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The blooming of an Amorphophallus titanum (AKA corpse flower AKA titan arum) at The Huntington Library last week inspired me!

If you think humans jump through a lot of hoops just to reproduce, check out this plant. It waits 7-10 years, storing up starch in a giant tuber, just so it can bloom for a single day. Then it pretends to be a hunk of rotting meat to attract insect pollinators. Then, months later, it switches tactics to a produce a sweet fruit so birds will disperse it’s seeds.

If you have never smelled a titan arum but for some odd reason you would like to … you are in … luck? Scientists have identified the exact malodorous chemicals that come off these strange flowers to attract pollinators - so you can create the scent at home!*

*please, for your own sake, don’t try this at home.

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Writhed Hornbill (Aceros leucocephalus)

Also known as the Mindanao Wrinkled Hornbill, the writhed hornbill is a species of hornbill that is endemic to the Philippine islands of MIndanago, Dinagat and Camigiun Sur. They typically inhabit humid forests and will feed on fruits, insects and small vertebrates. Like most hornbills A.leucocephalus is sexually dimorphic with males sporting a rufous colored head and neck. However, both sexes have bright red bills/casques and black bodies.

The writhed hornbill is currently listed as near threatened and faces threats from habitat loss and hunting.

Classification

Animalia-Chordata-Aves-Coraciiformes-Bucerotidae-Aceos-A. leucocephalus

Image(s): Olaf Oliviero Riemer

Knuk, the Indian Hornbill-Squirrel Gryphon

Please note, this piece is not for sale. While I do take commissions (see below), I do not remake pieces that I have already made. Thank you for your understanding.

About : This is one of two sculptures I created during the filming of my Skillshare class on sculpting. This is Knuk, the Indian Hornbill - Squirrel gryphon. He was designed by Tiina Purin, the winner of my Tumblr 1k Sculpture Contest. I just love how this guy came out! What a great design to work with.

During the creation of this piece, I developed a few new techniques on the fly, in order to keep up the pace of recording my class. Though my online class follows the same basic structure as my book Creature Sculpt, there will definitely be new things to learn and see.

Materials : Super Sculpey, Sculpey Firm, Apoxie Sculpt, Wire and Foil armature, Wire Mesh, Acrylic Paints, Wood Base

Dimensions : 9.5” Tall, 6.5” Long, 7” Wingspan, 4” Base

Time Taken : Created over the course of 5 days

Want to learn how to sculpt like I do? My book Creature Sculpt will teach you everything you need to know! Check out all the information here!

2014 Commission Pricing Now Available! Applications for sculpture commission slots are now being taken. To read my commission policy, pricing, and information on how to get a slot, go here.

For much of human history, poisoning—whether by accident or malice—was much more common than it is today. To protect against the threat, people turned to a variety of natural and man-made materials that were thought to expose toxic substances early warning systems prized for their life-saving potential.

The artifact above is an example of one of these protective objects. It is a hornbill spoon, which, according to Malaysian legend, would change color, even turn black, in the presence of poison. Now on view in the Museum’s special exhibition The Power of Poison, this spoon was fashioned from the beak of a Rufous Hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax), a large bird indigenous to the Philippines and characterized, like all hornbills, by a prominent casque or horny growth extending along the top of its head.

Learn more about this and other objects once believed to protect against poison. 

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Does the large bill of the hornbills is a hindrance in their visual field?

Well, to a large extent, yes, but it also has its advantages related to precision-grasping and sunshades. 

Interspecific comparisons of the topography of avian visual fields have indicated that the extent and position of the frontal binocular field is related to the degree to which vision is employed to control the position of the bill or feet when they are used to take food items.

A study on visual field topography in Tockus leucomelas (Bucerotidae), the Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, has shown that bill indeed intrudes into the binocular field. This intrusion of the bill restricts the width of the binocular field but allows the birds to view their own bill tips. It is suggested that this is associated with the precision-grasping feeding technique of hornbills. 

When feeding, hornbills employ ‘precision-grasping’. The bill is used as a pair of forceps, grasping an item between the tips and then tossing it back into the throat or further back into the mouth. Items are often manipulated in the bill tips.

Interspecific comparison shows that eye size and the width of the blind area above the head are significantly correlated. The limit of the upper visual field in hornbills is viewed through the long lash-like feathers of the upper lids and these appear to be used as a sunshade mechanism. 

Reference: [1]

Photo credit: [Top: ©Stephan Tuengler | Locality: Kalahari Desert, Africa] - [Bottom: ©Ian White | Locality: Modipane, Kgatleng, Botswana]

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