Some Silly Dinosaur Doodles

Hi all,

It looks like it’s been a while since I posted here, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been busy. While I haven’t been updating this site as much as I’d like to, I have been posting plenty of art over on Twitter.

Here are some of my recent favorites:

As someone who is a big fan of both feathered and ornithischian dinosaurs, the discovery of Kulindadromeusa fuzzy little basal neornithischian, has been my favorite dinosaur story of the year. Of course I was going to draw one (many) of them.

I want one as a pet!


That also gave me more justification to draw Iguanodon covered in feathers. That’s a good bit more speculative, especially since most mammals that size aren’t particularly furry, and we know that Iguanodon had some scales at least, but Kulindadromeus opens the door to at least the possibility of a fuzzy Iguanodon. So here’s an Iguanodon with Kulindadromeus-inspired integument.

It looks like it's just wearing a coat.


Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure every Iguanodon I’ve drawn recently has been covered in shaggy feathers. That includes this Octopus and Iguanodon sketch I drew for Valerie.

Love across time and species.

Of course, one cannot live on ornithischians alone.

For example, here is a Velociraptor in space. I’m sure that must have happened at some point, right? The Maniraptor Space Agency was well known for their advanced exploration of Mars.

Raptors. In. Spaaaaaaaaaaaace.


And finally, just in case none of the above images were nerdy enough for you, I present you with what might be the dorkiest title I’ve ever come up with…

Raptor Red Wizard

"Raptor Red Wizard needs feathers badly!" - Valerie

The Doctor Who Dinosaur Book, part two

See part one here.

When we last left The Doctor, traveling through the Mesozoic Era of the 1970s, he had made a shocking discovery.

See what happens when your TARDIS explodes.
The Doctor has happened upon a Protoceratops nest, and has decided not only to pick up one of the eggs, but watch with horror as it starts to hatch. It’s okay though, because the mother Protoceratops is “not very big for a dinosaur.” I think this does mark the first and only time that I’ve seen an illustration of Protoceratops eggs from the 70s that are not being stalked by a Velociraptor or stolen by an Oviraptor.

Unless The Doctor is actually an Oviraptor!
Now it’s all starting to make sense.

How could I not draw this after writing that?
Remember the water-bound Apatosaurus from the beginning of the book? For some reason, the other sauropods are presented in a more modern light.

The Doctor looks very proud of his discovery
I mean, sure this Diplodocus is a lumbering, tail-dragging, beast, but at least it’s dry. The Doctor refers to it as “one of the new slim-line Dinosaurs.” That’s all well and good, but I’m more concerned about its right leg. Judging by the way the knee is bent, it must be very short and connected to its tail. That can’t be comfortable.

Look at me! Look at me! I'm king of the tyrant lizards!
And at long last we encounter our good friend, Tyrannosaurus. We’re still in the man-in-suit era of Tyrannosaurs illustrations, but at least its tail is off the ground. Tyrannosaurus seems pretty happy to be here, strutting and smiling to the reader. The Doctor, on the other hand, is quite disgusted with this whole scene.

Stop that, it's silly!
And for some reason, he’s being played by Graham Chapman.
Which just made me consider the fact that Graham Chapman would have made a fantastic Doctor. And since he was already a doctor, he could be Dr. The Doctor.

Right then, dinosaurs.

I just feel bad for it.
I have no idea what’s going on here. The Doctor is either killing that Compsognathus or attempting to determine its sex. Judging by the look on his face, it’s the former.

This is the end. My dear old friend, the end...
Perched on a rock in the desert, a generic sauropod skeleton behind him, The Doctor contemplates the enormous loss of life at the end of the Cretaceous. Of course, as an alien with a time machine and almost god-like powers, he probably could have prevented it. The Doctor has stopped plenty of extinctions before. Maybe this extinction is a fixed point in time, but the rules about those seem awfully flexible. This books lists a few possible causes for the extinction of [non-avian] dinosaurs (though it’s old enough to not even mention an asteroid), but we all know the truth.

The Doctor let them die!

But I suppose that’s okay, because it gave us mammals a chance to flourish. The book ends with a few pages about the rise of mammals and humans.

That tree branch must weigh at least a few hundred pounds.
And, yet again, we find The Doctor feeding a tree to a prehistoric animal. This Megatherium looks happily unaware of the threat to come, “the fiercest and most dangerous killer ever to walk the Earth.”

Do you think it’s humans? Yep, it’s humans. It’s always humans.

The Doctor Who Dinosaur Book, part one

Every so often, I come across a piece of media that feels like it was created just for me. The Doctor Who Dinosaur Book, published in 1976 (five years before I even existed), is one of those objects. Written by noted Doctor Who scribe, Terrance Dicks, and illustrated by George Underwood (who toured with and created album covers for David Bowie), this actually has a lot more prestige that I would expect for a short children’s book in which The Doctor teaches the reader about dinosaurs.

It also has the best cover in the history of publishing.

Everyone looks happy to be on this cover
It’s taking all of my willpower not to remove and frame the poster version of the cover that’s bound into the book. Alas, when my father gave me this book in which The Doctor teachers the reader about dinosaurs, his one stipulation was that I leave it intact. That’s how heirlooms work in my family.

