Recently, I have decided that my Allosaurus color drawing, which I have re-tooled about four or five times and felt so proud of, actually needs to be re-tooled again. I had made that drawing the center focus of one of my blog posts some time ago.
One thing that immediately jumps out at me is that the tail is too narrow – there’s just not enough meat on it. I’ve noticed that many paleo-artists who follow what I like to call the “Gregory Paul School” of paleo-art often have their paleo-critters very shrink-wrapped, especially the tails. The tail’s weight needs to be proportionate to the weight of the front half of the animal; a tail that is not thick enough will make the animal front-heavy, and I can safely say that this Allosaurus looks front-heavy.
The second thing that I have a problem with are the lacrimal horns. Those are the rounded projections on the skull just in front of the eyes. Many times, I have seen paleo-artists put very large or at least prominent fin-like crests on Allosaurus skulls. I have always been loathe to do this, since I am a stickler for anatomical correctness. If there aren’t any crests, I don’t put them on. However, when I was volunteering at the American Museum of Natural History (or AMNH as it is commonly abbreviated), I took various photographs of the two Allosaurus skeletons that they have on public display. Based upon this information, I knew that I needed to redo my drawing. I have decided to include the photographs here for any future reference for any aspiring paleontologist or paleo-artist.
Here is that dynamic running Allosaurus that everyone sees when they come into the entrance hall. I want you to take note of several things. First, look at that beautifully curved neck. Second, look how large the arms are in proportion to the body. Third, look at that enormous Baryonyx-esque thumb claw on each hand. Fourth, notice that the body is a lot more rounded than many artists often show, who make the body appear narrower and flatter.
Here is a close-up of the entrance hall Allosaurus‘ skull. I’m sorry if the picture looks a little fuzzy – I think I jerked the camera when I took the shot. First, notice that the jaws are strongly U-shaped. Second, the face is pretty much flat on both sides. This animal had absolutely no stereoscopic vision. Third, there does not seem to be any real three-dimensionality to the face – not a whole lot of wrinkles, ridges, and bumps, but almost flat.
I had a lot of trouble finding pictures of Allosaurus hands and arms for my drawing. So here’s one, so that you can get your proportions just right.
Now we move into the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs, located on the fourth floor. This is the room that is always the most crowded, aside from the entrance hall, because here is where the Tyrannosaurus skeleton is located, and seemingly every elementary school child in all of NYC wants to see it. This is the skeleton of Allosaurus seen in that hall. You might recognize the pose as being similar to a Charles Knight painting, which has been endlessly copied ever since. The two Allosaurus skeletons in the AMNH are meant to represent two modes of behavior: predator and scavenger. There are two things that I notice right away. First, it’s brown not gray – a rather superficial difference. But what jumps out at me is that the skull is a slightly different shape. The skull used on the skeleton in the entrance hall has an almost flat jawline, producing a rectangular-looking skull – this is the skull that is most commonly seen in museums and in dinosaur anatomy books. However, the skull that you see here has a more curvaceous S-shaped jawline, and the skull itself appears to be fatter and more robust than the one mounted on the entrance hall specimen.
Here is another view of the skull (again, sorry if it’s a bit blurry; I really need to work on not jerking the camera).
Here are some various views of that same skull from different perspectives. I took these shots because just having a side view doesn’t really tell me a whole lot of information. Again, you will notice that the skull is flat-faced with no stereoscopic vision. The only way that Allosaurus could see what was directly in front of it was if it cocked its head to the side like a bird so that one of its eyes could see something. Also, look closely at the rounded lacrimal horns. Notice those linear grooves running along the surface. That means that these horns were covered with keratin, the same stuff that your fingernails are made out of. Also, notice that the lacrimal horns are pretty-much in line with the post-orbital bones (the bones behind the eye socket). This would infer that the horns were not as pronounced as I had shown in my drawing.
Lastly, here is another photo of Allosaurus arms. Look at the size of those thumb-claws!