthusiast/the specialist.*

Celeskey's "Coelophysis - New Mexico's State Fossil" ( ) is basically Colbert's "The Little Dinosaurs of Ghost Ranch" ( ) in website form, the former being for casual readers & the latter for the enthusiast. I have mixed feelings about single species accounts. Martin's "Book Reviews" ( ) sums up why. In any case, it's the ultimate source of Coelophysis info.

GSPaul ("The Official Website of Gregory S. Paul - Paleoartist, Author and Scientist": ) is a mixed bag. Naish's "Greg Paul’s Dinosaurs: A Field Guide" ( ) sums up what I mean. In any case, see his technical papers (for free) & books under "CURRICULUM VITAE" for interesting yet controversial dino art/science.**

*E.g. According to Cau (See "First, we start with": ), "no Mesozoic dinosaur...has offspring inept" (See "Opposed hypotheses" under "Testing ideas and community analysis" for why that's wrong: ). Also according to Cau (See "Just the fact that": ), "the fact that the children had early leads us to think that the animal did not need particular parental care and that was autonomous in search of food" (See "Precocial" & "Semi-precocial" for why that's misleading: ).

**"Predatory Dinosaurs of the World: A Complete Illustrated Guide" ( )/"The Scientific American Book of Dinosaurs" ( )/"Dinosaurs of the Air: The Evolution and Loss of Flight in Dinosaurs and Birds" ( )/"The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs" ( ) are for the enthusiast/casual readers/the specialist/the enthusiast, respectively.


Hunter ("Cladistic Existentialism") is a BANDit (BAND = Birds Are Not Dinosaurs) & his website is basically a list of anti-cladistic writings (1 of which I reviewed: ). His website's header ( ) sums up said writings in 2 major ways: 1) The depiction of non-bird dinos as "silly grossly inaccurate Jurassic Park dinosaur knock-offs" (which is probably part of the reason why BANDits are compared to creationists: ); 2) The statement about "determining the number of birds' fingers" (which, as indicated by the Naish quote, is blatantly hypocritical & misleading).

Peters ("Reptile Evolution") is a GSPaul wannabe & his website is basically a list of reasons why (according to him) he's great & everyone else is an idiot. Naish's "Reptile Evolution" review ( ) sums up what I mean.

There are 3 main reasons why Dr. Pterosaur/Doug Dobney ("Pterosaurs to Modern Birds") & Gwawinapterus/Johnfaa ("Gwawinapterus") are bad sources of dino (or any other) info: 1) They're non-experts who act like they're experts; 2) They're infamous for trolling ( ) &/or cyberbullying ( ) people who don't think like them; 3) They're terrible at sourcing their work, never doing so unless it proves their point (They'll ignore any source that contradicts them).
Quoting Naish (See "All the fuss over those weird little hands": ): "As you'll surely know, embryologists have often (though not always) argued that birds exhibit BDR, such that their tridactyl hands represent digits II, III and IV rather than the I, II and III thought universal among coelurosaurian theropods. Those who contend that birds cannot be theropods have latched on to this as an integral bit of their case: Alan Feduccia in particular has repeatedly said that bird hands and theropod hands are fundamentally different, and that this degree of difference bars theropods from avian ancestry (Burke & Feduccia 1997, Feduccia 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, Feduccia & Nowicki 2002) [developing ostrich hands from Feduccia & Nowicki (2002) shown below]. Yeah, as if one feature - no matter how profound or major - can somehow outweigh tens of others: what excellent science. The hypothesis (note: hypothesis) that bird hands represent digits II-IV rests mostly on the fact that the primary axis of condensation (the first digit precursor to appear in the embryonic hand) corresponds to digit IV: because bird embryos grow two fingers medial to this axis, these two must be digits III and II (incidentally, this is contested by some embryologists and is not universally accepted. To keep things as simple as possible, we'll ignore that for now).Despite what Feduccia and his `birds are not dinosaurs' colleagues state, the morphological evidence showing that birds really are theropod dinosaurs is overwhelmingly good, so if birds and other theropods really do have different digit patterns in the hand, something unusual must have occurred during evolution. One idea is that a frame shift occurred: that is, that the condensation axes that originally produced topographical digits II-IV became modified during later development, such that the digits that grew in these places came to resemble topographical digits I-III instead of II-IV (Wagner & Gauthier 1999). If the frame shift hypothesis is valid, then - somewhere in theropod evolution - the `true' digit I was lost, and `true' digit II became digit I. However, evidence from Hox genes indicates that the condensation axis for embryonic digit I receives a Hox signal normally associated with.... topographical digit I, thereby showing that the bird `thumb' really IS the thumb (Vargas & Fallon 2005, Vargas et al. 2008)."

