STL Science Center

STL Science Center

07 January 2012


Top Image: ©Robert F. Walters
Bottom Image: Sampson SD, Loewen MA,
Farke AA, Roberts EM, Forster CA, et al
Chasmosaurus is a wonderful subject for art. It's a majestic animal in both species, C. belli and C. russelli. I start, therefore, with the plainest image I could find that struck me as interesting. Robert Walter's illustration is good, but fairly plain. Clearly he used the skeletal from Sampson et al.'s paper of C. russelli as inspiration and added life and meat and energy to the dinosaur and he did a very good job. However, me personally, when I think of dinosaurs with ornamentation I think of birds and lizards and mammals and fish that have amazing ornamentations on their bodies. A frill like a Chasmosaur's was more than likely both a defensive body structure as well as it was a billboard much in the way that a Frill-Neck Lizard uses its frill both to defend itself and to show its prowess during the mating season. I'm quite sure plain faced dinosaurs existed, but later ceratopsians, I think, were more of the billboard type either in the real of mating or defensive strategy or both.

©Tuomas Koivurinne
To that end I present an illustration by an often featured illustrator, Tuomas Koivurinne. Here we have some of that fancy ornamenting of the frill. The tiger stripes are also a very nice addition to the back of the animal and, all things considered in the modern world, I would not doubt that many dinosaurs had evolved that sort of camouflage at any given time during the Mesozoic. The thing I like is the spots on the frill. Here they are not eye spots as they are in other illustrations but they would serve the same threat out to predators and mating rivals alike. Eye spots, for whatever reason, have always been appealing to me in a variety of animals, especially in fish like the Twin Spot Goby and insects like Owl Butterflies. Here, however, they accent the Chasmosaurus very well and, I imagine, that an animal with a frill that large was sporting some interesting color scheme or eye spots to appear larger and stronger and more confusing all at the same time. I cannot think of a much better reason for evolving a giant shelf off the back of your head.

©John Conway
Back to the plain for a moment, however, because John Conway has done with that frill exactly what I imagined it being used for, eye spots or no. Whether Chasmosaurus used the frill in deflecting predatory or rival blows, in Conway's illustration, it is very clearly using that frill in a way in which the Daspletosaurus can tell that it is an enormous angry buffalo of a dinosaur. Even though Conway's Chasmosaur has very small, almost non-existent, horns, the size of the frill makes it look like a scary beast to that Daspletosaurus. The fact that all 4 tons are barreling down on his gracile predator's body at full speed probably does not add comfort to the predator's mind either.

©Julius Csotonyi, 2006
The final illustration I wanted to share today is a dynamic set of pieces put together by Julius Csotonyi for the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Alberta, Canada. The series explores different configurations of horns on Chasmosaurus species- C.russelli, C. belli, C. irvinensis (as of 2010, now known as Vagaceratops, a close relative of Kosmoceratops) from top to bottom respectively, which, in all honesty, is a very serious matter to contemplate on considering that there are two species of Chasmosaurus from two nearby to one another, yet different, landscapes in what are now considered the Canadian badlands of Alberta. Those two species could have had any odd number of configurations of growth patterns that have not as yet been discovered, however, the adult formations of those horns, are known now. The inclusion of the now separate genus Vagaceratops, which at the time was considered a species of Chasmosaurus, is related to the date of the illustration, not the artist's fault in any sort of way. Actually, Mr. Csotonyi is one of the premier paleoartists of our time and has, to tout his other Chasmosaurus works, created murals in the Houston Museum of Natural History in not one, but two areas of the dinosaur hall!

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