will be on exhibit at the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Fort Hays, Kansas from January 17 until May 3, 2015 (extended to August 31).
The Wildlife Experience Museum; Denver, CO
The Wildling Art Museum; Santa Barbara, CA
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; Tucson, AZ
Hiram Blauvelt Art Museum; Oradell, NJ
Kenosha Public Museum; Kenosha, WI
Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center; Chadron, NE
HOUSTON MUSEUM OF NATURAL SCIENCE
October 2, 2015 - February 28, 2016
5555 Hermann Park Drive
Houston, TX 77030
(713) 639-4629; hmns.org
Below are images and captions for the fifty paintings included in the current exhibition. Clicking on any image will reveal a larger version of it.
HARRIS' HAWK & COMMON CHUCKWALLA (2006)
acrylic 30" x 20" Accumulations of rock make wonderful habitat for many lizard species. They provide a wide temperature gradient that makes it easy for the animals to thermoregulate, basking on a sun-exposed surface to elevate their body temperature and retreating into a cool crevice to lower it. Such crevices also afford safe fortification against many predators. Among the most rock-adapted reptiles are the five Chuckwalla species of the genus Sauromalus, found in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, including a number of islands in the Sea of Cortez, where three described species are endemic. The Common Chuckwalla (S. ater) is typical of the group. With a high optimal body temperature, it spends a lot of time basking on exposed rocks, usually near a crevice which it will slide into at the hint of danger. If pressed, it will gulp air and inflate its body, making it quite impossible to pull out. Harris' Hawk (Parabuteo unicictus) is a unique raptor species of the American tropics. Normally shunning thick jungles, it haunts llanos, chaco, chaparral and scrub forest in the drier parts of that region, ranging as far north as the southern tip of Nevada. Fast and powerful, this social bird feeds on a variety of prey, from rabbits and ducks to reptiles. Incidental subjects in this painting include a Compass Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus cylindraceus ), honey ants (Myrmecosus sp.), Desert Spiny Lizard (Sceloporus magister), Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), and Costa's Hummingbird (Calypte costae).
RIPARIAN RASHOMON (2009)
acrylic diptych on illustration board 15"; 15" x 20"
AGARRANDO LA MAÑANA—BLACK VULTURES (1994)
India ink wash 14" x 20"
A KERANGAS FOREST FLOOR (2010)
acrylic on illustration board 30" x 20"
acrylic 14" x 9"Just where on the reptile family tree to put the worm lizards, or amphisbaenians, has long been a puzzle for taxonomists. Traditionally lumped with the lizards, these days they're more often given their own suborder alongside the snakes and lizards. What ever their systematics, their appearance and habits share more in common with earthworms than reptiles. Spending most of their lives below ground, they progress with a worm-like, peristaltic movement of their body segments. On the surface, they can move in a more typical serpentine fashion. Most amphisbaenians are found in tropical Africa and South America, but a few are found as far north as the Mediterranean, and in the Americas to Florida and northwestern Mexico. Unlike other amphisbaenians, the wormlike visage of the little-known Mexican genus Bipes is rather spoiled by the presence of a pair of stout digging forelimbs. Like the rest of their group, none of whom bear visible limbs, the 3-4 known Bipes species dig by forcing their hard little noses into the soil and moving them back and forth. The forelimbs are used to push loosened soil out of the way. They seem to subsist mostly upon termites and ants, and sometimes forage upon the surface at night. Two Bipes species occur in Michoacán and Guerrero, but the best-known of the group, B. biporus, is found in Baja California, where it is known as the Ajolote. A number of very poorly documented records from other parts of Mexico, Arizona, and as far north as Nebraska, suggest that it may be more widespread than believed. In this painting, an Ajolote forages about a rotting fencepost on termites of the genus Reticulitermes.
BLACK SKIMMER (2003)
acrylic on illustration board 22" x 30"
RETICULATED PYTHON & MASKED FINFOOT (1999)
acrylic on illustration board 20” x 30”
CALIFORNIA CONDOR (2005)
oil 72" x 108"
LESSER FLAMINGOS (2005)
oil 72” x 108” Of the six species of flamingo, the Lesser Flamingo (Phoeniconaias minor) is the most abundant, with some four million individuals ranging across sub-Saharan Africa, and smaller populations on the Arabian Peninsula, India and Pakistan. At just over a yard in height, it is also the smallest species. Haunting shallow, alkaline lakes, it feeds by forcing water through lammellae inside its bill with powerful tongue movements, filtering out algae and tiny invertebrates. Throughout its range, the Lesser shares this habitat with its much larger cousin, the Greater Flamingo (P. roseus). There is little competition for food between the two, though. The lesser feeds nearer to the surface, and its bill filters out smaller organisms.
