According to various dictionaries, when used as an adjective, plump means having a full and rounded shape, whereas round means circular or cylindrical. Of course those of us whose shape is not exactly lean are used to being referred to as being plump [in the sense of having a full and rounded shape or being chubby and somewhat overweight.] Should you take offence at this description you might quickly be assured that ‘plump’ in this case is meant to describe an ‘appealing roundness’. Let us look at some examples of creatures with this appealing plumpness.
I don’t think I have ever seen a dassie that looks thin!
Olive thrushes always look ‘cheerfully chubby’.
Unless they have very recently been shorn, sheep also have an appealing roundness about their appearance.
As far as round things go, look at the spherical shape of this dung ball – courtesy of the work of a dung beetle.
Dandelion seeds are appealingly round.
The shape of these rings on a gun carriage may generate a discussion on the difference between round, circular and spherical – we can leave that for another day!
The roads in the Great Fish River Reserve in the Eastern Cape are generally not in good shape and so a high clearance vehicle is recommended. The vegetation here is typical of the thickets one encounters in natural areas here.
The reserve is close enough for us to visit it for a day. This time we were intent on visiting the rapidly disappearing ruins of Fort Willshire – a brief history of which you can see on this plaque.
Each time we come here the walls are more difficult to find as the whole area has become very overgrown as the veld has had two centuries in which to reclaim its own.
Weathering has taken its toll of the lettering on the few gravestones seen in the area. These are now enclosed with a wire fence to protect them from the animals – but not the rampant growth of grass and bushes. One that is still readable is a stone erected in memory of eighteen year-old Matthew Stanworth, “Late Private Soldier who was unhumanely murdered by […] February 24th 1825 …”
The pictures in WordPress Reader are usually larger, so you may wish to have a closer look at this one there. Apart from some of the pretty flowers which I featured earlier, I also spotted a harvester ant carrying away a leaf.
Several dung beetles were busy taking advantage of a fresh pile of dung. This is one of many rolling a ball of dung through grass and over rocks.
One does not have to drive very far in the Addo Elephant National Park before coming across signs warning one to watch out for the dung beetles.
These flightless dung beetles are among the largest in the world and have come to be known as the Addo Flightless Dung Beetle (Circellium bacchus) on account of there being a large population of the species in this national park. Here they play an important role in the ecosystem by helping to decompose the piles of dung deposited by wild animals, especially that of elephant, buffalo and kudu, although outside of the park they utilise the dung of stock animals such as sheep and cattle. Another important aspect of their activity is that the beetles assist in fertilising the ground by breaking up and burying the dung.
Dung beetles are reliant on dung both for their own nutrition and that of their larvae. Quite understandably, they prefer fresh dung from which to form their brood balls. This is done by the female, which moves it away using her powerful hind legs, while the male follows behind. His only role is to mate once the brood ball has been pushed into a suitable hole.
It is amazing to watch these beetles at work, for they often push a ball around far greater than their own weight using only their back legs – convert the size ratio to human terms and one realises that the flightless dung beetle must be extremely strong!
As you can see from the pictures below, dung beetles encounter a number of obstacles whilst rolling their dung balls off the roads in order to bury their balls in the surrounding soil. These include the corrugated surfaces of the dirt roads as well as rocks, stones and lumps of soil.
Several of the tourist roads have been tarred over the years, which must make this onerous task a little easier – especially that of getting the balls off the road.
We need to heed the signs, heed the piles of dung in the road, and be particularly careful to heed the presence of these rare species on the road: every beetle needlessly crushed under the wheels of vehicles means a life cycle that cannot be completed!