fossils

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History Science

A Hummingbird-Sized Dinosaur Skull Found Preserved in 99-Million-Year-Old Amber

March 12, 2020

Grace Ebert

Protected in a small piece of amber dating back 99 million years, an ancient skull is changing the timeline researchers have for when reptiles transitioned into the descendants of current-day birds. Found in Myanmar, the oculudentavis khaungraae had at least 23 sharp teeth on its upper jaw, which suggests that the dinosaur ate insects, according to an article published in Nature this week. Its eye was canonical with small pupils and resembles those of a modern lizard, while the edge of the socket indicates that it was well-equipped to see in bright light. About the size of a hummingbird’s, the skull totals .6 inches, although this avian species is thought to be 70 million years older. After archaeopteryx, it’s the most ancient bird and the tiniest dinosaur ever discovered. To prevent damage to the bone, researchers used X-rays to construct a 3D model that’s shown below. (via The History Blog)

 

 



Animation Design

A 3D Artist Imagines the Realistic Fossilized Skulls of Endearing Cartoon Characters

March 4, 2020

Grace Ebert

“Canis Goofus – USA, 1932.” All images © Filip Hodas

A Prague-based artist is memorializing some of his favorite cartoons with a series of convincing fossils that provide an unconventional look at the skeletons of animated characters. Filip Hodas’s Cartoon Fossils series features preserved skulls of Spongebob, Tweety Bird, and other familiar characters, accompanied by the years they first were spotted on television and their zoological names like Anas Scroogius, Homo Popoculis, and Mus Minnius.

The artist’s surreal compositions mimic the fossils and assemblages displayed in history museums, although Hodas said in a statement he wanted to add to their playfulness with bright, solid backgrounds. He also embellishes his characters with hats, glasses, and even stacks of coins to amplify their fictional roles.

Initially, I wanted to make them stylized as dinosaur fossils set up in a museum environment, but later decided against it, as the skulls didn’t look very recognizable on their own—especially with parts broken or missing. That’s why I opted for (a) less damaged look and also added some assets to each of the characters.

To create each piece, Hodas used a combination of programs including Cinema 4D, Zbrush, 3D Coat, Substance Painter, and Substance Designer. Find more of the artist’s work that intertwines history, science, and pop culture on Instagram and Behance.

“Mus Minnius – USA, 1928”

“Anas Scroogius – USA, 1947”

“Anas Scroogius – USA, 1947”

“Spongia Bobæ – USA, 1999”

“Homo Popoculis – USA, 1929”

“Homo Popoculis – USA, 1929”

“Canaria Tweetea – USA, 1941”

“Canaria Tweetea – USA, 1941”

 

 



Art Design Science

Biochemistry Professor Transforms His Research into Bronze Recreations of Ancient Trilobites and Modern Insects

December 17, 2018

Kate Sierzputowski

D. Allan Drummond (previously) is an associate professor of biochemistry, molecular biology, and human genetics at the University of Chicago. A few years ago Drummond began turning his extensive research of fossils and prehistoric sea creatures into detailed computer renderings which he then 3D prints and casts in bronze. Although many of his sculptures are inspired by ancient creatures like the trilobite, which existed for over 270 million years before its extinction 250 years ago, he also creates modern-day insects such as praying mantises and large bug-eyed jumping spiders.

Drummond currently has a solo exhibition titled “Curiosity” at Roq La Rue Gallery in Seattle through January 6th, 2019. In addition to several large individual sculptures, the show features a grid of wall-mounted trilobites that pay homage to the work of the 19th-century illustrator and naturalist Ernst Haeckel. Visitors are encouraged to remove the bronze pieces to explore the underside in greater detail—a part of the creature which is often eroded in fossils over time. You can see more of Drummond’s metal recreations of animals past and present on Instagram.

 

 



Art Design Science

Precise Metallic Replicas of Ancient Fossils and Cells by Allan Drummond

January 25, 2018

Laura Staugaitis

Cell Division

By day, D. Allan Drummond is Assistant Professor of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology at The University of Chicago, where he runs the Drummond Lab. After hours, his interest in evolution and cellular structure takes a different, tangible form. Drummond constructs exacting replicas of creatures from the deep fossil record, paying specific attention to the detail of their underbellies, which are often obliterated by the passage of time. Drummond shares with Colossal:

So far, as a scientist, I’ve been on a slow journey to the bottom, to the deepest level of detail, from seeking to explain patterns of evolution spanning the tree of life, to probing how cells react to their environment, to tinkering with the pieces and parts of molecules swarming inside those cells. The details go all the way down, remaining absorbing and also consequential, worth knowing about and studying. That sensation of unexpectedly interesting detail is what I try to capture in my sculpture.

