Monday, July 15, 2013

Making Pictures of Creatures That No Longer Exist

It's a great pleasure to produce interesting images of creatures that are now extinct, extirpated or severely threatened. It's a passion - and a project I'm currently very much enjoying.
The Ivory-billed Woodpecker, Campephilus principalis, long endangered and probably now extinct, lived in the virgin swampy bottomlands of East Texas, southeastern US and Cuba.  It is the largest woodpecker in North America, at about 20 inches in length and 30 inches in wingspan.   

Folks like to see what these creatures look(ed) like. Children, especially, are interested and should know what happened or is currently happening, and why. 
   Young people can prevent the repetition of serious errors made in the past.  As someone no longer young but always young at heart, I enjoy great pleasure in producing realistic imagery to help us all understand. It's a project I continue to pursue with the help of computer editing.

 Passenger Pigeons, Ectopistes migratorius, female and male, once the most abundant bird on the face of the earth, became extinct when the last one died on April 1, 1914 at the Cincinnati Zoo.
   In 1866 one flock in southern Ontario was said to be one mile wide by 300 miles long and took 14 hours to pass by.
   Passenger Pigeons were much larger than the similarly-plumaged Mourning Dove, Zenaida macroura.  The birds were an important food source from the Caribbean to central and eastern Canada.
   Over-hunting and habitat destruction are believed to have caused the disappearance of the birds. 
Following are more of the images now in my stock library
- all available for use in textbooks, magazines, brochures and advertising.

This spectacular insect, the Homerus Swallowtail, Papilo homerus, is the Western Hemisphere's largest butterfly, now found only in a remote area of Jamaica.  Numbers are so small that captive breeding efforts are needed to save it from extinction.  

The Xerces Blue, Glaucopsyche xerces, is an extinct butterfly in the gossamer-winged butterfly family, Lycaenidae.   It lived in coastal sand dunes of the Sunset District of San Francisco and is believed to be the first American butterfly species to become extinct as a result of loss of habitat caused by urban development. The last one was seen in either 1941 or 1943 in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. 
Among current projects I have under way is one to produce a good photo of  Xanthopan morganii praedicta,  Morgan's Hawkmoth, with a proboscis of up to 14" in length (35 cm) adequate to fertilize the orchid Angraecum sesquipedale of East Africa and Madagascar. 
  From his observations,  Charles Darwin surmised in his 1862 book Fertilisation of Orchids that there must be a pollinator moth with a proboscis long enough to reach the nectar at the end of the orchid spur.  In 1903 the moth was discovered on Madagascar and incorrectly thought to be a subspecies of Xanthopan morganii found on the mainland.  It is the same insect. 
   While this animal is neither extinct nor threatened (to my knowledge) it certainly is rarely enough seen to warrant inclusion in my "special images". 
   Other projects may include images of extinct, endangered, or threatened amphibians and mammals.  If readers of this newsletter have special needs for pictures of such animals I'd be very happy to hear of them and, if I can, produce photos for you.


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