acrylic 18” x 24”
India ink wash & watercolor on paper 22" x 16"
Mobbing is a behavior engaged in by many different types of birds, and a number of mammals and fishes as well. It's basically the relentless harassment of a potential predator, and it's most common and important when the mobbers have young to defend. There are obvious dangers in mobbing, although it's almost always directed at predators that have no advantage over the mobber, either in position or speed. The possible benefits of mobbing include driving predators away from nesting territory, alerting young to the presence of a predator, teaching young what predators look like, and alerting a community to the presence of a predator. Owls in general are mobbed mercilessly by many kinds of birds. Among the more ruthless mobbers are flycatchers like the kingbirds. Long-eared Owls (Asio otus) are distributed widely across the Northern Hemisphere and south into Africa. They nest and roost in heavy woods, which is where we normally see them, but at night when they're foraging, they are creatures of open meadows. In the Rocky Mountains, they frequently hunt over sage steppes. Eastern Kingbirds (Tyrannus tyrannus) have a red crown patch that's almost always completely obscured by black feathers. As kind of a joke, I used a touch of watercolor to show those red feathers peeking through.
PLUSH-CRESTED JAYS MOB AN ORNATE HAWK-EAGLE (2003)
acrylic on illustration board 30” x 10”
Plush-crested Jays (Cyanocorax chrysops) are common birds that exploit the edges of a variety of tropical forest types from Eastern Peru to Northen Argentina. Like most corvids, they persecute birds of prey relentlessly. In this painting a group of these jays harass the big and powerful Ornate Hawk Eagle (Spizaetus ornatus), a spectacular raptor that is rather uncommon, but found widely throughout the neotropical region. Similar eagles of the same genus are found throughout Asia and tropical Africa. Incidental creatures in this piece include a Thread-waisted Wasp (family Sphecidae), a Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides), an anole (Anolis sp.), White-necked Puffbird (Notharchus macrorhynchus), Red-legged Honeycreeper (Cyanerpes cyaneus), and a Saddleback Tamarin (Sanguinus fuscicollis).
GREAT TINAMOU (1994)
acrylic 20” x 15”
Tinamous comprise an order of chicken-like birds found in tropical America that is at least 17 million years old. Forty-seven modern tinamou species are placed in a single family. They are related to, and according to some authorities should be considered members of, the ratites, the group containing the Ostrich, Emu, Kiwis, Cassowaries and Rheas. Unlike the ratites, Tinamous have a keeled sternum and can fly, though not terribly well. It seems likely that ratites and tinamous derived from a common flying ancestor, and the rheas, ostriches and Antipodean ratites each evolved flightlessness separately, but this model is not universally accepted. Male tinamous select the nesting site, and frequently mate with multiple females, who lay their eggs in the communal nest. The eggs are incubated and the young are defended by the male. The Great Tinamou (Tinamus major) is one of the most widespread species, ranging from Guatemala to Bolivia and central Brazil. Its beautiful turquoise eggs are laid between the buttresses of a large rainforest tree like this Hymenolobium. When a male with chicks is ill at ease, he strikes an odd posture, tilting body forward with rump in the air. Once apprehension turns to fear, he engages in a distraction display, running about wildly with wings spread and head held low. The haunting, mellifluous whistle of this bird is a common evening sound in pristine neotropical lowland rainforests, and I tried to convey in this painting some of the mournful, mysterious mood it evokes in me. On the ground a Central American Jungle Runner (Ameiva festiva) basks while a yellow Eyelash Palm Pitviper (Bothriechis schlegelii) lurks in the foliage above. The huge liana draped about the tree trunks is the spectacular Monkey Ladder (Bauhinia guianensis).
