Tetrapod Zoology

A truly novel Mesozoic archosaur

So, conference season is upon us, and I leave you now for a little while. But here’s something to have fun with in the meantime… Back at a conference in 2003, Bob Nicholls (of paleocreations.com) and I wasted time during a lecture by drawing silly pictures. Here’s mine, Bob’s is below the fold. The question you have to answer is… exactly what were we drawing? Note the scale bars: this is a big animal (err, actually rather too big). The sound effects are speculative.


Those who follow the literature on Mesozoic archosaurs will know what this is about. Remember though, don’t spoil it for everyone else.. at least, not right away 🙂



  1. #1 johannes
    August 14, 2008

    Looks like a terrestrial pterosaur.

  2. #2 Hai~Ren
    August 14, 2008

    Is this the result of Irritator/Angaturama humping a pterosaur? (or vice versa)

  3. #3 Ian
    August 14, 2008

    Is this one of your azhdarchids?!

  4. #4 Christopher
    August 14, 2008

    Irritator/Angaturama reconstructed as a flightless pterosaur?

  5. #5 Moai
    August 14, 2008

    The second one looks somewhat like a flightless, predatory pterosaur, but the creature in the first image is much more dinosaur-like. So, assuming you were both drawing the same thing, maybe secondarily flightless non-avian dinosaurs? An alternate radiation of flying dinosaurs unrelated to birds, some of whom have become flightless once again?
    I think it’s apparent that I actually have no idea what this is. It’s fun to guess, though.

  6. #6 Neil
    August 14, 2008

    My iniatial thought was the original interpretation of Irritaor and a terrestrial pterosaur

  7. #7 Nathan Myers
    August 14, 2008

    Start with a plucked chicken, scale, and extremities. There’s no very important difference between any particular archosaur and a chicken, right?

  8. #8 Mark Lees
    August 14, 2008

    Seems like the beginings of your azhdarchid paper.

    Looks like they are either on steroids or have been working out.

    Glad to see you put some extra work in on the illustrations before publishing. 😉

  9. #9 Blue Frackle
    August 14, 2008

    The first picture is of a Pterosuchus longicauda, the second one is Pterosuchus brevicauda, both bizarre flightless pterotheropods from the future seen in Primeval, episode 17.

    P.S. Just kiddin’, I have no idea

  10. #10 Zach Miller
    August 14, 2008

    Some kind of flightless pterosaur. I think I saw the bottom one driving a Podracer on Tatooine one time.

  11. #11 Brad McFeeters
    August 14, 2008

    Darren must define “following the literature” a bit differently from the rest of us.

  12. #12 Nathan Myers
    August 14, 2008

    Sorry, that was “Start with a plucked chicken, scale, and add extremities.”

  13. #13 Adam
    August 14, 2008

    It’s my next creation on the spore creature creator.

  14. #14 Mark Evans
    August 14, 2008

    I think I know, but at what point am I allowed to broadcast it? I don’t want to spoil it for everyone else!
    BTW, which talk were you and Bob “wasting time” in?

  15. #15 Darren Naish
    August 14, 2008

    BTW, which talk were you and Bob “wasting time” in?

    It would have been that crappy plesiosaur talk. Just kidding 🙂 Probably a talk on isotopes or something…

    [PS – should anyone take offence, Mark’s talk was one of the highlights of the meeting]

  16. #16 Quietman
    August 14, 2008

    The lower one has got to be the Jersey Devil.

  17. #17 John H
    August 14, 2008

    As I just finally finished watching Cloverfield, I’m voting that it’s the beastie in that flick. Some rather pterosaurian arms on that thing.

  18. #18 Tilsim
    August 14, 2008

    The top one should be called Baryopteryx. I imagine the arms look like a baby hoatzin’s… but the toes are mysterious.

  19. #19 Darren Naish
    August 14, 2008

    Cloverfield: I am obsessed with this film. You realise that, at some stage, I WILL be doing ‘The zoology of Cloverfield’, honest. Pass me a slusho and look out for that falling satellite [if you know what I’m talking about you’re also obsessed].

  20. #20 Thomas R. Holtz, Jr.
    August 14, 2008

    Next time I’m in NYC, I am tempted to hunt down all of these:

    Cloverfield Locations

  21. #21 Rosel
    August 14, 2008

    a re-imagining of your lecturer/s as pterosaurs?

  22. #22 Jerzy
    August 14, 2008

    There is speculative biology book with future flightless bat on small island which started walking on forelegs. And this is pterosaur equivalent.

