Extremes: Wild Art 2021

For 2021, an artist that I admire (Zoe Keller) decided to host a year-long challenge where each participant creates art based around a monthly theme. Not only does participating in this challenge help motivate an artist to continually create and improve, but provides a place (using #WildArt2021) for artists to discover other incredible artists in the scientific/environmental field. Each months theme is left up to the artists interpretation – which leads to a huge variety of artwork!

This January, the theme was “Extremes”. While some focused on predators, others focused on stark animal coloration, and others focused on creatures with extremely amazing adaptations (like Tardigrades)! Each month, I am going to try to focus on two pieces – one highlighting flora, the other highlighting fauna.

I chose to learn more about the smallest vertebrate and the largest flower in the world to show two size extremes of the biological world.

Paedophryne amauensis is the world’s smallest vertebrate (which does not include insects or microscopic creatures). This frog was discovered in 2009 in Papau New Guinea living on the forest floor, protected by leaf litter. Aside from it’s extremely small size, it is also unique in the fact that it does not go through typical metamorphosis like other amphibians. These frogs hatch as mini-adults and hop around looking for tasty, small insects. This frog measures in at roughly 7 millimeters. That means that if lined up nose-to-tailbone, it would take 4,186 of these tiny frogs to match the length of a Blue Whale! Interested to learn more about their anatomy, some implications of their tiny size, and about their life, click here for a study on the discovery of the smallest vertebrate!

On the other side of the extreme, we move on to the largest single flower – the aptly named “Monster Flower” (Rafflesia arnoldii)! Similarly to the frog, this flower is unique in ways beyond it’s size. Unlike most flowers, the Rafflesia has no root system or even leaves. It also doesn’t photosynthesize like other chlorophyll-filled plants, it’s parasitic! For most of it’s life, it stays hidden inside of the roots and stems of woody plants, specifically in a vine in the grape family. Once it’s ready to bloom, buds burst from it’s host plant and a foul-smelling flower blooms. Plants that smell particularly badly attract flies as pollinators. The flies visit the flower, looking for rotting flesh, only to leave disappointed, although covered in pollen grains, which they then transport to the next flower!

To compare the two life forms, it would take roughly 143 Paedophryne amauensis frogs standing in a line to match the size of the Monster Flower.

Stay tuned next month to learn more about how plants and animals require support and in order to survive as I illustrate the theme: “Intertwine”.

Click below for more scientific illustrations, illustration workshops, or some new home d├ęcor!

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