acrylic 20" x 30"
The imperative to avoid being eaten is one of the prime drivers of evolution. Protective armor can be an effective defense, and it has evolved independently in many animal groups. Its main liability is in adding weight and reducing flexibility, limiting the creature's ability to flee from predators, thus entrenching its own value. Among modern mammals, this defense is the specialty of the South American armadillos, whose success is confirmed by the family's northward expansion over the past few million years, leaving two species in Central America, one of them ranging well into the United States. Best protected are the two species of three-banded armadillos (Tolypeutes spp.), which can roll up into perfect plated spheres. In this painting, the fortification of the species T. matacus is being tested by a pair of gangly, knock-kneed Maned Wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus). These unusual canids of the South American plains have no close living relatives. Despite their exceptionally long legs, they are not particularly fleet of foot, but probably benefit from them by being able to see over tall grass. Normally solitary hunters, during the breeding season mated couples often forage together. The Maned Wolf's diet consists of small mammals, birds, reptiles, insects and fruit. The title of this painting, “Gostoso,” is a Brazilian soccer cheer, roughly the Portuguese equivalent of “tasty.” Incidental subjects include Pampas Grass (Cortaderia argentea), Spiny Tree Lizard (Tropidurus spinulosus), Yellow-headed Caracara (Milvago chimachima), spinetail (family Furnariidae) and Black Howler Monkey (Allouatta caraya).
ASCENSIÓN-- STRAWBERRY POISON FROG & TADPOLE (2004)
acrylic on illustration board 40” x 15”
To be evolutionarily successful, an individual organism must produce offspring that live long enough to produce another generation themselves. This mandates an investment on the parents' part. One option is to lay out the energy to produce great quantities of young, most of which will be eaten by predators or otherwise fail to reach adulthood. Producing fewer young requires parental care to assure their long-term survival. Reproductive approaches that produce lots of young are known as r-strategies, those that depend on parental care are called K-strategies. Among vertebrates, the frogs exhibit the greatest diversity of reproductive tactics, including extreme cases of r- and K-strategies. Most notable of the K-strategists are the poison frogs of the family Dendrobatidae, a group of beautiful and tiny diurnal amphibians found throughout the American tropics, well known for producing complex alkaloid skin secretions. The Central American Strawberry Poison Frog (Oophaga pumilio) deposits several eggs on a leaf on the forest floor, which are guarded by the male. Upon hatching, the tadpoles wriggle onto the female’s back, and are taxied up the trunk of a tree to a pre-selected bromeliad, where they are deposited into one of the water vessels formed within the axils of these arboreal epiphytes. Every few days, the female lays an unfertilized egg for each of her offspring to feed upon. Incidental creatures in this painting include an Agouti (Dasyprocta punctata), a Spectacled Antpitta (Hylopezus perspicallitus), a Racerunner (Ameiva festiva), a Lanternbug (Fulgora laternaria), a Leaf-Footed Bug (Anisosceles sp.), a leafhopper (Umbonia sp.), a Consul Butterfly (Consul fabius), and numerous ants of the species Pheidole bicornis, which are dependent upon Piper trees, like the one immediately behind the frog.
HARMATTAN HARMONY—BLACK KITE, GRAY
PLANTAIN-EATERS & RED-BILLED HORNBILL (2002)
India ink wash and watercolor on paper 20” x 30”
acrylic on illustration board 18” x 24”
acrylic 20" x 30"
acrylic on illustration board 24” x 18”
oil triptych on linen 36" x 36"; 36" x 36"; 36" x 36"
Within the order of birds, no more powerful predator exists than the Harpy Eagle (Harpia harpyja). A large hen can weigh as much as twenty pounds. Long-tailed and surprisingly agile for such a massive bird, this uncommon eagle hunts monkeys, sloths, agoutis and other similarly-sized mammals throughout the tropical rainforests of the New World, flying in short sprints and rarely venturing above the forest canopy, except during nesting, when an eyrie high in an emergent tree cradles the single egg. The Harpy's terrible feet are unmatched in size and power: four brutal toes drive three-inch talons deep into the quarry's vital organs. Here the unfortunate victim is a Three-toed Sloth (Bradypus infuscatus), a well-known and common rainforest mammal, plucked from its favorite food source, a Cecropia tree.
