Wealden insects: An artist’s impression (Part 1)

Biddy Jarzembowski, Neil Watson and Ed Jarzembowski (UK) Fossil arthropods carry their skeletons on the outsides of their bodies. These exoskeletons may not only be preserved in the fossil record, but also the colour patterns that once adorned them. Therefore, the reconstruction and restoration of the appearance of fossil insects can sometimes be easier and more objective than that of animals that carry their hard parts on the insides of their bodies (such as dinosaurs). In the 1990s, one of us (Neil) undertook the first artistic impressions in pencil and ink of newly-discovered Wealden insect remains from the Early Cretaceous of southern England. A selection of these subsequently appeared in newsletters, books and journals as black-and-white drawings of the whole animal in a life-like pose. Four-colour reproduction is now so widespread, as in this magazine, and more intact fossils have been found, especially in China, that a colour update was needed. However, in this age of computer graphics, Biddy has only used a paint brush and water colours to tint Neil’s images, preserving the original hand-drawn style, and only resorting to Paint software where anatomical details needed changing in the light of new knowledge. Full colour also brought new challenges: decisions had to be made on hues as well as shades. Therefore, Ed has composed some explanatory notes to accompany the pictures. We hope that the first half-dozen results are less artistic licence and more visual models of these ancient life forms. You are, of course, the judge. Fig. 1. … Read More

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