Critter of the Week: Pterodactylus

Meet Terry. She’s a chipper little flyer who would love to scramble up onto your shoulder and nibble your ear (just a little nibble, it tickles).  And could she please, pretty please have a tiny bit of that sandwich?

Terry update

Terry always likes a snack, especially small morsels like snails, grubs, and worms she digs up.  That sandwich looks quite tempting though, and she won’t turn her nose up at an opportunity to snatch it out of your hand, so keep an eye and a firm hold on it. 😀 Continue reading

Critter of the Week: Ornitholestes

Meet Opie. He’s a happy little fella who loves to curl up in your lap, so it’s a good thing he’s about the size of a big dog!

Opie.jpg

Yes, Opie seems to think he’s a big lapdog, and he loves it when you stroke his feathers.  Where is he off to now?  It looks like he’s going to show you his favorite toy…Opie carries Teddy around everywhere.  He’s gone through quite a few “surgeries” to poke the stuffing back in after Opie nibbled on him. Continue reading

Critter of the Week: Pterodactylus

Meet Terry. She’s a chipper little flyer who would love to scramble up onto your shoulder and nibble your ear (just a little nibble, it tickles).  And could she please, pretty please have a tiny bit of that sandwich?

terry-update

Terry always likes a snack, especially small morsels like snails, grubs, and worms she digs up.  That sandwich looks quite tempting though, and she won’t turn her nose up at an opportunity to snatch it out of your hand, so keep an eye and a firm hold on it. 😀

She might not look it, but this little pterosaur (not dinosaur), is very good at walking and running around on the ground.  She spends a lot of her time poking her sensitive snout in the dirt for all sorts of burrowing creepy crawlies.  When she feels one, she nabs it with her tiny teeth and gulps it down.  Yum! Continue reading

Critter of the Week: Rhamphorhynchus

Meet Ron. He’s the flying ace.  He’ll swoop from the sky, dive into the water, and swim anywhere for a shiny fish. 🙂

ron

Rrr- just how do you pronounce that?  I wasn’t 100% sure on that myself, so I looked it up on Youtube…

There, mystery solved. 🙂  I wonder if there’s one for all the really hard paleo-critter names out there.  I may have to include something like this from now on until I figure out a better system.

Oh, and before you ask, yes, there is evidence that pterosaurs can swim. 🙂 Ron here seems to spend most of his time in water, which might be why we have so many perfect fossils of this little guy. 🙂

He’s fast though.  It took a whole bucket of fish to entice him to come over for a quick chat.

And there he goes!  Ah well, if you want to know more about these guys, I know a pretty awesome blog post written by the great pterosaur expert, Mark Witton.  It has lots of pretty pictures too!

Making progress…

Drumroll please… Continue reading

Critter of the Week: Camarasaurus

Meet Bella. She’s big, she’s loud, and she’s really happy to see you! She’s happy to see anyone really, except Alfred, but can you blame her? There’s about a-bazillion years of conflict going on there…

bella

There she is! She is the most accommodating of Pete’s very large camarasaurus herd- voted least likely to accidentally trample the equipment. They can be an excitable bunch, and don’t always pay attention to what they’re bumping into. I’ll just say that when Pete finally got her separated from the herd there was a tractor, some flags, an air horn, and a rubber chicken involved…

These Camaras are more closely related to the smaller wild species, C. lentus (there are 3 🙂 ), which are only about 49 feet long. But that’s still a lot of sauropod on the move, especially when you multiply it by 80!

Why so many?

Paleontologists may call Bella the ugliest sauropod, but they’re pretty popular for anyone with plenty of pasture. Their friendly and calm, cow-like attitude makes them an easier alternative to the larger giants like Elmer.

If only they weren’t so loud! But some may call Bella’s singing endearing. It’s lovely to hear their chorus far out to pasture.

Have the video play in the background while you look at Bella above, I can’t help laughing at the mental picture of 50 or 100 of these fat, happy sauropods calling to each other constantly. In a herd of such large animals, you don’t really need stealth. 😀

 

Making progress…

It looks like I may actually meet my deadline for the Critter Cam eBook!  It won’t be the full book to start with, just a taste test for 99 cents, but this might be the most exciting (and terrifying) 99 cents I ever make.  It’s a huge milestone for me.  I promise I’ll give you more details about it in the following weeks as I finish this one.

But enough chatter.  Here’s a preview!

DippyvsBall_pg1_flat.jpg

 

So what’s exactly the progress here, you ask?  It looks a bit similar to the last progress post…

  • The line work for the 3 page mini-comic is complete
  • I’ve started on coloring (same basic color as on the chibi critters)

Here’s last week’s sketch, for comparison.

dippy-comic-progress

 

You’ll notice a lot of the detail’s been lost.  Why?  Because some day I’d like to animate these little stories and post them on Youtube.  Kinda how you have little 10-30 second clips on characters when a new Pixar or Disney movie comes out.

