Wednesday 24 February 2010

Coming soon: Museum of Life

A documentary about the Natural History Museum, London: Museum of Life.

Well worth a watch, I imagine.

Sunday 21 February 2010

The 'Of the day...' initiatives

As part of the 2010 Year of Biodiversity a number of institutions have started a 'Species of the Day' project to highlight biodiversity and their work. This is a partial list:

Not a phasmid...

Although it may seem superficially stick-insect like, this is not a phasmid, but a proscopid (a kind of grasshopper). They are found in South America, and unlike true stick insects they can jump. Other distinguishing characters are the forward-facing head, head-shape (eyes are situated well above the body) and the relatively long rear legs.

Although the differences are quite clear, a lot of people who should probably know better have been caught out over the years.

Although the cover of C. A. Ealand's book is beautiful, his knowledge of what makes a stick insect a stick insect is sadly flawed.

The close-up photo of the head of the stick insect is clealry actually a proscopid grasshopper: Head forward-facing (or vertical), eyes well above the body.

Despite this in the text the head of the Phasmidae is described as "nearly horizontal, generally quadrangular".

Some other inaccuracies are "they moult but twice" - in fact five is about average, between 4 and 7 common. I have never had confirmed reports of less than 4, but more than 7 is not that unusual - especially when the insects are poorly nourished.

I might write more about Ealand's account of the Phasmidae another time.

More recently in the first issue of the magazine Practical Reptile Keeping a photograph of a proscopid was used to illustrate an article on stick insects.

My final example is Slim from A Bug's Life - phasmid or proscopid?

Friday 19 February 2010

Account denied

My application to join the Phasmid Forum has been declined becuase I don't meet the membership criteria.

Perhaps I just don't know enough about them......

Incidentally the Phasmid Study Group forums have recently had a bit of a make over - and I'll be able to answer any queries you may have there.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Sunday 14 February 2010

Bug Chicks: Final Part

Snail Cartoon

I found this is the Continental Airlines magazine last April, apparently it's been reprinted from the New Yorker.

The bad condition comes from its trip around Champaign, Illinois and the jungles of Costa Rica.

Bugfest 5

A shout-out to you UK types living in the South-West, the next BugFestSW is on the 20th February. For more details check out the BugFest website.

Saturday 13 February 2010

The Bug Chicks Part 2: Spiders

The Bug Chicks

First of a new YouTube series... pretty basic stuff, but a good introduction (with lots of energy).

Mantis tries to catch mouse pointer

You have to feel slightly sorry for it really....

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Invertebrate Rearing

Last month I published the first issue of a new journal dedicated to invertabrate rearing, called (surprisingly) Invertebrate Rearing. The journal covers all aspects of keeping inveretbrates in captivity, whether it is for research or pleasure.

The first issue has articles on the Lesser Stag Beetle, Marmorkrebs and Portia, a fascinating Australian spider. Check out Volume 1 Issue 1.

Trachyaretaon brueckneri

Trachyaretaon brueckneri
Originally uploaded by edwbaker
One of the species I picked up from the Phasmid Study Group winter meeting. Trachyaretaon brueckneri is an easy species to keep that will feed readily on bramble.

I have kept this species before, but it's large size and relative docility make it a good choice for events (like Nature Live) where insects are handled in front of an audience.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Pestival Party

Last night I had the unexpected pleasure of going to a party in Russel Square at the Horse Hospial to celebrate the screening of a film about last year's Pestival event.

Having missed the film due to other plans I spent some time talking (and drinking) with Amoret Whitaker and Tessa Farmer who were both there and also maybe hatching some plans for an art/science collaboration type-thing (how vague).

Monday 1 February 2010

Species descriptions

Susan Perkins at Dechronization made a post about species descriptions, both in the post and the comments there are pleas for descriptions of new species to be as comprehensive as possible. This is a good thing. Yes, molecular work is great, but for many organisms some kind of morphological assessment is often extremely useful. It would be best to include molecular characters alongside the traditional drawings, measurements, photographs and everything else. Doing a species description well makes the lives of everyone else working on the group much, much easier.

Hermit Crabs feeding on coconut

taken earlier this year on Playa Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica. Do any of you crab people want to have a go a go at an identification?