A Book That Will Make You Question Everything You Know About Dinosaurs (via io9)

Annalee Newitz

How did dinosaurs look? The only way any of us know is from looking at images created by paleoartists, people who specialize in imagining extinct creatures by studying their skeletons. The problem is that skeletons only tell us part of the story — they reveal nothing about body weight, muscle, coloration, and behavior. Now, a new book called All Yesterdays — half science, half-science fiction — offers us a radical new way of looking at dinosaurs, based on contemporary science. We have an incredible gallery of the paleoart from the book.

Written by paleoartists C.M. Kosemen and John Conway, with an introduction by renowned paleontologist Darren Naish, All Yesterdays is the kind of wonderful, provocative thought experiment that only exists at the nexus of science and art. You can pick up a copy online.

Corresponding images above (starting from second image)

This is a Majungasaurus crenatissimus, by C.M. Kosemen. One of the points that Koseman and Conway make in the book is that there are certain stereotypical images we get of dinosaurs. We always see them in profile, because that’s how skeletons look best. Here we see this fierce predator from the front, and get a good view of its crazy wattles.

Stegosaurus and friend, by C.M. Kosemen. Another thing you NEVER see in paleoart is what exactly dinosaurs might have looked like when they were mating. This picture has the virtue of being cute as well as suggestive. The first image you saw in this post, of the T. rex sleeping, is another thing you basically never see in paleoart. We always witness T. rex chomping on its prey. And yet predators spend most of their days sleeping and digesting, preparing for the next high-energy hunt. So your typical T. rex pose would probably have been more like that adorable cat curl than a bloody fight.

This is a Leaellynasaura amicagraphica, by John Conway. This is an experiment with imagining what these small dinosaurs might have looked like. The artists note that paleoartists always assume that dinosaurs were sleek, their bodies in the exact shape of their skeletons. But few animals today are shaped exactly like their skeletons. Maybe some dinos were fat with giant, tufted tails.

This is a plesiosaur, by John Conway. Here the artist is imagining this giant ocean predator in an atypical paleoart pose — it’s hiding in the muck and algae near the shore, waiting for prey. It’s very likely dinosaurs would have had camouflage, and therefore when we imagine them we should consider that their coloration might have matched the colors in their habitats.

These are proceratops, by John Conway. These are a small species related to Triceratops, and we know nothing whatsoever about how they acted. Kosemen and Conway point out that we should look to contemporary animal behavior for clues. They note that goats climb trees, even though their skeletons don’t suggest tree climbing animals. Maybe proceratops was the same way?

This is a picture of the infamous Homo diluvii, by C.M. Kosemen. He and Conway share this as an example of how easy it is to “read into” a skeleton whatever you want. The Homo diluvii was something that 18th century scientists first sketched, as a way to explain the skeleton of a giant salamander they’d discovered (the fossil has since been properly identified). Because they couldn’t believe a salamander could have been that big, they drew this humanoid and decided it was a radically new kind of human who had lived on Earth long ago. Kosemen and Conway hint that our current paleoart of dinosaurs might be just as laughable and mistaken as this Homo diluvii.

In the final section of All Yesterdays, we go into the realm of science fiction. An imaginary dinosaur paleontologist discovers ancient fossils from the late Quaternary and tries to sketch what they might have looked like. Here, Kosemen shows the way this dino paleontologist might reconstruct a baboon, by assuming that its body was in the exact shape of its skeleton and that it probably looked kind of like a reptile.

Here is John Conway’s representation of how our dinosaur paleontologist would draw a cow, based on its skeleton. Obviously it must have been a sleek, muscular animal!

And here is a house cat, drawn by Conway channeling the dinosaur paleontologist. No creature could possibly have fur on its face, since dinosaurs don’t. So this is clearly how a cat looked.

Love in the Time of the Chasmosaurs - Great 2014 Dinosaur Gift Guide

I love paleoart.  It’s my favorite kind of art, and it adorns my walls in what some might claim is akin to a cluttered fashion.  But I like it that way, and can never get enough of it.  How else are we ever going to be able to “see” a fleshed-out dinosaur in its natural habitat?

If you haven’t already, please check out all three installments, written by David Orr over at Love in the Time of the Chasmosaurs, parts one, two, and three.  It has a heavy emphasis on paleoart, perhaps partly because it’s awesome, and also perhaps partly because it supports the amazing artists who recreate lifeforms we will never see again with life-breathing vibrance.  (Support is especially vital when paleoartists have to deal with their work being stolen, sometimes by toy companies, sometimes even by what appears to be the filmmakers of the upcoming flick Jurassic World).

