The Evolution of Dinosaur Art

Paleoartists often have a general science background or formal artistic training, although career paths vary. “There is no one way that people get into paleoart,” says Mark Witton, a paleoartist and paleontologist at the University of Portsmouth in the United Kingdom, who recently wrote a paleoart handbook (1). Regardless of their backgrounds, professional paleoartists share a dedication to credibility and typically consult with paleontologists, or reference scientific articles and specimen photos, to ensure scientific accuracy—or at least defensibility if an animal’s exact appearance remains open for debate.

Today’s paleoart interpretations are informed by an unprecedented level of detail related to dinosaur skin, scales, fat, and feathers, thanks to hundreds of new fossil discoveries since the 1990s, Ugueto says. A 2017 study, for example, described the well-preserved remains of a plesiosaur, discovered in a quarry in northeastern Mexico. Plesiosaurs were marine reptiles with rounded bodies, short tails, and four flippers (2). Some had crocodile-like heads and long necks. This particular fossil lies on its back—a nearly complete skeleton surrounded by skin and thick, fatty, subdermal tissue, which looks like dark smudging surrounding the fossilized bones. It’s among very few records of plesiosaur soft tissue ever found.

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And here I thought you were going to talk about cave paintings of prehistoric people and dinosaurs living together :stuck_out_tongue:

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