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Snake vs. Croc in Real and Hyper-Real Versions

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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When illustrators embark upon a new illustration, hours of research and work go into constructing a scene that is believable, powerful, and informative. In 2009, when James Gurney was tasked with reconstructing Titanoboa, the largest snake that ever lived, his first priority was conveying the sheer size of a 48-foot long, 2500-lb. beast. Ultimately, he decided to depict the snake taking down a full-sized crocodile, but had trouble finding useful reference materials. He scoured YouTube for battles between snakes and crocs, but most of the battles seemed to be between caimans and alligators and took place largely underwater, where the splashing was fierce but ultimately not informative. What he would have given to have this video for reference, taken earlier this month in northern Queensland, Australia:


But he didn’t have it, and in the end, Gurney just sculpted his own reference material, as he so often does. You can see how he created the epic illustration in two parts (Part 1, Part 2) on his blog, Gurney Journey. Here’s the final image. I think you’ll agree he did a decent job. (ZOMG!)

Titanoboa by James Gurney

Titanoboa by James Gurney, used with permission

Kalliopi Monoyios About the Author: Kalliopi Monoyios is an independent science illustrator. She has illustrated several popular science books including Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish and The Universe Within, and Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True. Find her at Follow on Twitter @symbiartic.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Jerzy v. 3.0. 4:29 am 03/14/2014

    Nice picture, I like rich, oil paint execution.

    Looks better than most CG illustrations with a feel of cheap smartphone photos.

    Only a minor quibble – why lifting the color pattern from today green anaconda? Mr Gurney certainly has imagination to comer with more.

    Link to this

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