About

Hi, thanks for visiting my website. I'm a palaeontological author, artist and researcher based on the south coast of the UK. I'm best known for my research on pterosaurs and, more recently, my contributions to palaeoart - the evidence-led restoration of extinct organisms in drawings, paintings, sculpture and film.

My background is based more in scientific research than writing and artistry. I obtained my PhD from the University of Portsmouth in 2008 after three years of studying pterosaurs, the flying reptiles contemporaneous with non-avian dinosaurs. I remain active in pterosaur research, but since completing my thesis I've found myself employed more as an artist and consultant on the life appearance of extinct animals than as a traditional academic. My career has thus shifted focus to reconstructing extinct animals, and I now spend more of my time considering the history, methods and technical details of this topic than flying reptiles. I've been lucky to impart some of this knowledge to major media clients, with my creature designs and input being used by the BBC, National Geographic, Royal Mail and the Royal Mint. Alongside my papers, books and book chapters on palaeoart, I also post regularly about palaeoart topics at my blog.

My artwork has been displayed around the world in venues such as the Natural History Museum, American Museum of Natural History, Yale Peabody Museum and London's South Bank. Happily, you needn't travel to see these works - you can check out my artwork in this gallery instead. Despite having origins in the early 1800s, the science behind restoring ancient animal life appearance is still developing and any artworks - including my own - can only be, at best, credible to contemporary science. Palaeoart is not, of course, a science, but (perhaps because of my training as a scientist) I reason that we can, and probably should, approach many aspects of our reconstructions with a scientific mindset. Rather than constraining our art or making it drab and staged, I find that closely following modern science can lead to innovative and interesting takes on Deep Time. In 2018, I published the first synthesis of palaeoart methodology, The Palaeoartist’s Handbook (Crowood Press), to outline how much research and information is required to make credible restorations of fossil organisms in our modern scientific climate. This book remains the best place to get the lowdown on my approach to palaeoartistry.


If you enjoy the artwork shown here, or you share my interests in fossil animals and how we restore them in palaeoart, you may also enjoy my other books: Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy (2013), Recreating an Age of Reptiles (2017), Life through the Ages II: Twenty-First Century Visions of Prehistory (2020) and The Art and Science of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs (2022). 

If you'd like to contact me to discuss commissions, image licencing or consultancy work, please email wittonprints@gmail.com.

 

Publications

Research papers

  • Dyke, G., Vremir, M., Brusatte, S. L., Bever, G. S., Buffetaut, E., Chapman, S.... and Witton, M. 2014. Thalassodromeus sebesensis—A new name for an old turtle. Comment on “Thalassodromeus sebesensis, an out of place and out of time Gondwanan tapejarid pterosaur”, Grellet-Tinner and Codrea. Gondwana Research. 27, 1680–1682. [LINK]

  • Hone, D. W., Witton, M. P., & Habib, M. B. (2018). Evidence for the Cretaceous shark Cretoxyrhina mantelli feeding on the pterosaur Pteranodon from the Niobrara Formation. PeerJ, 6, e6031. [LINK]

  • Humphries, S., Bonser, R. H. C., Witton, M. P. and Martill, D. M. 2007. Did pterosaurs feed by skimming? Physical modelling and anatomical evaluation of an unusual feeding method. PLoS Biology, 5, e204. [LINK]

  • Hyder, E., Witton, M. P. and Martill, D. M. 2012. Evolution of the pterosaur pelvis. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica. 59, 109–124. [LINK]

  • Martill, D. M. and Witton, M. P. 2008. Catastrophic failure in a pterosaur skull from the Cretaceous Santana Formation of Brazil. Zitteliana, 28, 177-185.

