Fossil plant defenses and the rise of African savannas

 

Endangered Rothschild Giraffe bending over eating the leaves from a small Acacia tree in Lake Nakuru, Kenya, Africa – notice the thorns!; photo: David Gomez, from Getty Images

 

We are still a long way from understanding the animals* around us, but in many regards, it’s a lot easier to infer the emotions and actions of other mammals than it is to grasp anything about plants.

I know, for example, when my cats want attention, when they’re hungry, and—especially when one of them ambushes my legs with her furry paws—when they want to play.

I can’t say the same for my plants.  I’m not sure I ever think of them in terms of having emotions.  Am I concerned with their growth? Absolutely.  Do I make sure to water and feed them appropriately?  Yes.

But I suspect most of us think of plants in a completely different way than we think of animals.

This particular view of life on our planet was expressed in “Jurassic Park.”  After their initial introduction to the dinosaur park created by John Hammond and his team, the invited scientists gathered for lunch.  Mathematician Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum) expressed his doubts and concerns about the park.  This led the others to offer their opinions as well.  Paleobotanist Dr. Sattler (played by Laura Dern) stated:

“Well the question is: how can you know anything about an extinct ecosystem?  And, therefore, how could you ever assume that you can control it?  You have plants in this building that are poisonous. You picked them because they look good, but these are aggressive living things that have no idea what century they’re in, and they’ll defend themselves. Violently, if necessary.”

Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern) - Jurassic Park - Universal Studios

Dr. Ellie Sattler (played by Laura Dern), Jurassic Park, 1993, Universal Studios

That very statement (albeit in a movie) challenges the conventional view of plants on this Earth.  Rather than simple sedentary life forms, it suggests that plants are more complex, engaging in the world around them, just as we know animals do.

And once you start thinking about plants defending themselves—taking an active part in the world around them rather than simply existing and having things done to them—it changes how you look at everything around you.

Scientific research into the realm of extant plant communication, defense and even participation in community is relatively new.  Dispersal of that scientific knowledge to the general public is even newer.

Remarkably—given how much we have yet to learn about existing plants—scientists from South Africa, Canada and the United States published research regarding the possible origin of African savannas, an origin that has roots** in plant defense millions of years ago.

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An example of an African savanna: Mt Kilimanjaro & Mawenzi Peak, clouds, grassland, and Acacia; photo: 1001slide, from Getty Images

 

A significant amount of land in the Miocene belonged to savannas, pushing forests to recede where they once flourished.  Some have attributed this to climate change; others to a change in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The authors of “Spiny plants, mammal browsers, and the origin of African savannas”, published in PNAS this September, found a striking correlation between savannas, the evolution of plant spinescence, and the rise of ancient bovids.

“Savannas grow in climates and on soils that also support closed forests. So there is no ‘savanna climate’ uniquely predicting where they occur. Their rather abrupt appearance in the Miocene implies the emergence of new ecological processes favouring grasses at the expense of forest trees,” wrote Dr. William Bond of the University of Cape Town, one of the co-authors of the paper.

But how to even begin?  The fossil record, in general, doesn’t contain everything scientists would need to completely recreate any particular ancient ecosystem.  Where one might find animal fossils, that same rock may not preserve plant fossils, and vice versa.

The authors drew upon knowledge of today’s African megafauna, how it impacts existing ecosystems, and compared that with information about African fossils from the Miocene.  Elephants, for example, are known to knock down trees.  Antelopes, sheep, deer and other browsers  maintain open ecosystems today. Could their ancient ancestors have done the same?

“We had worked on fire as a major factor promoting [the spread of savannas,]” explained Dr. Bond. “We used a marker, underground trees, of fire-maintained higher rainfall savannas to explore their origins. Our dates of the emergence of ‘fire savannas’ in Africa were remarkably convergent with dates for ‘fire savannas’ in South America (cerrado) and also consistent with the sparse fossil record (Maurin et al 2014, New Phytologist and Pennington and Hughes, same issue with a commentary on our paper). In drier savannas, grasses do not build up enough fuel to burn regularly.  We wondered whether mammal browsing may help maintain open savanna vegetation where fire is less important. We needed a marker of savannas with high herbivore pressure and chose spiny plants.”
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A sparrow sits amongst the large white thorns of an Acacia tree, Kenya; photo: Richard du Toit, from Getty Images

 

In other words, fire was originally thought to be the reason behind the rise of savannas.  Evidence of fire has been found in fossil charcoal,  in paleosols and in fossil teeth.  The authors of this paper expanded their research to include fossil mammals.  Knowing that today’s savanna plants defend themselves with thorns from browsing mammals, the authors wanted to see if these same defenses occurred in fossil plants.

