illustration friday: scattered

© 2011 Sylvia Liu
Kraken scattered the bones of Ichthyosaur before she organized them into a self-portrait.

This illustration was inspired by a crazy fun Popular Science article I read this weekend, "Did an Ancient Kraken Create its Own Friends? What About a Modern Jellyfish?" A scientist from the Geological Society of America announced the discovery of a giant Triassic-era Kraken that arranged the bones of its prey, Ichthyosaurs, into curious patterns resembling its own suckers. Basically, it played with its food and made a self-portrait. (See the press release).

For decades, scientists had puzzled over the fact that fossils of nine prehistoric Ichthyosaurs (bus-sized fish-like dinosaurs) found in a Nevada state park were arranged in a strange way:
Photo courtesy of Dr. Mark McNenamin, GSA
The evidence showed that the ichthyosaurs had not died at the same time and had not been stranded in shallow water. Dr. Mark McNenamin came up with his theory after realizing that the octopus is a modern predator with the intelligence to manipulate the bones of its prey, and that it can take on a fish equal or larger to it in size (as seen in the video, "Shark vs. Octopus," taken at the Seattle Aquarium, when scientists discovered that a giant octopus was the mysterious killer of several sharks).

Dr. McNenamin figured that a prehistoric giant octopus could have done the same with Ichthyosaur bones. He further theorized that the giant Kraken actually arranged the bones to resemble the suckers of its own legs. He acknowledges there is no fossil evidence such as a giant beak (the only hard part of an octopus) to support the theory.

I love this story and the leap of imagination and creativity that spawned the theory. I love how a little known scientific society captured peoples' imaginations in what is essentially a PR coup. Of course, spoil sports were quick to dismiss the press release and reporting (see, for example, the article, "The Giant Prehistoric Squid that Ate Common Sense"), pointing out that there was no supporting fossil evidence.

I still think it's a pretty good theory. Though maybe the self-portrait part was a bit of a stretch.

Bonus Illustration Friday: contraption

I was so scattered last week, helping eight 1st and 2nd grade classes paint Chinese lanterns as well as make the scenery for a class play, that I didn't finish last week's illustration for "Contraption" until this week. So here it is:

© 2011 Sylvia Liu

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