Monday, March 18, 2013

My 1st Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I'm gonna post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great book that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

My favorite serious dino book ( ): 5/5

Of all my serious dino books ( ), Gardom/Milner's "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs" (I.e. History) is definitely my favorite. The quote at the end of this review sums up why. There are 2 analogies that best describe History: 1) A more family-friendly version of Sampson's "Dinosaur Odyssey: Fossil Threads in the Web of Life" ( ); 2) The "Dinosaurs: Ancient Fossils, New Discoveries" exhibition ( ) in book form. If I could, I'd give History an extra half star for being extra authoritative. My only gripes are the maniraptoran reconstructions in Chapters 1-9 (all of which have scaly skin &/or pronated hands) & the writing in the middle of Chapter 10 (which isn't as good as that in the beginning or end of Chapter 10). 2 more things of note: 1) Chapter 10 is basically an updated version of Milner's "Dino-birds: From Dinosaurs to Birds"; 2) The NHM keeps updates on "The Dino Directory" ( ) when parts of History become outdated.
"Taking fossil records as its evidence, "The Natural History Museum Book of Dinosaurs" treats dinosaurs as a group of living animals, making frequent reference to today's animals as a basis for comparison. This popular approach not only accurately mirrors the methods used by palaeontologists in studying dinosaurs, but also satisfies the overwhelming curiosity of people to know what dinosaurs were like when alive. Unlike an encyclopedia, a data book or even a learned exposition, this book is designed to be read from start to finish as the developing story of a remarkable group of animals. The book's direct, clear written style, with all unfamiliar names and technical terms clearly explained, and extensive illustrations make it an ideal introduction to dinosaurs for the older child or adult" ( ).

More of the same old nonsense ( ): 1/5

I originally wasn't planning on reviewing Feduccia's "Riddle of the Feathered Dragons: Hidden Birds of China" (I.e. Riddle), mostly because, to quote Mallison, "the web is full of dissections of BANDit papers" (BAND = Birds Are Not Dinosaurs). Also, anyone who actually looks into the reviewers praising Riddle can see that they're either Feduccia's fellow BANDits (E.g. Storrs L. Olson) or non-experts who naively bought Feduccia's rhetoric (E.g. At least 1 of the 5-star Amazon Reviewers) &/or took Feduccia's side for non-scientific reasons (E.g. D. G. Martin). However, while reading the 5-star Amazon Reviews, I realized that 1) non-experts may not bother looking for reviews of Riddle when there are so many in 1 place, & 2) so many seemingly-good reviews in 1 place may mislead non-experts into thinking that it's a definitely-good book about bird origins & early evolution, an actual example of which is Chiappe's "Glorified Dinosaurs: The Origin and Early Evolution of Birds".

Going into Riddle, I was expecting more of the same old nonsense given Feduccia's more recent papers.* Surprise, surprise, that's exactly what I got. Thanks to Mallison's "BANDitry, creationism, and global warming denial", I was better able to keep track of the underhanded BANDit tactics used. In Appendix 1 alone, Feduccia concentrates on individual data points/refuses to look at "big pictures" (See what he says about Erickson et al. 2009 & Pontzer et al. 2009), uses strawman arguments ("One might also consider the alternative to one of their primary questions based on a traditional theropod ancestry of birds...that is, "how birds became miniaturized""), decries perceived methodological weaknesses by others while himself failing to live up to these standards ("Hypotheses of dinosaurian endothermy go way back and have traditionally relied on correlations of metabolic rate with weakly supported criteria"), repeats debunked BANDit claims ("Comparative physiologist John Ruben has long argued, based on data from the muscle physiology of extant reptiles, that the urvogel Archaeopteryx was a flying ectotherm"), fails to understand the methods he criticizes (Cladistics) & advances conspiracy theories about mainstream science (See what he says in the last paragraph).

