Monthly Archives: February 2013

Pterosaur #3 almost done

I am making two skulls at the same time. It’s more productive. When one is drying I work on the other. So now the Tupandactylus is nearly finished. It just needs some work on the rear crest, some sanding, staining and that’s it. This is a close-up of the head with the mandible in place (I already finished the mandible that’s why it is in a different color).


This is what it looks like when you are behind a dead Tupandactylus.


And when you look down at it from above.


And here is another family portrait, this time showing the still unfinished Imaginary Pterosaurs #3 (Tupandactylus) and #4 (Unnamed Toothless Dsungapterid).


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Pterosaur #4 almost done

There is no more foam work to do for the unnamed toothless dsungaripterid. Just gauze and acrylic resin. The mandible is done.

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I just started to add the gauze to fill the gaps in the head cavities. This is a view of the top back showing the upper temporal apertures.


Spooky, isn’t it? It might get scarier if you look at the lower back (occipital) view:


This is a view of the skull (without the mandible).


And this is what it looks like underneath so far (a lot of work to do there still).


We can add the mandible and now it smiles!


And this is a dorsal view of the the skull.


Compare it with this real fossil of a Dsungaripterus (from David Hone’s Archosaur Musings.

The angle in my photo is slightly different, but my goal is to have it look exactly like that (without the teeth of course, since my pterosaur is not a Dsungaripterus but a related toothless species).


I practically finished the skull and now it looks a lot more like the picture above. Compare:


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Tupandactylus skull details and mandible

Almost all the foam work is done for Tupandactylus. Now I will coat it with acrylic resin and use gauze + resin to fill in cavities. This the mandible.

mandible foam

This is the inner part of the mandible. These cracks I will fill later with the acrylic resin (modelling paste).

mandible foam inside

I also worked on the details inside the head, the brain case, the orbit and temporal cavities. This is a view from the back of the head showing the upper temporal fenestra and parietal bones.


This is the back and bottom of the skull. The shiny round piece of plastic on the left side is part of the occipital bone, where the cervical spine will be attached. I have to reinforce this later with epoxy resin since I hope to be able to make a detachable yet strong connection for the spine.


I still do a lot of guesswork since I don’t have enough pictures of the pterosaurs I am making, and I have only just recently started studying a bit about skulls. I am, as usual, relying on the fact that I can always fix it later as I have done so far: research a bit, do it, see what is not right, research again, fix it, and so on. It is a good method because I can quickly start working on a three-dimensional sketch. I can test it and see what does and does not work (instead of spending a long time investigating drawings and pictures and reading scientific papers that I do not have enough background to yet understand). By testing, I can better understand the structural purpose of each bone, and it helps me direct my research to the problem I need to solve. When I do additional research after that, it is much more productive, and interesting. When I read a scientific paper after working on a 3D model, I can understand a lot more.

The Imaginary Pterosaur family

While I am making the Tupandactylus, I am also working on a toothless dsungaripterid. Here is a family portrait of all four Imaginary Pterosaurs.

four pterosaurs

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Discovering Imaginary Pterosaur #4

In the foam sheet where I dug out the Tupandactylus (which is still under construction), there was another pterosaur. This is probably an unknown species and I will comment about it later. It is a dsungaripterid pterosaur, related to the Chinese Dsungaripterus. But it seems to have no teeth! Well, maybe we will find out later that it is something else, but this is the Imaginary Pterosaur project, so finally we imagined something like this.

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Two halves, already cut out. From there, I trimmed the foam at an angle to attach the lower edges of the mandible, and the upper edges of the beak. Then I separated the rear crest so I could later add some foam to make a better 3D head.

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A bit of folding and we have something in 3D. That was only about an hour and a half of work.

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Next day, after working a bit on the Tupandactylus, I cut out the insides of the head, molded a bit more and now have another skull to work on.

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Here is what Pterosaur #4 looks like after fitting the mandible.

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Today I expect to finish the foam parts of both the Tupandactylus and this still unnamed Dsungaripterid. If both are done before Friday, I might have time to begin my search for the fifth Imaginary Pterosaur.

