Guess Who’s Coming to Christmas Dinner

Here is a commission I finished for a friend last night. Tyrannosaurus rex, getting ready to celebrate Christmas.

Contrary to popular opinion, T. rex most likely didn’t have vision-based movement. He would probably have seen you still or moving. So, in other words:

He sees you when you’re sleeping

He knows when you’re awake

You taste the same if you’re bad or good

So just run for goodness sake!

Tarbosaurus Carnage: From the Optimistic Painter

One of the best Tyrannosaurid paintings I have ever seen. Great work from the Optimistic Painter.

This is why we have to bring dinosaurs back to life. The world needs this awesomeness to rise again!

The Optimistic Painting Blog

It’s been a few months since I did a painting for Dave Hone’s paper on selective feeding behaviour of tyrannosaurs. When Dave first approached me I have to admit I was looking forward to painting some dinosaur carnage. Instead the paper was about a Tarbosaur delicately nipping stuff  it had found lying around, so I had to satisfy myself with a quick and dirty scrawling of reptilian mayhem….

Until now.

click for enbiggenment

I think the title is self explanatory.(must resist explaining) Sanja found this one a little uncomfortable to look at, especially the look in the poor Saurolphus’ eye….. not a good place to be.

When Dave’s paper was released much of the media jumped all over it as if it was all about Tyrannosaurs exclusively scavenging. So I thought I’d do my bit to tip the scale, at least artistically.

Luckily a bit of science came out…

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A Brighter Day for Paleontology? Switek Steps Down

Edit: June 05, 2013

Evidently, reacting to a link I stumbled across on another paleontologist’s site and then having something critical to say about it is clear proof of “trolling” in Mr. Switek’s mind, just because I’ve criticized him in the past, and I must be someone who’s obsessed and out to “get” him.

Or maybe I saw him doing something I cannot stand (condescending to others if they don’t see the world like he does, and making mountains out of paleontological mole hills), and tried multiple times to call him out for it. Either way, I neither threaten him nor trawl his account for excuses to snipe at him, nor do I call him names. Nothing that I can remember, in any case. If I think he says something that insults my intelligence, I’ll say so. But his best excuse is “go away and shut up.” Which of course doesn’t go over well with me, since I see a problem in his treatment of other people that’s still not getting solved.

Is that “trolling,” or being an annoying busybody? Either way, it’s not laudable. I apologize for sometimes being frustrated. I confess I should have let it go long ago, something I already admitted. For honesty’s sake, I’d just love to see him treat others with more respect and more open-mindedness. But fine. I’ll gladly stop paying him attention. He already gets far too much as it is.

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After four years, Brian Switek is leaving his “Dinosaur Tracking” Blog for the Smithsonian and moving on to what I hope are bigger and better things. Though I wish him the best of luck (honest, I do), I confess that I’m glad about it. Sorry, fellow paleo-nerds.

Here’s the thing: I wanted to love Switek’s blog. I really did. There are many informative posts, I admire and envy his depth and breadth of knowledge, and his devotion to scientific accuracy is quite laudable.

Here’s the problem: His concern for scientific accuracy was rarely expressed in a constructive light. Most of the time it was excessive griping about how movies and TV shows don’t portray dinosaurs quite as accurately as museums and the peer-reviewed literature, or bemoaning all the “inexcusable” mistakes the public at large was making about dinosaurs. At one point he even asked the media to “leave dinosaurs alone” because he couldn’t stand the inaccuracies.

But that’s like asking science fiction movies to “leave space alone” because they rarely get their astrophysics right. I don’t recall Neil DeGrasse Tyson stating that we should stop making space operas. And for all their inaccuracies, Star Wars and Star Trek somehow inspired a whole generation of scientists, engineers, and astronauts.

Wait, inaccurate movies inspiring people toward science and education?! No. Freaking. Way. Imagine that! Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope for Jurassic Park to keep inspiring kids to become paleontologists, even with its featherless Velociraptors and poisonous Dilophosaurs.

