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About Deviant Willem van der MerweMale/South Africa Groups :iconliving-earth: Living-Earth
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Bison antiquus by WillemSvdMerwe Bison antiquus :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 85 10 Leptobos etruscus by WillemSvdMerwe Leptobos etruscus :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 113 8 Syncerus antiquus by WillemSvdMerwe Syncerus antiquus :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 96 16 Pelorovis oldowayensis by WillemSvdMerwe Pelorovis oldowayensis :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 107 13 Brasilodon tetragonus by WillemSvdMerwe Brasilodon tetragonus :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 77 8 Kayentatherium wellesi by WillemSvdMerwe Kayentatherium wellesi :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 99 13 Desideia takes a holiday by WillemSvdMerwe Desideia takes a holiday :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 63 11 Humblot's Flycatcher by WillemSvdMerwe Humblot's Flycatcher :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 275 35 Tritylodon longaevus by WillemSvdMerwe Tritylodon longaevus :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 82 8 Oligokyphus triserialis by WillemSvdMerwe Oligokyphus triserialis :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 103 16 Agriochoerus antiquus by WillemSvdMerwe Agriochoerus antiquus :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 145 18 Eurasian Lynx by WillemSvdMerwe Eurasian Lynx :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 458 65 Chiniquodon theotonicus by WillemSvdMerwe Chiniquodon theotonicus :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 131 12 Exaeretodon argentinus by WillemSvdMerwe Exaeretodon argentinus :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 111 10 Trucidocynodon riograndensis by WillemSvdMerwe Trucidocynodon riograndensis :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 133 11 Charassognathus gracilis by WillemSvdMerwe Charassognathus gracilis :iconwillemsvdmerwe:WillemSvdMerwe 126 16


Beautiful Iceland 41 -Reynisdrangar by CitizenFresh Beautiful Iceland 41 -Reynisdrangar :iconcitizenfresh:CitizenFresh 187 14 River Down Below by Pajunen River Down Below :iconpajunen:Pajunen 1,569 211 From Another World by papatheo From Another World :iconpapatheo:papatheo 112 30 .: The Pillars of Creation :. by hugogracaphotography .: The Pillars of Creation :. :iconhugogracaphotography:hugogracaphotography 257 28 Hvitserkur 4 by CitizenFresh Hvitserkur 4 :iconcitizenfresh:CitizenFresh 262 14 Swirls and Waves by papatheo Swirls and Waves :iconpapatheo:papatheo 87 16 The Guardian of the Glen by MaresaSinclair The Guardian of the Glen :iconmaresasinclair:MaresaSinclair 401 102 Ancient Arms by WillTC Ancient Arms :iconwilltc:WillTC 195 36 Cathedral rock  by LandscapesNSuchPhoto Cathedral rock :iconlandscapesnsuchphoto:LandscapesNSuchPhoto 35 5 Tenebrionidae Byrsax sp. by melvynyeo Tenebrionidae Byrsax sp. :iconmelvynyeo:melvynyeo 374 30 The Last Obstacle by SchwarzWieEbenholZ The Last Obstacle :iconschwarzwieebenholz:SchwarzWieEbenholZ 56 2 HORSE GAMES IN THE MARSH by BastianGV HORSE GAMES IN THE MARSH :iconbastiangv:BastianGV 31 6 In the Big World by Bagirushka In the Big World :iconbagirushka:Bagirushka 104 10 Towers of Mordor by Dave-Derbis Towers of Mordor :icondave-derbis:Dave-Derbis 826 58 Ashitaka by Reluin Ashitaka :iconreluin:Reluin 1,133 34 Fallen Giant by DracoFlameus Fallen Giant :icondracoflameus:DracoFlameus 4 0



