Albertosaurus Has Breakfast

Albertosaurus Has Breakfast

It’s a brisk and misty morning in the Late Cretaceous Period, and this Albertosaurus is ready to revive its energy supply with the flesh of an Arrhinoceratops it has brought down.

Albertosaurus sarcophagus, which hunted in North America between 71 and 68 million years ago, would have been a smaller and nimbler cousin of the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex, as both were members of the predatory dinosaur family Tyrannosauridae. Coincidentally enough, the Arrhinoceratops brachyops it is about to devour here also had a close affiliation with another, also much larger celebrity among the Late Cretaceous dinosaurs, namely the chasmosaurine ceratopsian Triceratops.

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Denisovan Man

Denisovan Man

This is my depiction of a male specimen of the recently discovered, enigmatic hominin species from eastern Asia known as the Denisovans. Known only from fragmentary remains from which DNA has been extracted, they appear to have been most closely related to the contemporaneous Neanderthals, sharing their European cousins’ tendency towards a heavily built anatomy compared to modern Homo sapiens. However, the genetic data so far also indicates that Denisovans may have been darker-skinned than the Neanderthals as well as better adapted to the low-oxygen conditions of higher altitudes (like one might find in the Himalaya Mountains, for instance).

Although the Denisovans for the most part have joined their Neanderthal brethren in going extinct, they did leave a small imprint (between 1-6%) on the genetic ancestry of modern humans of East Asian, Melanesian, and Aboriginal Australian heritage.

Apidima 1 of Pleistocene Greece

Apidima 1 in Pleistocene Greece

This illustration depicts the specimen of early Homo sapiens known as Apidima 1, a fragment of whose skull was found in a cave in southern Greece and dated to 210,000 years ago. This would make this individual the oldest discovered example of Homo sapiens found outside Africa, although they probably represented a dead-end lineage rather than an ancestor for any people living today.

Positioned to the right of Apidima 1 herself are two of the species with whom she might have coexisted in the scrubby chaparral of Pleistocene Greece. They are the extinct European straight-tusked elephant (Palaeoloxodon antiquus), and the still-thriving golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos).

The Dino-Kini

The Dino-Kini

There are few outfits that would benefit a heroine of the prehistoric jungle more than the dinosaur-hide bikini. The tough and scaly hide grants the wearer protective armor where it matters the most, yet the bikini form provides the perfect comfort for hot and humid Cretaceous conditions. Not to mention, it allows her to show off her figure! 😁

(Of course, this would be a shaded version of one of those sketches I did on my recent vacation.)

July Vacation Sketches

Weekend Vacation Sketches

I did these three sketches while on vacation in Washington, D.C., since one of our distant cousins was getting married. It was a disappointing ceremony, to be honest, since the food they served afterward was really bad (despite it being served at a “fancy” venue) and only the bride and groom got to have even one bite of their cake. On the upside, I did get to visit both the Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History and Culture as well as their Natural History Museum, both of which were real treasure troves of photogenic exhibits.

Going in a clockwise direction, the subjects of each sketch are:

1) A Tyrannosaurus rex, with a speculative “ridge” of jagged scales on its forelimbs inspired by those of some crocodiles today.

2) A “prehistoric fantasy” warrior heroine clad with strips of dinosaur hide.

3) A female Egyptian Pharaoh wearing the traditional blue crown of war (or khepresh).

Apidima 1 Portrait

Apidima_1_Portrait

Apidima 1 is the first of two specimens of hominin skull material recovered in a cave in southeastern Greece in the 1970s, the other being labeled Apidima 2. A recent analysis determined that, while the fragments of Apidima 2’s skull could comfortably be identified as that of a Neanderthal who lived 170,000 years ago, those of Apidima 1 shows features more characteristic of modern humans (Homo sapiens)—despite actually having lived in the region at least forty thousand years before Apidima 2. Which is to say, Apidima 1 may show that a population of modern humans had already colonized southeastern Europe from Africa by 210,000 years ago. In fact, Apidima 1 may be the oldest Homo sapiens specimen found outside the African cradle.

This notwithstanding, the people represented by Apidima 1 appear to represent another “dead end” in the annals of human evolution. All humans living outside of Africa, modern Greeks included, owe the vast majority of their ancestry to a later migration from the continent between 70-50,000 years ago.

Since the fragments of bone belonging to Apidima 1 all came from the back of its skull, its sex has yet to be identified. But given my weakness for drawing pretty women, of course I had to reconstruct it as female!

The Xianrendong Culture

The Xianrendong Culture

This is a small educational poster (or mini-poster, if you prefer) describing an Upper Paleolithic culture uncovered in the Xianrendong Cave of southeastern China. This culture is remarkable for having produced some of the oldest pottery ever recovered by archaeologists, attesting to a hunter-gatherer culture that had begun to settle down in villages well over ten thousand years before the development of agriculture. On the right side of the poster is a speculative reconstruction of how the people of prehistoric Xianrendong may have looked.

You can buy your own printed copy of the poster from my Redbubble!

Jurassic Conifer

Jurassic Conifer

Through the first two periods of the Mesozoic Era (namely the Triassic and the Jurassic), coniferous trees would have been among the most common trees in the forests until flowering plants (or angiosperms) appeared and then took over during the course of the Cretaceous. That being said, I have never cared for how many “serious” paleo-artists model the conifers in their Mesozoic landscapes after modern, “Christmas tree”-shaped conifers found in today’s colder regions.

As the paleobotanist Duane Nash has pointed out, the conical shape we associate with today’s conifers is an adaptation to prevent snow piling up during winter, which would have been a rare to non-existent problem for the tropical to subtropical ecosystems that covered most of the Mesozoic world. In other words, the majority of Mesozoic conifers wouldn’t necessarily look like the sort of tree you’d get for your winter holiday celebration.

To illustrate this point, I’ve sketched out what I imagine a typical coniferous tree from the Jurassic Period would appear. It’s not supposed to represent any particular fossil species, but I did draw a lot of inspiration from the “kauri pine” found in the Queensland area of northeastern Australia today. The buttressed roots on this tree, although speculative on my part, are based on those found in numerous tree species throughout the tropics and subtropics.

 

Triceratops Facial Studies

Triceratops Facial Studies

In recent years, some paleontologists have claimed that ceratopsian dinosaurs such as Triceratops would have had their whole faces covered with a thick sheath of horny keratin, based on reports of indentations on the skulls left by blood vessels like those underneath the beaks of living birds (which are also made of keratin). So here are two facial studies of Triceratops, one showing this hypothetical keratin covering (bottom) and the other a more traditional version with scaly skin covering the face instead (top).

Titanis the Terror Bird

Titanis the Terror Bird

Titanis walleri, the last of the terror birds, has shown the saber-toothed cat Xenosmilus hodsonae who really reigns at the top of the food chain in Florida circa 1.8 million years ago.

The prehistoric terror birds, more properly known as the phorusrhacids, were a family of giant, flightless, and carnivorous cousins of the modern seriema that thrived between 62 and 1.8 million years ago. Most of them would have been endemic to South America, but Titanis is one example that has been found as far north as Texas and Florida. You could say that these big killer birds were among the last of the big predatory theropods.