"By golly, that's a splendid specimen! Blast its head off so we can turn its legs into umbrella stands, what?!"
This is not a literal quote from Lord Coxswain, but it might perhaps be one, suggesting a somewhat utilitarian and egocentric attitude. Lord Coxswain is a character from the 'Dr Grordbort' universe, in which Victorian style people (well, men, really) travel to Venus and have a jolly good time, helped by rayguns designed by 'socially inept boffins'.
Here is a short video to set the atmosphere: "Venus is doomed part II" (also found on YouTube or on the Dr. Grordbort page. As you can see, Lord Coxswain's attitude is that the last surviving animals of a species had best be bagged quickly, lest some other fellow acquire it for a foreign museum, and that wouldn't do, would it? Hence, Coxswain and his fellows -good chums all- take a healthy pleasure in shooting anything alive, animals, natives, whatever.
The person behind this yarn-ripping steampunkish universe is Greg Broadmore: a painter, creature and prop designer working for Weta in New Zealand. If neither 'Weta' nor 'Greg Broadmore' rings a bell, let me remind you of the dinosaurs and other creatures in King Kong, District 9 and other Weta work. Absolutely brilliant illustrations. In fact, Mr. Broadmore's work has featured twice before on this blog: once as a riddle animal (also here) and once when the King Kong book was discussed. He now develops the 'Dr Grordbort' universe, which has already yielded two books, rayguns you can buy (really!) as well as some stuffed Venusian insect-analogues that you can hang on your wall (really! Here's one and another).
I think his creatures are fascinatingly creative; he does dinosaurs, insectoids and various other stuff, and all of it so lively and so extremely well painted. There is also quite a lot of his material to be found on the internet. The 'Dr Grordbort' pages show that particular universe, and besides that he has his own website with a few galleries of work. If that is not enough he was interviewed at some length (part one and part two) on a website on creature design that most of you will probably like a lot even without Mr Broadmore's work on it.
In fact, those links should be enough to make this post worthwhile, but let me add a fairly large series of paintings on Venusian wildlife (these are not all). In time-honoured fashion I shall present my ramblings on what I think of their anatomy. The images were all taken from the sites mentioned above and are presented at a nicely large size, so be certain to enjoy them as best you can.
The shallow-beaked grogan's four columnar legs suggesting a large size (Venus' gravity is about that of earth, so relationships between body mass and leg diameter should resemble those on Earth, assuming bones of equal strength. I like the neck design: like limbs, necks could consist of a few large segments instead of a larger series of small ones. The 'biramous' (split) design of the front legs is also interesting, and is a basic characteristic of Earth arthropod limbs. Having part of the limbs fused must call for some dextrous motor programming, as I wrote earlier.
I cannot immediately think of a purpose for the sail on the back of this thingy, and in such cases sex is always something to keep in mind; perhaps the sail is a prop to impress its mates. The arms functioning as jaws are rather nice. Again, such designs work well in Earth's arthropods, and there is no reason to assume they would not work on bigger animals. But are there no eyes? Or are the spots arranged in a row along the head all eyes?
A large knuckle-walker with switch-blades for toes; is it a predator or are those for defence? It does not look particularly fast, so to be a a predator its prey should be very slow. The other Venusian beasties look quite athletic, so I would guess it's a herbiore or omnivore. There are more 'headarms' here, and I think there are eyes. lots of them.
Now this one needs some explaining. Its body is slung low, and the legs zigzag a lot and are splayed, meaning that this stance calls for lots of energy. It could be a jumper, but it looks very large for an ambush predator. The whole front looks like a giant mouth, with the four black prongs resembling canines. This time I really see nothing looking like eyes. Not having eyes is probably a very unlikely event in animal evolution. Eyes seem to evolve so easily and must convey such advantages that it is hard to think of a reason to stop them evolving. All you need to start is some light sensitive tissue, some movement ability and the most basic of nervous systems, and you are off (unless there is total darkness).
This one reminds me a bit of an okapi: that must be the sloping back and the colour pattern. I wonder why there is a segment of both the hind and front legs that cannot do much mechanical work as depicted, because these segment more or less double up against the next segment. Then again, perhaps that is the point: these segment don't do anything in their current stance and are not supposed to. Once unfolded, they might be used to advantage, and this is just their 'fold after use' aspect. Well, if it isn't true, please admit that it is a nice idea.
Again, no eyes, I think. Barlowe tried animals without eyes (Darwin IV in Expedition), and I thought that that was a mistake, particularly if you do have bioluminescence.
Ha, some action! Coxswain in motion against the dimple backed vroxel! As I said, the feet, once divulged of bones and cleaned of flesh, do make excellent umbrella stands gracing any home.
More action! But just wait a minute... That's not a Furahan rusp, is it? (rusps are on the land page or directly here). It might be; it could be! What! We cannot have people like Coxswain murdering Furahan animals left and right!? That's no way to behave! Is he mad? The murderous swine! Stay off my planet!