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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Painting of the Carboniferous Period

The Carboniferous Period of 345 Million Years Ago is the subject of this painting, by renowned paleo-artist, Josef Moravec, whose oil paintings of ancient sea life and dinosaur pictures are recognized as some of the finest representations of prehistoric life by Museums of Natural History throughout Europe and the United States.  Prints of this painting, a vivid depiction of the shark-like Xenacantus decheni and other denizens of the ancient seas during the Carboniferous Period are available, along with many more prints and dinosaur pictures by this artist.  Josef Moravec’s love and extensive study of prehistoric life and paleontology led to his creation of accurate and beautiful dinosaur paintings and drawings of the time when dinosaurs ruled the unspoiled Earth and enormous prehistoric sea creatures dominated the oceans and inland seas.

The name Carboniferous means coal bearing, and it is named that because that is when the major coal beds were formed across the globe.  In regards to North America, the early Carboniferous Period is sometimes divided into two geological periods; the earlier part called the Mississippian, the latter referred to as the Pennsylvanian.

In the oceans, marine life was becoming more sophisticated; the sharks and their relatives like Xenacantus decheni were the predominant fish of these ancient seas, and are the primary subject of this accurate oil painting.  Some of the sharks had piercing teeth, while others had crushing teeth that they used to eat shellfish and crustaceans of the time.  Fresh water fish were abundant as well.  Marine invertebrates were widespread and varied.

Life was becoming well established on land at this point in time, with the arthropod’s development continuing.  Today, members of the arthropods that we are familiar with would include insects, spiders and crustaceans, the word itself meaning “jointed leg”.  Essentially, they are invertebrates with jointed limbs, segmented bodies and exoskeletons.  The closest animal to the ancient, extinct ones that we would see today would be the horseshoe crab.  It is estimated that arthropods make up over 80% of today’s known living animal species.

Four legged amphibians (tetrapods) were quite common by the middle of the Carboniferous period.  Some were as large as 6 meters (over 19 feet), and had scaly skin, while it was more common for the various amphibians to be smaller, probably about 6 inches long and to be smooth skinned.  Towards the end of this period, the huge rain forests that had dominated the earth suddenly collapsed, because of a major shift in climate to a cooler, drier climate, which slowed the development of amphibians to a great degree and favored the development of strictly land dwelling reptiles, whose eggs were better suited to this less humid world. As for the terrestrial plant life, they were primitive, but huge members of the fern and moss families, along with early coniferous trees that appeared in the drier, later part of this period.

As for the earth itself, the Carboniferous period was a time of continental shifting, collision and mountain building.  The climate changed several times, glaciers formed and receded, and sea levels rose and fell.

Because of the authenticity of the images and colors of these paintings, the impact of them is quite striking.  Not only are they decorative - they are also educational.   


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