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About Deviant Member Willem van der MerweMale/South Africa Groups :iconliving-earth: Living-Earth
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Gerenuks by WillemSvdMerwe
Gerenuks
The Gerenuk, Litocranius walleri, is also known as the Giraffe Antelope.  Here you see the male (rearing up) and the female.  Gerenuks have slender, elongated necks, that of the male being thicker than that of the female.  They also have long, slender legs.  They are able to stand up on their hind legs, which allows them to browse much higher than other antelopes (though not as high as actual giraffes!).  They have unusually small, fine mouths with which they pick out the juiciest leaves.  Gerenuks reach a head-body length of 1.5 m/5' and can browse at a height of about 2 m/6'6".  They are found in northeast Africa in dry savannah or scrubby woodland.  Pencil drawing, coloured with Photoshop.
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New Caledonian Bipedal Frog, 5 002 015 by WillemSvdMerwe
New Caledonian Bipedal Frog, 5 002 015
Another critter from the year five million two thousand and fifteen!  Humans, as I said in my entry on the Giant Madagascan Cassowaroid, cleaned up their act but unfortunately too late to save a great many frog species from extinction.  This left many ecological niches open.  The really-wise-humans did a bit of fiddling and came up with a way to boost the rate of frog evolution - benignly - to help these amphibians reclaim their past diversity.  Well, reclaim it they did ... indeed they went far beyond!

Five million years of evolution later, and frogs and toads are displaying a diversity never before seen on this planet.

On the island of New Caledonia, a group of frogs descended from tree and reed frogs developed a unique bipedal mode of locomotion.  They walk, run and hop on their hind legs.  The illustrated species is a walker and runner.  In this and related species, using the hind legs for locomotion enabled it to adapt its front legs for predation.  The bones of the hands and fingers became greatly lengthened.  Sticky disks at the finger tips, originally used for climbing, are now used for getting a firm grasp on prey, which can be insects and other invertebrates and even other small vertebrates, including fellow frogs!  This species is quite large, achieving a snout-to-vent length of 20 cm/8" but with its long hind legs, it can stand twice as tall as that.  It lives in fairly dry New Caledonian forests with an open understory.  It is not particularly poisonous, its coloration allowing it to blend in fairly well with the understory and leaf litter.  It is preyed upon by, among other things, by the descendants of New Caledonia's crows, Kagu's, giant bats, small terrestrial crocodiles, and a kind of giant, predatory gecko. 

Their reproduction is not particularly strange.  They breed shortly after the first spring rains.  The males congregate around open patches in the forest interior, stretching themselves up high on their rear legs as they call, their vocal sacs expanding enormously.  Males vying for prime spots will wrestle with each other using their long hands and fingers.  Amplexus is unusual, the male and female grasping each other belly-to-belly.  The female extrudes her eggs but they remain attached to her body in a gelatinous ball.  The male fertilizes them and then releases the female.  She will then run off and deposit her eggs in a hole she digs in a moist patch of the forest floor.  The metamorphosis in this species is unusual.  The tadpoles remain in the eggs, developing into little froglets over the course of about six weeks - but interestingly the froglets are quadrupedal when they emerge.  They then go through a second change, though not technically the same as metamorphosis, over the course of another three to four months, morphing into the fully bipedal form.
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Fat Mouse by WillemSvdMerwe
Fat Mouse
The Fat Mouse, Steatomys pratensis, is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa, living in regions with sandy soil, but not in true deserts.  Fat mice are quite small, with a head-body length of 9 cm and a tail length of about half that.  They are round and pudgy in appearance because they accumulate a lot of fat when the feeding is good, which lasts them through hungry times.  Unfortunately some people consider them tasty snacks!  And they are rather slow and lazy and so are easily caught.  But they're quite pretty, warm reddish brown in colour with white feet, throats and bellies.  Pencil drawing, coloured in Photoshop.
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Dugongs by WillemSvdMerwe
Dugongs
The Dugong, Dugong dugon, is a completely unique species of mammal.  Its closest relatives are the manatees, but it differs from them in many respects.  Dugongs are totally marine, having lost the ability to come on to the land.  They reach 4 m in length and the largest individual recorded weighed about 1000 kg.  A more typical length is 4 m, and a typical weight is 400 kg.  Dugongs are related to elephants and hyraxes.  They are peaceful grazers, feeding on sea grasses in warm, shallow, calm waters in the Indian and Pacific oceans.  Pencil drawing, coloured in Photoshop.
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Brown Pelican by WillemSvdMerwe
Brown Pelican
First of all, I'm indebted to :icondracoflameus:icon for the reference photo I used for this painting.  See the original here:

dracoflameus.deviantart.com/ar…

And please look at the rest of her gallery!

