Stegosaurus stenops

steg_redesign_2019

Stegosaurus stenops
“Narrow-faced covered / roofed reptile”

Height: 3.1 meters
Length: 7.8 meters
Weight: 4.8 tonnes
Specimen Name: Marie


Stegosaurus is a household name amongst dinosaur enthusiasts both big and small, and for good reason! Stegosaurids as a clade have some of the most defining dinosaurian traits: dorsal plates / spikes and the thagomizer. The arrangement and function of the plates is a debate dating back to Stegosaurus‘ discovery in the late 1800s by Othniel Charles Marsh; he hypothesized the plates would be arranged in a manner similar to that of a pangolin, where they covered the entire animal.

This is where the name Stegosaurus comes from: “covered (or roofed) reptile.” Of course this restoration is outdated. S. stenops and its sister species S. ungulatus have somewhere in the neighborhood of 18-24 plates (depending on who’s counting) that run along the back in a loosely-alternating pattern after the first few on the neck. Here, Marie is shown with the plate arrangement based on the subadult Sophie specimen currently housed in London, which has an astounding >80% completeness!

Despite being comparatively smaller in size to some other herbivores that shared this animal’s habitat (BrachiosaurusBrontosaurusDiplodocus, etc.), Marie and the rest of her kind were rather successful, low-browsing ornithischians. The recent find of further neck vertebrae extends the stationary feeding range of this genus, allowing it to stand in one place and clear a larger volume of plant matter than it would with the typically-renditioned stubby neck.

[Most text recycled from earlier Stegosaurus posts.]


Artist’s Notes / Updates:

This Stegosaurus is one of many that I’ve restored, but this is the most active pose I’ve given one. She’s poised and ready to strike at a moment’s notice, so it’s best to keep your distance! I expedited a steg post because this animal plays a pivotal role in my upcoming short story Chasing Dragons (as do T. rex and Triceratops, but I’ll get to those guys…eventually).

The runny, blotchy pattern on her plates is primarily based on the extant lizard genus Heloderma–with some notable members including the Gila monster and the Guatemalan beaded lizard. I felt those spunky critters would be nice to paint her plates around. There’s also a very subtle set of spots and bands embedded in the greener parts of her skin inspired from alligator lizards (genus Elgaria).

I’ve updated my website to feature my newer digital pieces to reset my “continuity,” and I’m soon going to upload my favorite physical sketch work. Keep an eye for that.

Also, I have a new “Links” page that contains all of my social media as well as my Ko-Fi and Red Bubble. Thanks for your support, you lovely humans. x

Until next time!

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Spotlight: Brachiosaurus altithorax

PermalinkDinosaur Gallery

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Brachiosaurus altithorax — High-chested arm reptile

Specimen Name: Eclipse (female)
Specimen Height: 14.2 m
Specimen Length: 20.1 m (neck erect)
Specimen Weight:  33.2 tonnes

B. altithorax is currently the only valid species of Brachiosaurus. Most restorations seen in media (Jurassic Park films, etc.) are modelled after a similar brachiosaurid hailing from Africa — Giraffatitan brancai. Initially assumed to be a species of Brachiosaurus, compounding analyses of G. brancai dating as far back as the late 1980s have pointed to reassign the, at the time, “Brachiosaurus brancai” as its own standalone genus. The differences between the two taxa were described, in-depth, by Michael P. Taylor in 2009. Some characters that would be easiest to see in a side-by-side comparison of two living specimens would be:

  • B. altithorax having semi-splayed forelimbs due to more mass carried in the front half of the animal
  • B. altithorax having a longer+taller tail
  • G. brancai having a more “gracile” appearance, whereas B. altithorax would be the more visually-massive/”robust” animal

(You can read more in the link above, if interested.)

Other synapomorphies (traits scientists use to identify related species from a common ancestor) within B. altithorax and G. brancai that were originally thought to be only characteristic of the genus Brachiosaurus have also been found to be more widely-distributed amongst similar sauropods, meaning that as the pool of discoveries expanded, the traits that supposedly unified B. altithorax and G. brancai together became less and less unique across the spectrum. Extinct animals are kind of a mess when it comes to taxonomy since they’re, well, dead.

Brachiosaurus specimens have been found in the Morrison Formation in the midwestern USA. Here, they have proven to be one of the rarer dinosaurs found in this locale (sharing similar distributions to other uncommon sauropods such as Barosaurus). The reason for this is unknown. Other contemporary sauropods such as Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, and Diplodocus are much more common finds. With relatively scant material (and an incomplete skull), not much is known about this species of brachiosaur.

