After over a month of not really producing any new art, I finally forced myself to come up with some material for a book I'd like to write that I'll talk about later. I'd talk about it now, but I have two podcasts to listen to before bed, one of which I'm on. Anyway, The Missus and I spent the weekend in an isolated cabin in Soldotna, which gave me plenty of quiet time to sketch. I took Richard Ellis' excellent Sea Dragons with me and let inspiration take its course...
This is, as handily scrawled above, Utatsusaurus, one of the basalmost known ichthyosaurs. The general outline is basically lifted straight from Ellis' excellent pen-and-ink representation, though I opened the mouth, switched up the colors (I think it looks rather like a penguin here) and added the "back" flippers. For being so basal, I think Utatsusaurus is very much an ichthyosaur. Are there more basal ichthyosaurs known now? I know that Grippia and Cymbospondylus are supposed to be pretty low on the ichthyosaur family tree, but I've never been all that educated on the phylogeny of the group.
Here is a rather cartoony Nothosaurus. I know, the proportions are all wrong, but I like how intent he looks. I think that nothosaurs and pachypleurosaurs are interesting in that they're essentially pre-plesiosaur sauropterygians, but all three groups co-existed at one point, so they were all doing different things. And they all mix and match body parts, too. Definately some modular evolution going on in that group. It's also interesting that while placodonts are sauropterygians, they look NOTHING like plesiosaurs and their allies.
Actually, if one of you in Readerland is an expert on plesiosaurs and pliosaurs, I've got a quick question: at one point, I know that the two groups were considered separate, but I remember reading somewhere that, in fact, some former pliosaurs are actually plesiosaurs, and some former plesiosaurs are actually pliosaurs, and that the separation between "plesiosaur" and "pliosaur" is actually very superficial and does not adequately reflect the phylogeny of either group. Is that true?