Sauropods stomping theropods: a much neglected theme in palaeo-art
March 6, 2011
Needless to say, one of the things I love most about Paco’s Brontomerus artwork is that it’s a rare and welcome example of the much neglected Sauropods Stomping Theropods school of palaeo-art.
When I reviewed the examples I know of, I was a bit disappointed to find that they number only five. Here they are, in chronological order.
First, we have this gorgeous sketch by Mark Hallett, showing Jobaria (here credited as “unnamed camarasaurid”) quite literally stomping on Afrovenator:
To the best of my knowledge, this has never actually been published — I found it on Dave Hone’s Archosaur Musings, in the interview with Hallett. Mark tells me that this was a concept sketch of possible main art for Paul Sereno’s North African dinosaur article, Africa’s Dinosaur Castaways in the June 1996 issue of National Geographic (Sereno 1996) — three years before Jobaria was described (Sereno et al. 1999); but for some inexplicable reason, it wasn’t used.
It seems incredible to think that there was no published, or even completed but unpublished, sauropod-stomping-theropod art before the mid-1990s, but I’ve not yet found any. I thought that Bakker might have come up with something in The Dinosaur Heresies (Bakker 1986) or The Bite of the Bronto (Bakker 1994); but I flipped through both and I don’t see anything relevant. Anyone know of anything earlier?
The next entry on my list is Luis Rey’s striking Astrodon, carrying away a raptor that bit off more than it could chew.
This appeared in Tom Holtz’s outstanding encyclopedia (Holtz 2007), which I highly recommend for every interested layman, including but not limited to bright kids. The image also turned up, with Luis’s permission, in the publicity for Xenoposeidon — notably in The Sun, one of Britain’s most downmarket, lowest-common-denominator tabloids, where it was a pleasant surprise indeed.
I just love the expression on the raptor’s face. He’s going HOLY CRAP!, and his buddies are all like, Hey, dude, c’mon, we were only playing! But Astrodon‘s all, Nuh-uh, you started this, I’m going to finish it.
Next up, and a year, later, we have this moody just-going-about-my-business Camamasaurus, squishing theropod eggs, nests and babies in a casual sort of way, as though he’s saying “Well, you should have got out of my way”:
As it happens, this one was done for me, by Mark Witton. It was intended as an illustration for a “Fossils Explained” article that I was going to do for Geology Today on the subject of (get ready for a big surprise): sauropods. In fact, I am still going to do it. But since it’s been two and a bit years since I got the go-ahead from the editor, I’m hardly in a position to complain that Mark gave the image to Dave Martill and Darren when they suddenly needed artwork to publicise the findings of their Moroccan expedition. (Since then, the Mail seems to have re-used this picture pretty much every time they have a story about dinosaurs — even when that story is complete and utter crap.)
I don’t mind too much about this Witton original being whisked away from me, because shortly afterwards Mark went on to provide me with a much better piece — the beautifully wistful Diplodocus herd scene that we used in the publicity for our neck-posture paper.
And, amazingly, that brings us up to date. The next relevant artwork that I know of was Paco’s glorious Brontomerus life restoration, which you’ve already read all about. Just to vary things a bit, this is the second of the two renders — the one that wasn’t in the paper itself:
So is that the end of the story for now? Happily, not quite. Emily Willoughby produced this alternative Brontomerus restoration on the very day the paper came out!
I’m not going to claim that this is close to the quality of the other four pieces in this article, but you have to admire the speed of the work. Emily wrote most of the initial Wikipedia entry for Brontomerus, and produced this picture to illustrate it. At first when I saw this, I thought Emily had misunderstood the paper as indicating powerful retractors, so that the drawing had Brontomerus kicking backwards like a horse. But when I looked closely I realised it’s kicking outwards, thanks to the enlarged abductors. Neat.
A question and a challenge
I’d like to end this post with a question and a challenge. First, the question: what other pieces of palaeoart have I missed that feature sauropods handing theropods their arses? There have to be others — right?
And the challenge: I’d love it if those of you who are artists were to fix this terrible hole in the fabric of reality? I’d love to see new and awesome art on the timeless theme of sauropods stomping theropods. How about it? If any of you have influence with the Art Evolved people, you might try seeing whether you can get them to join in the challenge. It would be awesome to see a whole new crop of these pieces!
- Bakker, Robert T. 1986. The Dinosaur Heresies: New Theories Unlocking The Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction. Morrow, New York. 481 pages.
- Bakker, Robert T. 1994. The Bite of the Bronto. Earth 3 (6): 26-35.
- Holtz, Thomas R., Jr., and Luis V. Rey. 2007. Dinosaurs: The Most Complete, Up-to-Date Encyclopedia for Dinosaur Lovers of All Ages. Random House, New York. 432 pages.
- Sereno, Paul C. 1996. Africa’s dinosaur castaways. National Geographic 189(6):106-119.
- Sereno, Paul C., Allison L. Beck, Didier. B. Dutheil, Hans C. E. Larsson, Gabrielle. H. Lyon, Bourahima Moussa, Rudyard W. Sadleir, Christian A. Sidor, David J. Varricchio, Gregory P. Wilson and Jeffrey A. Wilson. 1999. Cretaceous Sauropods from the Sahara and the Uneven Rate of Skeletal Evolution Among Dinosaurs. Science 282:1342-1347.
 If you want to call it that.