Critter of the Month: Brachiosaurus

Meet Elmer. He’s a little shy, and likes staying in his comfort zone, but he’ll be your best giant friend if you give him some greens and a big hug.

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I was wondering…What do giant sauropods do when it rains? So I started a quick little comic about Elmer this month. I say started, because I only got halfway through. But we’ll see what happens to Elmer as we go through August. Enjoy!

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Sketchbook Sneak Peak

What do you like to do over the weekend?

Pete enjoys leisurely walks with the critters at the shop. Today he’s taking Opie the Ornitholestes and Nina the Nanosaurus.

Wait a second, don’t they have a rather antagonistic relationship? Well, yes, you’d be correct if we were talking about wild Ornitholestes and Nanosaurus, but domestic ones can learn to get along with the proper training. A well fed and regularly exercised Ornitholestes soon learns to ignore a Nanosaurus, especially one that is fully grown. Nina here will be just a little bigger than Opie once she reaches her full size, but that’ll be a while yet since she’s already mature and now in slow-growth mode.

Many dinosaurs grow very quickly in size when they’re young, like us. Once mature, we don’t grow any taller, but many dinosaurs will continue growing (at a much slower pace) for as long as they live.

Pete usually has a harness for Nina, but he doesn’t need one for Opie. Opie saw Pete for the first time when he hatched out of the egg, and he followed Pete around like a duckling follows its mother. He’s all grown up now, so he usually spends time out in his paddock, but he’ll still follow Pete around when he comes by. All the Ornitholestes that did not see Pete as a hatchling don’t do this, so he uses a harness anytime he needs to take them somewhere.

Frenemies? Pete takes Nina the Nanosaurus and Opie the Ornitholestes for a walk.
Time for a walk! They don’t really need walks at the shop, but Pete likes to spend a little time with the different animals.

Out in the wild, a fully grown adult Nanosaurus wouldn’t have too much to worry about from an Ornitholestes, especially as a flock. Young chicks would definitely have to watch out though, like these hiding in the cycad fronds. Luckily for them, this Ornitholestes is only curious about the rustling in the foliage, and not particularly hungry. A hunting Ornitholestes would keep its head low, and move slowly and quietly. Then the young Nanosaurus would crouch low to the ground and sit absolutely still, ready to dart out of the stiff cycad leaves if they are found.

Nanosaurus chicks spy on a curious Ornitholestes from behind some plants. He'll never notice...
Maybe he won’t notice us?

Thank you so much for stopping by! See you on August 1st for Critter of the Month! 😀

Sketchbook Sneak Peak

I have all sorts of pterosaurs flying and scampering around in my sketchbook lately.

Dimorphodon was a smallish flying reptile from the early Jurassic period. The first fossils were discovered by the famous paleontologist Mary Anning off the coast of England, and then named by Richard Owen himself in 1859. Despite its history, it’s not particularly well known aside from its appearance in the Jurassic Park franchise.

Now as much as people like to pick apart the inaccuracy of “those animals” from the Jurassic Park franchise, I will not be doing that here.

  1. It’s easier to compare with pictures and simply see the difference.
  2. The Jurassic Park team is actually quite aware that their prehistoric animals are inaccurate, and most of their new creatures simply keep to the aesthetic of the franchise (though they’ve certainly made an effort to include a little more accuracy in the games, like Jurassic World Alive). There are rumors that Jurassic World: Dominion will have more accurate dinosaurs, which would be awesome even if it’s only a flashback to the Mesozoic.
  3. All prehistoric creatures from the Jurassic Park franchise are the products of Dr. Wu’s genetic manipulations, many of which have either been spliced together with frog or fish DNA, or else simply altered to have whichever traits Dr. Wu wanted to highlight at the time. Considering he created monsters like the Indominus rex and Indoraptor…
Jurassic Park monster blend of frog, fish, lizard, and a dash of Dimorphodon.
Eek! It’s a gargoyle fitting for a monster movie. Image is not mine and is copyright to Jurassic World Alive software and Ludia inc.