Bison antiquus
The ancient bison!  Actually this was one of the more recent bison species, living until about 10 000 years ago and even maybe having evolved into the recent American bison, Bison bison.  It was much bigger than the recent bison though, having an especially tall shoulder hump.  Indeed an artist who doesn't know about shoulder humps or bisons might even have reconstructed this, from the skeleton, as having a tall sail on its neck!  This species is especially well known from the La Brea tar pits.  They were apparently heavily hunted by palaeo-Native Americans.  This species reached 2.25 m/7.5' at the hump, and 1590 kg/3 500 lbs in weight.
Leptobos etruscus
Leptobos was a genus of cattle that was found in Europe and Asia, from 3.2 million years ago to 12 000 years ago - very recent.  The name means 'light ox' and they were comparatively lightly built, but still had some fine horns!  Leptobos could weigh up to 320 kg.
Syncerus antiquus
Another ancient beef!  This species is often called Pelorovis antiquus, but is very different from the 'proper' Pelorovis oldowayensis that I illustrated earlier.  It is much more similar to the Cape Buffalo, Syncerus caffer, and I include it in this genus.  This huge buffalo had absolutely ridiculously long horns!  The horn cores alone span 3 m, which is longer than the complete head-and-body length of the Cape Buffalo!  In addition it was somewhat bigger in body as well, and might have reached 2 tons in weight, making it one of the all-time largest artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates).  It lived in recent times, going extinct at about 12 000 years ago, or perhaps as recently as 4 000 years ago.  There are rock paintings in the Sahara which might have been of these ... but that's not clear and they could be of water buffaloes instead. 
Pelorovis oldowayensis
Good old Pelorovis!  These great beasts were at a time thought to be gigantic sheep - Pelorovis means prodigious or monstrous sheep - but they're now understood to be closer to cattle.  In fact, they may be closely related to or even in the genus Bos which is that of domestic cattle.  Pelorovis had an unusually long face, reminiscent of the long-faced antelopes or Alcelaphines.  Most distinctive was their outward-and-forward-curving horns.  A species sometimes classified in the same genus, Pelorovis antiquus, had even longer, sideward-spreading horns, but probably is not a close relative, instead being much closer to the present-day African buffalo.  I'll illustrate it soon.  Pelorovis oldowayensis is named for the Olduvai Gorge in Tanzania, where many amazing fossils have been found, including of our own ancestors. These giant oxen lived with them.  Pelorovis oldowayensis could reach a body mass of 1200 kg, and lived from 1.8 million until about 800 000 years ago.  The genus is known from many other African countries, including my own of South Africa, and also from Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Brasilodon tetragonus
We're extremely close to the first true mammals now!  Brasilodon tetragonus (tetragonal tooth from Brazil) was very, very close to the first direct ancestors of the true mammals.  It was a mouse-sized and mouse-like species found as you might guess in Brazil, in the late Triassic period, about 228-208 million years ago.  It differed from true mammals in that its teeth was replaced many times over the course of its life, rather than the single replacement seen in true mammals (milk teeth, then replaced by permanent teeth).  It was very likely an insectivore, with many-pointed cheek teeth and well-developed canines.  A wealth of interesting proto-mammals close to the true mammals have been found along with it in the same fossil formation.



Makgeng is a small community not far from Zion City, where every Easter millions of members of a local Christian branch congregate.   The region itself is rural and rather pristine.  We were only four: our organizer, Marianne McKenzie, Paul Zaayman, Quentin Hagens and I.  The aim of our excursion was to enjoy the flowering aloes.  These are mainly the tall Mountain Aloe, Aloe marlothii.  There are also some smaller aloe species, but the mountain aloes are by far the dominant ones.  These aloes grow on the hills in their thousands or likely even millions, and flower in winter.  Their tubular flowers are open, with protruding anthers, offering easy access to the copious, sweet nectar inside.  Even birds with fairly short bills can probe in and drink the nectar.  In the process, their bills, throats, faces and foreheads become stained bright orange by the nectar and pollen.  This might lead to some identification problems for any novice bird-watcher who happens to be around and would be hard pressed to find so many orange-faced birds in the standard identification guides!


The wonderful thing is that at the time of mass aloe flowering, birds that are otherwise not nectar specialists will drink the nectar: weavers, orioles, woodpeckers and more.  Other food tends to be limited in the dry wintertime over here, so the aloes are life-savers.  On the occasion, we saw large flocks of red-winged starlings, a species that is not uncommon but rarely seen in groups, who flew in especially for the aloe nectar treat.  These starlings nest on cliffs, and likely flew in from around the Wolkberg mountains to the north.

Another bird we were amazed to see among the aloes, was the dapper Fiscal Flycatcher.  Small and unassuming with its neat, plain black-and-white plumage, it is ordinarily a hunter of small, flying insects.  An orange face fits its look quite well!

We saw numerous other birds, including lazy cisticolas, goldenbreasted buntings, waxbills, pied barbets, chinspot batises, and southern boubous.  Raptors were in evidence: gymnogenes/harrier hawks and jackal buzzards flying past.  They were less after the nectar than after the nectar-feeders!  The starlings mobbed the harrier hawk; in numbers they can easily stand their ground.

