Monday, January 31, 2011


Today's critter is the recently discovered dinosaur linhenykus, a two foot tall fellow from China. It is a member of the alvarezsauridae family, a group of dinosaurs that were originally believed to be birds due to their strikingly avian skeleton and muscle structure. All alvarezsaurids have tiny, stubby hands with huge claws, but linhenykus is unique. It only has one finger. No stubs, no vestigial bones, just two solitary fingers with large claws.

What's interesting about this is that linhenykus is not the pinnacle of alvarezsauridea evolution. Linhenykus was an early member of the family. A number of alvarezsaurids came after it with more fingers as well as some with just the one. This implies that these dinosaurs went through an ongoing process or gaining and losing the digits. While this discovery has helped to answer some questions about this dinosaur family, scientists are still not sure what exactly these tiny limbs were for.

One possibility is that linhenykus' unique single digits could have been used to dig for termites. The palms face downward which would make them very good digging and scratching tools.

Two notes about this picture. Real linhenykus, like all alvarezsaurids, had feathers. They were just hard to draw. The other thing is that as far as I know linhenykus did not have an elongated termite-eating tongue. I just started thinking about numbats and then I decided to run with it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Today's prehistoric creature is the mighty megaladapis, the largest lemur ever to live! Yes, despite its considerable size and pig-like skull, megaladapis was a highly specialized lemur. Its short legs and long arms means it was adapt at climbing up large tree trunks and foraging leaves and branches like a modern day koala, earning it the common name "koala lemur". However, unlike a koala it was the size of a gorilla and had a long, flexible lip or proboscis with which to grasp food.

The Madagascar that megaladapis would have lived in was much different from today. It would have rubbed shoulders with all manner of strange lemurs, dwarf hippos, giant carnivorous fossas, and other long gone creatures. Megaladapis' forest specialization made it vulnerable to changes in its environment. When early humans arrived on Madagascar 2,000 years ago and began clearing the forests for farmland, the koala lemurs lost much of the habitat. The remaining giant lemurs were hunted to extinction only about 500 years ago. This is why we can't have nice things.

The extinction of the megaladapis was recent enough for them to live on in cultural heritage and oral traditions of the Malagasy people. In fact, the first western culture ever heard about these giant lemurs was from local legends about colossal wild beasts with strange, hauntingly human faces. Of course, megaladapis didn't have a remotely-human like face. It's pig-like skull and eyes that didn't face entirely forward would've been dead giveaways. It is believed that the local legends of the many different extinct lemurs got merged together over time into a creature with the size of the koala lemur and the face of its slightly smaller, more traditional primate cousins.

Today in parts of southern Madagascar, people occasionally report strange sightings of mystery creatures resembling large, man-sized lemurs. Does megaladapis or one of its fossil cousins live on? Cryptozoologists seem to think so, but lets be honest it doesn't really take much to get them going does it? Bless them.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Today's very special critter is a Chinese pterosaur from the Jurassic called jeholopterus. It was found perfectly preserved, even its hair and wing membranes. It had long grasping claws and a flat, cat-like face. Adorable, no? A flying ptero-kitty you could cuddle for hours.

 Well be careful! A controversial suggestion by paleontologist David Peters is that jeholopterus behaved like a prehistoric vampire bat! Its long claws allowed it to cling to the sides of large dinosaurs and its wide-opening mouth let it thrust its strong fangs into thick skin to get to the delicious dinosaur blood within.

Peters has also suggested that jeholopterus may have had a long anglerfish-like lure on its head to help catch insects, so as you can imagine his ideas are hotly contested in the paleontology world.

History's cutest vampire or simple winged lizard-cat? We may never know for sure, but I salute brave little jeholopterus with these two pictures.

Update: It has been brought to my attention that Peters is not even a paleontologist but in fact an advertising artist who just likes making up bullshit. Apparently my dinosaur encyclopedia decided to just add his "theories"  without including that last tidbit. Lame. I stand by my decision to draw jeholopterus as a vampire though, because it was fun and that is my main purpose here. But I don't want to mislead anyone about pterosaur facts, so mea culpa

Friday, January 28, 2011


One of my goals for this blog is to start consistently updating with drawings and information on a some of the fascinating extinct animals, folkloric monsters, cryptids and mythic figures I stumble upon. So for my first of what will hopefully be an ongoing thing is the ancient amphibian metoposaurus.


The metoposaur family was an extremely prolific group of amphibians that were successful long after the age of amphibians had ended. They hunted the lakes and rivers of the Triassic all the way up to the Cretaceous.Their remains have been found almost everywhere on the planet.

Metoposaurus was an 8-10 foot long fish-eating amphibian that probably prowled the bottoms of rivers or hunted mid-water like a modern day crocodile. They had large heads with their eyes further up on the skull that most amphibians. It was this feature (which I have exaggerated slightly) that made me want to draw them. The combination of their giant gaping mouth with their beady, far-forward eyes gives them such a lovable, goofy countenance.

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