Sunday, 29 November 2009

Peacock Spider

"The tiny arachnid, found in Australia, shows off a rainbow of colours to impress nearby females.

It can raise a pair of legs and fan out two brightly patterned flaps at the back of its body.
Displaying its spectrum of shades in an attempt to attract the attention of the less vibrant brown spiders, the creature reveals hues of orange, yellow, green and blue.

Also known as a Maratus Vilans, amateur photographer Jurgen Otto originally spotted the colourful creature in the wild.

However, as it is only 4mm long, he found it easier to capture images in his Sydney home.
The spider also uses its third pair of legs in the mating display, raising them to show a brush of black hairs and white tips.

The spider can also jump, but the common belief that it can use its patterned flaps to glide through the air is an urban myth which has been debunked by the Australasian Arachnological Society.

The spider is found in eastern parts of Australia, including Queensland and New South Wales.
Both sexes of the spider rarely reach more than 5mm in body length. Females are brown with no distinct pattern."

Presents for Entomologists

The Amateur Entomologists' Society has produced a list of Christmas presents for entomologists. Please e-mail me for details of where to send.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Leaf cutter ants and bacteria

You can only understand so much about a species by considering it in isolation. It's interactions with the rest of life on earth is often hard to study, but when studies are done they yield some fascinating interactions.

Take leaf-cutter ants as an example. I'm sure that most readers of this blog will know they cut sections of vegetation, take them into their nest, and grow fungus on them. The fungus is what the ants eat, they have evolved to become farmers. The evolutionary history of this relationship is interesting, but there are other players.

In 1999 it was found that the fungus gardens are helped by antibiotic producing bacterium that controls parasites. It has recently been found that an additional species of bacteria is used to fix atmospheric nitrogen, making it available to the fungus. As well as crop protection bacteria also provide the fungus gardens with fertiliser.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Poecilimon sp.: Orthoptera from Turkey

These photographs were taken in Turkey by Geoffrey Summers. The colours tend to fade rapidly after death, so in collections many of these bright, colourful species become a slightly less nice shade of brown.

Spider Smuggling

The transfer of flora and fauna across international borders, and in some circumstances internal borders, is often controlled by law. The reasons for this vary from protecting native species, to protecting imported species, particularly if they are considered rare. reports that A Welshman, Lee Arden, has been arrested in Brazil for smuggling spiders for the pet trade. Now Brazil is one of those countries where you really do have to be careful, and have all of your permits in order. The spiders seem to have been imported for sale in The Spider Shop.

Perhaps the punishment is excessive, but these laws are there to protect our environment from potentially hazardous invaders, and to protect threatened species from having their numbers reduced by removal from their natural habitat. This should be a cautionary tale .

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Invertebrate Rearing journal

Along with a few friends and colleagues I am starting a journal, Invertebrate Rearing, that will cover the rearing of all invertebrates (apart from stick insects and cockroaches). The journal is open access and free to publish in so check it out: Invertebrate Rearing.

The website isn't too hot just yet, but we have until January for the first issue.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009

On the 27th October 2009 (yet another timely post) I visited the Wildlife Photographer of the Year preview at the Natural History Museum, London. This year the exhibit has moved to a different gallery, giving it a bit more breathing room and has a more modern feel with blue lighting - it all looks very impressive.

The exhibition has a new sponsor, Veloia Environnement

The layout of the exhibit is pretty awkward though, with various inter-locking rooms and no clear idea as to which way round to go. I would like to see the photos in the order highly commended, runner-up, and winner - at various points this happened, at others I ended up seeing the winner first.

Of course this is all just a distraction from the photographs which, as always, were stunning. Not a huge number of invertebrates, but I have included a selection here for you to enjoy.

Mating Barnacles Video

Mating barnacles from Casey Dunn on Vimeo.

For more information about barnacle mating check out Mating when you are stuck to a rock by Creature Cast.

Have you got a good marine invertebrate blog post?

... then send it to Southern Fried Science for their 'The Best Marine Invert Blog Posts'.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The AES Exhibition

Originally uploaded by edwbaker

Every year the Amateur Entomologists' Society has an exhibition where you can buy all kinds of live and dead insects, and all the equipment that goes with having an interest in either or both.

As usual I was tied up with helping the Phasmid Study Group and Blattodea Culture Group for a lot of the time (which is fun but doesn't always leave time to have a good look around the rest). One of the people who stopped by to chat was Erica (responsible for the Curator of Diptera's blog). She can be seen here with the phasmid Anchiale maculata.

Somewhat surprisingly I only took two photographs - the Flickr set could just as easily have been called dipterists meeting phasmids really.