acrylic 15" x40"
The cuckoos are an ancient and fascinating bird group that is at least 40 million years old. This group never seemed to produce any powerful fliers, and had a tendency to evolve into running forms. Despite this, it managed to colonize Australia, New Guinea and Madagascar. Many cuckoos are brood parasites, meaning they lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, to be raised by “Foster parents,” but this is by no means universal. Cuckoos exhibit a variety of parenting strategies, including cooperative parenting in the anis and role reversal and polyandry in some of the coucals. Among the many cuckoo taxa are the Old World coucals, the Madagascan couas, the Asian malkohas, the American anis and perhaps the African turacos...maybe even the bizarre South American Hoatzin (Opisthocomus hoazin). Also included is that icon of the desert southwest, the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), one of two members of a genus found in Mexico and the southwestern U.S. The two species look and behave similarly, but the larger, northern one has a longer bill and prefers more open country. Roadrunners are omnivores, feeding on fruits and seeds as well as large invertebrates, reptiles and small birds and mammals, which they run down. Most of the situations I paint are hypothetical but plausible, but this piece was based upon an event I witnessed in California's Anza Borrego State Park: a roadrunner carrying a small dead bird was running in the haphazard, zig-zag evasive mode typical of its species, barely keeping half a step ahead of the mobbing of two others. Unfortunately, distinguishing whether any of the fast-moving birds were adults or juveniles was beyond my capacity, and identifying the sex of a roadrunner under any circumstances requires nearly supernatural powers. My assumption is that I watched either two juveniles chasing a parent or a mated pair chasing a young, inexperienced bird. The former scenario is probably most likely, but it was the latter that I selected to commit to illustration board. I was unable as well to identify the focal point of the fracas, but decided that one of the nondescript brown towhees would serve as good a candidate as any. While taking artistic liberties, I also moved the setting slightly east, to the Sonoran Desert, and painted the scrub towhee of that region, the Canyon Towhee (Pipilo fuscus).
SPECTRAL BAT & SMOOTH-BILLED ANIS (2012)
India ink wash on paper 20” x 15”
ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS--SIDE-BLOTCHED LIZARDS
acrylic on illustration board 16" x 20"
SOUTHERN CROSS—PENNANT-WINGED NIGHTJAR (1998)
India ink wash on paper 23” x 17”
A crucial ingredient to evolutionary success is the ability to find and attract a high-quality mate. This is so important that it's caused many animals, usually the males, to evolve outlandish ornamentation that is attractive indeed, but downright dangerous, too. Think of the peacock's long train that slows down his flight and impedes his ability to run through thick brush. Because really big ornaments are so risky, they almost always evolve in temporary integumentary derivatives like feathers that can be shed as soon as possible after the eggs have been fertilized. Among nature's most spectacular breeding adornments are the wings of the male Pennant-winged Nightjar (Cosmetornis vexillarius) of southern Africa. His inner primary feathers form a pair of “pennants” that can trail over two feet behind him. During his nuptial display he flies in low circles, emitting a strange katydid-like twitter. Finding an exposed perch like the termitarium in this painting, he then spreads his wings, slowly rotating them. Soon after breeding, the inner-most primary is dropped, but the rest of his moult does not continue until after the migration north of the equator for the austral winter, which often is executed in flocks. A member of the same order that includes the American nighthawks and whip-poor-wills, the Pennant-winged Nightjar feeds in the manner characteristic of the group, on insects captured in flight.
VARIOUS CENTRAL AMERICAN BUTTERFLIES (2003)
watercolor on bristol board 10” x 36”
These seven butterflies were selected and copied life-size from field studies in my Central American sketchbooks from 1992-'93. Both dorsal (upper) and ventral (under) views are shown. Lycorea cleobaea was a roadkill from Golfito, Costa Rica. Opsiphanes tamarindii was found drowned in Lake Nicaragua. Morpho peleides was found dead at La Selva Biological Station, near Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí, Costa Rica. Caligo illioneus was roadkilled near Tocumén, Panama, a fate shared by Papilio thoas in Chiriquí Grande, Panama, and Colobura dirce near Esparza, Costa Rica. Callicore peralta was found dead on Costa Rica's Osa Peninsula.
acrylic 26” x 10”A large and unusual monkey restricted to the mountains of central Ethiopia is the Gelada (Theropithecus gelada). Like that of its close relatives the baboons and drills, Gelada social structure is very complex and dynamic. In this species the social units seem to be held together mostly by the bonds between individuals of the same sex, especially females, who tend to associate more among themselves. Nights are spent sleeping on the faces of rocky gorges, where the animals feel secure and from where they never stray far. During the day they forage for grasses, from which they derive practically all of their nourishment -- a diet unique among primates. The adult male is easily distinguished by his long golden mane and whiskers, and a red triangle of bare skin framed by short grizzled fur on his chest. Perching elsewhere on the cliff are a lizard (Agama sp.) and a Pectinator (Pectinator spekei), an unusual rodent distantly related to the Chinchilla.
