Not a problem. They are indeed bony scutes, as you've discovered. There's actually a ton of information that can be gleaned from the scutes, not just functionally but also for elucidating the relationships of the croc family tree.
I've done 3 croc skeletals so far, and the scutes are the most different part of them (with the skulls a close second).
What kind of differences are particularly evident in the scutes? I had a browse through photographs of living crocodilian species just then, and to my untrained eye, I can't pick out anything particular.
Some animals have very rounded scutes, some have very square ones. Some have both. There are different numbers of rows in different groups. Some have very tall spines on the tail, some (like Brachychampsa) have quite low tail spines. If you look at them up close there are often differences in the way blood vessels have made holes in them as well, and other morphological differences you wouldn't see in a skeletal reconstruction (or a photo that shows the whole animal).
Often a good croc paleontologist can identify the group, or even the genus, just by looking at a couple of pieces of armor. Now I'd be lucking to be able to put them into even the most general of groups based on the scutes, but then I don't work much on the croc-relative side of the archosaur family tree.
Not a critique or a comment, really, but I'm dying for you to do a run on some Crurotarsans. Or Gorgonopsids. Ooooohhh....or Mesonychids!
Really, though...where do you get the raw data for your illustrations, and how do you go about assembling poses? Do you scan through the functional morphologic literature to best articulate things, or do you just go by "gut feeling"?
I think this will have to have one of those numbered sets of responses:
1) I'd also love to do a run on those groups. The project I was working on forced me to spend a lot more time away from the dinosaur "comfort zone", so depending on what time and projects look like I may indeed get to work on some of these groups.
2) I always gather all the relevant papers on a taxon before I start, as well as and photographs and additional measurements I can scrounge up (I've measured many dinosaur skeletons myself, and when I do work for museums or other researchers I can usually coax measurements from them to ensure accuracy). With dinosaurs the people are my colleagues and often friends, so I may also send them versions for critique. Honestly, the data gathering and subsequent scaling work often makes up 50% or more of the time involved in a skeletal reconstruction.
3) Poses: I have a large library of functional morph (my paleo and biology collection covers four full-size bookcases, and my pdf collection dwarfs the print material). When restoring animals with close functional descendants (like crocs) I also load up on photographs of living animals moving at different speeds to double check myself with. This can be a lot of work when I do a reconstruction of an animal that is totally new to me, but vertebrates are remarkably conservative in their movement patterns, so after doing one member of a group it's a lot easier to do more.
I hope this is an interesting "peek behind the curtain". At some point I want to create some tutorials on my process, since I know it's different from that used by others in the field. But that's on a long list of things I want to do if I can find the time.
Thanks for the replay; interesting is the least I can say about it! My current work wouldn't require anything like this (being for the most part statistical analysis of morphologic features) but I've always admired your skeletal drawings and would love to start attempting them myself.
Do you utilize extant animal musculature diagrams to flesh out the silhouette?
For the musculature I make my own muscle diagrams, based on dissections of living animals and mapping origin and insertation points against phylogeny. There has been some excellent work in the literature on doing this for dinosaurs, so I frequently incorporate published work into those soft tissue reconstructions.
I should note that many of my older skeletals on DA are slightly out of date. I've embarked on a project to bring every skeletal I've ever done up to current standards, but since I've done 140 or so that takes a very long time. I've done about 30 so far
On the other hand, most of the time when I update them people don't notice the differences, so I'm not too worried about leading people astray either.