Thursday, May 27, 2010

Iguanodons like KISS. A lot. Let's read _Dinosaurs Disovered!_

(NOTE: I apologize for the crappy photos throughout this post. I would have used my scanner but this book is very old.)

As mentioned in an earlier post, I found something for four dollars at that I had to buy immediately:

John Gilbert's
Dinosaurs Discovered, with illustrations by Guy Michel, was the only nonfiction dinosaur book I owned as a child growing up. It was published in America (translated from the French) in 1979. I have no idea why or how I acquired this book, and I never even read any of the text (hell, this was the first time I ever read it at all). But the illustrations in this book are lodged deeply in my subconscious... even though science has marched on and left this artwork in the dust.
Hey, I may have gotten some strange comments (but also a Crowning Moment of Awesome) on this drawing, but wait until you see some of the old depictions of dinosaurs in this book. Heck, just look at the cover scene above. No wonder Greg Paul rocked my world when I found his art.
So, let's take a look at our cast of characters:

Hoo boy. Dig that Velociraptor in the upper-left. And get used to seeing Iguanodon with a giant scary tongue, you'll be seeing it a lot:

Iguanodon figures prominently in this book because the focus is not about the lives of dinosaurs as it is about the history of paleontology. That may go a ways to explaining why some of the information about the dinosaurs themselves tends to be... strange. Apparently, there was a theory -now faded into obscurity- that Iguanodons had long prehensile tongues like giraffes. There's a handwave given that one particular paleontologist looked at the lower jaw bone and decided that they indicated a long tongue. The text says that this has since been debunked... yet every Iguanodon in the book is doing their Gene Simmons impression. Huh. You tend to see text-to-illustration discrepancies a lot in older dinosaur books, and it's most often because so many of them relied on illustrations recycled from other texts.
Anyway, here's a montage of animals dying in horrifying ways:

The famous Bernissart Iguanodons fall to their doom and into history.

No offense to that Hadrosaur, but for my money this is the unintentionally funniest painting in the book. It's the wonky anatomy (what are his arms
doing?) and the "Aw, damn" look in his eye. Also, the hilarity of an animal who is depicted as an aquatic creature (we'll get to that) wandering onto land... to get eaten by an aquatic animal.
It's also pretty graphic and horrifying, so who knows why my parents let me read this as a six-year-old.

Actually, this one's pretty hilarious in it's own right. This is as good a time to point out that the Real is Brown trope affected paleoart like nothing else ever.
It's hard to see here, but the Tyrannosaur's face is just a mass of warts for some damn reason. It may have been an attempt to illustrate what we now know as Tyrannosaurs' facial crests. It's one of the strangest interpretations of a dinosaurs' appearance in the book.

But here's the weirdest:

When was the last time you ever saw a stegosaurus drawn like this? Weirdly, there are more conventional looking stegosaurs in the book too. It's like they were hedging their bets that at least one of the spikey-thingy configurations would be accurate. It confused the heck out of me as a little kid, though, especially since there was no explanation for the two different interpretations.
So about those aquatic hadrosaurs:

This was the default illustration for any and all hadrosaurs for the better part of my childhood. And as far as anyone knows the reason -the one and only reason- why hadrosaurs were depicted as aquatic creatures is all in the beak. It looks like a duckbill, so they *must* have swam around in the water all day like ducks... right?
Speaking of swimming...

I don't even know what I could add to this. This might just be the single strangest image in the whole book.


Sketch of the day!
I glossed over how the book treats theropods, so here's my take on a Ceratosaurus who appears in the book. D'awwwww...

5.17.10 - Gonkasaurus

EDIT: By a happy coincidence, the wonderful Tetrapod Zoology blog has referenced Dinosaurs Discovered as well. Darren points out a particularly weird non-dinosaur reconstruction in the book I never even noticed (as you've seen, there's a ton of trippy stuff in the book).


Albertonykus said...

That Stegosaurus reminds me of the old Bakker idea about how stegosaurs could flip their plates to become better armor. More likely it's just an old representation of what Stegosaurus was thought to look like, although the fact that it also has more correct stegosaurs is strange.

Trish said...

Hmm... I thought Bakker's theory was that Stegosaur plates/spikey thingies weren't stuck rigidly in their "default" position and had *just* a bit more "wiggle room", for want of a better term. They couldn't flop all over the place (and certainly not go into the "Stegoxis Defense Forme" as the above illustration suggests), but they weren't stuck in one position either, since they aren't attached to the skeleton. There's a not-too-old PBS doc where he talks to an animator about this. I may have to look for it...

Trish said...

And after a wonderfully short Google Video search, here it is. Skip to around the 42-minute mark and dig the "Watership Down"-ish animation (*hand-drawn!!!* Can you imagine animating a Stegosaurus by *hand*? Those critters are a right b**ch to draw.)

Also, I was kinda remembering it wrong. But he doesn't do the "Defense Forme" thing for longer than a few frames, so...

JerkyD said...

"It's hard to see here, but the Tyrannosaur's face is just a mass of warts for some damn reason."

Reminds me of the butt-ugly T.rex model that used to show up in all the DK dino books.

"This was the default illustration for any and all hadrosaurs for the better part of my childhood. And as far as anyone knows the reason -the one and only reason- why hadrosaurs were depicted as aquatic creatures is all in the beak."

Actually, that wasn't the only reason. There's also the AMNH duckbill mummy, whose hand skin impressions were misinterpreted as webbing (See "The Dinosaur Heresies", page 148).