COAST HORNED LIZARD (1998)
acrylic 21" x 30"This piece was designed to look as austere as the Mojave desert that it depicts. The subject, a Coast Horned Lizard (Phrynosoma coronatum) is centered on the board within very simple arcking lines, eating honey ants (Myrmecocystus sp.), ants being the usual horned lizard fare. A total of fourteen species of horned lizards populate most of western North America, from southern British Columbia to Guatemala. They are a pretty uniform lot, small lizards (the giant among them is a Mexican brute of eight inches), flattened and covered with spines. The species depicted and one other are known to have the ability to squirt a potential predator with blood issued from the corner of their eye. This capacity was reported for over a century in popular lore and has been doubted by many, and only recently confirmed conclusively. The response seems to be an anti-coyote device, which accounts for the usual inability for non-canid creatures like us to elicit it.
GOLDEN EAGLE & PRAIRIE FALCON (2011)
India ink wash on paper 22" x 15"
JAGUAR & COLLARED PECCARIES (1994)
oil 32" x 42"The only modern big cat of the New World, the Jaguar (Panthera onca) ranges from northern Argentina to the southwestern U.S. Until the end of the Pleistocene, it occurred throughout the southeastern states, and seems to have been especially common in Florida. Over the past century, its presence north of Mexico has probably consisted of little more than occasional young males dispersing from Mexico. An old male Jaguar that had roamed southern Arizona for a number of years died in 2009. These cats are generalist predators, feeding on a wide range of quarry, but in the northern part of their range, the piglike Collared Peccary (Pecari tajacu) or Javelina is by far the most important. Here, one of these great cats prepares to charge a group of peccaries in a deciduous scrub forest. The colors and lighting of this habitat, especially during the dry season, when many of the trees have lost their leaves, are quite peculiar unto themselves and inspired me to try to characterize them with this sort of “hyper-pointilism” technique.
acrylic on illustration board 6” x 12”
acrylic 30” x 20”
The hornbills comprise a family of tropical Old World birds that are related to kingfishers but very similar in appearance and habits to the New World toucans, which are more closely related to woodpeckers. This is one of many examples in nature of convergent evolution, where two unrelated animals occupying similar niches evolve similar forms. Harder to explain is the fact that through much of their range in Asia, hornbills are known by the Malay name “tucan,” the same name given to their South American analogs by the Tupi Indians. Probably the best known hornbill is the Great Pied Hornbill (Buceros bicornis), which ranges from India through Sumatra and has been a rather common aviary bird for many years, having been bred in captivity since 1953. Like most hornbills, these are essentially forest birds, exploiting a number of different forest types up to an elevation of about 2000 meters. Usually occurring in pairs or small family parties, these birds sometimes congregate in groups of over one hundred to feed in large fruiting trees. Fruits, mostly figs, make up the bulk of their diet. During the breeding season the male bolsters the growing nestling's protein supply by delivering extra animal matter to the nest hole, where the female remains sealed until the chick is about half grown.
GREAT HELMETED HORNBILL (1998)
acrylic on illustration board 30” x 20”
The massive casques adorning the beaks of many hornbill species contain mostly air, but the Great Helmeted Hornbill (Rhinoplax vigil) of Southeast Asia has a casque of solid ivory. The function of this heavy ornament is the subject of some conjecture; it certainly makes flight more difficult, even with the counterbalancing effect of elongated central tail feathers. It has also resulted quite literally in a price being put on the birds' heads, which are coveted by Chinese artisans who for centuries have used them to create delicate carvings known as ho-ting. Some authorities claim that the males have "jousting" contests. Perhaps the extra inertia helps them peck away loose bark in search of prey. My own objective with this piece was simply to depict the effort necessary to hoist the bird's skull into the air. At the bottom of the field a startled Crested Lizard (Bronchocela cristatella) scampers away as a Little Spiderhunter (Arachnothera longirostra) forages amongst the foliage.
MALAYSIAN RHINOCEROS HORNBILL (2003)
acrylic on illustration board 18” x 30”
In the forests of the Sunda Shelf, from peninsular Malaysia through Sumatra, Java and Borneo, the braying calls and loud, huffing wingbeats of the Rhinoceros Hornbill (Buceros rhinoceros) are familiar sounds. Both sexes sport a large orange casque on the bill. This hollow ornament is larger in the male bird, and varies in shape among three distinct races: one on Java, one on Borneo, and one on Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula. In this painting a large male hops along a tree branch with a fig, possibly to present it to a mate walled up inside her nesting hole. This hopping gait is common among smaller perching birds, but I can think of no other bird as large as a hornbill that habitually moves in this fashion. Incidental creatures in this painting include a Slender Squirrel (Sundasciurus tenuis), a small flock of Oriental White-eyes (Zosterops palpebrosus), a Long-horned Beetle (Batocera sp.) and a Common Mormon Swallowtail (Papilio polytes).
