Nyctosaurus portrait in pencil. This magnificent animal lived during the late Cretaceous era, some 85 million years ago, near the American seashores. It belongs to the highly successful group of “modern Pterosaurs” with short tails and very long, untoothed beaks. It had a 2 meter wingspan and is considered to have been a soaring, gliding piscavore. I imagined it as having strong countershading much like a Sooty Tern. It is shown here preening.
Here’s another preliminary sketch in my paleo series. This rough study is of the astonishing Pterosaur genus Nyctosaurus. All members of this genus possessed long, antler-like crests. Despite the crest’s size, they were quite light, and it is currently not believed to have had any soft tissue connecting the two branches. It lived by the sea and is believed to have been quite a glider, perhaps capturing fish from the surface of the water much like a Skimmer or large Tern. I took some liberties with the composition, deciding that it would be fun to imagine how it attended to grooming. I’ve never seen a representation of this animal reaching back on its body or even sitting on its haunches like this, but that’s a part of paleoart—imagining what might have been. And by the looks of the skeleton, it seems quite possible it might have adopted this posture.
Darwinopterus modularis portrait completed in pencil. I imagined this small Pterosaur as having a dark striped coat of fur-like structures and a contrasting white head. It would have blended into its pine forest habitat quite well with a pattern like this. It might have scramblied over the rough bark surveying its surroundings and taken wing the moment it saw airborne prey.
Ok, so some of you know how much I love Pterosaurs, as well as other prehistoric animals… Theropods, for example. Anyway, it’s time to my hand at drawing one of these extinct animals, and I chose Darwinopterus modularis to begin with. It was a transitional species, merging two great arms of the Pterosaur evolutionary tree—old and new. it was discovered in China near Darwin’s 200th birthday, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of Species. Paleontologists believe is was it was an aerial hunter, about Kingbird sized, maybe quite agile compared to other Ptersosaurs of the time. I was thinking of using some Flycatcher coloration on it. I’ve already done a quick sketch, using a climbing bat as a model for the form. It will probably be clinging to a tree trunk or large branch. I can’t wait to refine this composition, but I’m excited about trying something new… (or old).