This painting appears in Dinotopia: Journey to Chandara, but it was originally created for Discover Magazine to accompany a story on the vulnerable side of the Tyrannosaurus.
We often see this animal as a ruthless and invincible predator, but in fact its numbers were already declining due to climate changes around 70 million BP, when this scene is set, five million years before the asteroid impact. I chose a moment when the T. rex is drinking water from a receding water hole. He is accompanied by two juveniles, a herd of Triceratops in the distance, a softshell turtle, and various other creatures that are found together with T.rex in the Hell Creek Formation in what is now Montana.
I drew inspiration for the cracking mud and dead trees from a pond in the forest behind my home. The palmetto and cypress came from location studies in Florida.
My consultant was Jack Horner of the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana, here in his museum with skeletons of baby Maiasaura (photo by Tobey Sanford). Horner proposed the provocative idea that the T. rex may have been a scavenger as well as--or instead of--an active predator.
At his suggestion, I gave the creature a reddish face, similar to the faces of vultures and many other scavengers.
This painting was recently accepted into the Focus on Nature X exhibition of natural history artwork. It will appear at the New York State Museum in Spring of 2008.