And now, let’s jump into our TARDIS and see what a nearly-immortal time traveling alien from 38 years ago has to tell us about life on Earth tens of millions of years ago.

To be fair, this would be my first stop with a TARDIS too.
And here we are, in the pre-Dinosaur Renaissance swamp. This is our first sign that rather than traveling to the past of the world as we know it, The Doctor has incorporated some technology from Sliders and is visiting an alternate reality of the past.

(Side note: On Friday nights in college, while my peers were out at bars and parties, I actually played in a table-top RPG based on the idea of having a Sliders-inspired TARDIS. This was really just a mechanism to let us incorporate a wide range of player character types and backgrounds. I would say that nothing I say could make that dorkier, but then I could mention that my character was a Spinosaurus Transformer.)

Anyway, the art here is beautiful and atmospheric. While no one would have questioned simple cartoony line drawings in a book like this, George Underwood’s pencils put us right there beside The Doctor. Speaking of The Doctor, I appreciate that he is part of the action here. This isn’t just The Doctor narrating a book about Dinosaurs, this is The Doctor experiencing them for himself.

I just realized how skeptical it is of The Doctor
The illustrations (and text) in The Doctor Who Dinosaur Book, like a lot of dinosaur books from the 70s, exist in two prehistoric worlds at once. Here we go from the water-dwelling sauropods to a very forward-thinking bit about Coelophysis. The illustration itself is a bit overly lizard-like, but it’s bipedal, and the text makes the bird link.

Take that, BANDs!
But then, on the very next page, we go back to the old dinosaur tropes.

Those plants do look pretty tasty.
Science aside, I love the way The Doctor is feeding that Apatosaurus. The look on his face is somewhere between excitement and fear, which is exactly how I imagine I would feel in the situation. The dinosaur itself is an anatomical mess, with its fat body and skinny neck, but those wrinkles are beautifully textured, and you can almost smell the warm, wet lake.
And then, skipping ahead a little bit, we get to this very active Allosaurus.

Maybe it had a pogo stick
The text doesn’t get into how exactly the Allosaurus managed to get all the way up there, but it seems like it might have had a step-ladder just off the bottom of the page. I’ll give Dicks and Underwood credit for making at least some of the dinosaurs here active, but poor Apatosaurus never really had a chance.

And now, let’s take a moment to explore the skies.

I don't think ANYONE would mistake that Pterodactylus for a bird.
I must say, The Doctor seems pretty calm about the demon-nightmare Pterodactylus that’s about to crash into him. On the other hand, the Archaeopteryx actually looks pretty good, including its hands (which usually look like they were just glued onto its wings in books from this era). The weird part comes in the text, which calls out Archaeopteryx for not having enough feathers. I have no idea where exactly Archaeopteryx could grow more feathers if it wanted to (and The Doctor makes it clear that this Archaeopteryx really wants to). Maybe The Doctor thinks that birds’ beaks are feathers.

Iguanodon is the best dinosaur, no matter how it's reconstructed.
Now that’s the Iguanodon I fell in love with. I have no idea how anyone looked at Iguanodon’s skeleton and came always thinking it might have looked like that, but when I was first reading about dinosaurs in the early 1980s, it was images like this that made it my favorite dinosaur. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the giant cow of a dinosaur that we know it to be today, but this Iguanodon stands thoughtful, and noble, and has a curved thumb claw that would disembowel you faster than a ‘90s Velociraptor.

And that seems like a good note to end things on for now. We’re only half-way done, so come back on Wednesday when The Doctor makes a shocking discovery.

See what happens when your TARDIS explodes.


I spent a good bit of my teenage years as a mad-scientist god, watching over worlds destined to be destroyed once I got bored with them.

Bawhahahahaha!SimEarth was one of my favorite games. At its simplest level, it was an expanded version of SimCity. A micromanagement game that allowed you to control every aspect of a planet from the moment it collected from the dust of the early solar system. But my favorite part was imagining the stories of the people I created. Every type of multicellular creature could be made sapient and start a civilization. This meant that their icon was now represented by that creature carrying a stick (sticks being the standard measurement of intelligence).

TOOL USING DINOSAUR. I will never get tired of that idea.Of course I made vast dinosaur civilizations, and I was always happy to uncover the sapient plants and robots through Easter eggs in the game.

I think we would all watch this movie.And then there were the trichordates. The game just presented them as long extinct, but their icon made them look something like three-armed starfish. I could picture dinosaur people (most of my life has been spent imagining dinosaur people), I could picture robots and killer plants, but a race of creatures that had actually been gone for hundreds of millions of years, and which I’d never heard of, was hard to resist.

I have imagined a lot of details about this civilization. If you're nice to me, I promise not to tell you all about them.I’d be lying if I claimed that SimEarth taught me much about trichordates. What it did do was sit in the back of my mind like a little time-bomb of curiosity. Years later, as the rise of the internet pushed us firmly into the Information Age SimEarth predicted, I tried to google Trichordates.

