Anton was inspired in his childhood to become a paleoartist after seeing illustrations of sabre-toothed tigers. Here, a Megantereon is depicted. (Illustration: Mauricio Anton)
Anton was inspired in his childhood to become a paleoartist after seeing illustrations of sabre-toothed tigers. Here, a Megantereon is depicted. (Illustration: Mauricio Anton)

How prehistoric animals can help save today's endangered species

Artists’ colourful drawings of prehistoric animals could help keep endangered species alive.

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If you think paleoart has something to do with trendy, paleolithic meals then you’d be quite wrong. Rather, it’s a term for the colourful representations of prehistoric animals such as the Tyrannosaurus rex, wolly mammoths, and other animals that all have one thing in common: they’ve gone extinct.

In a new book recently launched at the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen, paleoartist Mauricio Anton brings the creatures of the past, amongst them the sabre-toothed tiger, back to life.

See the extinct animals be ‘brought back to life’ on Videnskab.dk (in Danish)

Anton believes that he and other paleoartists can help still-living species, because reminders of the extinction of prehistoric animals will get people to take better care of the species we still have.

"Curiosity is a basic instinct for us and when people look at drawings of prehistoric natural life and fossils I hope it’ll make them value the species we have today more – and make them look better after them," he says.

How many species are left in a 100 years?

Anton isn’t the only one who believes that past beasts such as the sabre-toothed tiger can benefit the species still alive on our Earth. David Nogués-Bravo of the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen where he studies how the extinction of different species affects the overall biodiversity, sees paleoart as a good tool to generate interest in extinct and living animals.

"Art is a good way of telling people what animals and plants that were here just 20,000 years ago," he says. "When they see this art, people will perhaps ask themselves the question, 'will animal species continue to die out?'"

We still lack knowledge about today's animal species

According to the United Nations, the species on our planet are currently reaching extinction between 100 and 1,000 times faster than what is considered natural.

Both Nogués-Bravo and Anton believe that we should learn as much as possible about present animals, so we don’t end up with the same problem as we have with dinosaurs: our knowledge about them comes from studying fossils only. In fact, 99 per cent of all species that have ever lived on the Earth are extinct today, says Anton.

"There are things we will never learn about the prehistoric animals," says Anton. "That is extremely frustrating, but imagine if we lost the tigers… we’d have the same problem as we have with the dinosaurs, where there are still so many questions we don't have the answers to."

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Read the full story in Danish on Videnskab.dk

Translated by: Michael de Laine

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