“See, not a T. rex!”
“How is THIS better?!”
– Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Franklin Webb (Justice Smith) in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, in reference to a charging Baryonyx.
“Walker’s heavy claw”
Height: 2.5 meters
Length: 7.5 meters
Weight: 1.7 tonnes
Specimen Name: Leedy
Baryonyx was a medium-large(ish?) theropod from Cretaceous Europe. During its heyday, some 130 million years ago, this dinosaur lived alongside famous contemporaries such as Iguanodon and Neovenator. It is best known for having substantial evidence of a semi-aquatic (or at least water-lovin’) lifestyle. Many of its anatomical features point to this, from the pointed crocodile-like (or egret-like) snout to the giant recurved claw on its first finger that could grow to a foot (0.328 meters) in length. Oxygen isotope analyses (yes, even the chemists are in this) further suggest that Baryonyx and its spinosaurid kin spent more time in or around the water relative to other theropods.
These adaptations allowed Baryonyx to subsist on mostly fish, but the fossilized remnants of juvenile Iguanodon bones in its gut suggest it might’ve had a more complicated diet. This could either mean scavenging or hunting behavior, but I’m afraid I can’t really ask the dinosaur what it was up to on that fateful day. Baryonyx likely evolved to spend more time in or near the water as a response to a high number of competing predators in its environment (here’s a nice list of ’em). Taking to the water reduces the chances of conflict, and this niche partitioning story is very similar for (if not identical with) Spinosaurus and other relatives.
However, despite the long laundry list of reasons why and how spinosaurids would evolve a semi-aquatic lifestyle, the degree of which these taxa were dependent on the water is still contested. Recent literature on calcium isotopes and computer-modeled buoyancy (Hassler et al., 2018; Henderson, 2018) seem to liberate spinosaurids to more terrestrial habits, suggesting that both a significant amount of their diets were comprised of herbivorous dinosaurs and they were no more or less capable of swimming than less-specialized theropods. Both points are still hotly debated (more so the second than the first), as more direct anatomical analyses continue to point to living in shallow water (Ghilardi et al. 2018).
What we’re trying to tell you is that you should still probably run away from this thing in the off-chance that you encounter it in some derelict ranger compound with lava pouring from the ceiling.
Artist’s Notes & Introducing The Menagerie:
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a spinosaurid, and this is my first-ever digital Baryonyx illustration. I’ve been meaning to draw one of these puppies for ages, but I never got around to it. This is also my first post to the blog with my new art style. I haven’t abandoned the lineless, kind of molded look from my older illustrations, but line art and some nice rendering lets more personality flow through. Someone commented on my Instagram that this bary “looks like he’s [she’s] in trouble.”
This was originally just a practice sketch, but then it got blown waaaay out of hand into the dinosaur you see above. I primarily employed the basic watercolor, crayon, pastel, airbrush, textured pen, and rough pencil brushes from Clip Studio Paint. The pose is original, but I did roughly match proportions to Scott Hartman’s skeletal.
Now onto some not-so-real things…
For those of you who don’t know, The Menagerie is my passion project. It’s going to be a series of short stories and vignettes that culminate into a larger novella. I’m working on the first couple of entries, but the entire project has been around since 2014. It’s taken on a number of incarnations over the years. I’d love The Menagerie to be a solid entry in the “dinosaur island” genre of fictional media. However, I wanted to emphasize all the parts of this genre that I enjoy as a scientist. The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Peter Jackson’s King Kong are some of my favorite “dino island” sci-fi films because they showcase ideas of an anachronistic ecosystem. Likewise, the European traveling exhibit “Dinosaurs in the Wild” and the TV show Prehistoric Park have touched on a fascination of studying paleo critters in a modern setting.
So, I’ve hybridized these ideas. The basic premise of The Menagerie is as follows:
The United Nations has set up a research facility on an island in the Pacific that’s dedicated to studying the genetically-engineered fauna and flora that inhabit it. No one’s quite sure how these organisms were created or who was behind it. All that’s left are ruined buildings from the past that are mostly inaccessible. The UN’s fortified research campus, known as The Menagerie, regularly sends expeditions into the island interior to learn more about the biology and ecology of the extinct critters. Hijinks ensue from mysterious venomous dinosaurs to trying to round up and capture the world’s last T. rex.
The Menagerie will focus on a unique perspective. Many entries in the “dino island” genre focus on the hubris of mankind and what happens when things go wrong. Well, what happens when things go right? This series promises to bring an exciting and thoughtful plot that aims to educate and entertain.
Keep an eye out for the first two short stories: Poison Kiss and Chasing Dragons.
The Paint Paddock website will be home to my writing. If you’re interested, please stay tuned!
Until next time.