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 :)


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Looks like a terrestrial pterosaur.

Is this one of your azhdarchids?!

Irritator/Angaturama reconstructed as a flightless pterosaur?

By Christopher (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

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.

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

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

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. ;)

By Mark Lees (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

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

By Blue Frackle (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

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

By Brad McFeeters (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

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

By Nathan Myers (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

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?

By Mark Evans (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

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]

The lower one has got to be the Jersey Devil.

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.

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

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].

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

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.

"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.

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

By Karl Zimmerman (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

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.

By DVMKurmes (not verified) on 14 Aug 2008 #permalink

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.

... 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.

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

*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.

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.

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).

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!

By Jaime A. Headden (not verified) on 15 Aug 2008 #permalink

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

By Mark Evans (not verified) on 16 Aug 2008 #permalink

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.

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.

By Nikolai Sucik (not verified) on 16 Aug 2008 #permalink

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

Terrorsaurs, in short.

By David Marjanović (not verified) on 16 Aug 2008 #permalink

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.

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

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

C'mon, Darren Naish. Spill the beans.

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

By Gray Stanback (not verified) on 17 Aug 2008 #permalink

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.

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. :-)

By themadlolscien… (not verified) on 18 Aug 2008 #permalink

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.

By Jaime a. Headden (not verified) on 19 Aug 2008 #permalink

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

(But seriously: flightless pterosaurs?)

By W. Miller (not verified) on 19 Aug 2008 #permalink

"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.


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.

By Mark Evans (not verified) on 20 Aug 2008 #permalink

Very ugly critter.