Sunday, 15 April 2018


I ran across this rather delightfully engrossing and illustrative (subjects not pictured) interview from Atlas Obscura’s archives recently that discussed what necessary liberties and license can confront and confound the anatomists and other researchers that—without context and living examples to look towards for inspiration—and cause inaccuracies that become ingrained in the way we envision dinosaurs and other long extinct beasts.
Until very recently, no one would have thought to embellish a stegosaurus with fancy feathers and plumage that might make the actual creature far fluffier than the lean and severe hunters that we picture. A classically problematic interpretation was thinking the skulls of elephants were actually the skulls of mythological cyclopes—or dinosaurs fossils evidence of dragons. Conversely, the padding, pouches, crests and wattles of extant species of today that aren’t necessarily preserved along with the skeletal frame that the artists have to work with—or otherwise over compensated for to achieve a sense of balance—could in for future paleontologist create some quite fantastic creatures—raptor like geese or deer that used their antlers (imagining them stretched taut with a sail of skin) like a paraglider. It would take quite an inspired leap (and probably a heretical one too) for a biologist of the far future, without the benefit of having experienced the life-cycles of the specimens studied, to realise that a toad and tadpole or butterfly and caterpillar are the same creatures.  What do you think? I suppose no matter how far off the mark we our with our rough sketches, it’s important to keep on using our imaginations.