Chasmosaurus in the Mountains

Chasmosaurus belli was a ceratopsid dinosaur that roamed the eastern coast of the island continent known as Laramidia about 75 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous of what is now North America.

Laramidia was separated from the eastern half of North America by the waters of the Western Interior Seaway – the American Midwest was full of fish and giant marine reptiles during the time of Chasmosaurus.

This image is somewhat speculative, as this mountainous terrain is not the type where we know Chasmosaurus could be found, but not outside the realm of possibility, either. Imagine, if you will, a large bull chasmosaur on a dangerous journey westward towards new lands…

Please do not reproduce or use without permission.

Eventually, one simply has to make the pilgrimage. Frankly, I’m not sure how I managed to delay it for so long. For anyone with an interest in palaeontology - and especially for those with an interest in palaeoart - a visit to Crystal Palace Park is simply a must. More than that - it’s unavoidable. You will end up here, one day, staring up at Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins’ concrete monstrosities. Here is the Land Where Ugly Life-Sized Dinosaur Models Began. And it’s quite wonderful.

Most readers will be familiar with the backstory (and David’s done it before), so I’ll try and be brief. Crystal Palace Park in London is named after the eponymous building, which was bought up and rebuilt here following The Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in 1851. A series of landscaped gardens were created around the Palace, with the Dinosaur Park being one of these. The models were created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and his team, with the scientific advice of the brilliant anatomist and evil bastard Richard Owen. Among the creatures created were the famous Iguanodon, Megalosaurus and Hylaeosaurus, but also a whole host of non-dinosaurs, including Palaeozoic amphibians and reptiles, Cenozoic mammals and, of course, marine reptiles.

The models have survived more-or-less intact into the present today, which is utterly remarkable given how exposed they all are. Replacement parts have been created here and there, but these are, for the most part, the same bizarre beasties that our Victorian forebears gazed upon. These days, the models have become icons of scientific progress - that is, of how far we’ve progressed since the 19th century. Of course, given how little the earliest palaeontologists had to go on, it’s quite surprising that the sculpts make any sense at all. But they do make some sense.

For example, although aware of their reptilian character, Owen was clever enough to realise that the dinosaurs must have had upright limbs like modern mammals and birds. Today, the ‘elephantine lizards’ he helped shape look laughably inaccurate, their nose horns the best-known example of how a simple anatomical error can result in a problem so glaringly obvious when writ large. However, at the time - with no clue as to just how different from today’s animals a large ornithopod was - these were pretty sensible and solid attempts. (Apparently, Owen also knew that the nose horn might be a mistake - but as any palaeoartist today will tell you, a little conjecture is completely necessary.)

All that said, we can only wonder what might have happened if Waterhouse Hawkins had Gideon Mantell as his consultant, as was originally intended. Supposedly, Mantell had already figured out that the dinosaurs didn’t look quite as Owen envisaged, particularly when it came to their limbs and posture. Unfortunately, ill health meant that Mantell had to turn the job down.

Although the Iguanodon often get all the attention, the park’s gigantic Megalosaurus is perhaps its most impressive model of all. Resembling a hulking croco-bear with enormously powerful and muscular limbs, it’s a world away from the svelte biped we envisage nowadays. The shoulder hump is a particularly curious feature, and some have speculated that it might be the result of Owen being privy to material now referred to Becklespinax (the hump, in reality, being from vertebrae nearer the hips).

Seemingly as if to further accentuate this model’s hopeless inaccuracy in the face of modern science, the Megalosaurus has now sprouted some foliage, which hangs limply down from its mouth. Or maybe Ken Ham broke in and wedged it in there.

The Hylaeosaurus, with its slightly sprawling posture, is closer to just looking like an oversized lizard than the other dinosaurs. It sports a replacement fibreglass head which, unfortunately, is rather difficult to photograph (hence the above 'rear end shot’). Given how ankylosaurs have suffered in palaeoart over the years, it’s probably fair to say that this model isn’t so different from depictions that appeared 100 years later.

