ATTENTION, Dino-fans! It has come to my attention that 'Clash of the Dinosaurs' is bunk. It's not science, it's pseudoscience.
'Well', you might say. 'Big deal!' You'd be right - because that's not even close to the worst part of it. It has more recently come to my attention that the producers of the show also have engaged in some extremely dishonest QUOTE-MINING, taking quotes out of context to distort their meaning. In other words - "SPIN"! You know... the same BS tactic that crooked politicians in America use to talk about imaginary 'death panels' and 'taxpayer-funded abortions' in the hopes that their money-grubbing insurance company campaign contributors never have to worry about REAL health care reform putting a damper on their rampant greed and ungodly price-gouging profits. The same BS tactic that Creationists use to claim that such and such respected paleontologist is against evolution when they are really for it, etc...
Except now the Discovery Channel is doing it. Or rather, more precisely, the production company they hired to do the show, Dangerous Ltd. This is a very influential documentary production group with lavish offices in the famous and expensive Covent Garden district of London. What exactly did they do that was so dishonest?
Well, let's make it short and simple: Dr. Matt Wedel, the PhD paleontologist who described Sauroposeidon, was deliberately edited out of context on Clash of the Dinosaurs to make it look like he supported the outdated (and nonsensical) notion that sauropods had a "second brain" in their hips. In fact he was merely discussing and then rejecting this popular but false myth.
Judge for yourself; here is what Matt Wedel REALLY said in the full video interview (bold letters and underlines mine):
Here is what the show had him saying, courtesy of Dangerous Ltd's inane editing room staff:
Wow! They actually CUT OUT the "And for a while it was thought that maybe" part! That wasn't even a whole sentence separating those two lines, it was like 2 seconds worth of airtime difference, so WHY did they cut that out to make it look like Wedel endorses the "second brain" myth? I mean, assume you forget about the whole glycogen body part (which isn't too terribly hard to make understandable for non-scientist viewers; glycogen is basically nothing more than a sugar compound, and sugar = energy, not brain). Even THEN, it's very odd that Dangerous Ltd. would edit out those few words "And for a while it was thought...." to make it look like Matt was expressing his own personal view if they simply were editing things for brevity's sake. They are flat-out LYING in his name.
Here is Matt's own testimony from SV-POW:
In your email, you said: ‘Someone in the editing room cut away the framing explanation and left me presenting a thoroughly discredited idea as if it was current science.’ In your interview you carefully set out a context in which you made your argument, a context that was perhaps not included in the show as carefully as it could have been. Whether this was in the interests of brevity or not, I entirely appreciate your position. We had no wish to suggest you were presenting an old, discredited argument, we were simply working on the show ever aware of the demands of our audience. This does not excuse a part of the program which was perhaps not edited with as much finesse as it could have been and consequently I will make your concerns clear to the production team in the hope that we may avoid such situations again.
While I hope this clarifies our position, I will endeavour to call you to ensure all your concerns are properly heard.
This isn't just a case of misinforming the public; Dangerous Ltd. has also put Matt's credibility (and quite possibly his very career as a published researcher) on the line and may have already damaged it severely by dragging his name through the mud of pseudoscience-inspired LIES. This is nothing short of SLANDER and it is both UNETHICAL and ILLEGAL. Frankly, they deserve to be sued for every last dollar they made from that show.
I wrote to Dangerous Ltd. as well as Discovery (as did a number of other dino-bloggers), and to my knowledge, Matt Wedel and the other SV-POWsketeers were also contacting them regularly. Eventually, a man at the Discovery staff (who has asked to remain anonymous) promised to fix the problem today, which was a lot faster than anyone had expected. In Matt's words:
This is an amazingly good response by Discovery to this whole embarrassing quote-mining situation. And they are to be commended for their speedy resolution to this problem. However, there is one burning question in my mind - WHY did Discovery or Dangerous Ltd. let this happen in the first place?
