Building the guillotine of the Late Dinovian


Photo by Karen Bean

Photo by Karen Bean

In 2008 I had an opportunity to help Mark Westneat Ph.D with construction of a Biomechanical model of a Dunkelosteous, a prehistoric fish, to test its bite strength. The model was filmed for an episode of History Channel’s series “Evolve”. We had a three-minute segment in the “Jaws and Claws” episode. We smashed all kinds of stuff in the jaws, and had a generally good time. The model is currently on display with the Field Museum’s new show, “Biomechanics The Machine Within.”

The now extinct creature is a favorite of science illustrators thanks to its nighmarish proportions.



We started with Dr Westneat’s breakdown of the specimen.



Then I went and did some study of the actual fossil. If you want to do your own research, the skull can be found in the Evolving Planet exhibit.



Then, the actual head had to be translated and scaled to convert to a functioning model.



From there, I created a small mock-up to verify the mechanical aspects would work.



Then, it was on to the fun part. Here are some shots of the build. It had to be on a really solid base.



Many hours and scorch-marks later we had a working replica!


Here's the finished product in situ.