Unknown to (or unnoticed by) many people, the models are actually grouped together according to the time period in which the animals lived. From one end of the lake to the other, they progress from the Permian, through the Mesozoic, and then on into the Cenozoic. This way, all the Jurassic marine reptiles are grouped together, but Mosasaurus is sequestered elsewhere. The plesiosaurs are recognisable, although their necks bend and twist in impossible ways, while the large ichthyosaurs lack dorsal fins and have newt-like tail tips. It’s tempting to think that the exposed scleral rings are just another unfortunate inaccuracy, but they may have been an intentional anatomy lesson; such an interpretation is given more credence by the exposed 'pavement’ of bones in the flippers (as above).

Just up from the plesiosaurs are a pair of marvellous, fearsome-looking Steneosaurus. The animal was a marine crocodyliform, and is known from some excellently preserved fossils. As such, Owen’s interpretations aren’t a million miles away from the modern view, although they owe a lot to the living gharial. The above photo also depicts what appears to be a coot (Fulica altra) nest under construction, carefully watched over by a grimacing, serpentine plesiosaur.

Back down in the Permian, the star attractions may be smaller, but they’re no less strange for it. The mutant toads hanging around by the lake are in fact labyrinthodonts, which were imagined to be entirely tailless. Their appearance is fascinatingly bizarre, as if someone grafted the megalosaur’s head on to a frog. Weirder still are a group of shelled dicynodonts, which Owen imagined to be turtle-like (unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get a decent photo). From the Permian end of the lake, one has a marvellous 'time tunnel’ view through to the dinosaurs at the far side, and the lush (if not entirely appropriate) greenery that’s grown up around the models in recent years lends a suitably primordial feel. Er, if you ignore all the flowers.

Beyond the end of the tunnel, adjacent the boating lake, are positioned a handful of different Cenozoic mammals. (Many more were planned for the park originally, but funding ran out - a shame, as the proposed Glyptodon would no doubt have looked fantastic.) A Megaloceros family provides a visually striking focal point, and - because the path wraps around them - it’s possible to view them from any number of different angles, and take in all of the wonderful details. In the below photo, a pair of American tourists (I’ll get to them in a minute) are carefully examining the mighty Megaloceros male.

Around the corner we have Megatherium, another impressively large creation. The tree it’s hugging, in classic Megatherium/hippy fashion, is in fact the original Victorian specimen (now rather dead). According to signage in the park, the tree once grew enough to knock the sloth’s arm off, and it now bears a replacement limb. It’s difficult to photograph the Megatherium’s face, but it really is quite adorable, as I’m quire sure the real animal was. I mean, they’re just great big mounds of cuddly fuzz, if you think about it…and ignore the bloody great claws.

Speaking of adorable mammals…I was lucky enough to share my visit with none other than Chris DiPiazza of Jersey Boys Hunt Dinosaurs fame, along with Niroot and our mutual friends Nancy and Huseyin. Much joyous geekery ensued, as I’m sure you can imagine, and I’d like to sincerely thank one and all for the day. Cheers!

Mirror shades. Just typical. And finally…various (generally excellent) signs around the park show 'contemporary’ (i.e. modern) depictions of the prehistoric creatures. Most of these aren’t too bad, but the 'modern’ pterosaur is proper horrorshow. Check it out, unless you’re a pterosaur expert, in which case I’d advise closing this page and backing away from your PC at once. 'Til next time!


The greatest (and most complete) set of photographs from a place that, although I never have been, holds such magic for me.

“This piece is a spectacular summary of the age (Carboniferous) as one dominated by enormous, bizarre-looking plants, with Sigillaria looming imposingly from behind a tangled veil of tree ferns. The dramatically leaping animal in the foreground is Hylonomus, the earliest known definitive reptile. While I realise I gush about Henderson non-stop, this truly is one of his masterpieces; I only wish I had an enormous print of it to hang on my wall.”

Mark Vincent at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs

Posted by David Orr at 7:40 AM

Welcome to part two of the LITC 2014 Dinosaur Gift Guide! If you missed the first installment, check it out here. the goal with this brief series of posts is to highlight artists and other independent creators of dinosaur goods. Since paleontology depends on the work of artists to reach the public, it’s vital to directly support them when possible. There has never been an easier time to do it, and dinosaur lovers have never had such a wealth of amazing art by so many talented people.

Onward with the second installment. I’ve decided to split this guide off into a trilogy to keep the post lengths reasonable, so the third and final part will be coming Wednesday!

The Paleopost Postcard set, featuring the work of Tiffany Turrill and Brynn Metheney.