They had an incredible tool to help with this task: the African Centre for DNA Barcoding.

 

Types of thorns - Supplemental info, Charles-Dominique et al

Fig. S1. Types of spines. (A) Prickles: Zanthoxylum davyi. (B) Straight stipular spines: Vachellia robusta. (C) Straight stipular spines and stipular hooks: Ziziphus mucronata. (D) Straight thorns: Gymnosporia harveyana. (E) Hook thorns: Scutia myrtina. (F) Straight stipular spines and stipular hooks: Vachellia tortilis. (G) Stipular hooks: Senegalia nigrescens. Es, epidermic spine; L, leaf; Ls, leaf scar; Ss, stipular spine; T, thorn (i.e., branch with a sharp tip); from Charles-Dominique et al. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/short/1607493113

 

What they discovered was that savannas existed before the large-scale evidence of fire, rather than simply because of it.  Thorns didn’t appear until well after the rise of proboscideans and hyracoids, indicating that neither of these species triggered the need for that specific physical defense.  Interestingly, the rise of ancient bovids (and possibly ancient giraffoids) corresponds to the emergence of thorns in the Miocene.  Ultimately, they found that spinescence evolved at least 55 times.

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Browsing impala — a type of modern antelope (bovid); photo by: annick vanderschelden photography, from Getty Images

“One might think that spines are a general defence against an archetypal mammal herbivore,” Dr. Bond wrote. “So we were most surprised at the late emergence of spines in African trees. We speculate that spines don’t work to limit food intake by proboscideans (a reasonable guess based on extant elephant feeding) and also hyracoids. But just why hyrax don’t select for spines is an intriguing puzzle. Observations on the remaining few hyrax species may be informative.”

“Physical plant defences are far less studied than chemical defences. They seem to resemble more plant-pollinator or plant-disperser interactions in being adapted to particular types of herbivore with particular modes of feeding. Spines don’t work for monkeys, for example, with their ability to pluck leaves with their fingers and manipulate branches. I have also worked on plant physical defences against extinct giant browsing birds (moas in New Zealand, elephant birds in Madagascar). They are utterly different from spines and exploit the limitations of beaks and the ‘catch and throw’ swallowing mechanism of the birds.”

“Molecular phylogenies dated with fossils were our main tool for exploring the past,” he continued. “Molecular phylogenies for mammals have been controversial tending to give much older dates for lineages than the fossil evidence. We used a recent phylogeny for bovids produced by Bibi (2013, BMC Evol Biol) using many more fossils than usual for calibrating the molecular phylogeny. Christine Janis, in an early e-mail exchange, kindly pointed us to the excellent book on Cenozoic mammals of Africa (Werdelin, Sanders 2010), among others, for help in reconstructing herbivore assemblages at different times.”

 

Spiny species distribution - Charles-Dominique et al PNAS

Screenshot of species distribution and environment correlates; from Charles-Dominique et al. http://www.pnas.org/cgi/content/short/1607493113

 

The sheer size and scale of the African continent is overwhelming.  This recent paper doesn’t focus on part of it; it encompassed the entire continent. When I asked Dr. Bond if this project was as enormous as it seemed, he wrote, rather amusingly, “Yes! Very daunting for me. People used to publish papers analyzing environmental correlates of single species distributions. Our team did the analyses for 1852 tree species. The mammal data was also enormous. Seems the younger generation is used to these vast data sets. I was amazed at the speed at which results became available.”

The list of websites cited in this paper (http://www.ville-ge.ch/cjb/; http://www.theplantlist.org; http://www.naturalis.nl/nl/; http://www.gbif.org; http://www.fao.org/home/en/) and the information those websites provide prompted me to ask whether it was fair to say that this paper could not have been written at an earlier point in time (without that online data). I also wondered if it was fair to say that science (in instances like this, where researchers share data online and make it accessible to others worldwide) is becoming more cooperative or team-oriented.

He responded: “You are absolutely right about ‘more cooperative and team-oriented’. The availability of massive data sets, and the tools to analyze them, has made analyses such as ours possible. Our team included people with diverse skills and knowledge. Hard to see how one or two researchers could have pulled this off.”

“The study is the outcome of several years of collaboration between systematists led by Prof Michelle van der Bank of the University of Johannesburg, ecologists working with me at the University of Cape Town, and a phylogenetic specialist, Prof Jonathan Davies from McGill University in Canada and an old friend of Michelle.

