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Diplodocus longus by jconway Diplodocus longus by jconway
Yay, meta-palaeontography.

When I was about fourteen or fifteen, I went to an exhibition called "The Great Russian Dinosaurs" at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Fresh-faced from my readings of Bakker, I was excited, and looking for a fight with all the stuffy orthodoxy I read so much about. Luckily, I found myself outraged at once at the mounting of the skeletons. Hadrosaurs rearing high! Ribs not properly swept back! I was spluttering with the kind of smugness that only a teenage fanatic can have, and decided that something must be said. So, I bailed up one of the palaeontologists travelling with the exhibition, and confronted him about one of the most heinous of crimes against the Light of the Dinosaur Renaissance: an ankylosaur with semi-sprawling front legs.

With a supercilious smile I enquire politely as to why he had mounted the creature in such a way. He smiled and said "Real animals move -- they change position sometimes". How was I supposed to fight with that? All my trackway data, my shoulder anatomy arguments, rendered moot by an evasive side-step. So, I thought, I suspect this man is an idiot; and I know just how to test him: asked him if he thought Velociraptor had feathers. "Maybe" he said, without a trace of sarcasm. Foiled! I stalked of to visualise the most feathers, erectest gaits, hottest blood, and fastest running dinosaurs I could from those evil mounts.

What's the point of all this you ask? Well...

My betrayal of the dinosaur renaissance. Guess what teenage John, sauropods were scaley and spikey. Sometimes they dragged their tails on the ground. And maybe they weren't always standing on their back legs to feed or fend off an Allosaurus running at a gazillion miles an hour.
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner May 22, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
First, let me concur with Squidy53 that Rhoda is a sweetheart, and I'm sure she'd love to see this homage (if you haven't already sent it). Now on to my opinion...

There's a lot good to be said of this painting; the atmosphere is fantastic (and does feel very classic late-Knightish), the animals are doing animalish things (rather than tearing around at top speed being uber-cool), and I am particularily jealous of the lush, impressionistic landscape you rendered (notice how in my artless attempts I generally leave the folliage woefully absent).

But there are some problems anatomicaly. No bunring at the satke, but I assume you mean for these to be anatomically accurate renditions, if perhaps ones that attempt to present a very counter-current visual image than most post-Dino Ren images. While admirable, there are a few problems that exceed what the evidence allows (in the event that you did not intend the image to fall within known anatomical boundaries, please ignore the following comments and bask in the artistic glory that is rightfully yours for producing such a aesthetically pleasing image):

1) The tail. This is the biggest one; while undoubtedly the tail could (and at least occasionally probably did) contact the ground, it probably could not do so at such a proximal location. The zygopophyses of the proximal tail are quite small and the condyle/cotyle articulations are very broad, which would have yielded limited mobility in the the first 15 or so caudals (with mobility gradually increasing from caudal 10 to 20). This was studied quantitatively by Myhrvold & Currie in 1997, who came to the same conclusions. The result is that even in maximum ventraflexion (which was probably not a terribly relaxing posture) you can't get the tail to contact the ground until around caudal 25 or a hair later (depending on assumptions about minimal zygopophyseal overlap), which is almost halfway down the tail. The occasionaly tail drag mark seen in trackways (and they are statistically insignificant, although they do occur) are very lightly impressed and usually show significant motion; as such they are probably better interpretted as the limp whip-lash postion of the tail dragging on the ground during locomotion.

2) The spikey things on the back: I've spoken at length with Kirby Sieber about these (he dug up the specimens in question) and the ones in your illustration easliy exceed their maximum size (by almost 100%). Also, there is no evidence that they are midline structures, and given their locations within the quarry it looks like they are better envisioned as keratinous structures along much of the dorsal surface (of course, there may have been a midline row as well). While still very reptillian in appearance, it would likely have been more reminiscent of crocs than iguanas. The midline-spike idea was largely invented by the initial reporters (Czerkas), who has previously shown favoritism to midline dermal-feature hypotheses. And other scal impressions not yet published from the same quarry show that the rest of the skin still had tiny little scales that would not have been visible from any kind of distance that would allow one to fit a whole sauropod into a scene.

