Spinosaurus - What the Damn Hell?

Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, "The Egyptian Spine Lizard", is a dino who has been all over the news lately. There have been lots of headlines like, "Spinosaurus: The Coolest Dinosaur You've Never Heard Of" or, "Spinosaurus: Bigger Than T.rex!"

And bigger than T.rex it was, but I'll get to that in a minute. 

Check out some of the recent articles on this dino: 

National Geographic

Smithsonian

New York Times

The recent media blitz of Spinosaurus might lead you to believe this is a brand new dinosaur. Well, I've known about Old Spiny since I was a kid and, if you've seen Jurassic Park III you'll remember the Spinosaurus as that giant duck/crocodile monster who used the (very) ancient art of Dinosaur Kung Fu to off a T.rex. 

The fact is, Spinosaurus was discovered some 100 years ago. What's exciting now is that new remains have been found, giving us a better picture of this giant. Or at least, it should give us a better picture.

And pictures are where my interest are. See, while I do lots of paleoart, and have done work for museums and the like, I'm no scientific artist. I'm an illustrator. My stuff is bright and flashy and employs a style that I've developed from years of working in comic books. My illustrations are meant to entertain. But, while I'm admittedly a slave to "The Rule of Cool" I am still very passionate about depicting extinct creatures as accurately as possible.

So that's why I'm so interested in the new Spinosaurus. As soon as I caught wind of the "re-design" I couldn't wait to draw this dinosaur! 

The trick to drawing an accurate spinosaurus amidst drastic changes to the skeletal reconstruction? Keep his legs in the water!

The trick to drawing an accurate spinosaurus amidst drastic changes to the skeletal reconstruction? Keep his legs in the water!

There's currently a bevy of new illustrations accompanying all the various media pieces but none of them seem to really jive with the actual look of the new skeleton. Even in my own illustration above, I chickened out and kept him half submerged.

Take a look at the new skeletal reconstruction here:  

http: //ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2014/10/spinosaurus/hettwer-photography#/02-workers-grind-life-size-spinosaurus-replica-670.jpg

Pretty cool right? Stubby arms, short legs with paddle feet, big crocodile looking head equipped with almost saber like teeth, and over fifty feet long. This is a meat eating dinosaur unlike any other meat eating dinosaur. 

But here's the problem. Spinosaurus was a fish eater, it's jaws and teeth make that very clear. Being a fish eater it spent most of its time in or around water. But it had to come out of the water at some point, right? If for no other reason than to lay eggs, similar to water birds like loons. Or maybe it came out to warm up and sun itself like a crocodile. Either way, this beast had to be able to move around on land. 

So now I present to you, a series of study sketches in which I try to figure out just how the heck Spinosaurus moved around on the ground. 

tedrechlinspinosaurus1

Attempt number one. Spinosaurus walking on dry land. Looks pretty cool. But here's where it becomes apparent that with its center of gravity, if Spinosaurus tried to walk around like this, it'd fall flat on its face! Also, according the ribcage of the skeletal mount, I've made his belly and tail just way too robust. The animal simply couldn't have been built that heavily. 

tedrechlinspinosaurus2

Attempt number two. Get all four on the floor. With the short arms this makes more sense. But I think there's still too much meat on that tail. And the back legs are scrunched up in a way that looks unnatural and probably uncomfortable. Thankfully, at this point, some better photos of the skeleton were released and I found that I had drawn the arms way too short. On to the next!

tedrechlinspinosaurus3

Attempt number three! Trim that belly and tail, give him the longer arms he needs, and let him stretch those legs! Here's an animal that can move around on land, albeit probably a bit slow and awkward, but possible nonetheless!  

I have a feeling this design will require some further tweaking but all my dino designs go through that. The point is, I think I've figured out how to draw this "new" Spinosaurus! Maybe next time I do a full color illustration, I won't chicken out and I'll draw the whole dinosaur!

Oh yeah, I promised I'd address that whole, "Bigger than T.rex" thing! 

Well, Spinosaurus was bigger than T.rex! At 50 feet, it was nearly ten feet longer than the biggest T.rex. And considering the new science says it had really heavy bones (great for swimming, keeps you from floating up to the surface all the time, like a penguin), it was probably heavier than T.rex too. 

Now, I know you're thinking it. Maybe you're like me and somewhere way deep down you're still a little bit stung by that scene in the third Jurassic Park movie. 

It's a silly question. Spinosaurus and T.rex were separated by millions of years and lived on different continents. They never met in life, let alone ever battled one another.

But still, silly or not, the question remains. After all, National Geographic, along with most all the rest of the media, pit Spinosaurus against T.rex in nearly all of their headlines. Headlines like "Move over T.rex" and "T.rex is Toast" do nothing to quell the debate. It's not exactly fair. Spinosaurus was an incredibly awesome and unique animal. A favorite to many, and rightly so. Hell, it's one of my favorites. It shouldn't have to constantly be compared to T.rex. Nor T.rex to Spinosaurus for that matter. 

So the question persists. Who would win if these two titans were to clash? I'm not going to answer the question. After all, I'm no scientist, I'm just a dino nerd who became a dino illustrator. So I'll leave you with this. My new Spinosaurus sketch along with a life reconstruction sketch of T.rex. As you know, the spino was created using the available new science. The T.rex is based on Sue, that most fantastic of tyrannosaurs from the Field Museum. They're scaled appropriately, Spinosaurus at 50ft and Sue just over 40ft. 

tedrechlinspinovsue

You decide, if you wish.