What was life for dinosaurs like in Europe?
Graphic novel explains new scientific findings
Credit: Joschua Knüppe
The small dinosaur Europasaurus lived 154 million years ago in Central Europe alongside other dinosaurs, prehistoric crocodiles and mammals. Its world comes alive again in the graphic novel “Europasaurus – Life on Jurassic Islands”. The book contains 275 original illustrations and several stories based on the scientific work of palaeontologists like Dr Oliver Wings from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). Working together with the paleo-artist Joschua Knüppe and with financial support from the Volkswagen Foundation, the researcher has created a gateway into this primeval world. The graphic novel targets young people and adults alike and will be released today.
Present-day Europe looks completely different to how it did in the Mesozoic era. Instead of large land masses, it consisted of many islands on which dinosaurs, crocodiles and ancient mammals lived. One of these was Europasaurus holgeri, a scientific curiosity. It was a member of the long-necked sauropods, the largest land animals ever to live. The largest of these sauropods had a body that towered 13 metres and weighed up to 70 tonnes. In contrast, Europasaurus was a real lightweight. Fossils reveal that it was no more than three metres tall and one tonne in weight. “Europasaurus was the first dinosaur discovered to exhibit dwarfism. It probably adapted to the limited supply of food on the islands by halting growth early on,” says Dr Oliver Wings from the Natural Sciences Collections (ZNS) at MLU. The bone fossils of Europasaurus were found in a quarry near Goslar in 1998. In 2006, Europasaurus was introduced as a new dinosaur genus when the findings were published in Nature.
The new graphic novel “Europasaurus – Life on Jurassic Islands” contains 184 pages and provides a comprehensive and realistic look at the life of this dwarfed giant dinosaur and other prehistoric creatures. “We wanted our book to provide readers with easy access to scientifically accurate information about the Mesozoic era,” says Wings. In addition to the comic section of the book, which contains a total of 275 illustrations, the book also contains a 38-page section that describes the scientific work with the fossils in an accessible way. The accuracy of all of the drawings and information has been verified by international experts.
The book is primarily based on research work that Wings and his colleagues began in 2011 as part of several projects funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. They carried out further excavations and systematically processed and described the finds. The team was able to identify the first mammalian fossils from the Jurassic period in Germany and described several new species. “During my work I realised I wanted to present our findings to the general public, in an informing, accessible and also entertaining way,” says Wings. Augmented by findings from other excavations in Central Europe, the idea for the graphic novel was born. Its production has received additional funding for science communication from the Volkswagen Foundation.
All of the illustrations were created by paleo-artist Joschua Knüppe, who specialises in accurately depicting dinosaurs in a popular scientific way. “What fascinated me most about the project was the fact that these fossils are still completely unknown to most people and are also rarely depicted in the paleo art scene. The book also gave me the opportunity to present complex ideas and content that are usually only found in films,” says Knüppe. Wings and Knüppe were supported in their endeavour by art director Henning Ahlers, who helped take the facts and turn them into a coherent and exciting story.
The book is written in both German and English and is suitable for anyone aged ten years and up.
About the book: Oliver Wings & Joschua Knüppe. Europasaurus – Urzeitinseln voller Leben. Pfeil-Verlag. 19,80 Euro, 184 S., ISBN: 978-3-89937-264-9