In fact, I'd venture to say that the more corporate a science program becomes, the more idiotic and less scientific it's bound to be. And it's flat-out shameful how they claim their BS myths are "fact" in order to drive up their ratings. If dinosaur fact is truly stranger than fiction (and let's be honest here - it often IS) then why do corporate production teams feel such a need to support so many blatantly FALSE and ridiculous theories for their shows? Aren't REAL dinosaurs already interesting enough without having to turn them into magical dragons, or circus sideshow pinheads with the IQ of a cactus? Why are these guys so obsessed with things like second brains? Come to think of it, why did Spielberg make his Velociraptors too big and leave them unfeathered when they had both Robert Bakker and Gregory Paul as consultants, both of whom supported feathered raptors? There's just too much of a profit motive in producing stereotypical movie monsters. A real dinosaur film or series would DUMP the stereotypes and shock audiences with the TRUTH so they don't have to wait 15 years to learn that raptors actually did have feathers... And the same is true of Clash of the Dinosaurs. There was a good deal of BS "junk science" in Walking with Dinosaurs and Jurassic Fight Club. But that all pales in comparison with what was done in Clash. Because NOW, for once you have a literally all-star lineup of the top experts in the field, offering their commentary, but the show still manages to get so many things wrong! And in Wedel's case, the producers deliberately and dishonestly twisted his words to SUPPORT an obviously wrong conclusion! And then they claimed that they were merely doing this to "meet the needs of the audience" which is an insult to the audience, the scientists, and the science itself. Basically they're TRYING to say: "we lied and quote-mined because we felt the audience is too stupid to understand the real science".
Well then, if that's the case, you're producing nothing more than dumbed-down entertainment, so don't call it a frickin' documentary!
What were these guys thinking? Here's one quick guess: "Hey Mac... lets make some changes to the script to "meet the needs" of our "audience".... A smart sauropod that cares for its eggs? No way, scratch that - it will hurt our ratings and profits because it isn't what we think the "audience" wants to see. Big plant eaters HAVE to all be dimwits who can't tell their front from their rear! Didn't you new guys ever see Fantasia as a kid? And what's this - a raptor that actually has some realistic limitations on its strength? No way, that will also hurt our ratings and profits, everyone likes to see the bad guy win, the plant eater can only be allowed to live if he has horns..."
And in the end Dangerous Ltd. STILL never apologized, it was the Discovery Channel that finally bit the bullet and promised to fix Dangerous Ltd's dishonest editing of Matt's comments. Once again, Dangerous Ltd. has FAILED to apologize for its actions, which are still SLANDEROUS, UNETHICAL, and ILLEGAL.
I won't even bother putting up a "Wall of Shame" for the unrepentant guilty parties at Dangerous Ltd. - they've already done that job for me! Just click HERE to see who's who....
And unlike the quote-mining disaster, the Discovery Channel staff has shown no inclination or even INTEREST in remedying these obvious errors! And I've done my part by making them known to Discovery... This is corporate "science" at work my friends, and until you make your opinions known to Discovery Channel (which hired Dangerous Ltd. to do such a crappy job in the first place) then nothing will change. I encourage you all to write to Discovery about your concerns HERE. Just keep your complaints about the mistakes short and to the point, and avoid any insults or threatening language. Also be sure to make your voice heard by Dangerous Ltd. HERE, and inform their parent company Zodiak Entertainment of their subsidiary's dishonest and illegal behavior HERE (choose the "scripted products" email address). And this isn't some airy-fairy utopian fantasy ideal. Discovery did, after all, cave in and promise to fix the quote mining issue after Wedel and company turned up the heat on them. With enough grassroots email pressure they and Zodiak/Dangerous may well feel inclined to fix these other mistakes as well.
Brachiosaurs have always been my favorite sauropods - indeed, my favorite dinosaurs period. (Although titanosaurs, especially the big basal ones, are constantly jockeying for that position in my mind...). So with the new discoveries of the past decade expanding the numbers of genera in the ranks of Brachiosauridae, I thought the time was perfect to produce a "brachiosaur parade" of the most well-known and some of the most legendary animals in this amazing group.