    Or there is this illustrated book with pterosaur evolving into giraffe mimic and this is missing link.

    Or this is ancestor of that creature which does car racing in new Star Wars.

  23. #23 Moai
    August 14, 2008

    Speaking of “The Zoology of Cloverfield,” Nemo Ramjet did a bit of speculation on that very subject. Link: http://nemoramjetupdate.blogspot.com/2008_02_01_archive.html.

  24. #24 BlueMako
    August 14, 2008

    “There is speculative biology book with future flightless bat on small island which started walking on forelegs. And this is pterosaur equivalent.”
    I belive you’re thinking of After Man. I think they even made an animatronic model of one of those bats, I saw it on a show when I was real young.

  25. #25 Karl Zimmerman
    August 14, 2008

    Irritator was initially thought to be a pterosaur when first discovered due to the skull being “adulterated” correct?

  26. #26 DVMKurmes
    August 14, 2008

    the number of toes on the hind legs and the wing membrane supported by the phalanges of one digit look like a pterosaur or close relative, not a theropod or avian type-so my guess is a flightless pterosaur.

  27. #27 Alan Kellogg
    August 14, 2008

    Actually they are both wyverniformes from the middle Paleocene of Western Australia. The clade existed for only about 3 million years before going extinct, and doesn’t appear to have had a substantial population. Once thought to have have been a case of speciation, the interpretation now is that the animals are an extreme example of the founder effect. Were it not for Australia’s isolation at the time, and the lack of major carnivores, it’s doubtful this clade would’ve gotten off the ground.

    Or, are we talking about reality? We are? Never mind.

  28. #28 John Conway
    August 15, 2008

    … can’t… hold… back… IT’S A FLIGHTLESS ROPEN OF COURSE!! Flightless ropens aren’t bioluminescent, but they do emit a high-pitched whine at all times, as well as their occasional groinking sounds.

  29. #29 wazza
    August 15, 2008

    The top one was speculation on the similarities of T. rex and chicken proteins and what that means for the intervening species…

  30. #30 Mark Witton
    August 15, 2008

    Looks like a giant, flightless rhamphorhynchoid* to me.

    *Yes, yes. I know.

  31. #31 Dave Godfrey
    August 15, 2008

    *Looks at meeting programme*

    The head is presumably the IoW ornithocheirid with crests at both ends. Quite why you’ve mucked about with the wings and body like that I don’t know though.

  32. #32 Zach Miller
    August 15, 2008

    There are finally some decent pictures of the Cloverfield monster on the interwebs, including a great model that’s being released later this year.

    You know, for an aquatic creature, Clovy doesn’t really have that many aquatic features.

  33. #33 Sordes
    August 15, 2008

    The second one looks a little bit like Sebulba from Episode I, mixed with a Pterosaur and the terrestrial killer-bats of Dixon. I have also still somewhere some ugly sketches of hypothetical terrestrial pterosaurs (I really hope you will once blog about this topic).

  34. #34 DDeden
    August 15, 2008

    no feathers?

  35. #35 Jaime A. Headden
    August 15, 2008

    Darren, is the lack of teeth in the mandible of your drawing intentional? Otherwise… the skull looks like it has retracted nares, the arms are clearly of the folden avian design, the feet look tetradactyl and webbed, its only 6m tall but apparently gracile-y bipedal, has a mammalian-style tufted tail?! I am thinking its the reptilian platypus!

  36. #36 Mark Evans
    August 16, 2008

    You’re too kind.
    Actually, Darren’s creature looks as if it’s auditioning for a part in Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” video.

  37. #37 Raaf
    August 16, 2008

    It must be some kind of mutated hog fed on gallons of Tsjernobyl soup when it was a happy little piglet.
    Fortunately for us it still produces the typical boar-like Gronk, gronk gronk sounds otherwise I would be at a loss here.

    If it sounds like a pig it must be a pig.
    In the pigworld they call him ‘Crazy Legs’
    You can see why.

  38. #38 Nikolai Sucik
    August 16, 2008

    Going to guess this is a depiction of one of David Peters’ hypothetical non-flying (wingless?) terrestrial pterosaurs. Pity his website is no longer up, would love to have seen some of his illustrations.

  39. #39 David Marjanovi?
    August 16, 2008

    An attempt to show what Dougal Dixon’s speculative flightless pterosaurs would really look like.

