Friday, May 8, 2009

Let's Finish Reading _The New Dinosaurs_ Aready!

Part the First, Part the Second. Let's just jump right in.

"Let's Read _The New Dinosaurs_" - Springe

It's hard to believe now, but Dromeosaurs weren't well-known by the late-80's. We'd only found a few specimens and the true nature of these animals wasn't yet well understood. In the pre-"Jurassic Park" world, Dromeosaurs weren't very popular either.

With that in mind, the fact that Dougal Dixon has only two speculative members of the fast-running, prey-chasing clade make a little more sense. The fact that one of them, the Springe, is a passive ambush predator makes a hell of a lot less sense. He lies by the river, pretending to have drowned, and attacks any hungry carnivore who comes along to investigate. The prey is impaled on one of his large talons. Yeah, I can totally see that working enough times for it to be your one way of acquiring food. And I can also totally see a 'raptor having the patience to hunt for food this way. :/

(Illustration by John Butler.) Come to think of it, Maniraptors as a group get totally shafted in
The New Dinosaurs. Most notably, birds barely get any attention at all. Thus we have the Gimp, a small, flightless theropod who got to the "feed on as many flowers in the rainforest as you can before sunset" niche before anything flight-capable did.

Can you imagine running into this animal in real life? I don't know if I would want to run away from it as quickly as possible or toss a Pokeball at it.

"Let's Read _The New Dinosaurs_" - Turtosaur

When I came upon the imaginatively-named Turtosaur (she is a descendant of armored sauropods like Saltasaurus), I felt the original illustration made her look more like a machine than an actual eating, breathing, pooping animal. Hence, Steampunk-ish Sauropod.

(Illustration by Jeane Colville.) Just reiterating how damn stupid the Wyrms are as a concept and a creature design. How does that not look awkward?

"Let's Read _The New Dinosaurs_" - Flurrit

If Wembly Fraggle and Tim Curry's hang-glider/cape-wearing character from "The Worst Witch" had a love-child, it would look like the Flurrit. She is a small theropod with wings made of flaps of skin. Once again, flaps of skin. Not feathers, flaps of skin. I've got no problem with this creature, she's just a sad victim of science marching on.

Or not, since we were well-aware of Archaeopteryx. Huh.

(Illustration by Steve Holden.) Seriously? Seriously. This is a Cribrum and... yeah. Australia is pretty much where Dixon starts to run out of ideas. To wit, the Cribrum's neighbor, the Gwanna:

(Illustration by Philip Hood.) I have absolutely nothing at all to add to this.

"Let's Read _The New Dinosaurs_" - Dingum

This is the Dingum. He is a normally unassuming, if strange-looking, theropod with a flashy crest on his head, a frill thing that pops up on an unlikely part of his body, and he defends himself with venom. This creature design is actually pretty cool, but I can't help but wonder if a different creature design team ever read this book...

As we leave Dixon's Australia, we meet one last pair of creatures. And they would easily be a shoe-in for the most WTF animals in the book (if there were no Wyrms):

"Let's Read _The New Dinosaurs_" - Kloon

This is a Kloon. She's pretty stupid-looking, but at least she's kind of ugly-cute.

(Illustration by Amanda Barlow.) The same cannot be said for her relative, the Wandle, who is a victim of yet another phenomenally ugly creature design. These animals are all flightless pterosaurs. Would you believe the Lank is actually less anatomically unlikely than they are? (In that he is a quadruped. That's the only reason though.)

"Let's Read _The New Dinosaurs_" - Clairvoyance?

So that we don't end on a bad note, let me point out Dougal Dixon's clairvoyance.

I must also direct your attention to Dixon's website. And, of course, to good old Specworld. And to this recent Scientific American Article about The New Dinosaurs. And to this even more recent Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs post, which showcases unusual alternate art and names for some of Dixon's animals.

Phew! What should I read next?


Zach said...

The "flightless pterosaurs" look like creatures from "The Dark Crystal" or something. I own a copy of this book, more for the happy memories than anything else, but it's honestly hard to read now.

Anonymous said...

"And to this recent Scientific American Article about The New Dinosaurs."

I'm surprised neither you nor Switek mentioned the resemblance btwn Dixon's Dip & unenlagiines, which probably ate fish. Otherwise, good blog post.


Emily said...

I read this as a youngster... I recall really liking the Dingum-- probably because it looks like a dragon, and i was into dragons at the time-- but thought the rest were ugly.

Your comments and reinterpretations are great!