In fact there are over 20 genera that are likely brachiosaurs, but only about fourteen of them are solidly described. Fourteen is plenty though - the diplodocids would easily be envious of such a number. This was going to be a pretty big affair, so instead of the standard 8.5 x 11 heavy paper, I used a not-so-heavy 11 x 17 sheet. Much bigger, and I have a big stack of 'em - but these sheets are not so well-textured. But this is a small sacrifice for drawing most of the known brachiosaurs - including everyone's favorite, Brachiosaurus, and its new headline-grabbing cousin (or should I say nephew, in evolutionary terms), Sauroposeidon.
The brachiosaur family is very complex despite the remains of most species being poorly known or fragmentary. They survived for at least 90 million years, from Middle Jurassic to Late Cretaceous (there are brachiosaur tail vertebrae known from the Campanian of Mexico), before going extinct. In this respect they were the most successful of all the sauropod families, except for their titanosaur cousins. Brachiosaurs are in a sense the rare gems of the sauropod world. Everyone's heard of them (or at least Brachiosaurus) yet they are far less common in museums, books, and even the artist's portfolio than, say, Diplodocus or even Camarasaurus. They are less often studied, less often dug up, but in my view, they are far more interesting - just altogether a way more awesome animal!
The brachiosaur parade involved fourteen different genera (based on their respective type species, with the exception of Brachiosaurus brancai and Pelorosaurus, presently a jumble of unrelated specimens whose true Brachiosaur material may not be the eroded non-diagnostic type P. conbeyari).
The genera are as follows, in an order roughly from the most primitive to the most advanced (except for little Europasaurus - I only had enough room for him at the end, even though he lived before the ones just behind him):
Daanosaurus ( = Bellusaurus/Klamelisaurus???)
Brachiosaurus (B. brancai HMN XV2 in this case - no I am not calling it Giraffatitan. Deal with it!)
"The Archbishop" (a brachiosaur somewhat bigger than B. brancai, with a longer neck as well, it was originally mis-labeled as a B. brancai for decades. Presently yet to be officially named, it's under research by Dr. Mike Taylor of SV-POW).
Pleurocoelus ( = Astrodon???)
Breviparopus (= Brachiosaurus nougaredi? Scaled from Morocco footprints as per Ishigaki 1989, with proportions based on Sauroposeidon).
Europasaurus - dwarf basal brachiosaur from Germany - likely a "feral migrant", it made its home on a Jurassic island and dwarfed to cope with limited food supplies.
I also included the biggest known T. rex for size comparison - this is the "B.rex" specimen, not Sue. It's a little bit bigger. But notice how this stinkin' theropod's torso is so tiny compared to most of the brachiosaurs' torsos.
The initial size of the scan was gigantic - I used FedExKinko's because I had to submit this thing to Prehistoric Times last-minute, and I was unable find another scanner big enough in time (my university had one that could be used for free by students and alumni, but it was down for maintenance). So there's ten bucks down the drain. Anyway Kinko's gave me something on the order of 20,000 pixels copied onto my flash drive and I almost passed out waiting for the thing to load onto Pixia (a quick, free image editor available for download online, basically the poor man's photoshop). Only this time with these huge files it wasn't so quick.
So I resized the thing on photoscape and used a blue tint feature to bring out any smudges and smears that still had to be removed. So here's the "ultraviolet" version I suppose...
Note that I also included scaled footprints for Breviparopus, and for Pleurocoelus (the Paluxy trackway prints called "Brontopodus birdi" which were almost certainly from a large Pleurocoelus or similar Pleurocoeline brachiosaur).
Afterwards, I made several shrunken photocopies of the original and colored one of these, and then scanned it on my own puny scanner to get this, leaving the T.rex uncolored:
Then I want back to the original scan of the uncolored version, and after editing out the smears and smudges (which is a chronic problem with standard non-heavy copy paper) I undid the "ultraviolet" masking to reveal the cleaned up image. Then I refined the height scale, drew some of the tongues that were missing (*gasp!*) and replaced the sketchy human figure with a high-contrast pic of Eugen Sandow.
