The Doldrums

Life is a lot like sailing an old-fashioned ship.

Sometimes the ship has all her sails unfurled and filled with a steady wind. Her hold is full of food, water, and trade goods, and all the sailors are strong and ready for whatever adventures the sea has to offer and the future is full of expectation and wonder.

Then there are the doldrums…those times when the ship’s sails hang limp with barely a breeze, the food has grown stale and moldy, the crew is tired, hot, and longing for sight of land. Sometimes a storm is what blows a ship off course into those terrible areas of ocean without the winds a ship depends on to move forward.

Recently, my ship was swallowed by one of those storms and left somewhere with a broken mast and barely a breeze to ruffle limp sails, and though I am still working on things, it really doesn’t look like much on the outside.

I did clean up one of my critters for Redbubble though, so I’m not completely empty-handed!

And the Critter of the Month is…

Picasso the Dilophosaurus! This handsome gentleman lived in the scrub forests of early Jurassic New Mexico. I like to imagine that the area wasn’t all that different from the type of habitat the area has today. Lots of prickly growing things that can survive until the rains come.

Of course, no animal lives on a white sheet of paper all by itself, and Dilophosaurus had several neighbors that were dinosaurs. Sarahsaurus and Scutellosaurus were both munched on plants, but Sarahsaurus was a relative of long-necked sauropods and much larger than the dog-sized Scutellosaurus. Take a peak at all the hard scutes on its back for a clue on its much larger, later relatives, Stegosaurus and Ankylosaurus.

The two smaller predators, Kayentavenator and Coelophysis, scurried around the shrubby undergrowth and along the outskirts of the great desert to the north like modern day secretary birds (look them up. They live in Africa and they are fierce!). Coelophysis is a bit of an enigma. Is it really the last of its kind surviving from the Triassic period? Or is it something new that looks a lot like it? Either way, figuring out which bones belong to which animals is tricky business, especially when dealing with close relatives or great, great, great, great, great grand-children. Not even paleontologists always agree.

It’s certainly possible to have a “last of its kind” sort of scenario, and there were probably many we will never know about. Just take a look at modern platypus or aardvarks.

I really like these critters. I’ve printed them out on sticker paper and pasted them all over my journals 😀

Scuttling around the feet of dinosaurs, or flying overhead, or swimming in the rivers, were all the not-dinosaurs: crocodile cousins, flying pterosaurs, turtles, and mammal-ish critters, plus an amphibian or two, lots of fish, and insects. Finding any fossils of these creatures is difficult, and most want to focus on studying the dinosaurs, so there isn’t very much information on them.

Small fossils are very hard to find, and most of what is known where in areas like rivers or lakes. Many creatures that live in drier habitats are adapted to take most of their water from the food they eat, or else have special adaptations that they don’t need to come to drink as often. Flying pterosaurs may not even be from the area, and are just passing through as they migrate from one place to another. The chance of one of these animals dying somewhere that the bones can fossilize is very small indeed.

Knowing how diverse and full of life modern deserts, scrubforest, and other almost-desert habitats are, I truly believe that the animals below are just a small hint of what life was like in their corner of the world.

Oh, and did I mention that I cleaned up Picasso’s picture for Redbubble?

I needed a new mug, because somehow most of my mugs have all broken (a hazard with little kids running around the place). So here he is on my brand new mug from Redbubble! He makes a great companion when it’s time for a morning cup of coffee or afternoon tea (I like chai), so if you would like to adopt him, you can find him over at Redbubble. Clicking on the picture below will get you there. 🙂

See you July 1st for the next Critter of the Month!

Do you like to swim? Do you have a snack? If you do, then he’ll be your friend forever.

Share your guess in the comments! He’ll be one of the critters over on the critter page. 🙂

2 thoughts on “The Doldrums

  1. I must say that I am proud of your progress. Even with me bringing up the 2020 Dilophosaurus paper many months ago, I am not mad about Picasso’s design. It’s also nice to look back at the Kayenta Fossil Friday project, I remember that thing quite well.
    As for the next critter, I’m guessing it’s Chum the Hybodus. By the way, fun fact: Hybodus nowadays is considered to have been exclusive to the Jurassic, meaning that you introduced the fish as basically the right time.


    1. Thank you! I love Dilophosaurus, and the paper was very exciting, so eventually Picasso will get a proper update. I’m just in the process of cleaning up already existing illustrations for Redbubble and library exhibits. Did I ever show you the Dilophosaurus illustration based on the 2020 discoveries?

      And yes, Hybodus is next 🙂 If Hybodus is now determined to be a Jurassic critter, then that’s perfect!


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