Insects were in evidence, including butterflies, huge poisonous grasshoppers, and masses of tiny little red bugs (Hemipterans).  This time we saw some reptiles also, a species of skink as well as a tiny dwarf gecko.

For me as always this was an occasion to get some nice photos of the landscape and of plants.  Here are a few. 

Aloe Euphorbia landscape by WillemSvdMerwe

First of all you see a shot of the typical landscape.  Here are some tall aloes, and a large Euphorbia ingens, a big, branched, cactus-like plant.  The genus Euphorbia is amazingly diverse both in variety of shapes and sizes and in number of species – about 2000 are known and many more certainly await discovery.  South Africa has about 300 known species.  This species is one of the largest, growing over 10 m/33’ in height and spread.  You’ll soon see another, very different species from the same hills.  Euphorbia is not an actual cactus, but in the spurge family.  Many species are amazingly similar to cacti for having adapted themselves in similar ways to survive in deserts and dry regions.  But while you can get drinkable sap from some cacti, the sap of Euphorbias is incredibly toxic! 

Here is another landscape shot, actually the interior of an enclosure to hold cattle (but the cattle were out feeding at the time).  This gives you an idea of what the landscape here looks like in winter.  It is dry, with lots of dead, brown grass.  Many trees and shrubs have dropped their leaves, though a few still hold theirs.  It was interesting that we saw some shrubs of the same species that were in full leaf and bright green in one spot, while other individuals nearby were dry and with brown or fallen leaves.  It likely means that some have access to underground water while others don’t.

Cattle enclosure by WillemSvdMerwe

Here Marianne McKenzie poses to provide some perspective to some Aloes and a big Euphorbia.

Euphorbia ingens by WillemSvdMerwe

Here Marianne also poses to show the size of this Corkbush, Mundulea sericea.  This cork-barked plant is usually a shrub, but here grows to tree-size.  In winter you only see its greyish leaves, but in spring and summer it sports beautiful pink to purple flowers.  It is in the pea family, one that includes a great abundance of beautifully flowering herbs, trees and shrubs, especially diverse in South Africa.

Corkbush Mundulea sericea by WillemSvdMerwe

Now for the aloes!  The mountain aloe, according to plant guides, reaches a height of 6 m/20’.  Obviously the aloes on these hills haven't read the guides, because many were over that height!  Here's one that stood enough out in the open for me to take a shot of it, again with Marianne standing to provide scale (she's 157.5 cm/5’2”).  Fitting her length into the height of this aloe, using Photoshop, I worked out that this one stands over 7 m/23” tall.  There were many around this size, some likely even taller.

Aloe marlothii 7m by WillemSvdMerwe

 But even smaller aloes were quite lovely.  The flowers are often deep orange, and the thickly succu
lent, thorny leaf rosettes also turn reddish in a dry, sunny winter.  Not only were there large and mid-sized ones, there were also many babies, proving the population to be healthy and actively self-propagating.

Small Aloe marlothii by WillemSvdMerwe

Here you see a clump of aloe babies.  They’re very prickly, to arm them against herbivores.  Their sap is also very bitter. 

Baby aloes by WillemSvdMerwe

Most small ones were growing either in cracks between rocks, or in the shelter of small Euphorbia clumps.   These were not the large ingens, but a much smaller and more delicate species.  In my report of a previous outing to this region I said they were Euphorbia schinzii, which now seems to have been a mistake!  Bronwyn Egan, the botanist at the University of Limpopo, told me they’d done genetic analyses of the small Euphorbias in this region and found them to differ from schinzii.  They are outwardly similar, but not totally, to the rare Euphorbia clivicola of the Polokwane area.  So we likely have a new species here.  These ones turned an attractive purple in open, sunny spots, but remained green where shaded.  They formed open cushions containing lots of narrow, thorny stems.  Such clumps are excellent spots for young aloes to grow; in an Euphorbia tuft, the aloe gets additional protection from the thorns and the extremely toxic milky sap of its ‘nursemaid’ plant. Here you can see one – the prickly leaves poking out amidst the mass of finger-like thorny stems:

Euphorbia nursing Aloe by WillemSvdMerwe

Here is a Euphorbia clump without an aloe, to show its purplish-pink colour:

Small Euphorbia by WillemSvdMerwe

Another species of aloe, far less abundant but also quite pretty, was the large, branching, shrub-like Aloe arborescens or cliff aloe.  These ones growing above a rock sheet were turning an attractive pinkish colour.   It’s actually a very widespread species, abundant and dominant in high-altitude, high-rainfall mountainous regions, especially around rock outcrops – though I’ve even seen them growing as epiphytes in the crowns of huge Outeniqua Yellowwood trees.

