Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Let's Read McLoughlin's _The Tree of Animal Life_

Lookie what I found at the library:

The Tree of Animal Life

John C. McLoughlin's epic popular biological science book,
The Tree of Animal Life: A Tale of Changing Forms and Fortunes! Published in 1981 by Dodd, Mead, and Company. And it is indeed epic. In this book, McLoughlin is going to do no less than tell us the entire history of animal life on Earth.

Now, I'll admit I don't know enough about animals in general to call B. S. on some of McLoughlin's claims here. Then again, nothing stands out as particularly weird. As the title graphic implies, the book is heavy on the concept of Convergent Evolution. We also have a McLoughlin Butthead-ceratops right on the title page. There's another a little later on in the book:

The Tree of Animal Life

A little different from the iconic
Archosauria image, but still pretty weird.

Right off the bat, I like how McLoughlin writes out my Linneus Rant so I don't have to:

The Tree of Animal Life

McLoughlin's own pointillism ink drawings are back. As in
Archosauria, they are quite lovely, like this rather sprightly Rhamphorhynchus:

The Tree of Animal Life

Certainly, McLoughlin spends a lot of time in the Mesozoic era. But he does take a while in ancient times as well. Here are some rather odd-looking Opabinas. (Read that again: Odd-looking Opabinas. For those who do not know what an Opabina is, it's essentially a real-life Starfish Alien. From Earth. They looked very weird, but a little different from this illustration.)

The Tree of Animal Life

In Archosauria, I was unspeakably happy to see that nearly every small-ish theropod in the book was drawn with a fine coat of feathers. Strangely, even though this book is relatively more recent, McLoughlin ditches this trend entirely. And he gets Deinonychus and Deinocheirus confused:

The Tree of Animal Life

You may need to click for big, but yes, he refers to the dromeosaurs in this drawing as Deinocheirus. To be fair, there was an odd time in the 80's where any dinosaur with large talons would be lumped in with the dromeosaurs. That's why your old copy of the used-to-be-seminal
Simon and Schuster Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Creatures (I will eventually get to that one) has Baryonyx in among the 'raptors.

The Tree of Animal Life

And that's... that's not a Quetzalcoatlus. (But again, to be fair, there wasn't much good evidence of Azhdarchids back then. Some reconstructions could get... weird.)

Since McLoughlin was an early champion of feathered theropods, you may wonder what his take on Archaeopteryx would look like. Well, it looks like this:

The Tree of Animal Life

With crazy hands and a bonus Syntarsus. I love blog posts where I come up with five or six other possible posting subjects while writing. The strange history of the critter called Syntarsus in paleoart might be one.

McLoughlin ends the book with the appearance of humans on the animal life playing field. And... it turns out he is an illustrator like myself who may do well to avoid drawing people altogether:

The Tree of Animal Life

Then again, the look on the guy on the right. It's on the very border of hilarious and horrifying.

Festive Thingie of the Day! Speaking of the border of hilarious and horrifying. Head over to The Realm of Mad-Ness and there is a review of a truly ghastly holiday special from our brass-balled friends at Filmation.

Last year, I did a brief post on forgotten Christmas specials and lamented that there was very little evidence online that Ralph Bakshi's "Christmas in Tattertown" ever existed. This year, a Google search turned up...
slightly more information. I'm still hunting around for the complete special, but at least I can point to the clips in this montage of odd Christmas moments from specials (with possibly the greatest musical accompaniment imaginable) and say I wasn't making it up:


 I have no idea if this is for real or not, but here is more evidence that George Lucas needs someone to tell him, "No." 
 EDIT: And bullet dodged. Thank goodness there are lines he will not cross. (Now a really nice Christmas present would be some assurance that Robert Zemekes will not be allowed on the same continent as wherever "Who Discovered Roger Rabbit" is being made and that his motion capture remake of "Yellow Submarine" has sunk...)
Sketch of the Day! 
This kinda has to do with the content of this book: 12.2/3.10 Sketchbook Page


Albertonykus said...

Even before I read your remarks on how the guy looks both "hilarious and horrifying" I began laughing out loud. Humans are hard to draw, I guess. I, for one, have never learned to draw people properly.

Really like that Rhamphorhynchus!

Trish said...

^ I think a lot of it has to do with the Uncanny Valley principle (we see other humans every waking minute so if something is "off", hello Nightmare Fuel). In McLoughlin's caveman's case, I think it's more the fact that he looks like he wants to do... things... to that poor gazelle... <:(

Matt said...

"The strange history of the critter called Syntarsus in paleoart..."

That would be a post I'd enjoy reading!

Trish said...

^^ Thanks, Matt. I will certainly keep that post idea in the "big pile". The only foreseeable problem -and unfortunately, it's a pretty big one- is collecting "Syntarsus" illustrations. Which is weird, because they were pretty ubiquitous in the early '90s for some reason.