However, one of the more interesting things about the holotype (the “example”/”base” individual) B. altithorax is that it’s likely not fully grown. Taylor describes the coracoid (a process near the shoulder blade) as not fused, indicating immaturity and the possibility of much greater growth, had it survived to adulthood. Projections already place Brachiosaurus near the 12-15-meter mark in height, but with this finding in conjunction to more evidence of rather extreme gigantism in some other sauropods (ApatosaurusBarosaurus) can push the limits even further.

Artist Notes:

Brachiosaurus is my favorite dinosaur of all-time. I typically have “tiers” of favorite dinosaurs (love ’em, like ’em, hate ’em), but the top of the pyramid is this gal. Its supposed rarity in the floodplains of Jurassic USA would’ve made it quite the treat to see in a hypothetical paleo-safari setting. As such, I tried to make the animal much more distinctive than my older restoration made in January:

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(Don’t get me wrong, I still love her colors. They’ll be repurposed for another sauropod.)

Besides the color adjustments, I also had the legs “mesh” better with the body with added skin and muscle attachments (particularly for the hind limbs). A row of spines down the dorsal is also a prominent new feature. I’ve retained some quills on the head and tail, but removed them from the arms in favor of large tubercles. Brachiosaurids are Titanosauriformes, whose members have quite variable integument. Saltasaurus, while not directly related/descended from B. altithorax by any means, had protective bony plates within the skin. It’s not unreasonable that other Titanosauriformes would have similar deterrents to predators.

June is also #PrideMonth. I’ve taken the liberty to include grey, white, black, and purple onto the new brach to represent motifs from the demisexual flag. You can deduce the reason why if you add 2 and 2.

A 3-Year Analysis (Feat. Stegosaurus)

I’ve had a Wacom drawing tablet for a little more than four years (if I recall correctly, I purchased my first model sometime in September 2012). Ever since then, I’ve been trying to improve my technique and output – as any person working in any medium (physical or digital) should.

For some reason, I like drawing Stegosaurus.

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~2013

This Stegosaurus was drawn sometime in 2013. The exact date, I’m not so sure. This was one of the first major projects I’d set out to accomplish – a full-bodied dinosaur with a unique color arrangement. The result was a fairly decent-looking animal, conceived from my own imagination. The anatomical details, however, are fairly wonky. For one, the hands are lacking the unclawed fourth and fifth digits. The hind legs are lacking a fleshy pad that supported this animal’s feet, as in modern elephants.

The thagomizer is also glaringly vertical, hardly an adept weapon for swinging at a lunging predator.

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2015

I had a prolonged hiatus from drawing in 2014, due to people generally being assholes about the material I produced. Entering and exiting my senior year of high school, I took up digital art once more as a stress reliever. The end-result was a slightly more accurate dinosaur.

My texturing techniques had improved. Every scale on this steg was drawn by hand. The color had been reduced in “flashiness” to imply this animals’ habitat as a forested region. The thagomizers are now facing a more correct orientation. Some problems that stem from this restoration are in the head and legs: the former is much to square-shaped and bulky, and the latter elements are still lacking the finer anatomical details discussed earlier (as all archosaurs only had the first three digits of their hands bearing claws).

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June 2016

At some point between 2015 and this year, I got over a barrier most of us men seem to have issues with every now and again:

I don’t know everything.

One of the things that falls under the “everything” category happens to be the anatomy and skeletal proportions of dinosaurs. But in this day and age – with the Internet at my disposal – I came to the conclusion that someone knows what I lack. Scott Hartman & the other fellow paleo-enthusiasts with a few more years’ experience than yours truly have been instrumental in my much more comprehensive understanding of prehistoric animals.

The stegosaur above is restored directly from a Scott Hartman skeletal of S. stenops. I began the transition from solid black line art with color to pure solid color illustrations in December 2015, and by this stage had gotten comfortable. Pushing that boundary, I think, was extremely important to my maturation as an artist. There aren’t any glaring anatomical issues with this steg, but I eventually felt dissatisfied with it.

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October 2016

Which led to the creation of this beaut earlier this month. A more confident understanding in dinosaur anatomy is now allowing me to stretch and speculate a little more. This and the steg above are restored with a blue hue, but this one is much more reduced (greyer), but the dorsal plates are also now much more interesting. The eye spots are much more intimidating, and there is a blue-pink gradient running towards the head. The placement of speculative bristle/quill structures is the result of further speculation; we don’t have evidence against it, so why should I go with the null?

I hope to look back further in the future with even more complex animals. I feel like I’m learning a new technique with every updated animal. It’s a very exciting time to be following ThePaintPaddock!

Until next time.