 The Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis, occurs on the eastern and western coastline of both North and South America.  In North America, it's easily distinguished from the only other pelican that occurs there, the American White Pelican, by its dark coloration.  It is also smaller.  In South America, the very similar Peruvian Pelican can be distinguished by its larger size.  Along with the Peruvian Pelican, this is the only pelican that dives from the sky to catch fish!  Just before entering the water, these pelicans pull their wings close in to their bodies and stretch out their necks.  Their big throat pouches make handy 'nets' for catching the fish in!  Acrylic.
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On Saturday I was out to visit my friends the Van Schalkwyks and to do some plant seeking! The farm is about 50 km from Pietersburg/Polokwane, close to the town of Haenertzburg, in some of the foothills of the Wolkberg Mountains. The plants I was looking for were Euphorbia pulvinata plants. They are succulents with spined, angled stems. This particular species has a remarkable cushion-like growth form, the stem tips crowding together to make mounds that can grow over a metre/yard in width and about half that in height. I've never seen the species here before ... I did see them at the Walter Sisulu Botanic Garden, and I also grow them in my own garden! But here I saw a substantial wild population in the hills. They grow in bushveld with grass as well as trees and lots of shrubs, sometimes in the open amidst grass and rocks, sometimes in light shade. The species occurs widely but patchily from the far north of Limpopo Province down to the Eastern Cape.

Here are the Euphorbia pulvinata plants.

A large and healthy specimen, with hundreds of stems tight together:

i360.photobucket.com/albums/oo…

A couple of specimens. To the left you can see some damage ... some of them were suffering and there were many dead plants as well:

i360.photobucket.com/albums/oo…

A small plant, growing with another succulent: look on the right, the plant with the bright green, finger-like leaves. That is Senecio barbertonicus, another interesting species of which there were many, some quite robust:

i360.photobucket.com/albums/oo…

Another small Euphorbia pulvinata growing together with another succulent, this time a little Mesemb, a Delosperma:

i360.photobucket.com/albums/oo…


More clumps, the front one showing some growth tip damage and a bit of irregular growth, but overall appearing healthy:

i360.photobucket.com/albums/oo…

All in all I was very satisfied.  The population includes perhaps thousands of plants, including some spectacular ones. 

Of course there was much else to see, also, and here are a few more photos.  There were several species of Aloe on the farm. This is, I think, Aloe aculeata, which grew alongside the Euphorbias. They weren't flowering, if they did I would have been able to confirm the ID:

i360.photobucket.com/albums/oo…

There were many flowering Barberton Daisies, Gerbera jamesonii. These are the emblem of the Blue Bulls rugby team, and appears on the flag of the province of Mpumalanga. None of which deterred this beetle from making a snack of one!

i360.photobucket.com/albums/oo…

These are the lovely flowers of a Cross Berry, Grewia occidentalis. A vigorously growing shrub, tree or climber, bearing fruit that look like four berries grown together in a cross shape.

i360.photobucket.com/albums/oo…

Here is a little Bonsai Tacky, or Crassula sarcocaulis. These little succulents, growing in mountainous or hilly terrain, look like stunted little trees. This one has the proportionally fattest stem I've ever seen on one:

i360.photobucket.com/albums/oo…

OK the rest is just for plant/environment nerds! 

The natural environment on the farm is quite diverse.  Not as high as the main peaks of the Wolkberg mountains to the south and east, the hills are nevertheless high enough to create a diversity of local climates.  The first hill I ascended was quite dry, covered in light woodland with a good covering of grass.  Luckily this early in the season, the grass was still fairly short, so I could walk about easily.  The Euphorbia pulvinata plants start about halfway up the hill.  They often grow wedged amidst rocks, but sometimes in patches of open ground.  It’s interesting to me to see them growing in savannah woodland, since this species is more in my mind associated with open, rocky grassland.  Climbing to the top of the hill I noticed a second species of small euphorbia, this one Euphorbia schinzii.  It is a widespread species with many different forms.  These were interesting to me since some of them somewhat resembled the Euphorbia clivicola plants that are mostly restricted to eastern Polokwane.  These schinzii plants were much less robust, though.  Also prominent on this hill were the great tree-like Euphorbia ingens.

From this hill I hiked eastwards along the crests and to the peaks of two higher hills.  Here the climate became visibly moister, and the landscape changed.  It was more grassland with patches of scrubby thicket growth.  Also prominent were extensive rocky regions including rock sheets patchily covered with shallow soil and with shallow, water-filled depressions.  Succulents here were mainly restricted to the shallow soil.  I didn’t see any more Euphorbias here, but some other very interesting plants, including the Resurrection Plant, Myrothamnus flabellifolius.  These plants dry out rapidly and apparently completely, looking dead and dry over the dry season.  But with rain they very rapidly respond, apparently returning to life and becoming green!  These plants were also associated with the rock sheets.

