Termite mound plunderers…old and new worlds meet

illustration showing convergent evolution of old and new world termite eaters

 

Those that know me, know me and my lady are David Attenborough junkies.  Life in the Undergrowth will always remain the best, but the Life of Mammals is obscenely sweet.  I especially was enthralled by the section focusing on termite eaters, and it was my inspiration for rendering this comparitive illustration.

This illustration was, for us, the first digital project of significance.  This project I intended to be a mock-up of a double page spread in a magazine, including text and all.  I decided to depict both of these animals feeding from the same termite mound, an impossible reality being they live in different regions of the earth, but one which exhibits how close their feeding behavior (and thus morphology/anatomy) is.

I did many sketches of the beautiful mammals using video, old illustrations, and photographs.  To figure out what the inside of a termite mound looked like, I found a researcher who poured plaster inside of the mounds, got rid of the hard exterior, and was left with a huge, white, complicated, sinewy system of tunnels and shafts for ventilation!  incredible to see  (I will try to upload a photo of it)

The white, hairy giant anteater inhabits South America, while the scaly brown Pangolin inhabits Asia and Africa, but they both have convergently evolved to take advantage of termites and to a lesser degree ants.  Long tongues, heavily muscled and and clawed forelegs for ripping into the hard superstructure…they were once lumped into the same order because of their similarites.

Seeing both or either of them in the wild is a life-goal of mine.  The closest I have been to seeing a Pangolin was in Cameroon stirring around in a soup of bush meat- sad beyond words.

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