To sum up, Naish put it best when he said, "It must be understood that Feduccia's opinion is not a valuable, informed alternative or anything like that; rather, it relies on deliberate obfuscation and misinformation and ignorance with respect to what we actually know. I cannot see that he and his colleagues have done anything but add confusion, contradiction and erroneous interpretations to our understanding of bird origins and early evolution" ( ).

*For those who don't know what the same old nonsense is, Google the following BANDit dissections (I limited my list to those mentioning Riddle either directly or indirectly):
-"BANDitry, creationism, and global warming denial" by Mallison.
-"(Almost) Famous: I'm (mis)quoted in Feduccia's new book!" by Mortimer.
-"Dinosaurs of a Feather" by Switek.
-"Canadian Amber, Fin-Tailed Dinosaurs, and a Despairing Blogger" by Headden.
-"Getting a major chapter on birds - ALL birds - into a major book on dinosaurs" by Naish.
-"On the Structure of Fossil Feathers" by Headden.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

An Clarification/Olive Branch extension to Brian Engh

I just wanted to drag this out of the comment section and into a public post for all to see. As I worry some have gotten the wrong impression from my previous posts.

Just to clarification to all (Brian included) my recent commentary on Brian Engh's Sauropods in a cave piece, has not been meant to target Brian, his artwork, or even this specific piece. I was more calling into question some of the philosophic frameworks of what I see this new movement towards highly speculative palaeo-art (dubbed by many the Yesterday's movement due to the recent book All Yesterday's)...

By Brian Engh
The only reason I've been fixated on Brian's piece is that it had a focal point of great enough interest to me, that it has really boot kicked my recent palaeo apathy in the head.

His inclusion of glowworms is right up my alley, as they are a very interesting component of New Zealand natural history. As many on this site know I lived in New Zealand for several years, and was heavily involved in volunteer work for scientists and a couple local (Dunedin) institutions during this time. So it is one of those very rare fields where I can claim to know something about in a non-soft or armchair capacity. While I don't know everything there is to know about glowworms, I have read about them a bit and have seen them in wild in dozens of places frequently while living in NZ.

It is due to this I've had to be a little critical of Brian's choice in putting giant Sauropods into the glowworms environment. I haven't meant this in a malicious or mean sense, but simply in an (attempted) educational heads up capacity. I haven't articulated it well at times (partially due to time constraints, and also compounded by my still lingering palaeo-burn out), but my intentions were never to attack Brian. Simply get the information and science flowing (which with glowworms is important. New Zealand tourism has a very weird and odd monopoly on photographs of the key big caves in the country... check out this comment section for full details)

My satirical Basketball Raptor piece was meant as a response to the quoted comments I was getting from scientists (which I still think were not in any sort of spirit of discussion... they basically told me to shut up and go away... which I did coming here ;P). My Raptor piece was NOT meant to make fun of Brian's piece (and I never quoted Brian in the satire part... however again I probably didn't articulate the distinction as well as I could have). I was meaning to highlight responses from which I could derive what I think is a weak formula for palaeo-reconstruction (I would have preferred to illustrate a oceanic krill catching sauropod, but I didn't have the time or energy to do so. Thus the Raptor ball...)

While I think Brian's Caveopods as depicted here (aka with glowworms) is a highly unlikely scenario to have ever happened in real life, it has still been an excellent piece. I mean this on all levels. Above all else it clearly is a powerful piece as it has ignited passions and opened up discussion and thought on the subject.