Tiffany Turrill and Brynn Metheney are concept artists in the videogame industry, and every single time they share their dinosaur work, it’s the sweetest of sweet treats. Their Paleopost postcard set is a great way to get some of their finest work in one package - saurian and otherwise extinct.

Arthropod Meeting by Glendon Mellow, available from his Redbubble shop as a print or as part of his wonderful 2015 calendar.

Glendon Mellow doesn’t do a lot of dinosaurs, but his utterly unique eye deserves inclusion here, often drawing from prehistory for inspiration in his surreal juxtapositions. His Avimimus, available as an iPhone or Galaxy case would be a great set of training wheels for someone working up the nerve to commission him for one of his striking tattoo designs!

Trikeratos by Scott Elyard, an exploration of cybernetic technology and prehistoric life, available as prints, pillow, tote bag, or tee at Redbubble.

Scott Elyard also has a uniquely unfettered imagination, with a portfolio populated by cybernetic saurians and brightly colored skull portraits.

Lesser Bowertyrant by Raven Amos, available as a print, pillow, or tote bag from Redbubble.

Raven Amos’ work is consistently eye-popping, with bold color choices, stylistic daring, and intricate line work. Raven’s work is available at Neatorama as well as Redbubble. The Neatorama store also includes her Nintendo/Kaiju Mashup series. Her GaMario and Linkzilla are slam dunks.

The mighty Dreadnoughtus, illustrated by Christopher DiPiazza and available as a print from the Jersey Boys Hunt Dinosaurs Zazzle shop.

Christopher DiPiazza has been sharing wonderful watercolor paintings of dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasties for a good long while over at Jersey Boys Hunt Dinosaurs, and you can support him and the blog as an enterprise at their official Zazzle shop. From their heraldic blog logo to feathered maniraptors panoramas, there’s plenty of great stuff to choose from.

The Caffienated Raptor mug, by Emily Willoughby and available from her on-line store.

Emily Willoughby is a shining star in today’s paleoart universe, bringing a naturalism to her feathered maniraptors that perhaps more than anyone other single body of work invites lovers of today’s extant theropods to extend that appreciation to their Mesozoic forebears.

The TetZoo Aisle

The covers of All Yesterdays and Cryptozoologicon: Volume 1, from Irregular Books.

The fellows of the TetZoo/ Irregular Books empire are marvels of productivity, especially considering the high quality of their work. I consider All Yesterdays a must-have for paleoart enthusiasts, both for the sheer volume of beautiful, challenging work inside and for the way it communicates the strong tug-of-war between imagination and inference at the heart of paleontological restoration. Their Cryptozoologicon: Volume 1 applies a similar approach to the existence of cryptids. Darren Naish’s Tetrapod Zoology: Book 1 would round out a nice little book set.

Of course, there are other options available to support their unflagging efforts to educate and inspire natural history enthusiasts. Memo Kosemen sells prints from his DeviantArt account, John Conway sells his from his own site, and Darren Naish sells his designs on tees at Redbubble. The TetZoo Podcast also has its own Redbubble shop.

We’ll wrap up with the third part on Wednesday, which will include even more artwork and books to stuff those stockings with.

“Moving on up to the Triassic, and (Doug) Henderson provides us with one of the more memorable restorations of Postosuchus to feature in a popular book. Here, the sinister archosaurian macropredator adopts a nonchalant air as it tosses a young Desmatosuchus to the skies, perhaps with the aim of breaking off a few of those unpalatable spines. Yet another example of Henderson’s superb and original compositions - a brilliant imagination to match his artistic flair. Gush gush gush. I hear his feet really smell*, though, which is important to take into consideration. Just remember that.”

Mark Vincent at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs


Image by deviantart user chasmosaur

The samebito comes from a rather different background than many of the yokai proper we’ve showcased here. Rather than originating in picture scrolls written explicitly to create yokai or in folktales incorporated into those scrolls, the samebito is a monster with a literary pedigree. The earliest record of these critters appears in a gesaku, the Edo-period equivalent of a short story. Samebito were brought to the attention of the west by Lacfadio Hearn, who did much to publicize Japanese traditions with his series of books.

I haven’t been able to find a single illustration of a samebito that matches what I’ve got in my head–I see the samebito as looking something like an anthropomorphic goblin shark.


