Stunning paleoart shows what dinosaurs really looked like

written by Jacobo Brisco, CNN

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Crystal Palace Park in south London still hosts the world’s first dinosaur sculptures. They were created in the 1850s based on the very recent scientific discoveries of the time: fossils that were discovered in England only a few decades ago.

Scientists have struggled to understand the creatures, and the sculptures were the first attempt to visualize them in their true size. They are depicted as giant mammal-like beasts, a heavy pack and four legs – a really revolutionary idea compared to previous ideas that basically imagined dinosaurs as gigantic lizards. But she was just as wrong.

View of the Crystal Palace Gallery with Richard Owen’s fictional dinosaur reconstruction in the foreground, by London printer George Baxter. attributed to him: Wellcome Group

Today we know that dinosaurs didn’t look like the scaly versions of Crystal Palace at all. However, for decades, carvings, as well as many other later images, inaccurately influenced the public’s view of these extinct giants. However, famous paleontologist Michael Benton’s book, Dinosaurs: New Insights for a Lost World, offers the latest explanations.

“It’s the first book on dinosaurs where dinosaurs actually look what they do,” says the author, who has worked with paleontologist Bob Nichols to bring the creatures back to life. “All details, as far as possible, are justified by evidence. We have tried to choose well-documented species, so that in the text I can indicate what we know and why we know it.”

Old artist Bob Nichols has brought to life the objects in Benton's book, including the cover shown here.

Old artist Bob Nichols has brought to life the objects in Benton’s book, including the cover shown here. attributed to him: Thames and Hudson

Much of the evidence comes from the latest fossil discoveries from China, which, beginning in the 1990s, has changed the way we interpret the emergence of dinosaurs. For example, the discovery of a feathered fossil in the country’s Liaoning Province in 1996 led to a direct link between dinosaurs and birds.

“I think we can say that feathers arose much earlier than we thought, at least 100 million years ago, and that’s absolutely true in the roots of dinosaurs,” Benton said.

A skeletal restoration of Hadrosaurus foulkii based on the original found at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, the first ever museum of a dinosaur that was also upright, correctly.

A skeletal restoration of Hadrosaurus foulkii based on the original found at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, the first ever museum of a dinosaur that was also upright, correctly. attributed to him: Smithsonian Institution Archives

The idea that dinosaurs had feathers did not appeal to everyone. The “Jurassic Park” movie series — which debuted in 1993 before fossils of feathered dinosaurs were discovered — has been steadfastly refusing to be included in its latest film.

“They characterize that by saying they don’t want the T-Rex to look like a giant chicken,” Benton said. “But that’s a shame.”

More recently, Benton and his team at the University of Bristol in the UK devised a method, by finding pigment structures embedded deep in fossilized feathers, to identify dinosaur color patterns from fossils. “We were the first to apply this method in 2010, so the book basically documents studies from the past 10 years that looked at the skin, scales and feathers in fossils – to get the color.”

This finding is demonstrated by illustrations of the 15 creatures featured in the book – not only dinosaurs but also prehistoric birds, mammals and reptiles – adorned with vibrant leather patterns, an abundance of multicolored feathers, and some with stunning iridescent heads.

Looking at these creatures shows how much our knowledge of dinosaurs has improved, and how much they continue to improve. “A few years ago, I thought we’d never know what dinosaur color was, but now we do,” Benton said.

“Don’t draw boundaries, because sooner or later the smart guy will say, ‘Hey guys, we can actually solve this problem. “

Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World is published by Thames & Hudson.

Add to queue: Dino-mania

Read: “The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs” (2018)

If you want to know the complete history of dinosaurs, look no further than “Dinosaur Biography” written by one of the world’s leading paleontologists, Steve Brusatte. The book chronicles the 200 million years of dinosaur history, from the Triassic, through the Jurassic through to the Cretaceous, when their reign was ended by a mass extinction caused by a comet or asteroid. It is told as an epic saga that illustrates the modern workings of paleontology, and is based on very recent research.

Watch: “Walking with Dinosaurs” (2000)

Produced by the BBC’s Natural History Unit and broadcast by Discovery in the US, this classic documentary series had the distinction of being the most expensive documentary ever produced when it was released in 1999. It won three Emmy Awards, produced two sequels and photographed dinosaurs in their natural habitats. – In true documentary style – using a combination of computer graphics and animated electronics. It was sophisticated for its time and still holds a lot of entertainment and educational value, although some science is now outdated.

Watch: “Dinosaur 13” (2014)

This mix of paleontology and political drama is woven throughout the story of Sue, the largest and most complete skeleton of T. rex ever found. After the fossil was discovered in South Dakota in 1990, the fossil became the center of a years-long legal battle over its ownership, illustrating the controversies that can arise between paleontologists, fossil collectors and the governments that own the land on which the fossils are located. Spoiler alert: Sue is now on display at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History.

Hear: “I know Dino” (2016 – present)

The go-to podcast for dinosaur fans, “I Know Dino” is run by Garret Kruger and Sabrina Ricci, the husband-and-wife team of dinosaur fans. Each hour-long episode focuses on one genre, which is discussed and explored in detail with the help of the guests. The podcast, which began in 2016, is now approaching 400 episodes.

Watch: “Jurassic Park” (1993)

This classic Steven Spielberg movie continues to be the reference point for dinosaur popular culture. It was the first film to depict them as intelligent, dynamic, fast-moving creatures. (Who can forget the famous scene with T-Rex fighting velociraptors?) Even though it was filmed nearly 30 years ago, the movie’s CGI is still under scrutiny. Scientific rigor has waned over the years, but it’s still an entertaining movie to watch, with standout performances from Laura Dern, Sam Neill, and Jeff Goldblum.

Top image: Reconstruction of a Psittacosaurus, illustration appearing in the book “Dinosaurs: New Visions of a Lost World.” One of the fossils found for this creature contained preserved soft tissue, including skin and a cluster of reed-like feathers on top of the tail.

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