Tetrapod Zoology

If you’ve been enjoying the series on mesonychians you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s not completely over. There are a few groups yet to come (though, as we’ll see, whether they really are mesonychians or not is controversial. 1000 Tet Zoo dollars* to whomever guesses the names of the groups I’m talking about). Anyway: you can’t think awesome extinct Cenozoic mammals and not think Carl Buell. They’re kind of synonymous. And, whaddayaknow, here’s something incredible…


Yes, Carl has done an Andrewsarchus. Sincere thanks to Carl for allowing me to use it; I won’t say much as the picture speaks for itself. Enjoy! Image © Carl Buell.


* Shamelessly inspired by SV-POW! dollars.


  1. #1 Retrieverman
    August 22, 2009

    I can’t tell you how much I’ve been fascinated by this series. I’ve been curious about these unusual creatures since I first saw a depiction of an Andrewsarchus standing beside a Kodiak brown bear in a children’s book on giant mammals.

    And I must say that I really loved Carl Buell’s work at Olduvai George blog, which no longer is being updated. He does, however, have a nice Flckr site, which has been updated relatively recently: http://www.flickr.com/photos/olduvaigeorge/

  2. #2 Kevin Schreck
    August 22, 2009

    This series has been excellent. Such enigmatic creatures. They still fascinate me.

    Is there a large collection of Carl Buell’s work online? It’s really marvelous, but I’ve only seen a few samples.

  3. #3 Viergacht
    August 22, 2009

    That’s some terrific art. I love the detail of the dense, wooly coat and the goat-like ear shape.

  4. #4 Sordes
    August 23, 2009

    The Andrewsarchus looks really amazing! I find the reconstruction with a tufted tail like those of a bull especially cool.

  5. #5 Sven DiMilo
    August 23, 2009
  6. #6 Dr. Nick
    August 23, 2009

    As much as I enjoy every post on this blog, the mesonychian series has been especially cool. I love learning about groups that are not quite like anything alive today (e.g. hoofed, stiff-backed carnivorous mammals), since I really enjoy having my concepts expanded of what’s possible eco/morphologically.

  7. #7 Darren Naish
    August 24, 2009

    Many thanks indeed for the positive comments – much appreciated. Loads more Paleogene mammals to come at some stage.

  8. #8 Stevo Darkly
    August 24, 2009

    OMG! (Overawed by Mesonychid Goodness.) Fantastic! I just had an Andrewsarchgasm!

  9. #9 Amplexus
    August 25, 2009

    That lion’s tail is totally speculative artistic license right?

  10. #10 johannes
    August 25, 2009

    There have been many excellent posts and series on Tet Zoo, but the mesonychian series ranks among the most awesome. May I suggest something similar on oxyaenids and hyaenodonts?

  11. #11 AD
    August 25, 2009

    Great stuff on the mesonychians and allies. Reading this has made me realize how diverse (and compressed) the initial Cenozoic radiation of mammals was- like arthropoda and allies in the Cambrian.

  12. #12 Dave Hughes
    August 27, 2009

    I love Carl Buell’s artwork, and this Andrewsarchus is by far the best reconstruction I’ve seen of the animal. Too many palaeo-illustrators portray extinct mammals as just scaled-up versions of what seems to be their closest living equivalent, so for example Andrewsarchus comes out looking like a big wolf or hyena. In reality as a member of an entirely extinct group (whatever that group was!), with, as Darren shows, a very unusual cranial morphology, it may well have looked nothing like either of those modern species. Carl’s animal looks lifelike, lithe and powerful, clearly mammalian, but also quite clearly different from anything living today. It does have an entelodont-like feel to it as well, which as we’ve heard might reflect some genuine affinity.

    As for the query above about whether the lion-like tail tuft is artistic licence, I suppose strictly speaking everything posterior to the head is equally hypothetical as we don’t yet have any postcranial remains at all! Maybe we’ll all be surprised when an Andrewsarchus skeleton eventually turns up. If giraffes were extinct and known only from a single skull, would anyone correctly predict their body shape?

  13. #13 Dartian
    August 28, 2009


    Too many palaeo-illustrators portray extinct mammals as just scaled-up versions of what seems to be their closest living equivalent […] Carl’s animal looks lifelike, lithe and powerful, clearly mammalian, but also quite clearly different from anything living today.

    Well said. I agree completely.

    Although, for all it’s originality, there does seem to be a nice nod to tradition in Carl’s Andrewsarchus reconstruction: the faint vertical stripes on its body. Zdeněk Burian’s early and influential Andrewsarchus reconstruction had stripes, and many/most later paleo-artists have followed suit. (Come to think of it, there also seems to be another convention in reconstructing Andrewsarchus: with its mouth open.)

  14. #14 Fabrizio
    September 4, 2009

    Good work,darren naish! I loved this series on mesonychia!
    I hope u’ll do other interesting series on other tetrapods

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