“Michelle, who heads up a DNA barcoding unit, had invited me to work with her group on ecological questions that could be addressed with molecular phylogenies. It has been a wonderful collaboration.

Tristan Charles-Dominique worked with me as a post-doc bringing new skills in the French tradition of plant architecture. He made great strides in understanding plant traits of savanna trees. His work on physical defences against mammal herbivores is the most original and important contribution since the 1980s in my view.

Gareth Hempson,  also an ex post-doc with me, had spent a great deal of effort compiling a map of African mammal herbivore abundance, and species richness, as it would have been ~1000 years ago (Hempson, Archibald, Bond 2015, Science). He combined mammals into functional groups which helped enormously in simplifying ecological functions of different groups. His participation allowed us to link the key mammal browsers to concentrations of spiny plant species.”

“It’s a rare combination of people to address a big question.”

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Gerenuk, or giraffe antelope (Litocranius walleri) feeding from a bush; photo: 1001slide, from Getty Images

 

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*including our own species!

**an unintended pun


It was a great honor and a great pleasure connecting with Dr. William Bond, who–despite a very busy schedule and an unfortunate stay in the hospital–responded so quickly to my inquiries!  Thank you so much, Dr. Bond!  The research by you and your colleagues has opened a fascinating door for me!!

 

References

Spiny plants, mammal browsers, and the origin of African savannas,Tristan Charles-Dominique, T. Jonathan Davies, Gareth P. Hampson, Bezeng S. Bezeng, Barnabas H. Daru, Ronny M. Kabongo, Olivier Maurin, A. Mathuma Muaysa, Michelle van der Bank, William J. Bond (2016), PNAS, vol. 113 no. 38. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1607493113

What Plants Talk About, Nature, PBS, 2013

Savanna fire and the origins of the ‘underground forests’ of Africa, Olivier Maurin, T. Jonathan Davies, John E. Burrows, Barnabas H. Daru, Kowiyou Yessoufou, A. Mathuma Muaysa, Michelle van der Bank, William J. Bond (2014), New PhytologistDOI: 10.1111/nph.12936

Jurassic Park, (movie) Universal Studios, directed by Steven Spielberg, 1993

 

How Trees Talk to Each Other - Dr. Suzanne Simard TED

 

Further FASCINATING information on contemporary plants

How Trees Talk to Each Other, Suzanne Simard, TED talk, June 2016

Published papers by Suzanne Simard, University of British Columbia

The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben, 2016, Greystone Books

How Trees Fight Back, Dave Anderson, Chris Martin, and Andrew Parrella, “Something Wild,” NH Public Radio, September 23, 2016

The Herbivore Elicitor-Regulated1 (HER1) gene enhances abscisic acid levels and defenses against herbivores in Nicotiana attenuate plants, Son Truong Dinh, Ian T. Baldwin, Ivan Galis, Plant Physiology,162, 2106-2124, 2013. doi:10.1104/pp.113.221150.

Plant Kin Recognition Enhances Abundance of Symbiotic Microbial Partner, Amanda L. File, John Klironomos, Hafiz Maherali, Susan A. Dudley, PLOS One, September 28, 2012.

Fitness consequences of plants growing with siblings: reconciling kin selection, niche partitioning and competitive ability, Amanda L. File, Guillermo P. Murphy, Susan A. Dudley, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, vol: 279, issue 1727, 2012. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1995

 

Hidden Life of Trees - Peter Wohlleben

Want to Recreate a Mammoth? Some Legal Food for Thought

Contemplating recreating a mammoth?

You’re not the first.

The discussion around recreating extinct species (or “de-extinction”) is not new.

But today that concept is becoming rapidly less abstract and considerably closer to reality.

Some scientists have openly admitted to working on recreating extinct species, and some advocate vocally for de-extinction research. A few of these scientists are in our backyard: Dr. George Church is a geneticist at Harvard who openly advocates for the recreation of extinct species. Revive & Restore, part of the Long Now Foundation in San Francisco, has de-extinction as part of its stated mission. Others are much further: Hwang Woo-Suk’s Sooam Biotech Research Foundation of Korea signed an agreement with the North-Eastern Federal University in Russia to recreate a mammoth within a specific set of time. The topic has gained so much momentum that it was the focus of a TED discussion on de-extinction in DC last March, hosted by Revive & Restore in partnership with TED and National Geographic.