  • Martill, D. M., Witton, M. P. and Gale, A. 2008. Possible azhdarchoid pterosaur remains from the Coniacian (Late Cretaceous) of England. Zitteliana, 28, 209-218. [PDF]

  • Martin-Silverstone, E., Witton, M. P., Arbour, V. M., and Currie, P. J. 2016. A small azhdarchoid pterosaur from the latest Cretaceous, the age of flying giants. Royal Society Open Science, 3, 160333. [LINK]

  • Naish, D. and Witton, M. P. 2017. Neck biomechanics indicate that giant Transylvanian azhdarchid pterosaurs were short-necked arch predators. PeerJ 5:e2908. [LINK]

  • Naish, D., Witton, M. P., & Martin-Silverstone, E. (2021). Powered flight in hatchling pterosaurs: evidence from wing form and bone strength. Scientific reports, 11(1), 1-15. [LINK]

  • Tomkins, J. L., LeBas, N. R., Witton, M. P., Martill, D. M. and Humphries, S. 2010. Positive allometry and the prehistory of sexual selection. The American Naturalist, 176, 141-148. [PDF]

  • Vremir, M., Witton, M. P., Naish, D., Dyke, G., Brusatte, S., Norell, M., & Totoianu, R. 2015. A medium-sized robust-necked azhdarchid pterosaur (Pterodactyloidea: Azhdarchidae) from the Maastrichtian of Pui (Haţeg Basin, Transylvania, Romania). American Museum Novitates, 3827, 1-16. [PDF]

  • Witton, M. P. 2008. A new approach to determining pterosaur body mass and its implications for pterosaur flight. Zitteliana, 28, 143-159. [PDF]

  • Witton, M. P. 2008. A new azhdarchoid pterosaur from the Crato Formation (Lower Cretaceous, Aptian?) of Brazil. Palaeontology. 51, 1289-1300. [LINK]

  • Witton, M. P. 2009. A new species of Tupuxuara (Thalassodromidae, Azhdarchoidea) from the Lower Cretaceous Santana Formation of Brazil, with a note on the nomenclature of Thalassodromidae. Cretaceous Research, 30, 1293-1300. [PDF]

  • Witton, M. P. 2010. Pteranodon and beyond: the history of giant pterosaurs from 1870 onward. In: Moody, R. T. J., Buffetaut, E., Naish, D. and Martill, D. M. (eds.) Dinosaurs and other extinct saurians: a historical perspective. Geological Society, London, Special Publications, 310, 313-323. [PDF]

  • Witton, M. P. 2012. New insights into the skull of Istiodactylus latidens (Ornithocheiroidea, Pterodactyloidea). PLoS ONE, 7, e33170. [LINK]

  • Witton, M. P. 2015. Were early pterosaurs inept terrestrial locomotors? PeerJ, 3, e1018. [LINK]

  • Witton, M. P. 2019. Pterosaurs in Mesozoic ecosystems: a review of fossil evidence. In: Hone, D. W. E., Martill, D. M. and Witton, M. P. (eds.) New Perspectives on Pterosaur Palaeobiology. Geological Society Special Publications, 455 (1), 7-23 [PDF]

  • Witton, M. P. and Habib, M. B. 2010. On the size and flight diversity of giant pterosaurs, the use of birds as pterosaur analogues and comments on pterosaur flightlessness. PLoS ONE, 5, e13982. [LINK]

  • Witton, M. P. and Naish, D. 2008. A reappraisal of azhdarchid pterosaur functional morphology and paleoecology. PLoS ONE, 3, e2271. [LINK]

  • Witton, M. P., & Naish, D. (2013). Azhdarchid pterosaurs: water-trawling pelican mimics or “terrestrial stalkers”?. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 60(3), 651-660. [LINK]

  • Witton, M. P., Martill, D. M. and Green, M. 2009. On pterodactyloid diversity in the British Wealden (Lower Cretaceous) and a reappraisal of “Palaeorniscliftii Mantell, 1844. Cretaceous Research, 30, 676-686. [PDF]

  • Witton, M. P., O’Sullivan M., and Martill, D. M. 2015. The relationships of Cuspicephalus scarfi Martill and Etches, 2013 and Normannognathus wellnhoferi Buffetaut et al., 1998 to other monofenestratan pterosaurs. Contributions to Zoology, 84(2), 115-127. [LINK]

Published conference proceedings

  • Habib, M. B. and Witton, M. P. 2010. Soaring efficiency and long distance travel in giant pterosaurs. Acta Geoscientica Sinica, 31 (1), 27-28.

