Tina Beard has been a big fan of the art of Ray Troll for many years, even travelling to his home in Ketchikan, Alaska to view his work.
Now, after a surprise visit from the artist, Beard, along with her paleontologist husband Graham, may well end up as subjects themselves in one of his paintings — alongside what could be a whole new species from their fossil collection.
“They spent a good two hours in the museum, photographing and looking at all the different specimens,” Beard said. “They think we may have a brand new species of hetomorphic ammonite at the museum and they’re all excited about that.”
The fossil is of a bottom-dwelling tentacled creature that had a shell shaped somewhat like a giant paperclip.
“Many ammonites have nice spirals, but in the latter part of the Cretacious period there were many species that started to uncoil,” Graham explained. “They were benthic, which means they crawled along the seabed. They wouldn’t be able to escape predators, so they had four rows of spines that stuck out like a porcupine.”
It’s those four rows of spines that set it apart. While there are other hetomorphic ammonites, they only have two rows of spines, so this could be a whole new species.
The potential of having a new species in the collection is big news for both the Beards, but the possibility of being included in an art book by her favourite artist is what has Tina over the moon.
“I’ve always admired his work because there’s a lot of paleontology in it,” she said. “It’s all tongue in cheek. He’s an amazing artist.”
The meeting took place on Sept. 3, when the Beards got a phone call from Peter Ward from the University of Washington.