In my opinion palaeo-art can do more than this, but this engaging people is still one of the key goals. It isn't just any piece that can get people this charged and involved in discussing prehistory. So again I just want to make clear I actually really like this piece of art (just the Kiwi naturalist in me can't believe it).

I promise I have more commentary on the "Yesterday's" movement that has nothing to do with Brian's piece, in the pipeline. So Brian, again I'm not singling you out. If anything you're piece getting me back into thinking about palaeo-art is a compliment. I've been out of the scene for over half a year now, and nothing else (including my own working being used in museums) could get me engaged again. So that speaks to the quality of the piece (I'm just sorry it had to be in a [well meant] critical manner).

By John Conway
I have an article in the works looking at various Ceratopsian restorations including this All Yesterdays one by John Conway... So stay tuned.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Home Stretch for Project Daspletosaur

I'm not pretending to be the one to first notice or plug this. Just trying to overcome my palaeo apathy, and at least have this site do what it is intended to do ;) So thanks to Mark over at Saurian and all the other reminders I saw posted yesterday (Mark's is just the post I happen to have in my feed at the moment)!

David Hone is in very close and easy striking distance of his goal of raising money to visit my old stomping grounds in Alberta to look at cannibalistic behaviour in Daspletosaurs.

He still needs a little bit of support which you can give to him here. There is JUST over a week now. So please consider helping out this cool and neat research with a donation of even just $5...

Friday, March 15, 2013

Introducing Hadiaz/My 1st Listmania! List

For those of you who don't know me personally, my real name is Herman Diaz. I'm a Devious Deviant ( ), an Amazon Reviewer ( ), & most importantly a lifelong dino fan w/a Bachelor of Science in "Natural History and Interpretation" (which is now known as "Environmental Education and Interpretation": ). My ultimate goal is to work at a natural history institution as either a Natural History Interpreter or a Gift Shop Guy. In the meantime, I'll be using this blog to update you on my dino-related deviations, reviews, & most importantly career activities.

For my 1st post, I published my 1st Listmania! list (which I'll add to as time goes on). The requirements are listed below & the books are listed in the bolded link. If there are any books you think should be listed, please let me know. Many thanks in advance.

My Serious Dino Books ( )

My serious (I.e. For learning) dino books must be all of the following:

-About dino paleobiology to a large extent (at least 50%).
-About non-T.rex theropods in particular, if not dinos in general.
-At least 100 pages.
-Authored/edited/introduced/forwarded by at least 1 BAD ("Birds Are Dinosaurs": ) dino paleontologist who isn't Louis Jacobs.
-Described/reviewed on Amazon.
-For adults.
-For "casual readers"/"the enthusiast" ( ).
-Not authored/edited/introduced/forwarded by Louis Jacobs.
-Not "reference works" (See "Citations, cross-references and xreferences": ).*
-Post 1986 ("Arguably, the most recent previous attempt by a paleontologist to synthesize the cutting edge of dinosaur paleontology was Robert Bakker’s 1986 book": ).
-With dino-related titles.

2-3 parters are exempt from this requirement.

David Maas on the "Yesterday's" movement

David Maas has come out with a quick, but yet excellent post on his thoughts about the Yesterday's movement in palaeo-art.

"What I see as problematic however is the reference to Yesterdays as a sort of movement, as that shifts the focus dangerously close to speculation for speculation’s sake, which is right next door to the sensationalism practiced – among others – by television ‘documentaries’ out to make a good cut among the viewing public. The same sensationalism rightly abhorred by the palaeoart community. I know media producers who defend such formats as audience-oriented science with a healthy portion of speculation. Go figure."

Go check out the whole post here

Thursday, March 14, 2013

4 Years of ART Evolved... The end of an era

Here is the post celebrating the passing of ART Evolved's fourth year in existence. Technically this post is a couple weeks late (and it was just 4 years and one month ago the behind the scenes stuff occurred to get this site off the ground).

A lot has happened here and in the great palaeo-blogging sphere over this time. The past 1.5-2 years in particular have been quite different in palaeo-blogging, and I'd argue there has been something of an extinction event going on in palaeo-blogging. Not a catastrophic end type extinction, but certainly a marked and noticeable one. The number of causal palaeo blogs have dropped, and the community has moved onto other online venues. Online palaeo is by no means extinct, but its blogging lineage (at least for now) appears to have had its glory day.