PHANTOMS OF THE MOJAVE—BANDED GECKO (2010)
acrylic 20" x 15"
acrylic 30" x 20"Hibernation is one of the more effective strategies temperate animals have developed to survive winter's cold temperatures and lack of food resources. Many birds, bats and even insects opt instead for seasonal migration, exploiting distant habitats during different seasons. A few, like the Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) and the Poorwill (Phalaenoptilus nuttallii) use a combination of the two. Poorwills, relatives of nighthawks, breed in arid parts of western North America from southern Canada into northern Mexico; northern individuals seem to winter in the desert southwest. A number of bird species use daily torpor to minimize energy loss during cool nights or brief bad weather. Members of three related orders, the goatsuckers, hummingbirds and possibly the swifts, all show some abilities at metabolic adjustment, but none to the degree of the little Poorwill, which, in addition to its natural tendencies toward torpor, feeds heavily on beetles, rich in polyunsaturated fats, which remain liquid and metabolically available at low temperatures. In the laboratory, Poorwills have been observed sustaining periods of torpor for over 80 days, and in the wild as long as 25 days. A shallow shelter, open to the southern sun is selected: a patch of cactus or rock niche to which the bird develops substantial fidelity. After sundown, the torpid Poorwill's body temperature begins to fall, until the ambient temperature reaches 5.5?C, an apparent optimum hibernating level which the bird tries to maintain. Solar radiation raises the body temperature daily, presumably allowing the option to forage during warm nights. I know of no human witnesses to a Poorwill rousing from torpor in the wild, but I imagine the bird backing out of his shelter to fully bask in the final evening rays, periodically flapping his wings to elevate his body temperature. It's not known how severe a winter these birds can survive, but a sufficient winter insect population, rather than temperature, is probably the limiting factor. Instead of showing the kind of country where Poorwills are known to commonly winter, I tried in this painting to depict a habitat in the harshest extreme that I could imagine the bird toughing out. Also shown reviving are Glacier Lilies (Erythronium grandiflora), Convergent Ladybird Beetles (Hippodamia convergens), Western Boxelder Bug (Boisea rubrolineata), and snowfleas (Hypogastrura sp.), cold-adapted springtails that climb onto the snow's surface to feed on algae.
BAT-EARED FOX (2006)
acrylic on illustration board 20” x 10”
The evolutionary history of the dog family is a complex puzzle that poses many interesting questions. Zoologists have traditionally relied on physical features alone to piece together phylogenetic relationships between living animals, but the recent advent of molecular analysis has forced a lot of rethinking of evolutionary affinities. The peculiar little Bat-eared Fox (Otocyon megalotis) is one of a number of modern canids that appear to have no close relatives. Because of its primitive-looking teeth, which are very small and numerous, it was long considered to represent an ancient line. Chromosomal studies, though, suggest that its odd dentition resulted from a fairly recent mutation, and that the species arose from an ancient fox lineage that also gave rise to the similar Fennec (Fennecus zerda) of North Africa and the cat-like American gray foxes (Urocyon spp.). Bat-eared Foxes are found in African steppes and savannas from Ethiopia and Angola south. Capable diggers, they excavate complex tunnel networks where they escape from heat and enemies and raise their litters of two to six pups. They feed on insects, mostly termites, with occasional vertebrate supplements.
STARGAZING--PEREGRINE FALCON (2008)
India ink wash on paper 15" x 24"
DISCOURAGER OF HESITANCY--KING-IN-HIS-CARRIAGE ORCHIDS (2012)
acrylic on illustration board 15” x 7½”
A BRICK HOUSE— ENGLISH SPARROW & PAPER WASP (1992)
acrylic 27" x 23"
PHORESY—NEOTROPICAL PSEUDOSCORPIONS & HARLEQUIN BEETLE (2014)
acrylic on panel 14” x 9”
One of the main characteristics of nearly all animals is their ability to move from one place to another. This seems obvious, but it's an important and valuable skill that is much more restricted in other kingdoms. Leaving the home turf benefits an organism by sidestepping competition with relatives, and life has evolved countless interesting ways of dispersing itself. Pseudoscorpions are tiny arachnids, a few millimeters long, that can be found in just about any habitat, nearly anywhere on Earth, although because of their size, most people have never noticed one. Dispersing very far is difficult for such minute creatures. Many small insects can fly. Some spiders, mites and caterpillars disperse by “ballooning,” floating on the breeze from a long strand of silk. Many pseudoscorpions and other small invertebrates disperse by phoresy, or commensally hitchhiking on a larger animal. The pseudoscorpion Cordylochernes scorpioides is habitually carried to better habitat on the back of a Harlequin Beetle (Acrocinus longimanis). Both animals are distributed widely through Tropical America. Like most other long-horned beetles, the larval Harlequin Beetle is a wood borer. After metamorphosis, the adult beetle emerges to the mossy surface of the dead old tree in which it spent its youth. This is the habitat of C. scorpioides, which preys on small arthropods. Upon sensing a Harlequin Beetle, a pseudoscorpion will approach it and pinch its abdomen, causing the beetle to lift its wings and allow the smaller animal to climb underneath them. A male C. scorpioides will defend his patch of beetle back against other male pseudoscorpions, and mate with females there. A large, newly-dead tree is the preferred place for Harlequin Beetles to mate and lay eggs and for C. scorpioides to live, so the ride/rider relationship is an apt match. The pseudoscorpion species Parachelifer lativittatus also regularly rides on Harlequin Beetles, further up, on the sides of the thorax. Beneath the phoretic relationship depicted, a Margay (Leopardus wiedii) crosses the forest floor.
