Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Let's read _The Archosauria_!


John C. McLoughlin's Archosauria was published in 1979 by the Viking Press and was, let's be fair here, RIDICULOUSLY ahead of it's time. He includes some fine pointillism illustrations. He is also one of the first people to depict most of his small theropods with fluffy feathers:


These Coelurus drawings are my favorites in the book. The detail is lovely. I like the hawklike facial study in the upper-left corner (though I'm not sure how accurate it is given modern evidence). And I especially like how McLoughlin includes a copy of an old illustration of each animal, as he does in the lower-left here.
McLoughlin briefly covers other members of the Archosaur... group...? (Someday I will post my Rant Against Linnaeus' Classification System.) One of these is little Longisquama (here, called Longisquamata):


Here McLoughlin gives us one of the reasons why his book is notorious: he is perhaps best known for having some... interesting ideas about prehistoric animal anatomy and behavior. Longisquama, according to McLoughlin, had only one set of those... things on his back. And he used them to trap warm air pockets for insulation. And they are, without doubt, the predecessors of feathers.
I almost hate to say that it's apparently just as likely that those things on his back are leaves that coincidentally preserved along with the one known specimen of Longisquama in a suggestive position... - Rumor Debunked! See Jan's awesome comment below. (Quick version: Longisquama actually did look like this.)
It's also very strange that Coelurus, Longisquama, Saltopus, and other animals of that ilk all sport a fine coat of feathers - and Deinonychus doesn't. In fact, McLoughlin's Deinonychus is just weird all around:


Something tells me that this wouldn't work...
Now, to be fair, there weren't many complete fossils of dromeosaurs back in 1979. There weren't many good complete fossils of tyrannosaurs either, which goes a way in explaining Sharkface McDerpasaurus rex here:


Uh... yeah.
Old dinosaur books, as we have seen, depict all hadrosaurs as swimming swamp-dwellers. McLoughlin instead depicts them, more accurately, as upland animals more akin to a really big cow than a really big duck. That said, take a look at his Parasaurolophus couple:


It's good that they're not up to their balls in a swamp, but this might be too far in the opposite direction, and we all know we ought to avoid that. :)
Next is one of the most unintentionally hilarious drawings in the book:


I am in love with this drawing. You can't not love an animal that defends himself by
lying down. Good jarb, Spike! You just exposed your tasty flank!
Now, if you are reading this and you've already heard of John McLoughlin, then you know what I've saved for last. If this is the first time you've heard of him, boy are you in for a treat.
I said, and showed, that McLoughlin had some VERY unusual theories on dinosaur anatomy. None of them are as mind-bending as what follows. Ladies and gentlemen, John McLoughlin's reconstruction of Triceratops:


Take a minute or two. Let it allllll sink in.
OK? Well, here are some other ceratopsians:


I do enjoy this paragraph that ends the Ceratopsian chapter, just because it's such a great mental image (click for big):


More, and better, has been written about this theory at good old
Tetrapod Zoology. It's not really surprising that this has since been debunked (essentially for just plain not working). That poor Styracosaur looks to be in pain.

Now while we're on the subject of people with weird ideas about prehistoric animals, I wonder if David Peters has ever written a book...

Addendum: There is something McLoughlin-y in the water, it seems. Two Three other posts about McLoughlin and his books can be read at The World We Don't Live In, Jurassic Albatross, and Other Branch.

Certainly, read the Other Branch post, because I won't be able to keep from spoiling that McLoughlin also thought that archosaurs were like Wolverine.



Art of the day! Speaking of odd-looking dinosaurs (although ones that look odd anyway no matter who reconstructs them), here is Concavenator!

9.9.10. It's Concavenator!


Zach said...

I hadn't seen that Pokemon comic either, but I certainly did *facepalm* when I saw that particular evolutionary progress.

Gotta love this book. I've searched high and low for it in used bookstores but never found it. That Deinonychus drawing is beyond wierd. It's also strange that the Coelurus is feathered but the raptor is not.

As for the Archosauria, it's still a perfectly valid clade: it includes the common ancestor and all descendants of Crurotarsians on the left and Ornithodirans on the right. Straght Linnean classification might be dead, but the terminology is still useful. I still think the concept of "general to specific" (or as you might say here "inclusive to exclusive") is perfectly fine.

Trish said...

^ Yeah, I don't have a problem with the general-to-more-specific aspect of Linneaus; that still works.

On the other hand, his "Reptilia" contains a whole lot of animals that, it turns out, might not be closely related to each-other at all. They're sort of the biological equivalent of the "Pop/Rock" section of the record store. It's as if the idea that there could be a large number of then-unknown animals that wouldn't fit into one or another of his little boxes never occurred to him.