Aloe arborescens by WillemSvdMerwe

Rocky hills like these are ideal for numerous succulent plant species.  They typically grow around rocks or in cracks, places that can get very hot and dry but also channel water into trickles that the roots of the plant can access.  Here on the margin of a rock ridge you see some pretty Pigs-Ear Cotyledons, Cotyledon orbiculata.  This succulent grows almost over the entirety of South Africa, from harsh deserts to moist, rocky grasslands, and in a number of different forms.  This local form is typical, with round, red-rimmed, greyish-green leaves, and pendulous flowers.  It is a member of the Crassulaceae, an almost cosmopolitan family with many suculent species beloved by gardeners and collectors.

Cotyledon orbiculata by WillemSvdMerwe

Another member of the Crassula family, is this, Kalanchoe sexangularis.  These are much-branched and shrub-like, achieving up to 1m/yard in height.  Their leaves turn bright red in sunny spots in winter, contrasting with their greenish-yellow flowers (not present in this photo, sadly). 

Kalanchoe sexangularis by WillemSvdMerwe

I was teaching Marianne how to distinguish between Cotyledon, Kalanchoe and Crassula on this trip.  Here you see Crassula swaziensis, a small species with attractive, round leaves which also tend to turn red.  It’s a little gem not at all rare in our region, and makes a lovely specimen for a rock garden or small container in a sunny spot such as a windowsill.  Crassula is generally smaller and finer than the other two genera, but typically has conspicuous fourfold symmetry to its leafy rosettes, and flowers with five petals (unlike the four petals in Kalanchoe), that tend to face upwards or sideways rather than hanging down (as in Cotyledon).  Crassula is by far the biggest genus (in number of species – quite the opposite in physical size) of the family in South Africa.

Crassula swaziensis by WillemSvdMerwe

Here you see tufts of a tiny Crassula (I’m not sure which species) growing happily in crevices below some rocks.  And above the rocks grows a succulent member of the daisy family, a Senecio barbertonicus.

Crassula In Crevice by WillemSvdMerwe

And here you see the botanical photographer in his natural habitat!  This was me taking the above photo, photographed by Paul.

Willem In Habitat by WillemSvdMerwe

And finally here are the other three explorers of the day, Paul, Marianne and Quentin, together at a fine aloe.  Thanks to all for making it a rewarding and enjoyable day!

Explorers by WillemSvdMerwe


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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HyacinthOphiuchus Featured By Owner 2 days ago  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Wonderful gallery with very interesting information about animals and plants!+fav :)
MoonyMina Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2019  Hobbyist General Artist
hey there!! I've just asked you if you'd accept your African Civet to be featured in our group :iconwildlife-awareness: for the Animal of the Month event, but there seem to be a bug with the process, could you tell me if you've received a message asking you if you accept your work being featured in the group, please??
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2019
Hello!  No I haven't received that message but of course you can feature the civet! 
MoonyMina Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2019  Hobbyist General Artist
you're so sweet!!!

there's a bug, apparently, it doesn't send you a message and your work doesn't go to the group folder... I've written the DA staff about it, with a printscreen of the error message, but meanwhile, would you be kind enough to -temporarily- join the group (even if you join, submit, then leave when it's been approved) and submit your work to the "Animal of the Month" folder??? This way I'm sure it works :D

sorry about that... but thanks for your kind answer :)
WillemSvdMerwe Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2019
OK I did it ... did it work?
(1 Reply)
Phototubby Featured By Owner Jan 13, 2019  Hobbyist Photographer
vanndra Featured By Owner Jan 10, 2019  Hobbyist General Artist
:wave: Welcome to the group. We are very pleased to have you here.

Phototubby Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2018  Hobbyist Photographer
:iconthanksforthe01plz::iconthanksforthe02plz::iconthanksforthe03plz::iconthanksforthe04plz:  :D
BastianGV Featured By Owner Dec 24, 2018
Thank you for adding "HORSE GAMES IN THE MARSH" of my photos to your collection. Its greatly appreciated. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
LandscapesNSuchPhoto Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2018  Hobbyist Photographer
Thank you for the fave. :)
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