Not that you could have known thew dermal stuff, so I thought I'd share post hoc. Keep up the good work!
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:iconjeda45:
Jeda45 Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2015
Would these structures have lain flat on the body rather than being erect spike-like structures?
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner Mar 8, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
That's not how they seem to be preserved, but I suppose it's not impossible. Or perhaps at an angle, sort of like non-bony versions of what we see in titanosaurs?
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:iconjeda45:
Jeda45 Featured By Owner Mar 10, 2015
So does that mean that diplodocids may have had a bit of a "hedgehog"-like appearance?
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2015  Professional Digital Artist
Potentially.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 23, 2007
I thought I probably was pushing it with the tail -- not too worried, because I intended to sacrifice a little accuracy for effect. (Or maybe it's tail's broken!)

The dermal stuff is interesting. I don't think anything too accurate can be done in that respect until it's published (I've never seen a picture!). Though in my defence I would say that variation among species must have occurred with respect to spine/scute size. Is it still thought that duckbills had a row of midline scutes? And Ceratosaurus? Ah, dinosaurs, too much to up with.
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner May 23, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
That's cool, I take no umbrage with people who sacrifice accuracy for artistic purpose...as long as they do it intentionally. And it works here, which is the important thing.

I hope the dermal stuff will be published soon, but I wouldn't hold my breath. You are certainly right about size variation amongst species, although in this case the dermal impression in fact comes from Diplodocus (although I don't know which species atm).

Ceratosaurus is still thought to have midline osteoderms, more or less like the spikey ridge that so many toy manufacturers have portrayed. Hadrosaurs do seem to have rows of non-bony scutes, and while there is a bit of variation in size and shape to them, they seem to maintain a one scute per neural spine rule, and there are no Greg Paulish frills known like he drew for Parasaurolophus (but then, there aren't dermal impression known yet Para.).

Skin impression wise, there is a lot of variation in the small details of individual scales (overall shape, micro-ornamentation, variation in size on an individual), but while several dinosaurs have larger scales for ornamentation (e.g. Carnotaurus, ceratopsians, corythosaur undersides) I have yet to see any dinosaur with "pavement scales" larger than a few mm. My sample is hardly all inclusive, but does include Carnotaurus, Allosaurus, a stegosaur, several hadrosaurs, a ceratopsian, and Psittacosaurus.

