Batodonoides vanhouteni © Jen Christiansen


53 million years old, and it may be the smallest mammal that has ever lived. Batodonoides vanhouteni was a shrew-like mammal that scientific illustrator Jen Christiansen has deftly described in this illustration. In addition to being an illustrator, Christiansen is also Scientific American's art editor of information graphics.

Composing an illustration with only a few, spare elements can be incredibly difficult, moreso if the aim is to inform instead of to simply look pleasing. There is a remarkable economy of information in this piece: we can see just how tiny the Batodonoides vanhouteni is next to a modern Etruscan shrew. The familiar wooden ruler prompts us to what's important about the relationship between the wee mammals.

All scientific illustrators bring different skill sets into their work. Looking at this, I can't help but think that the simplicity and pared down elements common to the best infographics was informing Christiansen's compositional choices

You can see more of Jen Christiansen's work - both her own illustrations and infographics she has guided and edited - at her site + portfolio.

For the third year running, we are turning September into a month-long celebration of science artists by delivering new sciart to invade your eyeballs. The SciArt Blitz! Can’t get enough? Check out what was previously featured on this day:


2013: How Fossil Fish Make Front-Page News - art by Brian Choo



2012: Eye Heart Yew - art by Lis Mitchell