The authors of “How to Permit Your Mammoth”, published in the January edition (Vol.33) of the Stanford Environmental Law Journal, take an engaging look at the potential legal implications of bringing an extinct species back to life.

This highly readable and incredibly fascinating piece is the work of three people: Norman Carlin, Partner at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, LLP in San Francisco, Ilan Wurman, Law Clerk to Judge Jerry Smith, and Tamara Zakim, former Associate at Pillsbury Winthrop.

The focus of their article is the law, not the ethics behind such a venture.

In the very beginning, they state that the recreated entity would not be an exact replica of the extinct species. It would, instead, be a “facsimile” of the original, due entirely to the limits inherent within the science of de-extinction.

The key points to take away from this discussion, and which will be relevant for the legal analysis which follows, are these: No ‘resurrected’ species would be an exact copy of the original extinct species. With all methods, the results will to some degree be facsimiles or likenesses of the original species…For purposes of the law, it may make most sense to treat such facsimiles both as new creations altogether…yet also as recreations, in a sense.  They would not represent the true revival of an extinct species, but nonetheless would be living representatives of at least a portion of the range of genetic variation that once constituted that species.

Currently, the known de-extinction methods are:

1. somatic cell nuclear transfer,
2. genetic engineering,
3. and artificial selection and “back-breeding”.

 

 
In very broad strokes, somatic cell nuclear transfer relies on the egg of an existing species—one that is closely related to the extinct species—and the removal of that egg’s nuclear DNA. The nuclear DNA of the extinct species is added into the host egg, and the embryo is induced to develop within the living species.

Genetic engineering, again in broad strokes, relies on fragmented DNA sequences that can be harvested from specimens in museum collections. In a nod to the fictional “Jurassic Park”, this method would insert DNA fragments from the extinct species into the DNA sequence of closely-related living species.

Artificial selection involves breeding those living species that are descended from or related to that of the extinct species and may retain some genetic variation characteristic of the extinct species. Through generation after generation of selective breeding, the goal is to bring about a species that resembles that of its long-lost genetic cousin or ancestor.

Finally, “back-breeding” is a form of artificial selection that refers to the use of ancestral traits within a living species. In other words, one would selectively breed a species to enhance the parts of its genome that it shares with extinct species. Jack Horner writes about this in “How to Build a Dinosaur” with James Gorman. In it, he suggests that chickens are modern descendants of dinosaurs. By stimulating certain ancient genes and suppressing others, he believes we can recreate a dinosaur.

All of these scientific methods, according to Carlin, Wurman and Zakim, play an important role in terms of what laws may affect the facsimile.

Should it be classified as an “endangered species”? And if so, does it fall under the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA)?

Or is it a genetically modified organism (GMO), and therefore subject to GMO regulation and patent law?

The authors assert that “the ultimate objective of de-extinction efforts is not to produce laboratory curiosities, but to restore lost species to independent existence in nature.”

Imagine, then, a herd of Columbian mammoths, enormous animals that need substantial room and sustenance. How would the herd affect the existing ecosystem and vice versa? What kind of competition—if any—would arise for natural resources in the area in which they now live?

Once cannot read this piece, with the questions it inevitably provokes, without a keen sense of wonder and awe.

The article does mention the limits of existing laws, particularly regarding the Endangered Species Act.

Needless to say, the ESA was intended to protect living endangered species. The drafters of the ESA, which was adopted in 1973, could not have anticipated the prospect of de-extinction with twenty-first century genetic technology. Thus, de-extinction presents a classic case of dynamic statutory interpretation, which arises out of a “need for practical accommodation of the [statutory] directive to new circumstances.”

Which leads one to wonder–particularly if one is without legal expertise–why new rules would not be the first objective.

“Sometimes rules need to be changed,” responded Ilan Wurman in an email, “when there is no way to interpret existing laws in a way that effects that change. In those situations we do, indeed, need new rules.”

“Dynamic statutory interpretation has a somewhat more narrow meaning [than simply interpreting or defining laws differently],” he continued. “Let’s say a statute in 1850 was written to say, ‘All eligible voters shall constitute jury pool from which they may be called to serve on a jury.’ At the time, only men could vote, and so women were excluded from this jury pool. But the year is now 1950 — how do we interpret the statute? At the time it was written, it excluded women; but today women can vote. Thus, we ‘dynamically’ interpret ‘eligible voter’ to include certain facts or circumstances that did not exist at the time but which fall within the meaning of the term. We would include women within its meaning.”

The article discusses the recreation of species whose extinction was relatively recent, such as passenger pigeons.