So that leaves myself and Peter in an interesting position. This blog was launched those four long eventful years ago with the idea of being a central community hub for online palaeo artists to gather and collect events, thoughts, and happenings in the field in one place. While it certainly has been no failure, and done far better than either of us thought it would, ART Evolved never really developed into what we'd imagined it to be either.

Don't get me wrong I've been quite ecstatic with the site, and I hope it still has a long prosperous future ahead of it. However things have certainly changed in blogging. More to the point things have also changed in both the lives of Peter and myself. We are not the young free time blessed substitute teachers we once were. Full time jobs and other life commitments find us with far less time for this site than we once had.

Which is why we've had to really consider on this anniversary the future of the crown jewels of ART Evolved. The thing one we're both the most proud of in our blogging careers. The galleries of life...

With the down turn in blogging the past year plus, there has been a down turn overall in the galleries entrants, and a down turn in the overall impact these galleries have had in the field. Don't get me wrong, we certainly have had many very talented and exceptional entries in even the past few galleries (and my many thanks to those who have still been submitting art!). However it is safe to say the galleries are just not as big of  an event, draw, and/or focus of the online palaeo-art community they once were.

So rather than let them struggle themselves into complete failure (especially given me and Peter's continued inability to give them the time and attention they deserve), we have decided to (at least for the foreseeable future) to bring them to a conclusion on this the 4th anniversary of ART Evolved.

Now I'm not saying we're ending it right this moment. No, no, no my friends. We've decided to end the galleries of life on as big a note (hopefully) as possible. We'd been planning on saving this gallery topic for the 5th anniversary of the site, but what's the harm in unleashing it a year early?

To celebrate the 4 year long ongoing collection of great new palaeo-art by our many, many, many amazing, awesome, and really appreciated contributors and artists we give you the finale gallery of ART Evolved...

So please get started on your Tyrant lizards. We are aiming this gallery for a June 1st launch.

Please spread the word, as again this is hoped to be a fun event to celebrate, and yet mark the end of, this long running online palaeo-art tradition! The dreamed for goal, though obviously it is just hoped for, would be an entry from ALL our past galleries participants.

Of course with this announcement, please don't mistaken this as the end of ART Evolved.

We will be remaining up and running.

We will still happily post the palaeo-art of anyone and everyone who submits it to us. We just won't be organizing the big themed events anymore.

Who knows, if demand returns, the galleries could return as well. However for the immediate future, we thought end on a bang while the going was still good.

So please consider joining us for one last go at creating a gallery of new and fantastic palaeo-art.

One way or the other, to all our past gallery participates a very heart felt thank you from me and Peter. You've given us one heck of a fun ride, and we've made some great virtual friends through the process.

Thank you again everyone who has helped make this site what it is today!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

David Krentz's Yesterdays

He put this out a while ago now, but David Krentz made this hilarious commentary piece on the All Yesterday's movements possible potential. I think it is hilarious. 

I've made a perfect Yesterday's piece according to some...

Well I've hit a lot of flak, for my position on SVPoW that this otherwise beautiful picture by  Brian Engh (click for his website). I love this piece... but it is too much of a stretch for me to be humoured as scientific restoration.

I want it made clear I'm not attacking Brian or this piece. Again I think it is a fantastic piece of art, and please go check out the rest of his portfolio. This post is in response to the comments I've received from the scientists and others on this post.

Brian has stated himself this piece was meant as an exploration of what we don't know about Dinosaurs. That is a totally fair. I understand where he is coming with this. I too have been known to take people on for saying we don't know everything about Dinosaurs. Brian has also stated we need to inject imagination into our palaeo-art. I don't disagree. Again one of my favourite palaeo-artists of all time, and personal heroes draws Trilobites with wings.

