Devil’s Toenail

I can never resist picking up a Devil’s Toenail when I spot one on the beach and, although this one is more worn than others I’ve found, I decided to draw it and, in the process, have a change from my usual pen and watercolour approach. For the initial pencil drawing I used a Uniball Shalaku mechanical pencil with a 0.5 mm lead. No pencil sharpener required, just a touch on the side lever to advance the lead.

The Devil’s Toenail is a species of fossil oyster, Gryphea, a bivalve mollusc. Usually, as here, it is only the lower (anatomically the left) valve that is found. The smaller right valve was hinged to it like a lid.

Fossils of the Whitby Coast

I’ve got several field guides to fossils at home but I was still tempted by Fossils of the Whitby Coast, a photographic guide, by Dean R. Lomax because it’s so specific to this particular stretch of Jurassic coastline.

It includes more that two hundred photographs and illustrations, photography by Benjamin Hyde and illustrations by Nobumichi Tamura.

In most cases, colour isn’t necessary for the identification of a fossil, but it’s useful way to get familiar with the physical appearance of the odd fossil that you might spot amongst all those pebbles and shells on the beach.

Tamura’s illustrations intrigue me: the majority appear to be the digital equivalent of a watercolour illustration but a number have been created using a 3D modelling computer program.

Lomax and Tamura went on to produce Dinosaurs of the British Isles, hailed as ‘the single best reference on British dinosaurs that has ever been produced’.


Fossils of the Whitby Coast by Dean R Lomax, published by the Siri Scientific Press

Dean Lomax, palaeontologist

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