I’ve just spent a few days at the Institut royal des Sciences naturelles de Belgique in Brussels, for theropod-related reasons. A great museum, with tons of excellent material on display. I just want to briefly report one interesting discovery here: I was surprised and delighted to find that the recently opened Gallery of Evolution includes a small selection of hypothetical future animals, apparently the inhabitants of the Dixonian epoch. Here’s my favourite beast…
It’s the giant penguin Neopygoscelis dentatus, though I didn’t know this when I was looking at it: I wondered whether it might be a pelagic crocodilian or something. The museum’s site does allude (by way of a single photo of the giant rodent Corticochaeris and arboreal marsupial Trychopterus) to the Dixonian animals, but doesn’t include further information. Sigmund wrote about them at Furahan Biology back in February 2009.
Images online show that N. dentatus (which is huge: about 4 m long) was originally imagined with a more penguinesque, black and white colour scheme; not sure why they settled on dull grey, but it’s ok with me. The crenulations on the jaws could quite conceivably evolve from rhamphotheca.
The animal is posed pursuing a group of cuttlefish-like cephalopods, and there’s another flightless seabird – the foot-propelled Propellonectes (possibly a procellariiform) – in the exhibit too. Here it is…
This is, of course, far from the first time that penguins have appeared in projects on speculative zoology. Dougal Dixon started things with his rorqual-like pelagic Vortex Balenornis vivipera and Porpin Stenavis piscivora [both shown here], and the oceans of Spec are populated by a diversity of other-world penguins.
On the subject of speculative zoology, those who liked my Science of Godzilla stuff might be interested to know that a radio discussion on the same topic (I was a guest on Skeptically Speaking) can be heard here. It’s actually a Brian Switek-themed episode.
For other Tet Zoo articles on speculative zoology, see…
- Oh no, not another giant predatory flightless bat from the future
- How (not) to keep dinosaurs
- Goodbye from the stem-haematotherm, goodbye from me
- Aquatic proto-people and the
theoryhypothesis of initial bipedalism
- How intelligent dinosaurs conquered the world
- Shemhazai and other flightless pterosaurs
- Come back Lank, (nearly) all is forgiven
- Alien para-tetrapods of Snaiad
- Richard Dawkins and the crappy ‘humanoid dinosaurs’ that just won’t die
- The Tet Zoo guide to the creatures of Avatar
- Squamozoic sneak-peek
- The science of Godzilla, 2010
- The anatomy of Zilla, the TriStar ‘Godzilla’