Giant Pterodactyl

This is as much an aide memoire to myself as a post to others.

Recently, I’ve thrown in a couple of cartoons using Giant Pterodactyl as a means to mayhem- initially inspired by the need for a fitting response to Jeremy Clarkson.

I was drawing reconstructions of pterodactyls as a kid and now coming back to observing and painting animals, I had thought to do so again.  So let me pay tribute to some people doing this seriously whom I’ve noticed on the way.

Davide Bonadonna is a professional PaleoArtist.  I love his illustrations of dinosaurs and contemporary wildlife http://davidebonadonna.it/.  I came across him simply by googling images and following his illustrations to their source.  Mark Witton co-wrote a paper on Azhdarchid pterosaur functional anatomy referenced previously and got his painting of marauding giraffe sized monsters into a scientific journal.  He has other great illustrations here http://www.flickr.com/photos/markwitton.  I’ve modified this post to link now to http://www.markwitton.com/.  I’ll be buying his book.

They have both developed the career that I might have fantasied about as a kid, consultant palaeontologist and artist.  I really like their combination of accuracy with artistry.

Jeremy Clarkson swallowed whole by giant pterodactyl

This week, on national TV, influential broadcaster Jeremy Clarkson proposed that striking public sector workers should be “shot in front of their families”.

In the interest of balance,  I propose that Mr Clarkson be eaten by a giant pterodactyl.

I first envisaged a giant eye at the studio window followed by the stabbing tips of an enormous beak.  Then, what turns out to be a giant pterodactyl grabs its prey, throws back its head and drops Clarkson into the maw.

But this cannot be right.  This excellent and accessible paper by Witton and Naish describes the functional anatomy of the Azhdarchids, which were the biggest pterosaurs (http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0002271).   They were constructed like giant pickaxes, their necks rigid and the huge head fixed at a near right angle.

How might a giant pterodactyl get the food from beak tip to the throat.  Herons usually manoeuvre their prey in the beak by short chopping motions, opening the bill to allow the object to fall, but catching it again higher in the beak, closer to the mouth.  They can do this with their beaks pointing down.  Look at this for an example http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUpSwjijsj4.  Perhaps this is how the pterodactyl might feed.  What a terrible fate for the great man – the oscillation of hope and mounting despair at each release and catch, being ratcheted towards the gullet.

But depicting Mr Clarkson being eaten by a giant pterodactyl is demonstrably not to be taken seriously.