Brian has also stated he is not deliberately trying to be part of the Yesterdays movement, and that he has always been into speculative art. There are parts of this piece I love on the front. The spine whiskers and such. What I worry about is how the animals AND the setting are very extreme speculation. There isn't any of this grounded on evidence. I could honestly add some of Glendon's wings to these and this piece would fit in with the Trilobites.

So again I'm not saying this to attack Brian. I in fact really want to be fair to him, and get his exact motivations about his work out there. I'm paraphrasing, and you can read his more detailed comments again here.

Where my concern arises has been the response his piece has received from the scientific side of SVPoW. Initially they said they really liked the piece, but as it fits in with the Yesterday's movement they've started supporting it as though it was a very viable piece of scientific palaeo-art. Many of the responses I've received have me incredibly concerned with where this Yesterday's stuff could take the science...

I'm cherry-picking with these quotes, and please do be sure to read all the comments to get the full story. My mission here is to (literally) illustrate the message these people have said (as I've interpreted them... again read the whole thing for the unbiased version... you may not agree with my take)... 

So I basically questioned how elephants going into caves is sufficient evidence to say Sauropods might have gone into caves. Sure they might of, but is this the type of behaviour we want our palaeo-art to be emphasising. Given it is essentially complete speculation with not one piece of fossil evidence. These are some of the answers I got.

"First, it depends on what you mean by “scientifically accurate”. If you mean “demonstrated by evidence”, then no, but there’s tons of important stuff in science that isn’t demonstrated by evidence (yet). If you mean, “plausible given what we know about how animals behave”, then yes..."
"Most of the time when someone says, “that’s unrealistic”, they’re just farting through their larynx, because they’re poorly acquainted with what real animals actually do today."  
"Behaviour doesn’t (directly) fossilise, so we are extremely limited in the behaviours that we can know any extinct animal manifested. Will future palaeontologists in 100 million years recognise how distinctly different the lifestyles of social lions and solitary tigers are? I very much doubt it. (I don’t think they’d even recognise they were dealing with more than one taxon.) But “all Anthropocene big cats had the same behaviour” will, for them, be just one more not-directly-supported-by-evidence hypothesis..." 
“ 'sauropod mooching around on plain” is just as much an unsupported hypothesis as “sauropod harvesting minerals in cave'... ”
"Craig seems, like many non-scientist fans of science, to have confused science with certainty, and plausibility with accuracy. A scientist must be comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, so as to avoid the temptation of false certainty. Yes, we know some things. And there are some things we may never know. Science has to work in the gap. If it only ever stays on the side of certainty and accuracy, it can never advance..."
Okay. So what they've said is we can't prove or disprove any behaviour. Therefore so long as I have a modern analogue of an animal doing something it is viable behaviour to slap on a prehistoric animal.


So there is this one primate that plays with spheroid shaped objects to help increase their social bonds. Now maniraptorid hands were perfectly shaped to hold a spheroid, and they might have lived in social groups.


By Craig Dylke

I've made perfect Yesterday's art by the statements made to me.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

All Yesterdays the new movement(?)...

So of course by now, especially if you're into palaeo-art, you've no doubt heard about the new book All Yesterdays.

Now I will be up front right away, I haven't read it yet. At the same time I've been keeping up with the blog posts, opinion piece, palaeo-art community's commentary, and also watched the video of the book launch. So while I'm not claiming to know all the details, but I think I got the main gist.

This book has caused quite a stir by finally articulating the thoughts and feelings of the "modern" era of palaeontologists and artists (modern as in those who started in the science since the millenum). While many were calling for and suggesting what All Yesterdays is about, the book is a solid rallying point for a possible new movement in palaeo-art.

While I certainly dig a lot of what I've heard and read, I do have some slight reservations about how this new  paradigm of palaeo-art could materialize, wait till the end on that though. Most of what I have to say is good.

The Good
By C. M. Kosemen from All Yesterdays
One of the best things about All Yesterdays is its attack on the shrink wrapped look of Dinosaurs the past 20-30 years. The illustrations of modern animals in the style of palaeo-art is certainly an interesting slap in the face to most palaeo-artists (though I'd argue Louis Rey should get credit for fighting the shrink wrapping for years now).