When it comes to something such as a mammoth, however, the possibility of finding viable DNA seems greater in countries outside of the US. Russia has been home to recent exciting discoveries along this line.

“We excluded international law,” wrote Wurman, “because we needed to keep the piece at a manageable length, but also because none of us has any particular familiarity with international law. But there would certainly be some implications for international law as well.”

Norman Carlin emphasized Wurman’s assertion about the length of the article.

“I was surprised,” he wrote, “by how much we ended up finding to say, once we dug deeply into the questions raised by de-extinction. Before we got started, I initially thought the piece would be about half the length it turned out to be.”

When asked about other surprises to writing this piece, Wurman had this to say: “The only surprise was just how significant this ‘facsimile’ concept turned out to be. The whole piece turned on it. Consider the interesting tension it creates — it might be a GMO, and thus worthy of patent protection; but if it’s a GMO doesn’t that mean the ESA doesn’t apply? But surely the whole point of recreating these species is to protect them — so the ESA should apply. A lot of fun legal issue arose as a result of this concept.”

“Norman provided the bulk of the scientific background,” Wurman continued. “He and Tamara worked on the implications under NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act), and I teased out the initial implications for patent law and the ESA (Endangered Species Act). After that, we all had a hand in the entire piece and in putting the piece together in a coherent fashion.”

“Norman had been reading about de-extinction efforts and, given his scientific background as well as his legal background, suspected that there might be something to write on the topic. Our initial model was a rather famous piece from the New York Law Journal on the legal implications of protecting against Near Earth Objects.”

Should someone successfully recreate an extinct species, would any of the three be willing to be part of its legal team?

“I think Norman would be thrilled if he got called on to do some of the legal leg work on this issue in the future,” Wurman offered.

If there is one thing human history has shown, it is that what is once thought impossible, eventually, be it centuries or millennia down the road, becomes a reality.

So although there are innumerable reasons—many of them ethical and scientific—why we are not able to recreate extinct species now, it is not inconceivable that the future might indeed open that door.

And if it does, “How to Permit Your Mammoth” will equip us with a legal starting point.

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You can read the full article here: http://journals.law.stanford.edu/stanford-environmental-law-journal-selj/print/volume-33/number-1/how-permit-your-mammoth-some-legal-implications-de-extinction

Ilan Wurman and Norman Carlin were *remarkably generous* with their time and their help, and I cannot thank either of them enough. 

Kitty and Dino – spotlight on NH artist, Sara Richard

“Mommy! Mommy! Look what I found!”

These are the first—and some of the only—words in Kitty & Dino, a 2012 book by NH artist and sculptor, Sara Richard.

Kitty and Dino front

Two unlikely companions—a cat and a dinosaur—are introduced to each other when a little boy brings the dinosaur egg home to his mother. The cat, with great caution and suspicion, inspects this egg. And within a short period of time, a baby dinosaur emerges.

Kitty and Dino, Dino hatches

This is a picture book, but it follows graphic novel design.

With pastel colors, bold outlines, and vibrant white bursts of energy throughout, Sara Richard tells a story that almost leaps out of the pages.

Panel after panel illustrates the initial conflict between the two species and then their gradual acceptance of and affection for each other.

Whether the two are chasing butterflies, squirrels or a frog,

Kitty and Dino chasing frog

dinokittyfrog2

their gestures and images exude playfulness and joy.

The book is remarkably endearing.

One cannot miss the energy in these illustrations. And her artwork displays an expert knowledge of cat (and dinosaur!) movement and anatomy.

But these images also allude to a magical world. One can see this in the white speckling throughout the scenery—whether in the house or outside. Contrasting with pastel colors, the speckling evokes stars, a bit of other-worldliness amongst the otherwise common background.

Kitty and Dino, so beautiful

Sara Richard’s art, as described on the book jacket, is influenced by gestural drawing, art nouveau, and Japanese ink paintings. She paints and sculpts, but her work also includes creating action figures. Among other well-known action figure lines, she has worked on figures for Jurassic Park.

She very graciously took the time to answer some questions about her book and her artwork in general.

Sara Richard, Self-Portrait with Charlie

(image of Self-Portrait with Charlie, courtesy of Sara Richard)

1. What inspired you for the story itself?
The story actually was already in place by the editor of Yen Press, the publisher of the book. I met her partner at a comic convention in Chicago a few years ago and he said that they had a story about a cat and a dinosaur, which coincidentally was what my sketch book had a lot of. So it was a right place right time, planets aligned kind of thing.