  • Hyder, E. S., Martill, D. M. and Witton, M. P. 2010. A neoazhdarchian pelvis with a possible preserved air sac from the Santana Formation of Brazil: implications for functionality and phylogeny. Acta Geoscientica Sinica, 31 (1), 32-32.

  • Witton, M. P. 2010. Pteranodon and beyond: the history of giant pterosaurs from 1870 onward. In: Moody, R., Buffetaut, E., Martill, D. M. and Naish, D. (eds.) Dinosaurs and other extinct saurians – a historical perspective, Geological Society, London, 71-72.

  • Witton, M. P. and Habib, M. B. 2010. The volancy, or not, of giant pterosaurs. Acta Geoscientica Sinica, 31 (1), 76-78.

  • Witton, M. P., Martill, D. M. and Loveridge, R. F. 2010. Clipping the wings of giant pterosaurs: comments on wingspan estimations and diversity. Acta Geoscientica Sinica, 31 (1), 79-81.

  • Witton, M. P. 2013. The new giant pterosaurs: novel anatomies and habits in the largest flying animals. VI Jornadas Internacionales sobre Paleontología de Dinosaurios y su Entorno abstract book, Colectivo Arqueológico y Paleontológico de Salas, C.A.S., 37-39.

 

Books

  • Hone, D. W. E., Witton, M. P. and Martill, D. M. (eds.) 2019. New Perspectives on Pterosaur Palaeobiology. Geological Society Special Publications. [LINK]

  • Veldmeijer, A. J. and Witton, M. P. 2010. Pterosauriërs: vliegende tijdgenoten van de dinosauriers. Drukware, Norg. [LINK]

  • Witton, M. P. 2013. Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy. Princeton University Press. [LINK]

  • Witton, M. P. 2016. Recreating an Age of Reptiles. Red Phare.

  • Witton, M. P. 2017. Recreating an Age of Reptiles. 2nd Edition. Crowood Press. [LINK]

  • Witton, M. P. 2018. The Palaeoartist Handbook. Crowood Press. [LINK]

  • Witton, M. P. 2020. Life Through the Ages 2. Indiana University Press. [LINK]

  • Witton, M. P. and Michel, E. 2022. The Art and Science of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs. Crowood Press. [LINK]

 

Book Chapters

  • Martill, D. M., Sweetman, S. and Witton, M. P. 2012. Pterosaurs of the Wealden. Palaeontological Association Field Guide to Wealden fossils.

  • Witton, M. P. In Press. The science of restoring dinosaur life appearance. The Complete Dinosaur III.

 

Consultancy

2017 - National Geographic

Consultant on major pterosaur article Pterosaurs—Lords of the Ancient Skies published in November 2017

2015 - Blink Films

Scientific adviser for National Geographic documentary

2010 – 2011 BBC World/Evergreen (Cretaceous FIlms) Pty Ltd

Creature designer and palaeontological consultant for ‘Walking with Dinosaurs 3D’

2009 - 2011 BBC Media

Palaeontological consultant for 'Planet Dinosaur'

Technical advisor to artists and production team on the pterosaurs featured in the series.

2009 – 2010: Atlantic productions

Palaeontological consultant for ‘Flying Monsters 3D’

Technical advisor to artists, animators and production team for the BAFTA-winning David Attenborough film.

2008 - 2009: Dangerous Ltd

Palaeontological consultant for 'Clash of the Dinosaurs'