 

Defining Dinosauria

This isn’t a dinosaur.

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Neither is this.

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But this is.

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It’s a spiel that I run quite frequently in a conversation – “What’s a dinosaur?” It also seems rather contrarian to what people have been taught in primary school, when everything extinct was labelled as a “dinosaur.” People seem to recognize why mammoths and giant ground sloths (hinthint for upcoming restorations) aren’t dinosaurs. It’s pretty easy. Dinosaurs are reptiles and most cenozoic megafauna were mammals.

But when it comes to the reptiles that lived together in the Mesozoic – what should we call a dinosaur? The answer is actually rather simple.

Dinosaurs are defined – in phylogenetic terms – as every animal that is descended from the most recent common ancestor between Triceratops and modern birds.

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I made a quick mockup of what this looks like. The figure above is a phylogenetic tree with several representatives of major dinosaur groups. The large branch to the left consists of ornithischians, and the right branch consists of saurischians. These are the two sides of the “dinosaur” coin. Triceratops is commonly thought to be the most advanced (“advanced” = recent/”newest”, in our nomenclature) ornithischian, having evolved just around the time of the K-T extinction that wiped out non-avian dinosaurs. Some even claim it may have been the final dinosaur population to finally keel over during said extinction event. Modern birds are the most advanced saurischian dinosaurs, and they have survived to the present.

The most recent common ancestor is an animal that existed sometime in the Lower Triassic (~250 MYA). We don’t know what it is. We may never know what it is. All we know is that it existed, and from that animal (rather, population thereof) came dinosaurs as we know them. The split between ornithischians and saurischians happened not long after.

The animals further above – the Pteranodon and Mosasaurus – are representative of other reptile groups that existed during the Mesozoic. Pteranodon is more closely related to dinosaurs than Mosasaurus, as it falls under “archosauria.” We’ll discuss more about the relationship between archosaurs sometime in the future.

Until next time!

Spotlight: Triceratops

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“This one was always my favorite as a kid, and now I’ve seen one, she’s the most beautiful thing I ever saw.”

Triceratops is an herbivorous ceratopsian dinosaur from the Upper Cretaceous. Near the top of the list of every 5th-grade poll of “What’s your favorite dinosaur?”, Triceratops has earned her spot through more than a century of study, scrutiny, and debate. The striking three horns, husky frame, and solid frill completes the image of an animal set out to be a warrior against the menacing jaws of Tyrannosaurus.

Since its discovery in 1889 by fossil hunter Othniel Marsh, Triceratops has always been the knight of the Cretaceous, so it were. The first fragmentary remains were of its two long orbital horns, and Marsh thought them to belong to some kind of ungulate. Eventually identifying the remains as belonging to a dinosaur, the genus was named Triceratops – meaning “three-horned face.” There are currently two species of Triceratops formally recognized by paleontologists: Triceratops horridus (meaning “horrible three-horned face”) and Triceratops prorsus (meaning “straightforward three-horned face”). The illustrations I generate are of T. horridus, based in simple personal preference in addition to a plethora of available references for the dinosaur.

The trike is relatively unchanged since its initial restorations. Anatomical discoveries/changes from the 19th century to now include, but are not limited to:

  • More suitable vertebral attachments from the head to the rest of the spine
  • A tail that, while still on a downward slope, is suspended off the ground
  • The discovery of integument; Triceratops had a pattern of non-overlapping scales in addition to large “nipple-like” bumps/scutes along the torso
  • Numerous specimens that enable paleontologists to generate growth series

My Triceratops incorporates elements from Asian elephants; notice the pigmentation on the bottom of the body and along the snout. This provides a gentle counter-shade for the animal as well. I’ve tried to tether the coloration to some of my behavioral hypotheses for Triceratops, which I’ve made analogous to moose. You have a large herbivore that’s perfectly capable of fending for itself. However, any form of reduced attention is more beneficial than not. Some Triceratops restorations favor flashy frills and heads; I’ve stepped away from such a notion.

I did give the trike eyespots on the frill and the lower back, however. Whether this is an effective way to deter a Tyrannosaurus attack or purely species identification is up to the interpreter. Another speculative structure I’ve gifted the trike are quills on the back. There is direct evidence of at least basal ceratopsids boasting some form of quills/bristles on the back. Triceratops does not have direct evidence of bristles, but it’s entirely in the realm of possibility.

That about does it for this animal spotlight. Be on the lookout for more in the future!

Until next time.

