Thursday, June 12, 2008

Under the Archeopteris Tree

I scanned my mostly finished Archeopteris drawing in sections and it's taking me a while to fit the pieces together smoothly. The only details missing are the spore images in each corner (That's going to take a little magic!) and the rotting vegetation in the swamp. Here two placoderms try to maneuver around the fallen branches in the brackish water to nab the 8 toed Acanthostega. The nimble fan-tailed Acanthostega are happy to disappear into their twisted branch haven and leave the placoderms to their tangled mess.
I was driving to work the other day and, for reasons unknown to me, a large turtle was trying to cross the road. Now, in Nelson County the only real definition for "large turtle" equals snapping turtle and normally they should not be tusselled with. I turned around and pulled over to help dummy across the road. He probably smelled a female on the other side or she probably wanted to lay eggs on the other side. I don't know. Anyways, when I got to him (I'm just guessing on sex) I couldn't tell if I was too late. He was flattened out and "leaking fluid". Sometimes turtles do this and pee when they get scared. I took my shoe and shifted his shell and that didn't go over well. CLACK CLACK!!! The sound of hollow bone resounded as he tried to snap at me. He quickly inflated and turned to face me with a hiss as a large semi filled with turkeys came down the road. My family had a general store growing up and the butcher taught us kids how to pick up snapping turtles. You get them to clamp down on a broom handle or stick and then pick him up by the tail. I've found as long as you hold them out at length, grabbing by the tail will suffice. Well, as the semi and a few cars is swiftly approaching, dummy turtle turns to face me so I can't grab his tail. I just looked at him and he looked at me. I was dressed for my day job and now I was late and the prospect of getting hit in traffic or turtle jaws snapping off my fingers was becoming less attractive. Judging by his size (he was about the size of a large basketball) he seemed to have made it okay this far. "Well, Jack, you're on your own." I said and bid him adew. Funny thing is, as I was leaving a young gentleman had pulled over to do the same thing! By looking at him....I don't think he knew the tail only rule....
Anyways, there was no flattened turtle in the road so somehow Jack made his way across.
The point of this story is a little moment in history. As I was drawing the placoderms, I couldn't help but notice the similarities in facial structure between them and a turtle. I read that the bony plates on it's mouth were self sharpening and sure enough the lower jaw had perfectly angled grooves for the upper fang-like protrusions to slide into. The sound of Jack snapping a warning at me MUST have sounded very similar to the placoderms thrashing about. Just another illustration that as everything is different, we are all in reality the same.

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