Anyways, keep up the good paleontographic work!
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:iconscotthartman:
ScottHartman Featured By Owner May 22, 2007  Professional Digital Artist
BTW, it really is a fantastic illustration, I was just trying to provide some anatomical commentary. If you find my post too obnoxious, feel free to hide it.
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:iconbensen-daniel:
bensen-daniel Featured By Owner May 20, 2007
Okay, you've already gotten a lot of comments on this one. Your picture is hilarious and lovely all at once (I never thought I would like a dinosaur that wasn't, at least somewhere, bright red, but every day we learn something new about ourselves). I'll let everyone else's comments about the cultural climate of paleontology stand, and just say one thing:
What's with the horizontal lines? Those ridgy, bumpy things? I thought at first they were the texture of the canvas under the paint, but they look too regular. Are they an electonric addition? Anyway, I wish they weren't there. They distract from the details, and that's sad to see in such a detailed pic as this one.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 22, 2007
You know all my paintings are completely digital, right? I put canvas texture on all of them, which helps to soften the digital look -- but it can be tricky to get exactly right. I regenerate it for every resolution I export to, and sometimes (like with this one) I don't get it quite right. If I can ever be bothered to open up the monster 400mb file again I'll take another stab at it.
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:iconbensen-daniel:
bensen-daniel Featured By Owner May 22, 2007
Aha. Okay, I wondered if it might be something like that.
Well, my main problem was that the pattern is too regular and repetitive. It makes your pattern-recognition processes think something interesting is going on in the texture and distracts from the actual painting. If you want to soften the picture, I would suggest you throw some randomness into it. Find a photo online of something detailed and random, like sand on a beach, and layer that over everything. You might also play with the Clouds command in photoshop (if it's photoshop you use). Or you could just scan in a blank sheet of real canvas and layer _that_ over everything.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 23, 2007
I don't like the clouds filter, I've never been able to make it work. It has already got a blurred noise layer which added randomness. It's not so much randomness I want as a slight dither. The canvas texture is a bastard to get right at variable resolutions. Sometimes it looks natural [link] and sometimes it does it's patterning thing. As I say, I'll see if I can take another bash at it, when I can be bother to fire it up again.
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:iconbensen-daniel:
bensen-daniel Featured By Owner May 23, 2007
You're right, it does work sometimes (or at least, I didn't notice anything weird about most of these pictures when I first looked at). It's only on this one and the Doswellia picture that the pattern looks weird. I think that's more a function of the picture underneath. Not many colors that stand out and lots of details makes the canvas pattern stand out...is the theory.
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:iconolofmoleman:
olofmoleman Featured By Owner May 19, 2007  Student Digital Artist
It's nice, but the tail looks all wrong, if it's being dragged like that on the ground it wouldn't be able to hold it's neck upright.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 22, 2007
I don't believe that for a second. Sauropods had plenty of mechanisms to hold their necks up that were independent of the tail. Besides, I don't think they did this often, I was making a point.
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:iconolofmoleman:
olofmoleman Featured By Owner May 24, 2007  Student Digital Artist
They would fall over without a counter weight for the neck, the dragging tail theory is outdated.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 24, 2007
I don't think they dragged their tails often, but occasionally, maybe. I don't actually believe they would fall over forward if part of their tail was on the ground: their centre of gravity is somewhere near the hips, and to actually fall over forward they would have to press their tails hard enough on the ground to shift it forward of their manus. Or, you could be basing what you say on research I don't know about, and then I'd be an arse.

Beside all that -- did you read the description?
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:iconsphenacodon:
Sphenacodon Featured By Owner May 15, 2007
Holy shades of Knight!
Great picture, as always. Very relaxing atmosphere too.
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:iconsquidy53:
Squidy53 Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
Nice homage John. May I suggest you share this with Rhoda Steel Kalt ( 2007@charlesrknight.com) the granddaughter of Charles Knight and a very gracious lady. She takes great interest in all things Knightian which she shares with others at [link]
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 22, 2007
Thanks for the link, I might just do that.
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:iconfiskus:
Fiskus Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
very interesting animal,, I guess :)

:+fav:
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:iconnemo-ramjet:
nemo-ramjet Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
"...I don't remember much of my years at the Morrison, you see. Every night we'd drop into insane palaeo-joints, packed with the wildest crowd imaginable. There was no question about it really, in any corner you could find discussion groups dealing the hardest shit- fur, feathers, gaping mouths, that kind of stuff. You would meet hot groupies and have them lump ornithischians into sauropods WITHOUT EVEN KNOWING THEIR NAMES! One guy I knew was way hardcore, he'd deck out frikkin' ULTRASAURS with feathers and have them run at the speed of sound. Poor chap that one, later got burned out and started drawing dragons. But I think we were all a bit dragons back then..."