Wait, you've never heard of Eugen Sandow? Here you go! If you're familiar with Charles Atlas, well, Sandow came a couple of generations before him.
And here is the labeled version. The height scale it, unusually, in feet rather than meters. So if you live outside the UK or the USA, feel free to bust out the calculator and do that x feet/3.3 thing...
I don't have much more to say about this piece, other than it's huge, it took over a month to finish, and the colored version was published in the latest issue of Prehistoric Times (grab one here), and special thanks to the editor Mike Fredericks for publishing it. Ironically, the black-and-white version that I scanned at Kinko's didn't even end up getting sent to the magazine. I figured the color version would grab more attention one I finally fixed the contrast on both. But the un-colored one has much better detail.
It's also featured in the ArtEvolved Sauropod Gallery (albeit in an earlier version). Thanks to Peter Bond for posting it there.
Coming up soon there will be a series of works entitled....
This will cover exclusively titanosaurs, from gargantuan limb bones discovered over 100 years ago, to armored tank-like oddities that have turned up just recently. For over a century titanosaur remains have been known, yet for most of that time they have been very poorly understood, and even the record-breaking ones were not much more than huge curiosities sitting on a dusty museum basement shelf or perhaps featured in some odd photograph in a remote corner of Donald F. Glut's dinosaur encyclopedia. While Argentinosaurus is fairly well known today, many similar titanosaur giants simply never got their fifteen minutes of fame, and aside from paleontologists and dino-geeks, barely anyone knew they existed.
For example, how many people know that while Brachiosaurus was considered the "biggest dinosaur" for most of the 20th century, there already at least two super-titanosaurs known that were easily twice as massive, one of which was actually discovered a decade BEFORE Brachiosaurus?
Titanosaurs have just been largely neglected, plain and simple. Most species don't even have a decent illustration to their name - even the relatively complete ones! That's going to change. Both old and new titanosaurs, some never before depicted, will soon make their entrance HERE, in the Paleo Kingdom.
Only recently have titanosaurs begun to be truly understood, and in many ways, rediscovered and reclassified as a cohesive group - and as the research yields important details about new titanosaur species, the group as a whole is coming into sharper focus - including the older finds that have sat gathering duast all these years. So my new series of titanosaur art, boldly illustrating beasts that have been long ignored, and that the majority of paleoartists haven't even dared to touch, shall be called: FORGOTTEN GIANTS.
WOOHOO! After nearly a month of working on and off, it's finally done. Here is the Dashanpu scene (also known as "The Impossible miniature") in all its phenomenal, stunning presence. No detail overlooked.... like a J. R. R. Tolkien novel, or a Gogol short story, or even perhaps a Rameau harpsichord suite!
denizens of a lively Dashanpu Quarry.
Okay so perhaps I exaggerate just a tiny slight little bit. But rarely (or perhaps never) have I seen someone cram this much detail and just flat-out stuff going on into a single 8x11 sheet! Challenging? That's an understatement. I didn't want to put this much detail at first, but then I thought, back in March my Styracosaurus herd scene set the bar pretty high, so I had to at least do something comparable for my live blogging... especially now that I have much better paper to work with. So here's the full Dashanpu quarry scene with those real-life dragons, "Omeisaurus" tianfuensis and Shunosaurus lii - and their live surroundings as they would have appeared in the Middle Jurassic, with monkey-puzzle trees, reflections in the water, and shiploads of other details that would take hours to discuss, though they're easy to spot here. Enjoy basking in the glory...
And yes - there is indeed a crocodile.
Dashanpu quarry is mostly lake sediment, indicating that there was a large inland lake there in the Middle Jurassic (Bathonian-Callovian epochs) fed by several rivers, which washed the remains of dead dinosaurs into the lake along with tons of sediment over the millennia. The dinosaurs were certainly not water-dwellers - their corpses simply got thrown in there by rivers and perhaps floods, and those that didn't were not preserved. There are also crocodile and turtle remains, and these were obviously native to the lake.