Each creature is sculpted digitally by Drummond using scientific references, including specimens from private collections. Next, they are 3D printed in wax, and finally lost-wax cast in bronze and finished by hand. The sculptures are rendered down to the smallest detail, including gills, antennae, legs, and even mitochondria in cell division. Drummond shares his in-progress and completed pieces on Instagram and several works are available for sale on his website as jewelry or decorative artifacts.

Trilobite, Ceraurus Species

Trilobite, Ceraurus Species

Trilobite, Ceraurus Species

Trilobite, Ceraurus Species

Trilobite, Ceraurus Species

Sphinx Moth, Hyles Lineata

Sphinx Moth, Hyles Lineata

Sphinx Moth, Hyles Lineata

Trilobite, Hoplolichas Furcifer, in process

Trilobite, Hoplolichas Furcifer

 

 



Art History Science

An Octopus Painted With 95-Million-Year-Old Ink

May 5, 2016

Kate Sierzputowski

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Esther van Hulsen at work on an octopus drawing using 95 million-year-old ink. Photo by Stian Steinsli

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Photo of the fossil on the left by Hans Arne Nakrem, photo of the powder on the right by Esther van Hulsen.

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Image of the completed octopus ink drawing. Photo by Esther van Hulsen

Dutch wildlife artist Esther van Hulsen was recently given an assignment unlike her typical drawings of birds and mammals from life—a chance to draw a prehistoric octopus 95 million years after its death. Paleontologist Jørn Hurum supplied Hulsen with ink extracted from a fossil found in Lebanon in 2009, received as a gift from the PalVenn Museum in 2014. After several millennia Hulson was surprised to find that the color had remained so vibrant, preserved all of this time in the cephalopod’s ink sac. “Knowing that this animal has used this ink to survive is absolutely amazing,” said van Hulsen of the prehistoric ink.

The idea to make such a drawing came from the story of Mary Anning, an English paleontologist and fossil collector who made a similar drawing from a fossil’s ink sac in the 1800s. Hulsen’s replication of the octopus now hangs beside its material origin in the Natural History Museum in Oslo. (via MetaFilter)

 

 



Art Photography Science

Contemporary Artistic Arrangements of Microscopic Diatoms by Klaus Kemp

September 17, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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Ever since exploring slides of arranged diatoms earlier this year from the California Academy of Sciences, I was left with one small question: how? Diatoms are tiny single-cell algae encased in jewel-like shells that are among the smallest organisms on Earth of which there are an estimated 100,000 extant species. How does one go about finding, capturing, cleaning, organizing, and arranging these artistic displays that are so small they are measured in microns?

One such person who asked these questions was Klaus Kemp who became fascinated by some of the earliest diatom arrangements dating back to the Victorian era. Kemp has since dedicated his life to the study and perfection of modern day diatom arrangements, and his works are among the most complex being made today. Filmmaker Matthew Killip recently sat down with Kemp and learned more about his process in this short film called the Diatomist.

 

 



Art Photography Science

Artistic Arrangements of Microscopic Algae Viewed Through a Microscope

January 29, 2014

Christopher Jobson

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Photograph of diatoms collected in Russia and arranged on a microscope slide in 1952 by A.L. Brigger.

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Photograph of fossil diatoms collected in Pt. Reyes National Seashore in Marin County, California, and arranged on a microscope slide in 1968 by A.L. Brigger.

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Black and white photograph of fossil radiolaria arranged on a slide by R.F. Behan. The slide label reads “Prize Medal Paris 1867 Polycystina; Springfield, Barbados.” The arrangement is approximately 3 millimeters in diameter.

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Photograph of diatoms arranged on a microscope slide by W.M. Grant.

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Photograph of diatoms arranged on a microscope slide by W.M. Grant.

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Photograph of diatoms arranged in October 1974 on a microscope slide by R.I. Firth. The slide label reads “Selected species from Californian fossil marine localities. To Mrs. G Dallas Hanna with compliments.”

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Photograph of Arachnoidiscus diatoms collected in the Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, California and arranged on a microscope slide by R.F. Behan.

In a fascinating blend of art and science the California Academy of Sciences possesses a rare collection of microscopic diatom arrangements. Diatoms are a major group of algae that are among the smallest organisms on Earth, of which nearly 100,000 different species are estimated to exist. While there are numerous examples of diatoms that have been photographed for scientific study, these particular scientists hobbyists seem to have gone a different direction, instead turning these tiny unicellular lifeforms into mandala-like artworks. The tiny designs are all the more amazing when you consider most of them would fit on the head of a nail. You can see more examples right here. Photos by Sara Mansfield. (via Synaptic Stimuli)

Update: The California Academy of Sciences clarifies that these arrangements, despite being produced with scientific tools, are purely aesthetic, and were produced by hobbyists, not scientists.