Hopefully we'll see some more realistic Saurian body image shortly in the future, and less Dinosaur super models :P

The Great
By John Conway from All Yesterdays
The advocating for more variation, variety, and imagination in reconstructions (while hardly new) is refreshing (none the less). Especially in trying to depict new novel behaviour.

I especially love the fusion of John Conway's artistic talents with Darren Naish's encyclopaedic biologic know how as a inspiration point.

The Fantastic

By John Conway from All Yesterdays
There is a hope (possibly slim, but hope none the less) that this could lead to the end of palaeo-art memes. Perhaps we'll finally see artists dare to recreate prehistory in all manner of new and non cliched manners.

The Bad

By John Conway from All Yesterdays
Where I worry about this push for the new and novel, is the possibility of outlandish and completely fictional misconceptions that could get out there.

Yes the authors urge for caution and reason in the speculation artists pursue. However out of the images I've seen I can't help but notice the authors themselves already have taken, in my opinion, a flight of fancy.

Now for what I'm about to say, I openly say I haven't read the book, so perhaps there is some explanation I am unaware of...

In the above picture of the "Carpet Pleisosaur" we see a Pleisosaur engaged in extreme camouflage. It is an outstandingly beautiful piece of art, and I was drawn to it from the moment I saw it. Yet the (amateur) scientist in me was immediately very worried about it.

This overall concept is based on a carpet shark. An animal that has devoted its whole morphology to this lying around ambushing prey. Superficially it sounds like an ideal energy efficient way to catch your prey. Only problem is it relies on the shark being able to breath underwater.

Plesiosaurs couldn't do that! Okay what about some species of turtles I hear you asking. Well yes they do do this. However they are much smaller than any Plesiosaur I know of, and these turtles (as far as I'm aware) all live in fresh water.

Further more the Plesiosaur has too many adaptations for open water fast swimming for this to be an ideal life style strategy for it. Again back to the turtles. The ones that lurk still at the bottom of the water ambushing stuff have stubby limbs. The ones with long flippers, aka sea turtles, actively swim around. The carpet shark has very minimized fins compared to other sharks.

Overall this doesn't just strike me as fanciful speculation, it is outright ignoring the science we have on Plesiosaurs.

I worry with this new movement based on "speculation" for the sake of nothing but speculation, we will get a lot of fiction and misinformation out there about prehistoric life. More to the point it takes the science out of scientific reconstruction. We would then just be engaged in imaginative reconstruction. I don't see this as helping palaeontology constructively...

Friday, March 8, 2013

Sauropods in a Cave... Scientific Conjecture or just Reality inspired Fantasy?

The boy's over on SVPoW posted this lovely picture by the very talented Brian Engh (click for his website) of some Diamantinasaurus in a cave.

By  Brian Engh 
It is Brian's contribution to one of the All Yesterday's contests out there (I'm not sure which one).

I love the piece. It is visually stunning, well composed, and just overall nice to look at.

Where I'm taking issue is whether this piece should be remotely taken serious as scientific palaeo-art. As to me SVPoW is a beacon of scientific standards. They endorse this, so to me that says it has some scientific salt (which the Sauropods in the pic are now licking :P )

The issue I have is there is no evidence what's so ever that Sauropods could or would want to go into a cave (that alone one filled with glow worms... which by they're very nature live in very dark dark places), and so to me this is a lovely piece. However it is just a pretty fantasy. There is certainly a place for fantasy palaeo-art (Flying Trilobites, flying Trilobites), but should we be holding it up as scientifically accurate?

I need to overcome my palaeo apathy/burnout and finish my All Yesterday's post, as this is an example of why I sort of fear this new movement. I think it is a push TOO much away from conservative palaeo-art. We start to run into the realm of just making stuff up. Which to me this piece is entirely.

However rather than revamp the whole argument here, and steal their thunder for posting it first, head over to this SVPoW post and join the discussion with your thoughts and take on this piece and the Yesterday's movement.