An enormous creature stands here, a cross between an ogre and a shark. It clutches a polearm in its clawed hands. A beard of tendrils like an octopus’ arms dangles at the base of its massive jaws, and its nose points far beyond its emerald eyes.

Keep reading

Posted by David Orr at 10:38 PM And I’m back to wrap up the gift guide, in which I gently exhort you to bestow the gift of paleoart upon your dinosaur-loving friends and relations, It’s a clear win-win in that it supports independent creators who work hard to produce engaging, accurate representations of extinct life and it provides the recipient with a unique and memorable gift. Catch up with parts one and two, if you haven’t seen them yet.

The Tales of Prehistoric Life series of books by Daniel Loxton, published by Kids Can Press.

Daniel Loxton’s three-part Tales of Prehistoric Life series is a great way to fill a young dinosaur hunter’s bookshelf. I’ve given them as a gift to a precocious young paleontologist-in-training, and he was particularly taken by the books’ combination of realistic dinosaurs in a narrative story. I reviewed the books here recently; take a look and see for yourself.

The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi, published by Titan Books.

Julius Csotonyi is a modern master of paleoart, as evidenced by his winning the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology’s Lanzendorf PaleoArt Prize for 2-Dimensional Art three times. He sells prints of his immaculately rendered prehistoric scenes on his on-line store, and was also the subject of this year’s Titan Books publication The Paleoart of Julius Csotonyi: Dinosaurs, Saber-tooths, & Beyond.

Pteranodon © Mark Witton, via Flickr.

Mark Witton is another influential figure, perhaps more than any other single artist popularizing the appearance of pterosaurs as informed by modern science. He recently began selling prints, and authored Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy, which was published last year.

The LITC Aisle

Top-to-Bottom: Deinocheirus by Asher Elbein, Lambeosaurus by Niroot Puttapipat, and Buitreraptor by David Orr.

Finally, I’d be a poor capitalist if I did not mention that your intrepid bloggers here at Love in the Time of Chasmosaurs have their own wares for sale. I feel very lucky to share LITC with such talent. Asher’s art is available at DeviantArt, Niroot’s is available from DeviantArt and Redbubble, and my designs and illustrations are all at Redbubble.

I’m also supremely delighted to announce…

You can support the blog directly by purchasing official LITC merchandise! The logo is available in pink and black or in all white, both on a wide variety of products. I’ll be rolling out a redesign of the blog soon, but as a sneak peek I’ve created merchandise of the new logo. Proceeds from these sales will help us purchase books and offset possible future expenses related to the hosting of the blog. Not a bad present, just imagine gathering the whole family (however you may define it, of course) for a holiday portrait in red and green LITC tees…

I hope this series has inspired you to support paleoartists and publishers releasing good work. There are so many options for dinosaur toys, videos, models, games, and books. If even a fraction of the people who keep the Big Dinosaur Merchandise Train rolling down the rails patronized artists and small publishers who consistently push out inspiring work, it would be a heck of a lot easier for those creators to keep doing it.

Chasmosaur                              Dinosaur Provincial Park / Alberta, CA

©2008 G.F. Spicka

Dinosaur Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is about a two and a half hours drive southeast of Calgary. 

The badland topography, sculpted by the Red Deer River, is known for being one of the richest dinosaur fossil locales in the world.

Posted by David Orr at 3:10 PM Though any time of year is the right time to bestow a saurian gift upon a friend or loved one, this time of year seems to put special focus on gift-giving. I’m not sure why.

In the interest of helping people find unique and inspiring dinosaur gifts, I’ve put together this guide. It’s certainly not meant to be comprehensive, but rather is an attempt help you choose gifts that both delight their recipient and support the forward progress of paleontology. One easy and meaningful way to do that is to support artists who care about how distant chapters of life’s story are presented, and work hard to research their subjects and depict them in novel ways. Also deserving of support are the publishers who commission said artists and dedicated shops who specialize in dinosaurs, such as Everything Dinosaur and Dan’s Dinosaurs. What I especially love about the Dan’s Dinosaurs is that they work directly with artists, so there are a number of links below that lead to their site - if you’re looking to wow someone with original artworks or excellent sculptures, it’s a great place to start.

