Last week we took a look at some new art of animals from the Wealden Supergroup, the intensively studied, historically important Lower Cretaceous rocks of Southern Britain. We all know the Wealden for celebrity dinosaurs like Iguanodon and Baryonyx, but there's a heap of other interesting animals in there which get relatively little publicity. It's mostly these we're focusing on here, in the second (and final) part of these 'picture of the day'-style posts.
Baryonyx walkeri: king of the fishers, redux
|Baryonyx walkeri, off for a stroll among the crocodyliforms and pterosaurs.|
Button-toothed crocs, redux
Last year I was lucky enough to provide the first restoration of Kompiodontosuchus aprosdokiti, a small neosuchian crocodyliform common to the Wessex Formation, and perhaps other parts of the Wealden sequence. Koumpiodontosuchus is a bernissartid, a group of small-bodied crocodyliforms with robust, shell-cracking teeth at the back of their jaws. As you'll know if you read my write up last year, these were likely employed in smashing molluscs and insects. The tetanuran theropods in this image are unnamed, but are not thought to be referable to any existing Wealden taxa. We probably need more material of them to consider them nameable, however: recognising that they are different from other Wealden theropods is only half the battle. Modern students of Wealden fossils famously do their best to preserve historic names based on fragmentary bones, but there seems to be an effort to 'future proof' Wealden taxonomy against confusion by only naming well-represented, characteristic animals. I guess I could have chosen one of the better known theropods to play the 'This was the Age of Dinosaurs' card for this PR image, but I think it's good to show that not all large theropods in the Wessex palaeobiota were Neovenator, Baryonyx or Eotyrannus.
Welcoming the new Wealden ornithomimosaurs
|A flock of Wessex Formation ornithomimosaurs forage in a marshland, while istiodactylid pterosaurs skulk about behind them.|
The above new painting shows a group of (nameless) Wessex Formation ornithomimosaurs in a well-vegetated marshland, in the rainy season, while istiodactylid pterosaurs mosey about in the background. The abundance of ostrich dinosaurs and juveniles in the middle-right are nods to the frequent recovery of abundant specimens of different levels of maturity at many ostrich dinosaur sites, including the new, French 'Angeac ornithomimosaur'. Note that the wings of the running foreround animal are somewhat swept back: I don't think the more common way of reconstructing ornithomimosaurs with 'dangly arms' looks right. They look like they should be holding shopping bags or something.
Valdosaurus in the forest, redux
|Two Wealden dryosaurids Valdosaurus canaliculatus, and a stubborn avialan.|
Barilium dawsomi in leathers, redux
|Barilium dawsoni, a large and very robust iguanodont from Sussex. A flock of 'Ashdown maniraptorans' add scale.|
Last time we featured Iguanodon bernissartensis: now it's the turn of the 'other' big Wealden iguanodont, the stratigraphically older, and osteologically chunkier Barilium dawsoni. In this redone painting, I've tried to make the Barilium skin more interesting than just plain old scales, covering the back in small, horny ossicles and creasing the flanks as if the skin is particularly thick, leathery and folded. I think we should be rendering more interesting skin regularly in scaly dinosaur palaeoart, as it seems most extensive dinosaur skin remains show unexpected features - strangle scales, wattles, folds and that sort of thing - which small skin patches mostly cannot record adequately. It's interesting to contrast these skin impressions with homogeneous restorations of scaly dinosaur appearance presented by some, where every species is covered in smooth hide following perfect contours of the underlying tissues: I'm not sure that's what fossils are telling us. As before, the 'Ashdown maniraptoran' provides scale to the bulk of Barilium. For the uninitiated, the Ashdown maniraptoran is seriously small for a Mesozoic dinosaur - maybe about 30-50 cm long. If you find big iguanodonts exciting, be sure to check out this previous post.
Polacanthus redux, again
|A Wealden tree vies for attention with Polacanthus foxii, and some tiny birds.|
Accidentally sinister Leptocleidus, redux
|Mother and calf Leptocleidus superstes, a freshwater leptocleidid plesiosaur, explore a river inlet in Lower Cretaceous Sussex.|
And that's all for now - I hope you've enjoyed this jaunt back to the ancient Wealden and these revised artworks. I'm sure we'll visit the Wealden again in time. Coming next, probably: walking with non-pterodactyloid pterosaurs.