You can find dinosaur books relatively easily these days, (provided you know which ones to buy and where to look for them– seems to stock a wide selection of excellent ones these days), dinosaur documentaries (both of good as well as possibly dubious quality), fossil casts, and other such things are fairly easy to find.  Prehistoric Times magazine often has a great showcase of paleoart, too (the current issue even features an interview with renowned paleoartist Julius Csotonyi!).  I love and and all things paleo, but David is right to place special emphasis on the artists for a change.  Let’s help support the paleoartists, and get some knock-out representations of times gone by to give as gifts (to your friends, family, or even yourself!).

Paleoartist Tyler Keillor’s job at the University of Chicago Fossil Lab with paleontologist Paul Sereno is to create ‘flesh models’ of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals based on fossil evidence—giving creatures that died millions of years ago skin, features and a story.

Ever wonder if there’s a place for art in science? This article proves there truly is. Keillor uses modern, cutting edge tools as well as very low tech (but briliant) techniques to create his sculptures, which bring prehistoric animals to life.  It talks about his artistic decisions which are not only rooted in intuition, but also in science. And, no, he didn’t just study science to get to where he is. This portrait of an unusual and fascinating profession is fascinating.

I want to see a book about this guy-preferably a big, beautiful coffee table book that showcases his art, too.

I Know Dino Podcast: Deinonychus (Episode 14)

I Know Dino Podcast: Deinonychus (Episode 14). Thanks @mpmartyniuk for the great interview!

In our fourteenth episode of I Know Dino, we had the pleasure of speaking with Matt Martyniuk, a science teacher and paleoartist who has a prolific blog, several books, and more. Learn more about his work at  You can also visit him on Facebook and Twitter.

You can listen to our free podcast, with all our episodes, on iTunes at:…

View On WordPress

© Mark Hallett, Paleoartist, Illustrator

As a paleoartist, a term coined for an illustrator who researches and recreates the life of the past Mark draws, paints, sculpts and conducts research into how ancient life forms may have looked and behaved for a wide variety of American and Foreign clients.
His work has appeared in Life, Smithsonian, Natural History and National Geographic, scientific journals, popular books and in Natural History Museums.

To see more work:

A drawing of Hatzegopteryx by talented young paleo artist Sam Lippincott! Hatzegopteryx rivals Querzalcoatlus for the title of biggest pterosaur, with a wingspan around 36 feet! To check out more of Sam’s awesome drawings, click the link! #hatzegopteryx #quetzalcoatlus #pterosaur #reptile #reptilesofinstagram #animal #animalsofinstagram #drawing #art #paleoart #paleoartist #paleontology #paleontologist #extinct #prehistoric #massive #recordbreaker #samlippincott #dinosaur

Watch on

Watch paleoartist Tyler Keillor build a model reconstruction of newly-discovered dinosaur Pegomastax africanus.

Do not underestimate the immensity of T. rex’s ass

Dear paleoartists,

I love you, but many of you are drawing unrealistically petite tyrant dinosaurs. Here’s an outline of the torso of T. rex as typically illustrated, superimposed over the Stan cast at NMNH:

Here’s what’s actually needed to contain the shoulder girdle, rib cage, and pelvis:

And that’s just a bare minimum. Also keep in mind that muscle attachment points on the femur and pelvis indicate that T. rex thighs were roughly the size of the world.

That’s all. Keep drawing awesome dinosaurs! :)

also this is a good time to post about my favorite paleoartists/people who make art with dinosaurs and other prehistoric life in it:

  • john conway (tumblr nyctopterus)
  • mark witton (how can you go wrong with mark witton? you can’t. you just can’t)
  • william stout (unfortunately that gallery doesn’t do a good job of showcasing his work, i have a book he illustrated- while a lot of the illustrations are sadly outdated, are beautiful)
  • wayne barlowe (also outdated, also again, gorgeous. he also does some incredible surreal stuff and i think he did some concepts for pacific rim)
  • julius csotonyi (but honestly i like his paintings and sketches way more than his photomanipulations, i don’t think i can take that kind of art seriously after suffering through years of badly photoshopped figures and 3d models in “educational” children’s books) 
  • todd marshall (people take issue with how overly dramatic his stuff is and that is true but you can’t deny that it looks really cool)
  • doug henderson (same kind of old but beautifulwork ) 

this is also in a rough ranking of how much i like all of these artists? really i have huge huge respect for anyone who can make paleoart that’s good from an aesthetic/artistic standpoint and a scientific one and all of these fit that role (and is also the kind of artist i want to be so!!)

that post is also unfortunately male and white but thats probably bc of the field of paleontology (as i know it) is dominated by those presences unfortunately, and/or that’s what gets popular on the internet! but i should try and change that with some more research into paleoartists, im looking at niroot puttapipat of Love In the Time of Chasmosaurs rn, and he is very good so. if anyone knows any paleoartists who are women or poc please direct me their way!