Andy Farke at the Integrative Paleontologists had a similar post idea, and beat me to the punch. Be sure to read his gift guide over there. Since this was already mostly written up, and there are a few differences, I figured I’d go ahead and post mine, as well. It’s so packed with sweet goodies, I’ll be splitting it in two, with the second half queued up for Monday.

Stenopterygius Palaeoplushie by Rebecca Groom, available at Etsy.

Rebecca Groom’s work has been steadily growing in popularity, and for good reason. She crafts some of the finest plush prehistoric critters I’ve seen (and you don’t have to rely on my opinion - her Velociraptor Kickstarter was a resounding success). Her Palaeoplushies are available in limited supply at her Etsy shop, with a larger range at Dan’s Dinosaurs. Rebecca also designed a heraldic Microraptor that would be welcome in any enthusiast’s wardrobe.

Velociraptor portrait by Angela Connor, available at her Redbubble shop.

Angela Connor has popped up here before when I included her Paleo Portraits series in a Mesozoic Miscellany post. I love the simplicity and charm of the project, putting special focus on the “soul” of the animals, if I may be so woo-woo.

Stegoceras validum by Matt Martyniuk, available as a print from his DeviantArt store.

Matt Martyniuk is no stranger to readers of this blog, as a whip-smart researcher and terrific illustrator. His book projects would be especially inspiring to the paleontology prodigies in your life. His A Field Guide to Mesozoic Birds and Other Winged Dinosaurs came out in 2012, and this year he released his first Beasts of Antiquity title. Matt also sells prints at his DeviantArt page, my favorites of which reimagine classic natural history illustration styles of the 18th and 19th century with modern knowledge of dinosaurs: as if an Audubon stepped into the Mesozoic.

Tempest Tricera by Sharon Wegner-Larson, available from her Redbubble shop or Etsy.

Sharon Wegner-Larson’s Synapsid Sunrise was one of the delights of our All Yesterdays Contest back in 2013. Her paleo-themed fabric designs such are wonderful (see the full set here), as are her watercolors of sea life and Mesozoic megafauna such as the incredible Triceratops shared above. Her Redbubble shop has two of her pieces, and you can currently purchase pillows, paintings, and prints in her Etsy Store.

Chubbie Anzu by David Krentz, from his Shapeways store.

David Krentz is also a fixture in the online paleo community, a jack-of-all trades who nonetheless seems to be a master of all. He has a Shapeways shop where you can purchase his sculptures (ranging from realistic to the fanciful like the Anzu shared above), and Dan’s Dinosaurs sells his work as well. For the budding paleoartists in your life, the Krentz Presentz: Drawing Tyrannosaurus Rex DVD available from Dan’s Dinosaurs would be an ideal choice. As if that wasn’t enough, David has some really fun designs available on tees in his Redbubble shop.

Oviraptorid tee shirt by Jaime Headden, available from Redbubble.

Jaime Headden’s illustrates intricately stippled skulls and life restorations, and would be perfect for those who admire the simple elegance of skeletal anatomy.

Prairie Moon Corythosaurus (original painting) by Angie Rodrigues, available from Dan’s Dinosaurs.

Angie Rodrigues hasn’t been very active lately, but is one of my perennial favorites. Her originals are featured at Dan’s Dinosaurs, and for those who can’t quite spend that much, she’s got prints available at her own Redbubble shop and DeviantArt, including Triceratops: Autumn Refuge and Fly Away, featuring Iguanodon and Iberomesornis.

Ornithomimosaurs in autumn, available from Chris Masnaghetti’s Society 6 page.

Christian Masnaghetti’s work has impressed me for a while, and he keeps pushing himself stylistically and technically (I love his recent “Spino-potamus”). Purchase his prints at Society 6 and Redbubble. I also interviewed him a couple years ago, so check out more of his stuff there.

Stay tuned for the second half on Monday, which includes much more artwork as well as a number of books to stock the shelves of the dinosaur enthusiasts in your life (surely you know dozens).

Pentaceratops Aquilonius: The Northern One

Pentaceratops Aquilonius: The Northern One

The days are getting shorter, but that does not bother Pentaceratops aquilonius. Years ago, Pentaceratops aquilonius’ family had moved up north, in hopes of finding more vegetation. Food was hard to share, especially among the chasmosaurs, who were not afraid to use their horns to fight for fresh plants.

Pentaceratops aquiloniuswas small for a horned dinosaur, only about the size of a buffalo.…

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