Skeletal references: 1, 2

Color: The Finest of Lines

Although we do know the coloration of a handful of prehistoric animals, the majority of them still sit in the category of “Who knows?” Things such as the carbon remnants that can be used to derive or imply a hue simply don’t preserve nearly as often as we’d like. It leaves room to guess. This allows paleo artists to restore long dead fauna with an array of colors and patterns that, while fantastic, are not technically wrong until proven otherwise. This topic was brought up by a few colleagues of mine in a group conversation. Where can we draw the line for flamboyance?

 

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Let’s look at my rather colorful Camarasaurus for our first example. This medium-sized sauropod has been gifted with an aquamarine upper torso, stripes, and even an eyespot (note: most of my Jurassic-era dinosaurs bear eyespots – I’ve got a headcanon that this is the best deterrent for the hit-and-run Allosaurus). With dinosaurs, it can be expected that very large herbivores could sport impressive coloration because there’s simply no point in them trying to camouflage. These are animals that are compared to multiples of African elephants in terms of weight, and the most extreme genera can be as long as freighter planes. So, it’s not particularly sinful (it’s even encouraged) that sauropods could and would be restored as flashy.

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On the opposite end of that spectrum rests my newest Pachycephalosaurus. I’ve chosen to bring the colors down quite a bit along the body. The animal bears a simple black-brown-tan stripe patterning, but its famous cranial dome has an interesting but not overly-flashy display. It’s also a few magnitudes smaller than the Camarasaurus. In dinosaurs, I interpret color to be a function of size. The smaller the animal (relative to things like sauropods and other large herbivores), the more likely it is to look less “ambitious.”

That’s not to say that simple colors can’t be beautiful. I appreciate the three-toned body of the pachy. It means that not all dinosaurs could afford the luxury or would even need to be outlandishly-skinned. They were living, breathing animals. As such, like today’s animals, they’d vary in patterning and color palettes pending on their environment, ecological niche, size, season, and so on. It’s entirely possible that, during the spring, a pachy’s quills would grow bright yellow to attract mates!

It’s something that I’ll be sure to keep more in mind as I continue to roll along and habitually draw up restorations. I’ve let myself a bit too loose, creatively, and it’s just time to reel it back in.

Skeletal References: Camarasaurus by Scott Hartman; Pachycephalosaurus by Unknown.

Spinosaurus…penguinicus…

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Okay, well, allow me to explain myself. It was World Penguin Day not too long ago and I got the lovely idea to create a semi-fluffy Spinosaurus…with penguin color patterns. It doesn’t make too much sense to have king/emperor penguin yellow hues around the neck, but it certainly does look striking, doesn’t it?

Spinosaurus was a large theropod – possibly the biggest ever known – that spent most of its time in the water. Its hind limbs, laughably tiny (its legs were to it as arms were to T. rex) made it…awkward on land, at best. I restored it with webbed feet and a weird pseudo-fin on its tail to enhance its swimming power. The extremely tall vertebrae along the back formed a strange “M” shape instead of a semi-circle. It was also likely not thin. The bones wouldn’t have been visible in life, giving the structure more of a hump-like appearance.

I’ll make a short essay on the voyage of Spinosaurus from weird Dimetrodon-a-saurus to the amphibious monstrosity it is today (upon completion of a more serious restoration).

Until next time!

Skeletals – Skeletals EVERYWHERE

Proportions suck.

I’m sure many artists whose subjects are people cal relate to this sentiment. The hand’s too big. The arm’s not long enough. Something else isn’t long enough. It’s tough to stay consistent without a strong baseline. People, cars, extant animals, and plants are as abundant as they come, so creating references is as easy as asking a friend to stand still for a few moments. So, lately, I’ve been focusing on making side profiles for the animals I draw with designs I intend to refine later.

The painting on the left is a skinned, muscled, and colored Brachiosaurus altithorax. Next to it is a skeletal reconstruction by Scott Hartman, whose works have been used by many in the paleo art community for reference or to make their own references. An agreeable man who has embraced and allowed others to use his illustrations (unlike some people with rather over-inflated egos), I thank Hartman for helping me create one of my more favorite reconstructions.

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My most recent Mosasaurus reconstruction is also derived from a Hartman illustration. It should be noted that none of the illustrations I make that have used a Hartman skeletal (or from any other source) will be available on RedBubble. This is concept work, as I take the time and effort to eventually create actual art that departs from these bland posed shots.

I’ll also take the time to acknowledge that this is my first ever WordPress blog post! Rejoice! No longer will I have to cram descriptions on Instagram or Reddit – all my blabbering will now remain here. I don’t know when my next original illustration will come through, since I’m still doing a ton of skeletal “dress-up” work like above in preparation for future projects, but I do guarantee that it’ll involve something feathery.

Until next time.