On the subject of monsters, I had a blast drawing some vintage antediluvian sea monsters and flying reptiles! I just love any excuse to draw old-fashioned dinosaurs and other prehistoric critters. I referenced some of the original etchings to draw these, so you may recognize them even if I added a few tweaks of my own.

Pterodactylus was the first prehistoric creature ever officially described. Some thought it was a bat-like mammal, which explains the fur here. I drew the wings based on the Pterodactylus sculptures at the Crystal Palace in London. I loved their swan-like grace, and I figured most scientists at the time thought the wings would be more like this instead of the odd circular shape in the original sketch. So even though this pterosaur closely references the first original sketch of Pterodactylus, I took the liberty of swapping out the wings with a model I imagine was far more common at the time.

A placid Pterodactylus is spectator to a clash of marine monsters. Convenient that they chose land for their arena!
A serene and majestic (giant) Pterodactylus is spectator to a clash of marine monsters. How convenient that they chose land for their battle so that we could watch!

Now that we’ve had fun with movie monsters and first guesses, let’s take a look at a more modern understanding of pterosaurs. Dimorphodon in particular.

Dimorphodon was rather unusual for a pterosaur. Its body is proportionally heavier than most other pterosaurs its size, and with its shorter wings may have preferred staying on the ground or clambering in the trees. Rather like turkeys do today. So how would you get Dimorphodon off the ground?

Something scary would certainly do it, but Pete prefers to show us this behavior by throwing a treat or a ball.

That moment of anticipation before the ball is thrown.
Ready? Set…
Dimorphodon launches into the air to catch a ball.
And lift-off! No cliffs, trees, or running starts required! Just leap-frog into the air with strong wings.

Thank you so much for stopping by! See you next week for another Sketchbook Sneak-Peak! 😀

Sketchbook Sneak Peak

Little Scutellosaurus never knew it’s descendants would be such incredible tanks!

Scutellosaurus was a small armored dinosaur from Early Jurassic North America, in what is now the Kayenta Formation in New Mexico. It’s bony scutes were rather similar to those of crocodiles, and probably appeared very similar to crocodile skin in life.

Stegosaurus appeared in Late Jurassic North America, in an area known as the Morrison Formation in the American west. More time separates it from Scutellosaurus than the millions of years between T. rex and us!

Stegosaurus is famous for its elaborate array of plates and spikes, which were covered in sheaths of horn. Like the large horns on longhorn cattle or the large ears of African elephants, these large plates were filled with a complex series of blood vessels that helped the animal stay cool in the heat or take advantage of the sun’s warming light on cool mornings.

Other benefits to large, heavy, and energetically expensive decorations are communication with other stegosaurs and intimidating predators. Cape buffalo have a ridge along their spines to make them appear as large and difficult a target as possible. Perhaps Stegosaurus would’ve faced a predator sideways, swinging its tail and bristling like a porcupine!

Ankylosaurus was another relative of Scutellosaurus that is far more well known than it’s humble ancestor, but it did not appear until nearly the end of the Cretaceous Period. It lived alongside T. rex, and was heavily armored with scutes covered in horn.

Next up is something purely for fun! I absolutely adore the idea of tiny clay creations, and secretly (not so secretly lol ) hope to one day have a collection of all my critters in their tiny clay forms. 😀 This little collection is a mini Morrison march, and is just a bit of fun brainstorming of what mini figures may look like. Can you imagine a tiny, cute environment in an Altoid tin? I love seeing those on Instagram!

Thank you so much for stopping by! See you on July 1st for the next Critter of the Month! 😀

Sketchbook Sneak Peak

Do Pterosaurs make good pets?

Well that depends on what you need in a pet. If you like lizards or birds, and you have the proper enclosures, some of the smaller pterosaurs can make great pets! Take the Rhamphorynchus Pete is holding down below…a fully enclosed run and a small plastic swimming pool is all you need for this little guy to be content.

If your friend needs a companion or two, there are other creatures from the Solnhofen formation that are good options. Rhamphorynchus does not really need company, but it won’t mind if you decide to also bring a Compsognathus to your home. Compsognathus is large enough that Rhamphorynchus won’t bully them.