Here, the dinosaurs are feasting near shallow, seasonally dry streams near the start of the wet season, on the edge of the lake. The first rains of the wet season flooded the area days before and choked the streams with silt and sandbars. It's not known exactly why "Omeisaurus" tianfuensis evolved such crazy long necks so rapidly, while Shunosaurus lii kept them short like the old cetiosaurid body plan (apparently as if there was never a brachiosaur-style middle ground for Chinese sauropod neck proportions!) However, the difference in feeding ranges which allowed the two to coexist without competing for the same food, is obvious.
* P.S. - I'm thinking of doing a big group reconstruction of all the known "Omeisaurus" species to show that they are probably separate genera that may have next to nothing in common with the type specimen. It's just an idea for now, though I do have other sauropod projects actually in the works.
Finally the REAL end is in sight... a bit late for ArtEvolved - but well worth the wait, methinks!
Here's the Dashanpu scene with more Omeisaurus patterned and shaded. And a lot more detail on the ground. Next I'll put in the croc, fill in a few more ground features and water surfaces, pattern the Shunosaurus herd, and that will pretty much be it!
Here it comes.... Looks like I'll be done soon.
Already got the patterns on one Omeisaurus, now to do the rest, and the Shunosaurus herd (can't forget those little guys, can we?) and the lake up front. That lake needs a crocodile. Trees are pretty much done.
Here's the latest update! More Omeisaurus in the background and more conifers to fill out the forest. There's at least three types of them here...perhaps four, if you can spot 'em.
The whole piece is slowly coming into view!
Here is the newest update!
More Omeisaurus in the distance with some new trees. I also shortened the tail of the rearing one in the foreground, as it was previously too long. The stream on the left is also more clear.
Ok, here's the most recent update:
I added two more Omeisaurus, one of which is rearing to eat higher branches.
I think I got the neck a bit TOO thin on that one, but I'll iron it out on the next update.
Also the dynamics of this graceful creature as it walked must have been truly marvelous, considering that most sauropods are usually depicted (incorrectly) as super-obese, ponderous hulks just barely plodding along at snail pace. This guy was the sports car model, while titanosaurs were the bulky "SUVs" of sauropod-dom. Also if you look closely notice the big thumb claws. There were a lot of sauropods that had them, but Omeisaurus and its kin had possibly the most oversized ones ever known. I can only guess that this was a very useful active defense for a creature that was not quite massive enough to rely on size alone as a deterrent for the packs of big predators of the day.
Also I added more trees and more background to the Shunosaurus area, with one on the hills just behind. It's shaping up very well so far, IMO. The most tedious part will be the trees.
Here is the next installment of my live blog on the sauropods of Dashanpu.
Basically I more or less completed the outlines of the whole Shunosaurus herd and drew some ferns and other foliage on the rolling hills behind them. The cool thing about using heavy "legal" texture paper is that is allows much better shading and "fog" techniques. These will be easier to spot in the final version (I'm never going back to cheap untextured copy paper again). I also corrected some minor details in the Omeisaurus (and I plan to add more of them). The rocks in the lake also got a facelift.
As for Marica's question on this being a miniature: it's an 8.5 x 11" sheet like most of my pieces here... but it's more of a "miniature" because I drew the dinosaurs from a far distance so they look small. On the paper, those Shunosaurus are barely bigger than a postage stamp! Usually I would go for more of a "close-up shot" but this time I wanted to go panoramic and capture the massive scale of the habitat these sauropods lived in. Sometimes it's about the overall scene just as much as the animals in it. Those super-tall tree trunks will be conifers soon.
Til next time ;)
Here's the next installment in our live sauropod blog of the Dashanpu quarry fauna scene.
I drew more Shunosaurus on the right (it's starting to get a bit crowded there, don't ya think?) and also some unusual large rocks and a tree fern behind them. That whole background region is going to be covered in conifers and ferns with a warm misty glow radiating through it - at least that's the effect I'm going for.