PASSENGERS OF FORTUNE--CARMINE BEE-EATERS (2005)
acrylic on illustration board 40” x 15”
CONVOY THROUGH THE CANOPY—deBRAZZA'S MONKEYS (2000)
acrylic triptych on illustration board 30” x 20”, 30”, 20”
This painting depicts a relationship that's related to the commensal feeding of the remora and shark and the bee-eater and Ostrich, but is more symbiotic, that is, both parties experience a benefit from their relationship, transitory though it may be. One of the many African monkey species known as “guenons,” de Brazza's Monkey (Cercopithecus neglectus) inhabits various types of forest, usually near rivers, from southeastern Cameroon through the southern Central African Republic and throughout most of the former Zaire. Here we see a troop moving along a massive fig tree, accompanied by Long-tailed Hornbills (Tockus albocristatus) and Oil Palm Squirrels (Protoxerus stangeri). Both of these species habitually travel with monkeys, eating insects that are disturbed by their movement, such as the giant cicada (Cicadidae) in the right panel. The sharp-eyed hornbills return the favor by making a loud racket if they spot a Crowned Eagle, warning the primates of the presence of an important predator. I've taken some artistic liberties in this piece by depicting such a large group of monkeys so close to a small settlement of Humans, the most important monkey predator of all in Central Africa. Incidental animals in this piece include a Crested Chameleon (Chameleo cristatus), Bush Viper (Atheris hispidus), Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Great Blue Touracos (Corythaeola cristata), Gray Parrots (Psittacus erithacus), Palm Swift (Cypsiurus parvus), Red-rumped Tinker Bird (Pogoniulus chrysoconus), Snowy-crowned Robin-chat (Cossypha niveicapilla), Chestnut Wattle-eyes (Platysteira castanea) and Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus).
BLACK AND WHITE AND RED ALL OVER—SPOTTED HYENAS AND PLAINS ZEBRA (1999)
acrylic on illustration board 20” x 17”
Although they resemble dogs, the four species of hyena are most closely related to the mongoose family. By far the largest and most powerful member of the group, the Spotted Hyena (Crocuta crocuta) ranged over most of the Old World during the Pleistocene, but today is restricted to sub-Saharan Africa. Despite this, it is still a highly successful species, outnumbering other large African predators and able to function as a scavenger, pirate, solitary hunter or pack hunter. Its incredibly powerful jaws enable it to crack large bones and exploit the marrow within, a food source inaccessible to other animals. Fetal female hyenas develop with high levels of androgens in their blood, a quirk resulting in their well-known mock male genitalia. Here a pair of hyenas pause over their meal, a Plains Zebra (Equus burchelli). Interestingly enough, it seems that the three animals we call zebras do not really constitute a discrete group, but that all modern equids evolved from a striped ancestor. Some modern forms lost their stripes, while members of two distinct lines retained theirs. This pattern probably does not aid camouflage, but rather works as a social signal to other zebras. And as for the age-old question...I say definitely white with black stripes. In the background is a small group of Bronze Mannikins (Lonchura cucullata).
acrylic on illustration board 30” x 20”
SPOTTED EAGLE OWL (1998)
acrylic on illustration board 30” x 20”
THREE MORE WORLDS— RAINBOW TROUT & OSPREY (1998)
acrylic on illustration board 30" x 20"
YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT HERON (2004)
acrylic on illustration board 24" x 18"The Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) haunts coastal marshes from Massachusetts to Brazil, and Panamá to Perú on the Pacific side. It also occurs on the Galápagos and throughout the West Indies. Unlike its nearly cosmopolitan cousin the Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), which hunts fish from dawn to dusk, the Yellow-crowned often stalks the crustaceans that make up the bulk of its diet at midday. In recent years this species has increased its range in the United States as far west as Illinois. Yellow-crowned Night herons also breed on Baja California as well as the eastern shore of the Sea of Cortés. The butterfly on the bank belongs to the genus Eunica.
