Friday, March 7, 2014

Elasmosaur Revisited

3/7/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-gao and Private Reserve Velvet Black inks, Sailor pen, Zig marker, Canson XL 140 lb. paper
Last Saturday when I visited the Burke Museum briefly, I only had time to sketch the Elasmosaur’s skull and part of its neck. This morning I went back to sketch the whole skeleton model. It’s so huge that I had to go all the way against the opposing wall and sit on the floor to get the full view. As I always do in situations like this, I quickly put in a few marks on my page to get the basic perspective in place just in case I was told that I couldn’t sit on the floor. (Fortunately, nobody said anything. Given the number of other visitors who stood directly in front of me, blocking my view, I’m guessing I was invisible.)

I had more time today to read the placard carefully, so here’s what I learned: With interlocking teeth to eat fish, the Elasmosaur belongs to a group of marine reptiles called pleisiosaurs, or “swan lizards.” It returned to living in the oceans after more than 80 million years of land-dwelling. And like current-day marine reptiles (for example, sea turtles and saltwater crocodiles), the Elasmosaur swam underwater for food but had to surface regularly to breathe.

Sketched on 7/2/12 at the New Bedford Whaling Museum
As I observed the Elasmosaur model carefully, I was stunned to see that the appendages on the ends of its oar-like flippers look remarkably similar to five long fingers. Immediately I recalled the skeleton of a whale fin I had the opportunity to sketch a couple years ago at a whaling museum in Boston (at right). It, too, had five “fingers.” Though both the Elasmosaur and the whale have many more joints than our hands have, it’s fascinating that five digits seem to be the ideal number for all of us (I’m happy with mine, anyway).

3/7/14 Pilot Iroshizuku Asa-gao ink, Sailor pen
In the remaining time I had on my parking meter, I sketched a small ammonite fossil and the skull of a Kirk’s dik-dik, a small African antelope. 


  1. Wow...he was a long creature! nice sketches of all of these. Funny how if you sit on the floor or a low chair people don't think it is a problem standing right in front of you.

  2. Always love your bone sketches. Just can't figure out whether I prefer the Chocolate Brown or the blue ones :-)

    Cheers --- Larry


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