Not that science isn’t important — of course it is! And I am not saying entertainers have license to throw accuracy to the wind — they should make an effort, most of the time. But entertainment has purposes besides educating people about all the minutiae of scientific accuracy. Sometimes you just get a better story by fudging a couple of details. And if it is somehow a flaw or a mistake, it’s not the end of the world (today’s date notwithstanding). It’s best to shrug it off and let it go, rather than hop onto a Smithsonian blog and sniffle at all those uneducated masses, as they make errors so tremendous and damaging, they’d be better off just leaving dinosaurs to the professionals.

I’ll listen gladly to other paleontologists, thank you, namely those who allow people to imagine and exercise a little artistic license.

Tyrannosaurus Rex, Decapitator Extraordinaire

Is there anything we’ll discover about dinosaurs that isn’t awesome? Especially this one.

And the winning entry for Astounding Science News of the Week is: Tyrannosaurus evidently didn’t just eat Triceratops, but ripped its armored head off to get at the juicy neck meat underneath.

Museum of the Rockies paleontologist Denver Fowler led an examination of Triceratops remains from Montana’s Hell Creek formation, noting the strange T. rex bite marks on the herbivore’s bony neck frill. Strange because there isn’t much meat on that frill (so why would a Rex be chomping on it?), and because the frill marks didn’t have any signs of healing (showing that they were inflicted after the animal was killed). Equally strange are similar bite marks on the ball-and-socket joint where the skull connected with the neck vertebrae.

Given the size of the head, that’s not an easy place to get to. [Image courtesy of Wikipedia, originally posted to Flickr by Mrkathika]

Fowler’s study submits what looks like the most reasonable explanation: T. rex was tearing off the head of this heavily armored prey animal, and dining on the nutrient-packed neck muscles, along with whatever else it could eat off the carcass. If this is indeed what happened, it is very exciting news. Not only did T. rex and Triceratops fight each other, like every 8 year old boy dreams of, but T. rex earned his reputation as a “Tyrant Lizard King.”

Lots of people are glad T. rex is extinct. I for one am crushed. No animal this powerful, awesome, and violently majestic should die out. [Image courtesy of Wikipedia]

Not only is truth often stranger than fiction. Sometimes it’s just plain awesomer. (Awesomer isn’t a real word, but it should be.)

Battering Ram: A Dinosaur Story for Chuck Wendig

Since dinosaurs are kind of my obsession, I admit to giggling like a gleeful mad scientist when novelist and smart aleck extraordinaire Chuck Wendig gave an assignment to his readers: write flash fiction (very short story, up to 1,000 words) with dinosaurs in it. http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2012/05/04/flash-fiction-challenge-must-love-dinosaurs/

For better or worse, this is my entry, a sort-of prequel to the short story Battle at Engorlash that I wrote a while back. More like a battle scene in a larger story, in my opinion, but I’ll decide later if I can do something to expand it.

It’s just under the limit, at 989 words. Thanks for having a look, and I hope you enjoy!

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On the wall and beneath it, pikes and swords glinted like silver grass in the hot sun, dazzling Morent Wolfglen even when he pulled down his visor. Here and there, a flintlock’s shot threw its echo over the battlefield. Blood and metal and gunpowder combined into a familiar stench. Shouts of dying, of agony, of challenges and insults, thundered in his head.

He was tucked away into one of the corners of no man’s land, while the fort’s defenders concentrated most of their attack on the main army. Here he stood among officers and war machines that hadn’t been used yet.

“Morent!” The commanding voice of General Halthrin called him back to the side of the fort. “Morent, don’t freeze now. The harness. Help me get the harness!”

The general’s gloved hand shot down, pointing at a hemp rope, thick as an arm. One end was tattered like it had snapped, and the other snaked across fifty feet of gravel and gore to the muzzled snout of a Tyrannosaurus rex. The dinosaur’s ivory fangs seemed to glow against its black skin, shimmering with drool. Its nostrils and pupils dilated as vapors of blood tantalized it. So much raw meat…

“General?”