-Anonymous, from "Limestone Underground: My Life in the Punk Rock World of Palaeontology"
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
Oh god, that's so close to reality. I did know a guy who drew feathers brachiosaurs (with manes no less) galloping across the Jurassic savannah. Burned himself out real young and started drawing Star Wars.
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:icondustdevil:
dustdevil Featured By Owner May 14, 2007  Professional General Artist
And sometimes they didn't ate anything but just spent time doing nothing as good stupid lumbering brainless animals... Lovely pic John, comme d'habitude, very "Knightesque".
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
Yeah that's another thing: they weren't all that bright!
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:icongorgosaurus:
Gorgosaurus Featured By Owner May 13, 2007
I suppose next youŽll try and seduce the gullible and unimaginative with illustrations of theropods WITHOUT dislocated, slack-jawed Whale Shark gapes and not sprinting at a gazillion miles an hour whilst trawling the humming, humid Cretaceous air for 40lbs of mosquitos like the gargantuan swallows that they really were!!!

Spike.
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
Urge... to... post... rant... about... open... jawed.... theropods.... rising.....
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:iconnemo-ramjet:
nemo-ramjet Featured By Owner May 15, 2007
I thought the open jaws thing was a technical detail to show us all the teeth, etc, in detail. Whenever I see such pictures, I'm reminded of [link]
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:iconrodlox:
Rodlox Featured By Owner May 13, 2007
excellent picture.

though, wonder how many other Bakkerites that curator had already dealt with by the time you got to him. :)
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
Ha! I haven't though of that before -- maybe dozens.
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:iconrodlox:
Rodlox Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
so much for the "but my argument is fresh and original, mister!" :)
at least you went in with both feet.
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:iconnemo-ramjet:
nemo-ramjet Featured By Owner May 13, 2007
Them more I study palaeoart, the more it seems to me like the fashion scene, albeit a strongly empirical one. Imagine a palaeo-version of Nylon magazine with cover blurbs like "retro scales: why are they so in?" "the latest spinosaur collection by Paul," "12 ways to bird-up your theropod," and so on...
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
Not just that art side... cladistics is so hot right now.

I'm the worst offender in -- or maybe just the most honest about -- indulging in the cultural side of palaeontological art. I am way self concious about it all.
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:iconnemo-ramjet:
nemo-ramjet Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
Your pterosaurs are still not prolacertiforms??, duuuh, you're like SO square!?!
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
Prolacertiforms? Puh-leez, that is so five minutes ago!
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:iconnemo-ramjet:
nemo-ramjet Featured By Owner May 13, 2007
Them more I study palaeoart, the more it seems to me like the fashion scene, albeit a strongly empirical one. Imagine a palaeo-version of Nylon magazine with cover blurbs like "retro scales: why are they so in?" "the latest spinosaur collection by Paul," "12 ways to bird-up your theropod," and so on...
Reply
:iconpiatnitskysaurus:
Piatnitskysaurus Featured By Owner May 13, 2007
You really have me in stitches sometimes, Nemo :lmao:
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:iconaxelofreaht:
AxelofReaht Featured By Owner May 13, 2007   Writer
Wow, another stunning work.
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:iconnetraptor:
NetRaptor Featured By Owner May 13, 2007  Student Digital Artist
I like the pic, but mostly I'm faving this for the story. :-)
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:iconpearwood:
pearwood Featured By Owner May 13, 2007  Hobbyist Photographer
How embarrassing it can be to grow up. ;)
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
Well hey, it's nice to believe in something -- although looking back on it, I was in an almost constant state of irritation with those that didn't agree with me. I couldn't even bring myself to read conflicting arguments.
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:iconjidaneobsidianclaw:
JidaneObsidianclaw Featured By Owner May 13, 2007   Digital Artist
very nice!!
uhmmm...I'm not very creative, I know^^
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:icondinomaniac:
Dinomaniac Featured By Owner May 13, 2007
What! Don't you know that dinosaurs should always be heroic,athletic and slim as possible and they always pose!
this is HERESY John...HERESY I TELLS YA!

Very neat.
Someday I shall crack up the secrets of your photoshop paintings! I just can't get mine to look
like traditional painting. :P
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:iconjconway:
jconway Featured By Owner May 14, 2007
Hey, Dinosaur Renaissance -> Dinosaur Enlightenment. I hope we're far enough into the latter that I will not be burned at the stake.
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