One of the things that fascinates me most about the current state of science-based art, are the roots we can retroactively look to in pre-scientific eras. Most artistic movements claim ancestry from previous movements, such as the Surrealists arising out of the Symbolists, who in part arose out of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, who claimed the mantle of the Mannerists who painted in the manner of Italian Renaissance masters.

Durer's Wing of a Blue Roller. Click to enlarge, this is awesome. Source: {link url="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Duerer_wing_of_a_blue_roller.jpg"}Wikimedia Commons{/link}"

There's no science-art manifesto in the fine art world, but there are threads and inspirations that can be looked back upon as precursors to scientific illustration and science-inspired fine art. Some, like Albrecht Durer's 1512 painting known as Wing of a Blue Roller can be seen as studies that in their technical ability are a type of proto-scientific illustration, describing in accurate detail the anatomy of an animal - though let's remember, it was not used for that. This was most likely a study for a future work, or one done as an exercise for curiosity and practice: not one to instruct veterinarians on signs of avian feather health or for a study on comparative anatomy in a journal.

Here's one I find particularly interesting. The Dudley Bug, or Dudley Locust:

Coat of Arms of the Dudley County Borough Council, Dudley, U.K. {link url="http://www.civicheraldry.co.uk/worcs_ob.html"}Image source here.{/link}"

Photo by {link url="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Captmondo"}CaptMondo{/link}" on {link url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CalymeneBlumenbachii-NaturalHistoryMuseum-August23-08.jpg"}Wikipedia{/link}". Open Source.

See it on the heraldic crest there, in red, between the anchor for the sea and the miner's Davy Lamp? It's a trilobite, specifically Calymene blumenbachi.

The quarries in the area around Dudley yielded swarms of these approximately 430-million year old Silurian fossils. They weren't red, they actually came out of yellowish sediments - the red has more significance to the coat of arms this design was derived from. Although this heraldic symbol was adopted in the 1950's, the local importance of the Dudley Bug stretches back much further, and the trilobites are even in the walls of the 11th century Dudley Castle. What to do with a mysterious object that has become intensely commonplace? Incorporate it into your identity. Carve big ones as if they were sentinels or totems. Raise your community's kids to understand it (best Easter Hunt EVAR!). As someone who has a trilobite tattooed on his forearm, I know how few people recognise the animal for what it is.

What a terrific way to demonstrate in-group/out-group dynamics than a mysterious stone "locust" smack dab in the middle of a crest? You would either be familiar with the local bug, or not. The enigma becomes a point of social pride.