Wednesday, 3 June 2020

Tabulae Mortuae II (Archives XII)

While I am preparing figures for the next instalment of the ‘bitroph’ series of posts, I thought I would post another ‘dead painting’, again an example of a plant with leaves as large as the sails on a sailing boat.

Click to enlarge; copyright Gert van Dijk

The painting is basically static: there is not a single animal about to enliven the scene, the horizon is completely flat, and the landscape is not exactly spectacular. There are some puddles on the ground, suggesting recent rain in an otherwise dry environment. Only the somewhat unnatural looking clouds add a bit of drama. All this may sound as if I am reviewing someone else’s work, not my own. That is because the painting is old enough to mean that I no longer have a strong image in mind of what I was aiming for. For painters such an ‘intended image’ can obscure judgement of the actual painting. I used to hold paintings up to a mirror to get a fresh look (I now do that digitally, without an actual mirror).

So it is up to the plants together with the clouds to provide any visual drama. The plants grow from underground roots, forming a regular succession of stems resembling telephone poles. In the scene, two roots met and formed special variants of their normal stem. The two entwine one another, and now form a botanic union.

I guess that we are looking at sexual reproduction. I have no idea what happens next; seeds drifting on the wind? Nuts borne by animals? I do remember that new plants form numerous roots that grow out in all directions.

I still like the idea of these underground roots traversing the landscape with maniacal precision, although such linearity looks unnatural. The scientific name of this species, by the way, was ‘Mania predictabilis’. Perhaps I should have envisaged a landscape where these plants are more numerous, and they all criss-cross the otherwise empty landscape.

Unfortunately, the large ‘unileaves’ won’t work for reasons outlined previously. If I do use the idea again, it will be easier to start a whole new painting than to alter this one. That’s why this is a tabula mortua: this painting is dead; it’s no more; it’s expired; it’s an ex-painting. 


Gregor B. said...

Haha, love the Monty Python reference there. I do agree the painting is less lively due to the lack of any animals, or even insects buzzing around, to add a sense of dynamic movement. It feels all empty and deserted, even with the interesting-looking vegetation as a backdrop. (Also, those clouds just look weird.)

And for a little lively-ness, have this neat little gif of a running tripodal creature I found off the Spec Evo wiki, thought it might be of interest as "odd-walkers" seem to get brought up rather frequently.

Anonymous said...

perhaps the leaves are, behaviorally, hang-gliders that transport the seeds(fruits?) to their new home.

And-or, there simply isn't much of strong winds there, so the plant can afford grow them like that.
(OR, like the Weltschia(sp) plant, the leaves simply never stop growing, and the artist decided to depict them in an untattered state)
{Welwitschia mirabilis}

-Anthony Docimo.

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Gregor B. I wondered how long it might take for the reference to Monty Python would be commented on. Well, not long ;-)
The odd walker is well done, but it is quite fast, so I cannot really see for how long the hind leg is on the ground and what its phase is in relation to the front legs. Nicely done at any rate.

Anthony: The glider idea is a nice one. There is room in speculative biology for interesting ways of seed dispersal. i one played with the idea of a plant forming seedlings as darts with a heavy and solid tip and fluffy leaves. That dart would plug the hole of a pressure chamber where pressure would increase until the dart would be spit out on a 45 degree trajectory with great force, allowing it to plant itself on landing. altogether much too complicated...
I did not know that Welwitschia leaves grew permanently. It is very close to the ground, so I suppose that wind forces do not affect it much. I just learned from Wikipedia that the Afrikaans name is 'Tweeblaarkanniedood', and that is close enough to Dutch to translate it: 'Two-leaves-cannot-die'.

Anonymous said...

Gregor: that triped looks like one of the land-fishes of Serina.

Sigmund: Now thats a cool idea...a pillium plant? (thats the Roman Imperial spears, right?) I think plants *do* shoot things that quickly...some fire pollen at pollinators, others expell seeds when I touch the seed capsules (it goes from oblong nearly spherical, to collapsed in under a second)


creepysheep said...

plot twist: the "leaves" are actually bat-like bitrophs that perch on top of plant stems to soak up sunlight with their wings and mimic plants to hide from predators >:D

tribbetherium said...

Looks like someone found my Serina animations I posted on the Speculative Evolution wiki! Made them in tribute to the project since sadly, Sheather has announced a premature end to the project. :(

To answer that bit about phase differences I gave the run cycle 9 frames, with always one foot on the ground at any given time and each foot on the ground for three frames. Not sure that would be the most stable but then again I used bounding hares as reference.

I also made a walk cycle for a slower tripod, the thorngrazer:

It only moves one foot at a time, with two legs always in contact, though I do agree I had trouble dealing with the movement of the single hind leg. (Also, apologies for the jerkiness: it was hard syncing the last frame with the first frame to make a smooth loop...)

Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Anthony: I thought the dart idea was overly complex, but that is probably not a strong argument against it. I'll keep the 'pilum' idea in mind.

Creepysheep: Haha! Very creative twist! But where are the plant's leaves, then?

Tribbetherium: So the animation is yours? Very nice. So the hind leg moves with the same frequency as the two front legs. Interesting. I looked at such pattenrs once, and a reader at the time, Metalraptor, came up with the idea of having the hind leg move at twize the frequency of the front ones. That might help improve stability:
That seemed useful in particular when such animals walk slowly, as otherwise you get the impression that they must throw the hind body upwards before daring to lift the hind leg. In your thorngrazer animation, the animal indeed seems to throwing up the hind part of its body. I guess it matters less when they move fast. Also a very nice animation.

Anonymous said...

>But where are the plant's leaves, then?

Perhaps one of more of these:
a. the plant doesn't actually have leaves - *if* it photosynthesizes, it does so through its bark. (or the visible plant only emerges from underground, when its time to release its flowers/seeds)

b. the plant's leaves look like smaller versions of those bitrophs...the flying animals, however, have grown larger than camo requires, either for reasons of sexual selection, dominating rivals, ease of gliding, or some other cause.

-Anthony Docimo

Anonymous said...

Or, or perhaps a third option: what we're calling a tree, is actually a hyperdeveloped/hypertrophied flower...and the bitroph needs wings that big just to anchor the muscles (etc?) needed to pollinate the flowers.


Sigmund Nastrazzurro said...

Anthony: it's funny how readers come up with alternative twists to explain the painting.