Were giant ground sloths the original dispersal agents for Osage Oranges? (Maclura pomifera)

were giant ground sloths responsible for the hugeness of this fruit?

This striking idea was fascinating to stumble on…Jon Wagner mentioned it to me in passing one day and shortly thereafter a wikipedia search revealed this curious mystery:

“The fruit is sometimes torn apart by squirrels to get at the seeds, but few other native animals make use of it as a food source. This is unusual, as most large fleshy fruit serves the function of seed dispersal by means of its consumption by large animals. One recent hypothesis is that the Osage-orange fruit was eaten by a giant ground sloth that became extinct shortly after the first human settlement of North America. Other extinct Pleistocene megafauna, such as the mammoth, mastodon and gomphothere, may have fed on the fruit and aided in seed dispersal.”

I had to illustrate it then!  After rendering the skull and the tree foliage, I realized I had to take it a bit further to include the lips and tongue, and the moment of plucking one of these grapefruit sized fruits off the branch.  Perhaps to limit myself from criticism of discriminating against the other mentioned animals that might also have been dispersers, I need to do one of each of those as well?

Something certainly as fascinating and related to this subject are dinosaurs and their long dispersal relationship and coevolution with cycads.

Sweepstakes rafting across the Atlantic

ancient monkeys cross the narrow atlantic archipelago to arrive in the new world

When I first read a reference of the notion that monkeys accidentally rafted across the Atlantic to land in the new world, it spun my imagination like crazy!  I had so many questions, didn’t even know quite where to start, so I read a lot of research papers that took on the issue.

Back in the Oligocene,(23-34MYA), the distance between the Africa and South America was much smaller, the paleo-current ran straight from the former to the latter, and there was a volcanic archipelago betwixt.  There was no evidence of monkeys in south america before the oligocine, but all of the sudden there was a mass radiation of species discovering all kinds of untapped habitats once the pioneers in questions arrived.

I was able to even talk to the author on the phone and he steered me into understanding that this most likely wasn’t one event, but dozens or hundreds of events over thousands and millions of years moving steadily through the archipelago.  The involuntary monkey pioneers are believed to have inhabited one island after another, starting all over the colonization event to the next island west.

A troup of monkeys sleeping in a grove of mangroves that got slammed by a rogue wave, the gnarled mass of trees or vegetation detached from the land and over the next days or hours or whatever, a select group of monkeys drift out into the open sea until they land, (at best) on an island?  or countless versions of that happening over millions of years until a successful landing happened…what would that look like?

I decided to render this image in Acrylic paint, which is a newish medium for me.  It was quite exciting to work out, and to research this fascinating idea.  The painting is not finished yet, I need to add some leaves and more beleagered monkeys…in due time.

let me know what you think about the imagery