2. There is a lot of energy in these drawings. Can you tell me more about that or why you chose the colors and the vibrant lines?

I love the organic line work of Art Nouveau and I’ve adopted characteristics of that line work into my art. I always felt that the lines seemed alive and kinetic. When I paint I feel the white lines are sort of representative of the energy in the piece and it just sort of pops! Also I love bright colors. They’re happy.

3. The movements of both cat and dinosaur are so life-like. What are your models for their gestures and their postures?

Haha thank you! Well I’ve always had cats, not a siamese but I always felt that type of cat was so slinky and sassy, so that was fun to play against a really big clumsy dinosaur, which I likened to maybe a great dane type of dog. I’m really interested in paleo art and dinosaurs in general and have watched most of the dino documentaries on Netflix. So that was very inspirational.

4. The book reads like a comic book; I love how one gets a vivid picture of the personalities of the cat and the dinosaur through each panel. Did you sketch out more drawings than are in the book? Or did you use everything?

This book changed SOOO much from the very first drawing to what you see now. I did probably three sets of all the interior pages in thumbnails. The story was written very loosely and it took a few passes to line up with the vision of the editor. I had a few artistic arguments in there about how I felt the compositions and colors would read but we both came to an understanding and that’s what you see!

5. Did you enjoy the experience of creating a children’s book?

It was very much a learning experience working with a writer. I’ve written little stories myself (nothing I’ve published) but I’m currently working on a ghost story and another kid’s book that I will write and illustrate myself. I’m really looking forward to it!

6. Are there any reactions to the book you want to share?

I love hearing how people who’ve read it can see the big dog influence in the dino and when they tell me the cat has the same attitude as their own. Also when I hear that kids reading it will make up their own words or sound effects as they read it. I think it’s great that people can have their own experiences with the story since there is no set dialogue. (save two word bubbles). That and I love hearing they really like the artwork!

7. Have you always been interested in dinosaurs?

I love dinosaurs! Probably really started getting interested in them my senior year of college though. 

Parasaurolophus: Yell

(Image of Parasaurolophus: Yell, courtesy of Sara Richard)

8. The book jacket mentions that you are an illustrator for Prehistoric Times Magazine, and that—among others—you have sculpted action figures for Jurassic Park (Hasbro). Can I ask which Jurassic Park figures you sculpted?

I did about three full dinosaur sculpts, two of which will hopefully see the light of day soon, one I hear was lost. You can find images of the carnotaurus and Stegosaurus I worked on. Hopefully when the new movie comes out my figures will be on the shelf. I also re sculpted another dino from another sculptors’ interpretation that wasn’t quite up to the standards my managers wanted. That one is pretty cool….wish I could say more!

9. Can I also ask what is involved in creating figures for a toy company? Do they provide the material? Do they tell you specifically what they want or is there a lot of room for creativity?

The figures for Hasbro when I was there were mostly done in wax. Now they are primarily digitally sculpted (in my opinion losing the imperfections and more lifelike qualities that hand sculpting produces). When they were sculpted in wax, the material was very brittle and we sculpted in all the articulation to make the figure move. There was a lot of cursing sometimes, especially when a tiny piece fell on the floor and shattered. There is a design department that creates the design of the figure and the sculptors follow it. I found I could be creative with loose elements like hair and clothing, but for the most part you had to follow what the designer made.

Champsosaurus

(Image of Champsosaurus, courtesy of Sara Richard)

A T-Rex sized THANK YOU to Sara Richard for her time, her responses, and her beautiful artwork!!

You can see more of her artwork and learn more about Sara Richard on her website: http://sararichard.com/

You can buy her work here: http://sararichard.storenvy.com/  or here: http://society6.com/SaraRichardArt

You can order Kitty and Dino from your local independent bookstore! Or you can order it at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble or your local comic book store.

Dino and Sloth

(Image of Dino and Sloth, courtesy of Sara Richard)

How to Permit Your Mammoth – article in the Stanford Environmental Law Journal

FASCINATING!!  I have not yet read this article, but the synopsis is fabulous.

“For purposes of this Article, we treat de-extinction, in some form, as a scientifically reasonable future prospect whose legal implications should be considered in a practical manner. For the most part, we assume that if de-extinction can feasibly be accomplished, someone will undertake the effort if for no other reason than because it would be irresistibly thrilling to do so.”

http://journals.law.stanford.edu/stanford-environmental-law-journal-selj/print/volume-33/number-1/how-permit-your-mammoth-some-legal-implications-de-extinction