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About Deviant Willem van der MerweMale/South Africa Groups :iconliving-earth: Living-Earth
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Dromornis and Aepyornis by WillemSvdMerwe
Dromornis and Aepyornis
More prehistoric bird illustrations for the talk I'm planning for the bird watcher's club!  These are the two largest known prehistoric bird species: Dromornis stirtonii (left) and Aepyornis maximus (right). Both these species grew to about 3m/10' tall and 400-500 kg in weight.  Dromornis lived in Australia, dying out in the Pliocene epoch; it was apparently a relative of ducks and geese, and it and its family are sometimes called the 'Demon Ducks of Doom'.  It had a very heavy and powerful bill, and as with Diatryma, some people claim it was a herbivore while others believe it was a carnivore. 

Aepyornis, the Elephant Bird, lived in Madagascar and may have survived until about a thousand years ago.  It likely died out as a result of humans settling the island, either directly due to hunting or indirectly due to habitat destruction or perhaps due to diseases brought in along with human poultry.  Of all living birds, the kiwi of New Zealand is apparently its closest relative!  This means that the ancestors of the elephant birds probably reached Madagascar from Australasia, and must have been able to fly since at the stage they must have evolved these land masses were already separated by a vast stretch of ocean.  Many elephant bird eggs have been found ... they're the largest known of any bird, equivalent to 160 chicken's eggs!

As with most extinct species, we don't know exactly what they looked like, and therefore there is much guesswork and imagination in these reconstructions.  Pencil drawings, coloured in Photoshop.
Hero Shrew by WillemSvdMerwe
Hero Shrew
The Hero Shrew, or Armoured Shrew, Scutisorex somereni, is a little critter revered by certain tribes in the eastern DRC for its toughness!  They use it as a charm which they believe to make their warriors brave and invulnerable.  This shrew can survive an adult man standing on its back.  It has an incredible strong spine with interlocking processes extending from the vertebrae.  With a man standing on it, the curved spine protects all the internal organs.  We still don't know why this little shrew evolved such a strong spine.  It has been suggested that the shrews use it to push underneath logs and stones without getting hurt, in search of their invertebrate prey.  This species only occurs in rainforests in the DRC, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, from low to fairly high altitudes.  Recently a related species, Thor's hero shrew, has been discovered with a back somewhat intermediate between this one and that of a typical shrew, giving some indication of how it evolved.  Charcoal drawing, coloured with Photoshop.
Banded Mongoose by WillemSvdMerwe
Banded Mongoose
This friendly little fella is a Banded Mongoose, Mungos mungo.  These are the most common mongooses in my region, easily seen in many savannah and woodland regions.  Banded mongooses are about 1.5 kg/3.3 lbs in bodyweight, so about half the size of an average cat.  They are among the most social of all carnivorous animals, typically banding together in troops of 5 to 50 or more.  They are very vocal and chatter to each other as they go about the day's business.  They will stand together to chase away predators, and also share baby-raising duties.  Watercolour.
Diatryma and Kelenken by WillemSvdMerwe
Diatryma and Kelenken
I have to give a talk about prehistoric birds to the members of the local bird watchers club, in November!  So I'm preparing a bunch of illustrations ... you are favoured to be able to see them first!  To start things off: Diatryma giganteus (left) and Kelenken guillermoi (right).  Diatryma lived in North America, about 55-45 million years ago.  A very similar species was described from Europe and classified as Gastornis.  Some people think Diatryma and Gastornis were one and the same ... but this is not yet clear-cut.  Diatryma  have been considered a relative of the ducks and geese but was much larger, reaching over 2 m in height!  Some people thought it was a predator but there are more signs that it was a herbivore and used its huge beak to crack open nuts or to crush tough leaves.

Kelenken, however, was clearly a predatory bird.  It lived abut 15 million years ago in South America.  It was one of the Phorusracidae, the family of 'terror birds'.  It was one of the largest, perhaps reaching 3 m in height.  Only its relative Brontornis was heavier.  It had the largest known skull of any bird, 71 cm/28" in length!  Terror birds might have been able to run fast and kill their prey with quick strikes of their massive beaks.  Their closest living relatives are the much smaller Seriemas, which are long-legged stalking-hunters of the grasslands.  Only two species of Seriema survive today.  There are many known terror-bird species, ranging from slightly larger than the seriemas, up to these huge ones. 

Also for a while there were people who thought terror birds had re-evolved clawed fingers on their arms, because of having unusual joints in their wrists.  But seriemas have similar joints, and no fingers or claws on their wings.  Terror birds being flightless had very small wings, probably with no actual function.

Pencil drawing, coloured with Photoshop. 
Ring-tailed Lemurs by WillemSvdMerwe
Ring-tailed Lemurs
The Ring-tailed Lemur, Lemur catta, is probably the best-known lemur species in the world!  Lemurs only live on and around the island of Madagascar (those on the Comoro islands were probably introduced from there).  They are very diverse today but were even more diverse in the past, before humans reached the island, with some species reaching a bodyweight of perhaps 200 kg/440 lbs!  The ring-tailed lemur reaches about 2.2 kg/5 lbs.  It has long hind legs, raising its characteristic ringed tail high in the air as it walks about on all fours.  These are fairly terrestrial lemurs, spending about a third of their time on the ground.  They inhabit a variety of forest types in the south of the island.  Unfortunately, even this iconic lemur is endangered today!  (Most of the time mothers have single babies, but they can have twins as shown here.)  Watercolour.
Hello folks!  I have just submitted the first chapter of my novel The Disenchanted Kingdom here!  I put up two versions: a short version, for those of you who don't have the time or inclination for reading big stories here on DA, and also a long version, in PDF format.  The short version will give you the story, if you're in a 'just the facts' mindset, but the long version will give you (I hope) a pleasant reading experience.  I'd like to know if any of you are able to download this version and read it on an Ebook reader?  I would welcome all feedback.  Lots more to come!  I've created a gallery especially for this novel.


WillemSvdMerwe's Profile Picture
Willem van der Merwe
South Africa
I was born in 1972, Pretoria, South Africa. I started painting and drawing at the age of 5. I stopped doing that for a while to study some other fields, but recently I've been getting back into it. I love wildlife and nature but I also paint or draw people. I also paint and draw fantasy creatures or scenes, as well as extinct animals.

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wufus Featured By Owner 5 days ago
Do you like my art? Can you watch me?
Alvro Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
hello how are you, I just wanted to tell you everything your art is amazing :dummy: , sorry for the delay to comment and did not comment on all your drawings, I did not feel in the mood these days :(
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2015
Aw thanks!  Don't worry about commenting, but thanks for dropping by!
LadyxWinter Featured By Owner May 4, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
your work has been featured in our, Our favorites feature -  Take a look and have a nice day :heart:
Nushaa Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2015
thank you so much for being a member of my group, Owlies-Inc. it really does mean a lot to me. Heart
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Apr 8, 2015
My pleasure!  I hope I can soon contribute more owl art.
plumita1 Featured By Owner Apr 6, 2015
:iconheartsignplz: Thanks a lot for your kind words and for faving! :iconflowerthnxplz:...Posing by plumita1
plumita1 Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2015
:iconheartsignplz: Thank you so much! :iconforyouplz:...Did I hear a click? by plumita1
Evometheus6082 Featured By Owner Mar 17, 2015  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
HAPPY ST PATRICK'S DAYLeprechaun Emoticon  and Happy Birthday
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015
Thanks and a (late) Happy St. Patrick's day to you too!
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