CRASH-BARRIER WALTZER—BLACK-BILLED MAGPIE (2005)acrylic on illustration board 30” x 20”
PRAIRIE SENTINEL--PRAIRIE RATTLESNAKE & AMERICAN BISON (2002)
acrylic 15” x 40”
acrylic 30" x 20"
SPRAWL--OUSTALET'S CHAMELEON (2007)
acrylic 18' x 24"
APRIL HIBERNACULUM (2011)
acrylic on illustration board 20” x 12”Rattlesnakes survive cold winters by hibernating, usually communally, in small caverns called hibernacula. Returning to the site in autumn, they spend more time inside the hibernaculum as the weather gets colder, and daytime sunning sessions outside of the entrance become less frequent as they become less effective. The process is reversed in the spring, with the snakes spending a week or so sleeping in the cavern at night and basking outside during the warmest hours before finally dispersing. Until a decade ago, the rattlesnakes of much of the western U.S. were considered members of a single species, Crotalus viridis. Since then, it's become clear that C. viridis represented a large complex that taxonomists are still trying to disentangle. The Great Basin Rattlesnake, which ranges from southeastern Oregon through most of Nevada, western Utah and southern Idaho, has gone from a subspecies of C. viridis to a subspecies of C. oreganus, the first species to be split from the group. Today, it's generally given its own species, C. lutusos, which is likely to see further future splitting.
These last six paintings are reconstructions of exinct fauna of western North America.
acrylic on illustration board 15" x 20"
APATOSAURUS (1997)acrylic 15” x 10” It's a shame to lose the best-known of all dinosaur names, but thanks to a century-old mix-up involving two specimens, one with the wrong head, being described as representing different genera, Brontosaurus was recently abandoned in favor of the precedent Apatosaurus. It was once speculated that the long necks of these sauropods allowed them to browse high in the treetops or even to breath while deep underwater, but closer study found that the neck musculature could not elevate the structure vertically. More likely, it merely allowed them to reach a considerable amount of plant food without having to move their massive bodies, as the painting illustrates. Apatosaurus lived about 150 million years ago, during the Kimmeridgian and Tithonian ages of the Jurassic period. Its fossils have been found in sites in Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma and Wyoming. This painting was originally done as an illustration for Frank DeCourten's book, “The Dinosaurs of Utah.”
BRACHIOSAURUS (1997)acrylic 15” x 10”Unlike its contemporary Apatosaurus, the robust Brachiosaurus could hold its head high, and probably specialized in browsing the leaves of tall trees that were unavailable to most other land herbivores—so much so, that it was probably restricted to well-forested areas. Its front legs were much longer than the hind legs, giving it a steeply-sloping, giraffe-like back. With high nostrils and large, blade-like teeth, its head was distinctive. Very few good fossils from this genus have turned up, all of them in western Colorado. Brachiosaurus lived during the Tithonian age of the Jurassic period—about 145 million years ago. This painting was originally done as an illustration for Frank DeCourten's book, “The Dinosaurs of Utah.”
PARASAUROLOPHUS (1998)acrylic 18” x 15” Towards the end of the Cretaceous period, there seems to have been a marked decrease in biodiversity, with a very few groups enjoying great success. Most successful of all of these were the hadrosaurs, or duck-billed dinosaurs. With its gracefully curved crest, Parasaurolophus was apparently very common through much of western North America during the Campanian age of the Cretaceous, from 76 to 73 million years ago. The function of the conspicuous crest has been the subject of much speculation. Probably it served as a social signal and possibly a resonating chamber for vocalizations as well. In the background, a pair of Avisaurus (a primitive bird) roost together. This painting was originally done as an illustration for Frank DeCourten's book, “The Dinosaurs of Utah.”
acrylic 10” x 15” The sauropods (the well-known group of long-necked, terrestrial dinosaurs)
This painting was originally done as an illustration for Frank DeCourten's book, “The Dinosaurs of Utah.”
acrylic on illustration board 20” x 17”