“We’re going to unlatch the muzzle and let him out. It’s our last chance.”

Morent couldn’t have been more shocked if General Halthrin had turned into a giant hornet. He certainly seemed angry enough to be one.

“We?”

“And today, preferably! While they’re focusing on the other garrisons. Just pray they don’t have a dragon in the fort. Come on, Corporal!” Spittle flying from him, the general hefted up the rope and tossed it to Morent. It landed in his hastily extended arms like he had just been handed a tree.

Struggling against the portcullis door of a massive siege wagon, the Tyrannosaur snarled, banged the sides of its wood and iron cage. Another soldier stood next to one of the table-sized wheels. He sweated as his fingers tapped the release lever, waiting for command. Waiting to escape the creature’s line of sight.

“Wait,” Morent said, dropping the rope. He realized their battering ram was now under a tangle of the corpses of Halthrin’s men, and the door it was meant to break had had molten lead poured into every crack once the siege started. They had no way of getting in. Not unless they made a door….

The general’s purple face darkened further. “What do you mean, wait?!”

Halthrin may have been crazy, but Morent was going to aim that insanity. If he was going to die, he’d rather make his last act a smart one.

Producing a vial of clear liquid from a pocket in his belt, he flung it across no man’s land. It shattered on the red and gray stones of the fortress wall. Within seconds, he picked up the sharp scent of garlic extract rising above the miasma of carnage. Tyrannosaurs could pick out scents better than any hound or vulture. Just as a dog could be trained with verbal orders, the monster now struggling to free itself had been conditioned to take specific smells as commands. And Morent had bought the extract a month ago, just in case.

“Now we’ve given him something to do!” Morent said, grunting as he picked the rope back up.

The general smiled through his tightening expression. He lifted up another section of rope and threw it onto his shoulder, puffing under the weight.

Normally a rex would be used like a scythe to cut down phalanxes, or a hammer to bash apart other siege engines. But Morent could see their side was losing, and fast. With walls still intact, they could lose half the army.

“Now!” Halthrin cried.

The man threw the lever down and bolted away. In a chorus of metal clanks and sliding chains, the portcullis swung out to the right.

All six tons of the black leviathan charged forward, pounding the gravel with heavily muscled legs. Once its tail cleared the giant wagon, Halthrin nodded back to Morent. Pulling violently backward, they jerked the rope taut. There was a loud snap as the harness on the steel-and-leather muzzle came undone, and it thudded to the earth beneath. Morent felt himself shake under the dinosaur’s bellow, scarred jaws opening to throw slaver and the stench of decay over the battlefield. Crossbow bolts and pikes stuck in the obsidian hide, only angering the beast. It must have caught the garlic smell, because forty feet of muscle and nightmares threw all of its weight against the wall, where the vial had broken.

Its neck clenching like a spring, the dinosaur slammed its head into the barrier again and again. Faults opened up and stones were jarred loose. Their beast of war had broken all the way through. Morent was dimly aware of cheers from his side. The fortress was almost theirs.

A storm of fire erupted from the other side of the wall, fingers of flame smothering the rex’s head before it could lunge away. Its wail of sudden pain seemed to reduce the monster, like a big dog yelping from injury.

Its legs buckled, tail shuddering as something else lunged out of the caved-in wall. A set of slender jaws, as large as the rex’s head and crowned by ivory horns. Through the smoke and shadow, Morent discerned the dragon’s jaws clench around the Tyrannosaur’s seared face. Fangs plunged through bone and muscle, anchoring the titans’ heads together just before the dragon wrenched around in a sharp tug. Bones shattered, and the rex crumpled dead under the wound it had bashed open.

Morent and the general stood there for what seemed an hour, dumbstruck, hearing the dragon’s shrill and triumphant scream. The battle itself must have gone silent.

It must have been the end. Morent had tried to help the general win, and failed. In his gut, he was convinced that this was his last day.