Posts Tagged ‘pterosaurs’

Faces of Death

28 April 2009

Chris Norris recently deployed the term “asteroid porn” for a certain gratuitous style employed by those writing about meteoric catastrophe:

Here is a brief summary of a typical piece of asteroid porn. Dinosaurs are peacefully grazing (or browsing, or doing whatever) on a warm sunny day (or at sunset, or some other time of peacefullness) when they see a big fireball fall out of the sky. It hits the Earth so hard that larva comes out, like a big bursting geological zit. The larva shoots up hundreds of miles into the air and comes down, setting fire to, like, the whole planet. All the forests are on fire, and all the dinosaurs are on fire as well. Then there’s this big blast wave, and it’s so big it goes round the world, like, 5 times at the speed of Concorde, and when it hits the burning dinosaurs they all get blown into burning pieces…

You’ll want to read the entire post.

Not all porn is so literate though.  Books, television, film and, most especially the internet abound with visual artworks that operate in the same vein.  One well-worn style adopts a “dinosaur-eye view,” typically peppering the foreground with a tyrannosaur, hadrosaur or ceratopsian or some combination thereof.  A few enterprising artists even manage a nod to Charles Knight.

picture-4The players in these epic finales span a comical range of emotive reaction to the impact, from “wha?” to “HOLY EFF!” to “screw extinction–I’M GOING TO EAT YOU!!!” A few contemplative dinosaurs, cast in silhouette, even appear rather philosophical about their impending demise.

And of course, it’s a nearly irresistible vehicle for a one-liner:

picture-5Large pterosaurs offer a convenient excuse to adopt an aerial perspective that permits a more graphic celebration of “the junk” (the bolide that is).  Plus there must be a sense of clever satisfaction tat comes when you work Quetzalcoatlus into a painting of Mesoamerican Armageddon.

picture-6Another popular technique takes yet another step back to show what the hypothetical Troodon cosmonauts would have seen.

This view shifts the victim role from the dinosaurs to the planet itself. It also lends a certain historical anonymity to the event–this could be a catastrophe in the distant past, or the not-so-remote future.  In fact, some even depict an anachronistic geography that necessarily implies the latter to the careful observer.

picture-8It’s tempting to speculate that this orbital perspective might not have occurred to an artist working prior to the advent of satellite photography.  A similar argument has been made regarding the link between the Victorian “aquarium craze” and the subsequent proliferation of artworks adopting an underwater perspective (Clary and Wandersee 2005).

With their melodramatic flair, stereotyped compositions and limited pool of motifs, these images might easily be regarded as derivative at best and sure, pornographic at worst.  Much like metal album art.  However, these depictions will also afford ample fodder for a future, likely poor, overeducated and underemployed, generation of science/art historians interested in the cultural impact of late 20th Century neo-catastrophism.  Unless we are all wiped out by an asteroid first.

Coming up: Stravinsky, climate change and the Bataan march

postscripto: Huh, look at that.  300 microecos posts in just over 3 years.  I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

A note on the images:  All are thumbnails gleaned from Google Image searches of “asteroid impact”, “dinosaur extinction” etc.  They are reproduced here for the purposes of discussion only.  This is a cultural studies blog.  Deal.

Enigmatic Triassic Hellasaur Thursday…wait, what day is it?

9 April 2008

LOL! j/k but, seriously what the eff was Raeticodactylus chomping with those whackjob quinticuspid teeth? Um, doy! Baby placodonts!



Turns out the feet may have been involved too, we await further details….

Death Throes pt. 2: Opisthomonotony.

9 February 2008

In the incursive preamble we spiroambulated about the corpses of mummified dinosaurs, pickled pelicans, time and a piss-covered pseudo-esker of rock, rock salt and dust. So, what does all of this have to do with experimental taphonomy?

Read the rest of this entry »

Boneyard iii

18 August 2007

Those ready for their biweekly dose of permineralization action: Boneyard ver. 3 is up at Laelaps. Conspicuously absent from the record are Brian’s own slough of recent paleopostage, so here’s a stratigraphic sample:

Things you don’t want to meet down in the sewer.

Psittacosaurus goes to the hairdresser and comes back with extensions.

Pterosaurian identity crisis.

Like this needs another link.


Prosauropod jackpot.

You can’t write yourself out of prehistory Brian.  The boneyard heads over to When Pigs Fly Returns in two weeks.  See you there.

Dem Bones

5 August 2007

waiting for a tornado?

The Boneyard numero dos is up at Laelaps. Highlights: Chuck D. muses on some ‘diluvial’ mastodons in South America; Dr. Vector’s new game of one-up-manship; baby titanosaurs, crunchy on the outside chewy in the middle; Basilosaurus, quite dignified even without the extra bones or a top-hat; and Zach ponders Deinonychus timber wolf or komodo dragon?

And even though I forgot to submit, Brian managed to squeeze in my brief post on skimming pterosaurs. Good chap! I’m gonna write something great for #3, just gotta figure out what….

Enough babbling, go read it!


24 July 2007

So goes the theory of pterosaurian mega-skimmers according to a new PLOS paper by Humphries et al. The researchers, including Flickr pterosaur maven Mark Witton, employed the bane of all arm-waving theories, math, to model the energy costs of a large flying pterosaur dipping it’s jaws into the surf to scoop up fish. At least one group of extant birds, the aptly named Skimmers, engages in this behavior. Perceived skeletal similarities (mostly a long, tapered ‘bill’) had led some to infer this style of feeding in pterosaurs.

The authors conclude that the drag incurred by such a behavior would have rendered it a near-impossibility, at least among the large pterosaurs that have been most commonly depicted skimming. The researchers also compared the skulls of pterosaurs with living Skimmers and found the former lacking many of the morphological specializations that would be expected in organisms adapted to skimming.

Once again, PLoS = totally awesome (see, I can use math too!) Much more at Laelaps, if we’re lucky, Darren might weigh in too. Above image questionably sourced from this questionable source.

Mark Witton’s awesome illustration and a personal account is here. A summary by Liza Gross, PLoS is here.