Every once in a while I have a little bit of dinosaur deja vu, encountered photographs, paintings, models, documentaries, etc. that I haven’t seen since I was about 10 or 11 years old. Such was the case when I received my copy of David Raup’s Extinction: Bad Genes of Bad Luck? in the mail today. I recognized the painting on the cover immediately as one I had seen from a paleontology documentary years ago (although I can’t remember much of it except interviews with Stephen Jay Gould, Bob Bakker RE: Nanotyrannus, and David B. Weishampel with his functional reconstruction of a Parasaurolophus crest, interspersed with pictures from David Norman’s The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs), although I must admit I couldn’t quite figure out what sort of dinosaur I was supposed to be looking at. The painting as a whole is beautiful, but the dinosaurs seem a bit grotesque; my mind wanted to say dromeosaur but I knew that couldn’t be right. The back cover, however, revealed the answer; the painting is supposed to be of a male and female Dryptosaurus (ex-Laelaps)!
While the skeletal remains of Dryptosaurus remain elusive, I’ve heard a few things about some attempts to figure out what it really looked like. Now that the weather is nicer I plan to go searching for some bits of it myself in the Big Brook area, although given their rarity I’m not likely to come up with anything (which doesn’t mean I won’t still be dreaming of a fully articulated skeleton, hanging out of a riverbank begging to be excavated). Indeed, New Jersey seems to be suffering from neglect when it comes to nature (regardless of whether it’s conservation now or figuring out what was here millions of years ago) but there is much to find for those willing to look. I still can’t forget carefully slicing away the green marl from the Main Fossiliferous Layer at the Inversand Pit, the sandy material giving up just a few fragments of bone. I’ll probably never find out what they once belonged to, but it was utterly exciting nonetheless.