News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Alaska Science

Drawn Together by Dinosaurs: Paleontologist and Artist are Longtime Collaborators

Unlikely art-science team-up leads to globe-spanning adventures

By Ben Hohenstatt

Tuesday, September 24, 2019 6:37pm ❙ NEWS CAPITAL CITY WEEKLY




The director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History is

buddies with the Ketchikan artist behind Southeast Alaska’s punniest Tshirts.

Ray Troll, the man behind “Beevus and Halibutt-Head,” and Kirk Johnson,

who oversees the world’s largest natural history collection, have been

friends and collaborators for nearly 27 years in large because of Troll’s

cheeky work.


“Ray had built an exhibit at the Burke Museum in Seattle, and I knew about

his stu ,” Johnson said. in an interview with the Empire. “I worked in

Seattle, so I always saw Humpies from Hell and Spawn Till You Die Die. Back

in the early ’80s, they had a bunch of Ray Troll T-shirts. I walked into the

show, and my head exploded.”


“It was like, ‘The T-shirt guy does fossils,” Johnson added with Jeff Spicoli

affectation. “I was so excited.”Their longtime relationship is why both men were at the Alaska State

Museum on Tuesday. Johnson gave a speech at the museum since it is the

current site of a traveling exhibit inspired by the pair’s collaborative e orts

and a trip along most of North America’s western coast.

Troll and Johnson’s traveling history goes back a couple of decades, too.

A few years after the pair met, Johnson said he stopped by Ketchikan to talk

with Troll and to pitch the inimitable artist and self-described fossil nerd on

the idea of traveling to the Amazon Rain Forest.

“So he came to the Amazon, and that was the beginning of the whole

thing,” Johnson said.

That “whole thing” is a series of trips around the world and most of North

America that produced a pair of books — “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway” and

“Cruisin’ the Fossil Coastline.” The latter served as inspiration for the

traveling exhibition that’s been at the state museum since May and will be

there through Oct. 19.

Troll said throughout their travels, the two men have easily spent a full 365

days together.

“Easily a year of my life, a solid year of my 65 years,” Troll said.

It’s clear from talking to both Troll and Johnson each man has a high

appreciation for the other’s specialty.


“I like art, I always have, but I’m not really good at it,” Johnson said in an

interview with the Empire. “That’s how I became an artist collector.”

Troll said that’s exactly how he views his relationship with science.

Johnson said the blend of art with science “totally essential” to

communicating scientific concepts.


“Most scientists can’t communicate themselves out of a paper bag,” he

said. “There’s so many great images that could be made that are never

made.”Both men said science and art inspire thought and challenge conventional

thought. “They change your perceptions,” Troll said. Johnson expounded on the thought. “They give you new information, new ways of looking at things,” he said.

News from the Ray Troll Universe - Category: Alaska Science

A ratfish named Troll

Ratfish Named After Ketchikan Artist Ray Troll

By LEILA KHEIRY, Ketchikan Daily News

“The Artist and the Ratfish”

KETCHIKAN (AP) — Ketchikan artist and fish enthusiast Ray Troll has achieved immortality in the world of ichthyology. A ratfish species found in the waters off New Zealand and New Caledonia in the southern Pacific Ocean has been named in Troll’s honor.

 Ratfish researcher Dominique Didier Dagit, assistant curator of ichthyology at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia, identified the Hydrolagus trolli as a unique species about a year ago. She said in a telephone interview Wednesday that she and Troll share a love for ratfish, so she decided to name her discovery for him.

 “It’s kind of nice to be able to name a species for someone,” she said. ”I thought, ‘Here’s my chance to name a fish for someone who’s really interested.”

 But, ”It kind of looks like him, (but) less facial hair.”

 In a recently published paper about the new species, Dagit described Troll as an ”artist of fishes and one of the few true chimaeroid lovers of the world. ”This fish is named in his honor for his valiant efforts to increase ratfish awareness worldwide,” Dagit wrote.

 The ratfish is a distant relative of the shark and varieties exist throughout the Pacific ocean, Dagit said. In Southeast Alaska waters, the Chimaera ratfish can be found sometimes to the annoyance of fishermen. The local ratfish has a spotted body and a long, rat-like tail.

Troll said his love affair with ratfish started about 18 years ago when he caught one while fishing and thought, ”What the heck is that?”He started researching the creature, learning that the fish dates back some 350 million years.

 ”They’re just so cool and weird looking,” Troll said as he described the protruding tenaculum on the male ratfish’s forehead. He referred to the protrusion as the ”girl grabber” because the male fish uses it to hold onto the female during mating.

 Troll said he and Dagit met through their mutual appreciation for ratfish.
”It’s not a big world of ratfish enthusiasts out there,” he said. Dagit said she has studied ratfish for years. That experience helped her identify Hydrolagus trolli as a new species.

 She said its unique characteristics include a lavender color and a longer-than-average nose.
The trolli has other different features on its head, the sex organs are different and the number of spines and its skeletal structure set it apart from other ratfish. The new species is found at depths of about 3,000 feet off the coasts of New Zealand and New Caledonia, Dagit said. A paper about the discovery that she co-authored with Paris scientist Bernard Seret recently was published in the French scientific journal Cybium, which makes the name official.

 Once a species is named, said Dagit, the name stays with the fish forever. ”Like immortality,” she said. ”And you don’t have to put it through college.”


For more info about the “Pointy-Nosed Blue Chimaera” go to :