This week’s episode of eons was about the messel pit lagerstätte. one of the beautifully preserved specimens we featured was “darwinius masillae” known as ida (image 1). in the episode we edited a reconstruction by esther van hulsen (@esthervanhulsen
). image 2 is the original and image 3 is the episode version. ida lived about 47 million years ago in the eocene of germany.
i’ve always been fascinated with paleo art, so i reached out to esther and she graciously answered a few questions for me:
k: what made you want to reconstruct darwinius?
e: i was asked by professor jørn hurum to illustrate a book about ida.
[“ida” by jørn hurum, booksfromnorway.com]
k: did you use a modern primate as inspiration? if so what animal(s)?
e: yes, i looked at a lot of modern primates. both modern monkeys and lemurs, since ida has characteristics of both. i mashed the colors of many monkey species. if you look closely at the fossil, you can see sort of a stripe pattern on the hairs of the tail, making it possible the fur showed rings.
k: how do you start your process of reconstructing the long extinct?
e: first, i examine the fossil. in darwinius’ case it is extremely well preserved, making it easier to reconstruct. i “build up” the animal, skeleton first, making sure size of bones are correct in relation to another. then i put on muscles and fur. after that, color studies are made. jørn hurum had to oversee and approve the end result, of course.
k: you are an amazing naturalist artist, but what got you interested in paleo art?
e: i don’t know. ever since i was little i have loved extinct animals as much as now living wildlife.
i also had to ask a follow up after i realized she spent time with this specimen…
k: also how amazing was it to see this specimen in person?
e: that was so great! it’s such a moving fossil, ida look to be sleeping so peaceful. it’s a small animal, the size of a squirrel, and so cute with all that fur and those tiny hands.
did you enjoy this q and a? want to see more posts like this? let me know in the comments!
#followfriday #fossilfriday #messelpit
#lagerstätte #germany #eocene #darwinius