Other succulents included tackies, species of the Crassula family: the pig’s ear tacky, Cotyledon orbiculata, the Bonsai tacky, Crassula sarcocaulis, and other species – Kalanchoe rotundifolia, Kalanchoe paniculata, Crassula swaziensis (which were especially abundant around the rock sheets).  The Mesemb family featured in the form of a small Delosperma with cream-white flowers, and a white-flowered Khadia, both growing as very small tufts.  Aloes included Aloe aculeata, A. greatheadii or a related form, the cliff aloe Aloe arborescens, and a robust grass aloe, likely the widespread species Aloe boylei.  The latter seemed to have been browsed, many of the plants having branched as they re-sprouted.  I saw only a single Carrion Flower, either a Huernia stapelioides, or a Huernia insigniflora.  It wasn’t flowering so I couldn’t tell for sure.  Other interesting succulents were Senecio barbertonicus, a succulent member of the daisy family, here appearing thicker and more robust than the ones I know from elsewhere; Senecio oxyrifolius, with beautiful roundish leaves sprouting from subterranean tubers; Kleinia longiflora, just a single but very robust and thick specimen, unusual because I associate it with much drier regions; Cyphostemma lanigerum, a widespread member of the grape family, resprouting from underground tubers but often with at least some persistent above-ground growth; Adenia digitata, another tuberous plant, a relative of passion flowers; a single Ipomoea albivenia plant; small Anacampseros plants in the shallow soil around the rock sheets … probably a form of Anacampseros subnuda.

 

Other interesting plants include small, charming Pelargoniums; a beautiful flowering small Xerophyta on the high hill crests; lots of lovely Barberton daisies, including the one I show here being sampled by a small beetle; several other daisy species including large, yellow-flowered species and tiny Helichrysums in the high, rocky regions; a species of wild jasmine; species of Carissa or num-num; a single Streptocarpus flowering in the shade of a shrub; a species of Jatropha (a tuberous relative of Euphorbias); some lovely spotted Ledebourias; several Flame Lilies, Scadoxus puniceus; also Sore-eye Flowers, Boophone disticha; many other charming bulbous species that weren’t flowering and that I couldn’t identify; yellow-flowered Grewia’s or raisin-bushes; also the pink-flowered Cross Berry, Grewia occidentalis; trees including cabbage trees, Cussonia spicata and Cussonia natalensis; several species of thorn tree (old name Acacia but now reclassified as, among others, Vachellia), Weeping Wattles, Peltophorum africanum; a few large sumach-beans, Elephantorrhiza burkei; a lovely kind of wild grape, Rhoicissus, with greyish leaves covered with short, white, felty hairs; stem-fruits, Englerophytum magalismontanum; Currant-bushes, Ozoroa (though I can’t say which species); a few species of Rhus/Searsia; species of Guarri, Euclea; some Wild Olives; beautiful purple-flowered Cork Bushes, Mundulea sericea.

 

I did watch for other things than plants as well!  Birds encountered included Rock Buntings, a female Amethyst Starling, a Chinspot Batis, an eagle flying overhead (couldn’t ID it though), Lazy  Cisticolas, and calling cuckoos down in the valleys – Red-Chested Cuckoos and a Black Cuckoo.  Those I only heard, rather than see.  Other animals included skinks, lizards (flat lizards, probably) and perhaps an Agama that ran so fast I couldn’t see it very clearly.  There were many insects, including butterflies and a host of different beetles.  The tiny ones eating the daisies, other larger chafer-like ones apparently attracted by the cow dung, and one brightly-black-and-yellow CMR beetle.

 

I didn’t take many photos, since my camera battery was apparently not recharging fully, leaving me only twenty minutes or so of active camera time.  But on coming home when I plugged my camera in, it apparently recharged to over an hour and a half!  So … I hope the battery is all right.  I would like to return to the farm two weeks from now, and again see what I can see and this time hopefully take many more photos!

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WillemSvdMerwe
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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:iconsaskiaannerie:
SaskiaAnnerie Featured By Owner Jan 15, 2015  Hobbyist Photographer
Your drawings are really great. Amazing gallery :)
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:iconwillemsvdmerwe:
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2015
Thanks a lot!
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:iconblurwing:
BlurWing Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015
I love it when a comment or DD takes me to a page that i would not have seen otherwise... You have a remarkable gallery and talent!! 
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:iconwillemsvdmerwe:
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Jan 6, 2015
Aw thanks very much!
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:iconevometheus6082:
Evometheus6082 Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2015  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
Happy New Years
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:iconwillemsvdmerwe:
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2015
Thanks!  To you too!
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:icondreamynaria:
DreamyNaria Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Your art is amazing!! OMG 
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:iconwillemsvdmerwe:
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Dec 16, 2014
Thank you very much!
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:iconasatirasiti:
AsatiraSiti Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Kudos on such a beautiful gallery! I can't stop faving!
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:iconwillemsvdmerwe:
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2014
Aw thanks very much!
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