And... heh, there's my Linnean Classification rant right there. XD

Albertonykus said...

Those ceratopsians are very squint worthy.

Trish said...

^^ I should also mention that I've only ever encountered this book exactly twice: the copy I got from this library, and I think the Museum of Science has a copy too. Checking Amazon, they've got 55 used copies available, most of which are under ten dollars. Good luck!

Teddy said...

These drawings are very cool, good writing too!!

Trish said...

^ Thank you!

HAJiME said...

Lol. I enjoyed this post a lot. I want this book now. I'll be following your blog...

Trish said...

^ Thank you!

JerkyD said...

"OMG" was my reaction to seeing McLoughlin's Triceratops pic for the 1st time. "WTF" was my reaction to reading McLoughlin's Triceratops paragraph for the 1st time.

In reference to Deinonychus, I think Bakker was the 1st 1 to draw it (or any raptor dino) w/feathers (If not, then please correct me).

Is it just me, or does it look like the Allosaurus & Stegosaurus are having a tender moment? Besides being cute, it reminds me of this:

Trish said...

^^ I think you may be right about Bakker and the feathered maniraptors. I might have to do a post on the illustrations in _Heresies_ some day.

JerkyD said...

^^ Please do. The Deinonychus drawings are my favorite drawings from said book (partly b/c eudromaeosaurids are my favorite dinos, but also b/c they're the most modern drawings from said book). However, I also really like the overly active dino drawings (specifically, the leaping ceratopsians on pages 252 & 340 & the dancing Parasaurolophus on page 43).

BTW, if I want to make a book recommendation for your series about the awkward post-Bakker phase of paleoart, can I do that here or should I do it in another blog post or by email? Many thanks in advance.

Trish said...

^^ It'll take me a while to get to it, but if you have a book recommendation, go ahead and post it in the comments. I always check them.

JerkyD said...

^^ Cool beans. As you may remember, I posted a link to "The Humongous Book of Dinosaurs" in the 2nd part of your "A Field Guide to Dinosaurs" post. That's the book I'd like to recommend. For 1, the illustrations are very semi-modern (Think Sibbick, but lesser quality). For another, while it may be b/c of its size, I've never seen so many classic paleoart ripoffs in 1 book. Most of them are Greg Paul ripoffs, but there are also Bakker, Hallett, Kish, & Sibbick ripoffs (which is surprising, given that there's a lot of real Sibbick stuff in the book). See if you can catch them all or, better yet, make a drinkng game out of it.

BTW, congrats on being so awesome as to become 1 of my favorite bloggers in just a day's time.

Trish said...


(And yes, I will see if my library has _The Humongous Book of Dinosaurs_ next time I go there.)

JerkyD said...


Is that good? I figured so, but I wanted to make sure, given my ignorance of typed-out facial expressions.

Also, I forgot to mention in my previous comment to look out for "Dinosaurs! Discover the Giants of the Prehistoric World" (E.g. ) which were later combined to form "The Humongous Book of Dinosaurs".

Jan said...

Regarding Longisquama:

I am soory but you are wrong with the accidental plant remains on the fossil plate of Longisquama. We worked on the locality were Longisquama was found, we also found some additional appendages, we know the whole flora of the Maydgen are (which is different from the few appendage remains) and we investigated the holotype material of Longisquma in Moscow.

Two facts:
- the appendages are definitively no plant remains but belonging to Longisquma!
- there is no second appendages row preserved in the fossil remain for the familiar gliding pose

Trish said...

^^ Thank you so much, Jan! Yours is the kind of comment I treasure. I should mention that there's almost nothing written about poor Longisquamata in any popular science literature (I hardly even know what the fascinating little fellow looks like), so it's fantastic to hear right from the experts. Thanks again!

Nick Gardner said...

"On the other hand, his "Reptilia" contains a whole lot of animals that, it turns out, might not be closely related to each-other at all. They're sort of the biological equivalent of the "Pop/Rock" section of the record store. It's as if the idea that there could be a large number of then-unknown animals that wouldn't fit into one or another of his little boxes never occurred to him."

What exactly is your issue with Linnaeus' Reptilia?

Which of Linnaeus' reptiles DO NOT belong in our current concept of Reptilia?



Trish said...

^^ Well, basically, to reiterate myself, it's as if the idea that there could be a large number of then-unknown animals that wouldn't fit into one or another of his little boxes never occurred to him.

Unknown said...

Regarding David Peters: he wrote and illustrated several EXCELLENT books in the 80s and 90s, before he sort of went off the deep end. Very Greg Paul-like, but Peters is for better or worse a great artist & his books (about 4 or 5) are from what I remember pretty orthodox & accurate as regards content.