    Terrorsaurs, in short.

  40. #40 Susan
    August 16, 2008

    I was going to mention the bat creatures in Dougal Dixon’s book but others beat me to it. The illustrations also kind of remind me of some hypothetical creatures called daggerwrists that are featured in a book called “Expedition” by Wayne Douglas Barlowe. That particular book is about and expedition to another planet though, so doesn’t have much to do with mesozoic archosaurs. (It is a great book though, out of print but worth checking out if you can find a copy. There’s a really lame video based on the book that came out recently.) I’m guessing that the above creatures are either some hypothetical ancestor to flying reptiles or are hypothetical decendents of flying reptiles that returned to the ground. Or they’re something featured on the series “Primeval” as mentioned before or they’re a baryonyx decendent that took to the water but later returned to land. Or they’re the proposed archosaur ancestor to birds before it was accepted they were actually decended from theropods.

  41. #41 Zach Miller
    August 16, 2008

    Susan speaks the truth. Barlowe’s “Expedition” is a wonderful, haunting book. The terrible TV mockumentary, “Alien Planet,” should be avoided.

  42. #42 Susan
    August 16, 2008

    I was going to mention, nice drawing Mr Naish. I especially like the creature’s knees.

  43. #43 Moai
    August 16, 2008

    C’mon, Darren Naish. Spill the beans.

  44. #44 Gray Stanback
    August 17, 2008

    That Star Wars character you guys have been mentioning, his name’s Sebulba. In a post on flightless bats a few years back, there’s a picture of him. And yes, he does walk on his hands

  45. #45 Jerzy
    August 18, 2008

    Just thought that Sebulba-caveman theory requires rather too much imagination for a scientist. Good scientist has one small idea per five years, and spends his time proving it. Darren doesn’t fit in that description, but surely he wouldn’t admit it openly at a conference? 😉

    So, I guess, there was a theory that birds descend from pterosaurs (or are close relatives), and this is intermediate.

  46. #46 J.S. Lopes
    August 18, 2008

    It is the transgenic monster who produces the McDonald’s nuggets. Look the broad chest…

  47. #47 Scott Hartman
    August 18, 2008

    You were sketching Irritator based on the idea that it was a secondarily flightless giant pterosaur rather than a theropod?

  48. #48 themadlolscientist, FCD
    August 19, 2008

    I haven’t a clue what it is, but I’m pleased to know that it said something original and sensible like “gronk gronk gronk” instead of roaring like all the other dinos & friends did. Roaring can get so boring. 🙂

  49. #49 Jaime a. Headden
    August 19, 2008

    Scott hartman wrote: You were sketching Irritator based on the idea that it was a secondarily flightless giant pterosaur rather than a theropod?

    Y’know, the idea occured to me when I looked at the second illustration by Bob Nicholls: That snout looks like Angaturama limai‘s, and the retracted nares implies such. There’s also a symphyseal crest on the mandible, which is pterosaurian. This looks, for all intents, to be a congolomeration of assorted partial bits of Santana “reptiles” all smushed together for humorous intent. Kinda like Bakker’s work.

    I think my opinion is certainly on the side of a mock up of possible assorted identities into one metamonster.

  50. #50 W. Miller
    August 19, 2008

    The top one looks very, very much like a Trodon from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Pellucidar series.

    (But seriously: flightless pterosaurs?)

  51. #51 Jerzy
    August 20, 2008

    “It is the transgenic monster who produces the McDonald’s nuggets”

    Nuggets are produced from featherless, headless mutant which looks like long chain of breasts, legs and wings. It is not tetrapod anymore, more like chicken tapeworm attached to feeding tube. It is technically called Animal 57. But ssh, don’t tell anyone.


  52. #52 Mark Evans
    August 20, 2008

    I believe that the working nickname for the Irritator skull was “Ramborhynchus” until it turned out to be a theropod as the car body filler was gradually removed and spurious headcrests removed.

    As for the 6m scale, going back to Darren’s meeting report on the SVPCA website reminded me of Steve Hutt’s talk on potentially huge Isle of Wight theropods as reconstructed from large manual unguals.

    So I reckon it’s Irritator as it might have been, but scaled up to match the IOW specimens.

  53. #53 John H
    August 22, 2008

    Nice dino quotes from Darren here:


  54. #54 Darren Naish
    August 22, 2008

    Try this. Thanks for the heads-up John.

  55. #55 martian
    February 28, 2009

    Very ugly critter.

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