I like it so far but it's nowhere near done so I will continue blogging tomorrow and possibly the rest of the week. This is a miniature, so I am confident that it will be done or close to done in less than a week. Keep checking in for more progress pics.
Done with the tree, and now the outlines of two Omeisaurus and a little Shunosaurus are more or less done. Next it will be the trees in the background and several more dinosaurs of both types.
As you can see, Omeisaurus had crazy long necks. And they were unbelievably thin near the head-neck joint.
Ok here's my first live blog post. Basically we have a scene from the Callovian epoch at the end of the Middle Jurassic in China.
We've got a forest of araucaria conifers and some cycads and ferns near a lake. And some Shunosaurus and Omeisaurus.
Well, not YET, but here's the basic sketch of the design.
Yeah, it kinda sucks - for now.
This is just the preliminary sketch, it's not even on good paper. My actual drawing (which I will begin shortly) will be much better. I often do these rough sketches before attempting the final precise Paleo King-quality image, so I don't have to make radical changes and do too much erasing.
Check back in soon!
Well, it's the big day, dino fans! Today at 3:00 pm I will do a live blogging event for drawing sauropods.
And I have made my final decision.... it's going to actually feature TWO sauropod species. Shunosaurus lii and "Omeisaurus" tianfuensis. So thanks to DerKompsognathus and EmperorDinobot of DeviantART for their suggestions.
If you're wondering why I chose these two, it's actually pretty simple. Both suggestions are incredibly amazing animals, and they're not illustrated very often (and good illustrations of them appear even less often... aside from Greg Paul, I don't know of a single artist who even comes close to doing these majestic creatures justice). Also both are Chinese sauropods, which are by all accounts extremely fascinating and exotic animals by North American sauropod standards. And finally, they are the only two suggestions I received that lived at EXACTLY the same place and time! There were so many other good ideas people gave me, and I had a hard time choosing... So I decided to stick two species in the same picture, give two paleo-fans equal credit, and these two were the perfect choice.
Shunosaurus was either a cetiosaurid or a primitive "Euhelopodid" (yes I still casually use the old family classification - which may yet prove to have some validity...). It was once thought to be a missing link between the two families, though the fact that it's the same age as Omeisaurus pretty much rules this out. Shunosaurus is actually one of the best-known sauropods. It was the compact version, at only 33 feet long, with a large body but a much shorter neck than many other Chinese sauropods. It was almost certainly a very social animal, with the remains of an entire herd being found in the Dashanpu quarry. Not surprisingly, the entire skeleton is known, including its most peculiar feature - a spiked tail club, something extremely rare in sauropods. It was a low-level browser with large thumb claws, an upturned top jaw typical of cetiosaurs, and large strong teeth.
"Omeisaurus" tianfuensis also lived the the Dashanpu area, and likely interacted with Shunosaurus. Though by having a much longer neck (indeed, freakishly long!) it probably did not compete with Shunosaurus for food. O. tianfuensis is not the "true" Omeisaurus - it's a totally different animal from the type species O. junghsiensis. However, O. tianfuensis is the most complete of all the species that have been thrown together in the "Omeisaurus" wastebasket, and as a result also the most popular. So whatever it really is, I will also stick my foot in the evil taxonomic tar, and call this real-life dragon Omeisaurus for the time being.
...Incidentally, the insanely long neck of Omeisaurus (or that of its even more long-necked relative Mamenchisaurus) may well be the original inspiration for the Chinese dragons of legend... it is known that such fossils have been dug up and labeled "dragon bones" for thousands of years. The serpentine shape of the dragon may be based on only a neck or spinal column having once been found centuries ago, lacking the ribs and legs...
Like Shunosaurus, Omeisaurus also had huge, and likely prehensile, thumb claws. Considering its lightness, it probably needed them as a very dangerous active defense against predators like Sinraptor and Yangchuanosaurus. Omeisaurus didn't scratch at predators - it impaled them.
Check back at 3:00 for Live Blogging! See you then.