While there isn’t much out there (in part because the actual name is Tribrachidium) what we know is fascinating. Instead of three-armed starfish, they looked more like discs, almost like tri-radial trilobites. The Melbourne Museum and Encyclopedia of Life both have some photographs of fossils and reconstructions. I’m struck by how small they are, but of course our own ancestors were once that size. I’m also struck by how profoundly different life on Earth would have been if radial symmetry had dominated. Almost everything on Earth is biradially symmetrical, from insects, to mollusks, to fish, to us. Imagining those three-armed monsters twenty years ago gave me another way to appreciate the interconnectedness of life today.

This creature does not have a pointy stick, but, on the other hand, it did actually exist.In a way, this is still how I understand the world. When I think hear the world “albedo” I imagine the adjustable sliders in the environmental menu. When I think about “biomes” I think of the squares of plants and sand I would place on my world, hoping they’d catch on (usually they were overtaken by flora more suited for the region’s climate). “Terraforming” brings to mind my often-futile attempts to remake Venus and Mars (the latter wasn’t too hard, but the former was tricky). I don’t know how much I actually learned from SimEarth, beyond the difference between prokaryote and eukaryote, but words and concepts in the game served as hooks for me to hang ideas on when I encountered them again.At the time, the graphics seemed amazing.

Silly Science Cartoons

My most popular post on Twitter is now an anthropomorphized amoeba riding an equinemorphized tardigrade.

That is not something I ever expected to happen, but I’m happy to be the guy who draws silly science cartoons. I am fascinated by the world around us (and the universe beyond that, and all that came before us), and this is a fun way for me to share that fascination.
Plus I get to draw stuff like this:

Tikie to the tikie(With apologies to Neil Shuban and The Sugarhill Gang)

That Spells DNA

        The idea came to me on my way to work. Driving down I-71 in the early morning light, I was listening to Marc Cashman read Neil Shuban’s Your Inner Fish, which brought to my attention the fact that you can extract DNA in your own home.

Mind Blown

        My first wedding anniversary was coming up, and I’d been struggling with finding the perfect present for Valerie.

Something simple but meaningful.

Something that spoke to our love and connection.

Something that wouldn’t be on the list of traditional anniversary presents.

        DNA was the answer!

Our wedding invitations featured an octopus for Valerie and a dinosaur for me. We’re both dorks who are interested in science, and the idea of extracting octopus and dinosaur DNA, then blending them together, felt geeky, romantic, and exciting. I had initially considered keeping the gift a secret, knowing that a vial of DNA would be (at the very least) unexpected, but the idea of unlocking genetics in my kitchen was too neat to keep to myself. I’m glad I gave it away, because following a romantic dinner with experimental biology was the best way for us to celebrate our first year of marriage.

DNA ummm

        We bought frozen octopus at CAM, and dinosaur is easy to find if you’re willing to settle for avian therapods (in this case chicken). I would have preferred to use Iguanodon meat, but that might have been a little harder to track down. If you happen to have a good source for Iguanodon steak, please let me know. One thing we learned, which should have been obvious, is that raw food works much better than cooked. Freezing, on the other hand, didn’t seem to present any problems.

        Instructions on how to extract DNA all follow similar steps. We based our process on these steps from the University of Utah:

1: Get some material that has DNA. Plants or meat would work best here. Rocks, not so much.

2: Blend it with water. A cup or so will do. You’re basically making a soup at this stage.

3: Strain out the big chunks over a glass jar, until it’s about half full (or half empty, if you’re having a bad day). Again, it’s best to think of this as a soup. We actually used a cheese grater for this step, after realizing a coffee filter was too much.

4: Add a few pinches of salt and dish soap, and let it sit for ten minutes. The salt and soap break down the cell walls, which well let your DNA escape. For added effect, use a klaxon as the alarm sound on your phone.

5: After the alarm goes off, add a pinch of meat tenderizer and stir it gently. You want to spread the enzymes throughout the soapy soup to help break down the rest of the cell, but you don’t want to stir so vigorously that you shred everything in there.

6: Now gently pour in the rubbing alcohol, filling the rest of the jar. Be careful to just let it run down the wall, so it can sit on top of the slurry. The alcohol will draw out the DNA, and you can collect it with a toothpick.


7: Store your DNA in a jar full of alcohol.

        I’m shocked by how easy this was. DNA seems like such a magical concept; the instructions to make you, to make everyone you’ve ever met, to make ever bit of life on Earth.

It’s only been sixty years since DNA was discovered.
In a lab.

It’s the kind of thing scientists work with.
In a lab. 

It’s the focus of every crime drama of the last fifteen years.
Set in a lab. 

It’s what John Hammond used to create Jurassic Park
In a lab. 

And here I was, with my wife, surrounded by cats, in our messy kitchen, pulling a strand of dinosaur DNA out of a jar and sealing it in a vial.

It was a powerful moment.

An exciting moment.

A moment I never thought I’d experience.


        I was also struck by how white and gooey the DNA was. Years of stock art and scientific illustration had made me associate DNA with brightly colored coils, clearly labeled with GATC, but the boring reality of DNA made it more real, and more fascinating. DNA is just protein, so of course it will look just like any other mass of pure protein you would expect to see on your anniversary night.


You know, like egg whites.