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Inside a pterosaur’s head

Yesterday I worked on the details of Tupandactylus’s skull. I didn’t find any detailed information anywhere. It seems that there are only four Tupandactylus fossils, and they are all flattened out and incomplete. So I invented the inside of the skull borrowing from Anhanguera, Tapejara, and from my imagination (I have no idea what it should look like under the eye cavities). Well, this is the Imaginary Pterosaur project. As usual, in the future, if I have enough information I can always fix it (and if anybody reading this knows about Tupandactylus or about how I could improve this skull: specially the details inside the head, images, descriptions; I would appreciate any help.)

This is the skull after attaching both halves together and molding.


These are just two halves cut from a 5mm think XPS foam sheet, glued together at the edges, and molded out by folding (it won’t snap if you press before folding – see the previous post).



It is still too flat, of course. I pasted pieces of foam on the inside to help shape the head, and then added some “bone” inside the beak.


I also added a piece of foam just below the braincase to help keep the head rounded. It’s a sketch of the occipital bone. Later I will reshape it, add the cavities and the protuberance which attaches to the first cervical vertebra. For now, it is just a flat surface. I don’t know if these bones in the middle really exist (I urgently have to study vertebrate skull anatomy), but it’s working great so far to keep everything in place.


I worked a bit on the mandible. I still have to close it on the inside. I also discovered that it is too short and doesn’t really fit well with the upper beak, so I will have to do some reshaping later.


Here are some views of the upper skull. I used a lighter to change the texture of the foam with fire and to harden the surface a bit. It also makes it look more like a bone.

topside 2013-02-25 10.21.01 2013-02-25 10.20.50

I can’t connect the mandible yet, but we can already see what it would look like.



So this is the skull of the Tupandactylus imperator after two days of work. Not counting the time I spent on research nor the time I had to wait for the glue to dry, I spent, so far, 8 hours on this sculpture.


I will have much less time this week, but I believe it will be enough to finish this skull by Friday.


Below is some information about my research.

I first sketched the profile from this Tupandactylus diagram. Later I layered it with these two fossils: MCT 1622-R (on which it is based) and this other one. Other information I took from this Paleofile entry, this article by Campos & Kellner (2007), and this article by Pinheiro et al (2011).

I used this Tapejara diagram for inspiration about what the Tupandactylus should look like when seen from above, and this drawing for an idea of what it might look from the front. I also used this reconstruction of the skull of a Tapejara wellnhoferithis fossil reconstruction of a Tupandactylus imperator and this picture of a Tupandactylus replica from Museu Nacional do Rio De Janeiro.

Thanks to Hebert Bruno Campos for the links to several of the references above.

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I found a Tapejaridae pterosaur in a board of foam!

It’s a Tupandactylus imperator. I started with a 1.2 x 1.0 m board of XPS foam 5 mm thick. There aren’t so many Tupandactylus holotypes and there are none in good shape. I will have to guess, invent, and copy some solutions from Tapejaras. I started with a draft based on the best fossil.

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But I ran out of foam. It was only enough for the mandible and half a skull. When I got more foam it was of a different kind, so I decided to cut out two new halves, without the full front crest (I will add it later) using the previous half as a guide. I also did some research and decided to leave the skull’s details out for now.

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Before pasting the halves together, I trimmed the edges on the front and top of the crest to make it easier.


Then I folded the foam. This is important so it won’t crack when manipulated. You have to press and fold. You can even fold all the way if you do it right. After folding in one direction, in some parts, I folded in the other. It becomes a lot easier to mold with this previous folding.


Don’t forget to press before folding, or the foam will crack. Do it until the foam becomes softer and easier to mold.


The next step is to glue the halves together. After adding glue on some edges and holding the parts together for a while, we finally have something that looks like a Tapejara.

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After drying, another hour of folding, and finally we have this.

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In the morning, after the glue dried a bit more, I cut a cavity behind the eye and now we finally have a 3D sketch to start working on.



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A new family member

The Imaginary Pterosaur family will soon have a new member: Tupandactylus imperator. Anhanguera’s body is also on the way. These are the skulls of the three imaginary pterosaurs so far (on a 1.00 x 1.20 m sheet of XPS foam):


Anhanguera has also gained new front (rostrum) teeth (it looks a lot more like the fossil now), and brain cavities; I also improved the shape of the head and the eye cavities.

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Filed under News and Exhibits, Pterosaur #1: Guidraco, Pterosaur #2: Anhanguera, Pterosaur #3: Tupandactylus