It’s well known that the islands of the Mediterranean were formerly home to an assortment of island endemics, all of which are now extinct. Most of the best known ones are mammals like pygmy elephants, pygmy hippos, pygmy megacerine deer and giant dormice, but there were also large birds, tortoises and lizards. My excellent friend Bob Nicholls of www.paleocreations.com has been kind enough to share this wonderful piece of art, featuring extinct and extant animals of Pleistocene Malta (close-ups below the fold). It’s used with permission and is © Robert Nicholls.
One thing I particularly like about Bob’s painting is that it shows various of the small herps known from the Maltese fossil record. In the foreground, you can see (left to right) a Mediterranean painted frog Discoglossus pictus, European pond terrapin Emys orbicularis and Green toad Pseudepidalea viridis. Ah, toads – have I mentioned them on Tet Zoo before? An unfortunate anuran is being eaten by another animal in the painting. I don’t need to say, of course, that people worldwide are universally familiar with Bob’s ability to juxtapose the anurans that we know and love with extinct megafauna: look at the cover of the late J. Alan Holman’s Fossil Frogs and Toads of North America, previously shown here.
Anyway, identifying still-extant amphibians and turtles is easy, but what about the other animals shown in this scene? Test your skills and see if you can find and identify them. The fact that I’ve already identified the scene as a Maltese one will make some of the animals relatively easy to identify, and I’ll give you one more clue: there are two proboscideans here. Part of the illustration might be a bit of a homage to Zdeněk Burian.
Bob’s excellent work has been featured on Tet Zoo before: go here for some Mesozoic marine reptiles, here for his illustrations of the giant Jurassic pachycormid fish Leedsichthys, and here for a fanciful take on the spinosaurid Irritator.
For previous articles on extinct, Pleistocene or Holocene island-endemic animals of the Mediterranean and elsewhere, see…
- Wherefore art thou, cryptozoology? (teaser) [includes pictures of extinct Caribbean animals]
- Islands of otters and strange foxes
- Extinct Cuban canids and Darwin’s fox
- Titan-hawks and other super-raptors
- The small, recently extinct, island-dwelling crocodilians of the south Pacific
- Even more recently extinct, island dwelling crocodilians
- It’s true: identifying weird stuffed carnivorans is often not easy [mentions Warrah or Falkland Islands wolf]