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Seattle’s Scott Musgrove and the Hunt for Specious Beasts

25 February 2010 Seattle 5,153 views No CommentPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

It has been estimated that 99.9% of all species that have ever lived are now extinct. It has also been estimated that most species that go extinct have never been documented by scientists. Were it not for the tireless efforts of Seattle artist Scott Musgrove, Co-Executive Director of The National Institute of Creative Biology, a veritable world of strange and exotic creatures like the Tubby Sea Tiger (Extinct ca. 1823) and the Hairy Brook Trout (Extinct ca. 1880) would have come and gone without our knowledge.

Scott claims to have single-handedly discovered over 8,500 new and now-extinct species that once roamed the wilds of North America. His unorthodox research methods include “clawing my way through the underbrush behind mini malls and under freeway overpasses” and have earned him few friends in the field of Paleontology where “all the handsome, credentialed paleontologists with graying manes of hair, pointy English boots and khaki outfits were combing such glamorous locations as the Gobi Desert and the Great Rift Valley looking for high-ticket items like the very macho (and probably imaginary) “Tyrannosaurus Rex.””

Scott’s discoveries, to name a few others, include the Dwarf Basket Horse (Extinct ca. 1832), the Booted Glamour Cat (Extinct ca. 1855), the Long Necked Lotus Loris (Extinct ca. 1901), and the Albino Walktopus (Extinct ca. 1877). “To some I am a paradigm-shifting zoologist; to others I am an American Dr. Frankenstein without the Ph.D., fancy castle or moral fiber.” He returns from his expeditions with enough bits of bone and fur that, combined with a considerable collection of sticks and fabrics, he is able to reconstruct the animals in his studio. But that’s just the beginning of his creative process. Scott has charged himself with the resurrection of these creatures, if only through the exceptionally skilled use of materials such as ink, paint, wood and bronze.

The fruits of his labor as well as accounts of his adventures out in the field are contained within a single beautiful volume entitled “The Late Fauna of Early North America” (the source of all the quotations in this piece). The animals and their environs have been rendered in such marvelous, vibrant detail that one cannot help but mourn for our collective loss with the turn of each page. They stare out at us with eyes that range from big and soulful, to sly or even suspicious.

Predators and prey, lively and sedate, walkers and swimmers, the diversity is — or, closer to the point, was — truly astonishing. Scott Musgrove’s paintings and sculptures have been created with such care and attention to detail that, if we cannot venture outside to see the real thing, we can still feel as though we have celebrated the fact that they once existed at all.


See more of Scott Musgrove’s extraordinary animal discoveries at his website.


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