Detail is not friendly if you want to make it move. 🙂  So that means color will be simple too, with limited (if any) shadows and highlights.  I’m thinking along the lines of Caillou, Curious George, or some other kid’s TV show.

 

Coming Next Week…

These two love making new friends, especially if you have a treat…

Share your guess in the comments! They’re a couple of critters over on the critter page. 🙂

Critter of the Week: Compsognathus

Meet Twig. He’s a lot more travel-sized, if you’re looking for a dinosaur that’s not a bird.  He makes up for his size by being extra fluffy and huggable.  Can you resist that fuzzy tail?

Twig.jpg

Twig may be small, but he’s not nearly as teeny as most “educational” sources would have you believe.  Almost all the dinosaur books I’ve come across claim this little guy as the smallest dinosaur. “As big as a chicken” is the phrase often used.

Twig would have you know he’s the size of a turkey, not a chicken (makes a big difference if you’re standing right next to it).  All those other reports are actually based off a German fossil of a juvenile compy, not an adult.  Another well-preserved fossil was discovered in France in the 1970’s, but paleontologists weren’t sure it was a compy until more recent years.

Twig doesn’t mind the confusion though.  He’s not really bothered by much as long as he can snatch a lizard or two out of the bushes. 🙂

Just for fun, here’s a picture of Jurassic Park’s Compsognathus.  This picture is from the Jurassic Park Wikia, but did not have any credit associated with it.  It looks like it was cut from a screenshot of Jurassic Park: The Lost World.  It’s really quite a nice little puppet, and the film makers were able to give it the very lifelike, birdy movements described in the first book of the series.

thrash

The model has a few glaring inaccuracies, but I really enjoyed watching it in the film anyway.

  • Shrinkwrapped skin on muscle on bone, with no soft tissue in between.
  • Two fingers instead of three
  • Broken bunny arms
  • The lack of feathers is not technically inaccurate, because some relatives preserve feathers, and others preserve scales on the tail. So it’s a coin toss really, at least until we can find more data.  🙂

 

Making progress…

Got this done while the kids where happily playing with cars…well, they didn’t play with cars the whole time, but they were playing together, without fighting!  It was a rare blissful morning I tell ya.  😀

dippy comic progress.jpg

Of course it still needs work, but I thought I’d share my progress with you as I work on this.  I was hoping to have the eBook done by Christmas, but that was before I realized it’s almost impossible for me to not add detail.

See, I was going for a style like the size comparison critters in this chart.

dippy-page-copy

 What would you prefer?  The simpler, cuter, faster to draw style, or the more detailed sketchiness I’m currently going with.  It’ll take a bit longer, but I’ll keep you posted regularly on my progress!

Coming Next Week…

Why, oh why must everyone call her ugly?  I really don’t know.  She may not be winning any beauty contests, but she’s a real sweet heart with anyone she meets. 🙂

Share your guess in the comments! She’s one of the critters over on the critter page. 🙂

Five Fast Ichthyosaur Facts

When it comes to prehistoric critters, usually Dinosaurs are the first critters to come to mind, but really that’s just the tip of the iceberg.  Among the many strange critters cruising the Mesozoic seas were the Ichthyosaurs.  They’re not dinosaurs at all, even though they’re often lumped into the same pile.  So if they’re not dinosaurs, what are they exactly?  Here are five fast facts to help demystify these swimming reptiles… 

ichthyosaurus_notdino

1. First things first, how do you say that?!

I recently realized I’ve been pronouncing this word wrong all my life.  I’ve been saying “Itch-theo-sore”.  But that’s with English phonetics.  The word comes from the Greek ichthys (fish) and sauros (lizard or reptile).  With that in mind, this is what it should sound like…

So now my little girl calls them “icky-saurs” instead of “itchy-saurs”. 😀

 

2. Ok, so what exactly is an “icktheosaur”?

Long story short, they are reptiles specially adapted to live in water.  They were born, grew up, had babies, and died in water.  Basically, reptilian “fish”.  Or reptilian “dolphins”.

They appeared during the Triassic period, around the same time the first dinosaurs started running around.  They shared a “golden age” with dinosaurs in the Jurassic period, but most died out by the time the Cretaceous period arrived.  A few species held on a while longer, but they missed out on the big asteroid that hit Earth.

 

3. Why do they look so much like fish/dolphin/shark…things?

If it isn’t broken, why fix it?  The fish/dolphin/shark body shape works so well for a lifestyle in water, multiple animals have adopted it.  A streamlined, torpedo body with stabilizing fins is perfect for slicing through water efficiently, so very little effort is needed to move around.

It’s a perfect example of what is called convergent evolution, which is when several completely unrelated animals (i.e. fish, reptile, mammal) develop similar body plans or lifestyles.

Personally?  I think it’s an interesting coincidence that so many unrelated animals developed the same body shape and lifestyle…very interesting indeed. 😀

 

4. Wait a sec…How do we know they looked like that?

That’s an easy one.  Some Ichthyosaur fossils have preserved the soft tissue of the animal, so we can see the streamlined outline, as well as a shark-like tail and fins.  Many fossils also preserve things that give us clues on behavior, like a mother giving birth to live young.  The fossil captures the newborn Ichthyosaur mid-birth!

