Though our exploration of New Guinea introduced us to the birds that live on the ground and the kangaroos that live in the trees, we did not have time to meet one of New Guinea’s most notorious inhabitants. A resident of its lagoons and estuaries, and an object of worship to some of its inhabitants: the saltwater crocodile.
Sorry my beasts for neglecting you! As a consolation, here’s an image I finished recently with a past beast: the asian elephant. This was an illustration I did to describe my time living and exploring in Southeast Asia, when each day seemed to offer an surprise or discovery.
Also, If any of your beast-o-philes are on Facebook, you can also like me at https://www.facebook.com/alexandervidalillustration to keep up with my latest projects. Thanks!
Dinosaurs have long fueled the imagination. Dinosaur bones discovered in early human history were taken as relics of giants, dragons, or monsters. Even once they were correctly attributed to prehistoric creatures, some element of monstrousness remained— as is present in the name dinosaur, meaning terrible or fearsome lizard. Today, as much as our understanding of these creatures evolves, some flicker of this fear and awe lingers about the dinosaur— making them particularly attractive to children.
From the forests of New Guinea we travel quite distantly— several hundred million years, in fact. To another forest similarly lush and overgrown. Here, below the giant cycads and tree ferns we find our next beasts: the dinosaurs.
While the cassowary and the echidna share New Guinea’s forest floor, another world exists above them in the canopy. There, in the absence of monkeys, lemurs, or sloths, marsupials have evolved to fill the open ecological niche. One of the strangest is a creature whose relatives are much more familiar to us.
Further south, in the open grasslands of Australia, the red kangaroo is a large, bounding creatures designed to traverse the open terrain with ease. Here, among the high tree limbs of the rainforest, his cousin the tree kangaroo is a rather different creature. His body is small and compact, perfect for life on the branch; he has large claws for climbing tree trunks; and though some species of tree kangaroo can still hop like their austral cousins, some have evolved out of that ability, making them suited almost purely for life in the trees.
The echidna is primarily diurnal, though this may change during warmer weather. The echidna can neither sweat nor pant to cool itself, so it instead adjusts its schedule to be active in cooler hours. Alternately, the echidna is actually a rather good swimmer, and can take to cool streams or pools to cool down.
The echidna’s claws are particularly important for finding food; they use them to break apart rotting logs and tree-stumps in search of ants and other tasty insects.
In the shade of giant trees and under cover of ferns, the echidna makes its home on the forest floor of New Guinea. Though their strong legs and long claws enable them to be powerful diggers, they don’t actually live in burrows. Instead, they live in small holes in the ground, just beneath the cover of leaves and bark.
A creature of unusual physical appearance, the echidna is known also as the spiny ant-eater, thanks both to its coat of coarse spines and slender snout, which features a tiny jawless mouth.
Though outnumbered by birds, New Guinea does have a small group of indigenous mammals. These creatures— including tree kangaroos and giant bats— are no less bizarre than the birds they share the island with. Perhaps the strangest of all is a small egg-laying mammal with a long snout and a spiny coat— the echidna.