If you’re a regular reader you’ll have seen the recent article on those freaky, terrifying versions of the azhdarchid pterosaur Quetzalcoatlus from the 1970s and 80s. We looked at Guy Michel’s version from 1979 and Richard Orr’s spectacularly colourful rendition from 1984. My friend Paul Glynn reminded me recently that there’s another version out there: Bob Hersey’s purple Quetzalcoatlus from David Norman’s 1980 Spotter’s Guide to Dinosaurs & Other Prehistoric Animals (Norman 1980). I show it here. Again, freakin’ terrifying.
As I said last time round, the image of the ‘demonic Quetzalcoatlus‘, if you will, seems to have originated with Giovanni Caselli’s 1975 painting from L. B. Halstead’s The Evolution and Ecology of the Dinosaurs. Hersey’s purple version is very obviously based on Caselli’s painting, and I’m 99% certain that the other demonic azhdarchids are based on his painting to. Sooo…. the big question is: where did Giovanni’s version come from? I have the answer; yes, Giovanni was able to get back to me.
When the illustrations for The Evolution and Ecology of the Dinosaurs were being produced, Quetzalcoatlus had only just been announced, and wasn’t even named (evidently, we’re talking about somewhere between 1972 and 1975). So, there was no idea what it might look like: all that was known was that it was a giant pterosaur that lived inland. Giovanni’s painting was, therefore, an exercise in speculation. How ironic, then, that his conjectural creation became a sort of meme that persisted until the 1990s at least (the Richard Orr version was appearing in 1993 editions of Dougal Dixon’s Prehistoric Reptiles).
I wish to thank Giovanni Caselli for providing this information and for getting back to me so quickly. Giovanni’s artwork was highly influential and you can see ‘his’ animals – redrawn in different poses – in many other prehistoric animal books from the 1970s and 80s. As I’m sure I’ve said before, Halstead’s book and Giovanni’s art inspired me a great deal: The Evolution and Ecology of the Dinosaurs was something like the second dinosaur book I ever owned (the first would have been Colin Douglas’s ladybird leaders book Dinosaurs).
One last thing… that purple demonic Quetzalcoatlus from the 1980 version of Spotter’s Guide to Dinosaurs & Other Prehistoric Animals had to be replaced when the book was republished in 2000. Here [above] is the replacement (several artists contributed to this edition, and I’m not sure which of them did the azhdarchid). This time round, we see the obvious influence of John Sibbick’s version from Peter Wellnhofer’s 1991 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs (Wellnhofer 1991). Sibbick’s version wasn’t blue, but it did have similar patterning and colouring on the head. But check out the interesting details in the text… an estimated wingspan of 17 metres, and a translation of Quetzalcoatlus as ‘Dragon-head support’. WTF???
For previous Tet Zoo articles on azhdarchids and other Cretaceous pterosaurs see…
- It could look a giraffe in the eyes
- The Wellnhofer pterosaur meeting, part II
- Crato Formation fossils and the new tapejarids
- Tiny pterosaurs and pac-man frogs from hell
- Terrestrial stalking azhdarchids, the paper
- “The single most beautiful image anywhere on the internet”
- Shemhazai and other flightless pterosaurs
- Come back Lank, (nearly) all is forgiven
- Amerindian art shows that giant flightless pterosaurs survived into modern times
- Mark Witton’s secret: finally out
- Quetzalcoatlus: the evil, pin-headed, toothy nightmare monster that wants to eat your soul
Refs – –
Norman, D. B. 1980. Spotter’s Guide to Dinosaurs & Other Prehistoric Animals. Usborne, London.
Wellnhofer, P. 1991. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Pterosaurs. Salamander Books Ltd, London.