 

5. No way…how do you know it wasn’t eating the smaller one?

Paleontologists can tell that the smaller Ichthyosaur was not there for some random reason because of where it is.  The little one was halfway inside the larger one (instead of just layered under it), but clearly in the right place for a baby, and not lunch.

And speaking of lunch, some fossils preserve that too!  In many of their stomachs, we find tiny hooks similar to what some modern squid have on their tentacles.  Mesozoic oceans were not a bounty of fish, as we might think, but there were squids, octopuses, and all their extinct cousins with them.  (lots of them had little hooks like switchblades on their tentacles.)

Of course an Ichthyosaur will eat whatever it can get, including fish, but the squidy things where just soo common.  Sheer numbers means they get eaten more often.

Want to find out more?  Just take a look at this awesome post by Duane Nash at his blog, Antediluvian Salad.

So there you go, “Ick-theosaurs” in a nutshell. 😀  Reptiles that dove into the water, took the life and body shape of a shark, and lived alongside the dinosaurs eating calamari.

 

Quick Question:  We all make mistakes, and sometimes a pronunciation mistake can be pretty funny (like my little girl’s “itchy-saur”).  Have you ever pronounced something a certain way, only to find out it’s something totally different later?  It could be a dinosaur name, or something else.  I’d love to hear from you in the comments! 😀

Critter of the Week: 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.

elmer

The best way to a dino’s heart is through his stomach, as they say.  Well, that’s not really the phrase, but I’m sure it’s just as true, especially when it comes to these long-necked sauropods. 🙂  I think the rough estimate is a solid cube- 5ft x 5ft – of vegetation in a single day to feed one of these guys.

Oh, there’s Elmer, browsing on a few of the trees that grow here in the pasture.  You’d think you’d see him right away, he’s so big.  But his striped pattern is surprisingly good camouflage in that grove of tall conifers.

What’s he looking at…? Oh, here comes Pete on the Kabota. He’ll be joining us here on the platform to feed Elmer.  If you lean over the railing a bit and look down, see that row of big boxes kinda spaced along the wall?  That’s where the big bunches of conifer branches and ferns will go.  They’re in the big shed behind us, the one to the left of the stairs we came up.

And here comes Elmer.  My goodness, he’s fast.  It looks like he’s moving slow, but with those long legs he sure covers ground quickly!  And so quiet…You’d think there’d be the big stomping footsteps you hear in Jurassic Park.

Hey there Elmer!  We have a friend to see you today. 🙂

I just can’t get over how big he is!  What are we, 30 feet up? 40?

elmer-size-copy

It’s hard to grasp how big these guys really are until you’re right next to them.  Come to think of it, that’s the way it is with most animals.

To think that Elmer is as heavy as 5 elephants.  Five!  And not just any elephant.  5 bull African elephants, which are about as big as it gets when it comes to land animals walking around today.

Here’s a video that helps put that into perspective…

So five of those guys is about as heavy as the average humpback whale.  Yes, Elmer here is every bit as big as a whale, and he’s not even the biggest sauropod out there!

Oh, hi Pete, we have a visitor today!

There you are, friend, a nice bunch of ferns you can give Elmer.  Just grab it at the end here, and make sure your fingers are in a nice, tight fist.

That’s it.

Elmer’s teeth are like pruning shears, so we don’t want to lose any fingers today by mistake.

I think he likes you!

 

Making progress…

I’ve been working on actually finishing the homepage image for a bit now, and I thought I would share my progress so far.

It’s an important part of the site, since it’s the first thing you see, and it’s the “front window” of Pete’s Paleo Petshop.

But it’s also a test.

  • A test for style, to make sure I’m happy with it, and it’ll have the feel I’m going for.
  • A test to see how long it takes me to complete a full illustration. (so far two weeks, but that’s in between the margins of everything else)
  • And a test to make sure you like what you see as well.  After all, this may be an ambitious idea and project, but the long-term goal is to earn a passive income in a way that doesn’t take time from my family.

So here is two weeks of sporadic sketching between posts, child herding, and making sure the house doesn’t fall apart. 😛  (I exaggerate, but truly, being a stay-at-home mom takes quite a bit more work than a lot of people think 🙂 )

homepage-progress

Compared to the current homepage…You’ll notice the little saber-tooth cub lost his fangs.  They’re just hidden behind extra large lips.  Turns out only tusks are exposed, so all saber-tooth cats should have their teeth nicely sheathed. 🙂

I did look at reference pictures, but research was kept to a minimum since most of these animals are not in the Jurassic period.  I’ll update the picture as I get to the appropriate periods, which may take a while. 😛

home page picture

Coming Next Week…

I hope you don’t mind getting wet, because this swimming critter loves to splash! 🙂

Share your guess in the comments! She’s one of the critters over on the critter page. 🙂