Pterodactylus and Archaeopteryx are too small to be in the same enclosure as Rhamphorynchus. Rhamphorynchus tend to be more pushy, and may end up bullying critters smaller than them. Both Pterodactylus and Archaeopteryx are social creatures, and are happiest with at least one other of their kind. If kept together in an enclosure, Archaeopteryx and Pterodactylus tend to ignore each other until meal time comes around. Always keep meal times separate to avoid fierce competition.

Compsognathus does not have this problem, and gets along well with anyone. It may be a little more enthusiastic and curious than the other creatures would like, but if it really ruffles their feathers or fluff that much then they can just fly to a higher perch.

A subadult Rhamphorynchus enjoys a back scratch.
Solnhofen neighbors from left to right...Pterodactylus, Archeopteryx, Rhamphorynchus, and Compsognathus.
Pterodactylus will fly to your hand for treats! Pete wears a glove to avoid accidental scratches.

Thank you so much for stopping by! See you on June 26th for the next sneak peak into the sketchbook! 😀

Fossil Friday: A Peak in the Sketchbook

I don’t have a critter ready to feature today, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have Fossil Friday. 🙂 I’ve been hard at work with the illustrations for the short story collection, which is getting close to my personal deadline to finish it! Take a quick peak in my sketchbook to see what I’ve been working on….

First up are a few drawings from the aquatic creatures like Hybodus and Plesiosaurus. Hybodus was a shark-like animal that patrolled many of Earth’s shallow seas for an incredibly long time. Species of Hybodus span from the Permian period (the era just before the Triassic, the dawn of the “dinosaur age”) all the way to the late Cretaceous during the reign of Tyrannosaurus. In the first image all fish are drawn to scale.

The second image is featured on the fun facts section for Plesiosaurus, a marine reptile famous for its long neck. In the story, Nessie the Plesiosaurus is fed squid stuffed into ammonite shells, so I explored ammonites and other similar creatures.

The following two drawings are featured in the fun facts for one of the first stories, Ceratosaurus. Since Ceratosaurus and many of its neighbors in the Morrison Formation have the prestige of being among the first dinosaurs named, I thought it would be fun to show how our image of dinosaurs has changed over time. No, it has nothing to do with an excuse to draw vintage dinosaurs…nothing at all. 😀

Once I started researching vintage paleoart from the late 1800s, I couldn’t help but imitate the charm and personality of their drawings. I love seeing Stegosaurus’ many varying plates and tail spikes before they understood the arrangement as we do now, and most scale drawings have some snarling predator creeping up to an utterly oblivious herbivore and/or human. I almost went for the derpy Diplodocus with toothpicks for legs, but it was just a little too awkward, and even at the time most people did not think Diplodocus was a belly dragger (They thought sauropods were water-dwelling creatures, surely something as big as a whale couldn’t hold up its own weight!). Just for fun though, I’ll show you what I mean at the end of this post. 😀

The middle picture is just a close up of the two Ceratosaurus, modern and old. 🙂

This image was borrowed from copyrightexpired.com, which has collected all of Heinrich Harder’s beautiful artwork along with other art published before 1923.

This picture is not mine, obviously, but painted by German artist Heinrich Harder. He did a large series of paintings for collectible cards of prehistoric animals, and all of them are gorgeous. I find it rather interesting that a Brontosaurus he painted holds its body up on strong, almost bear-like legs instead of these spindly lizardy ones. You can find that Brontosaurus here, and I highly recommend heading over to take a look at his card collection here and here.

Thank you so much for stopping by! See you on July 1st for the next Critter of the Month! 😀

Critter of the Month: Leedsichthys

Meet Gulper. He’s the biggest, most easy-going fish in the sea.  All he wants in life is to drift through nice sunny waters.  He’d love it if you joined him for a swim, and you’re welcome to hitch a ride on his fin. 🙂

Gulper is a gigantic guppy-at-heart. Do you happen to have a goldfish bowl the size of the Mediterranean Sea?

Today we have a short comic featuring one of Gulper’s giant friends. It’s speculated that these gentle giants would’ve gathered together to feed on giant clouds of plankton and other tiny creatures in the ocean.

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