Saturday, March 20, 2010

Just a Little Odd

Just some interesting news recently:

A Goliath beetle specimen in a museum had strange round holes, recently recognized as shotgun pellets. The original collector must have caught it on the wing. (News source.)

Interesting article on unconfirmed Knysna (South Africa) elephants here.

More Homo floresiensis news here, and here.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Weird Invertebrates

A sea slug has been discovered to apparently swipe genes from algae, allowing it to produce its own chlorophyll. (News source.)

An orchid-pollinating cricket has been discovered in Madagascar. (News source.)

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Friday, December 25, 2009

New Cockroach, Probably

Two high school students working with DNA sequencing databases have discovered what is probably a new species of cockroach in New York. (News source.)

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Lord Howe Island Stick Insect Recovery

A paper on this rediscovered insect:

The recovery programme for the Lord Howe Island Phasmid (Dryococelus australis) following its rediscovery
Nicholas Carlile, David Priddel and Patrick Honan (2009)
Ecological Management and Restoration 10(s1): s124-s128


"Until its rediscovery on Balls Pyramid in February 2001, the Lord Howe Island Phasmid or Stick Insect (Dryococelus australis) was thought to be extinct. It disappeared from Lord Howe Island soon after the accidental introduction of the Ship Rat (Rattus rattus) in 1918. In this paper, we report on the recovery actions undertaken for this critically endangered species since its rediscovery. Monitoring of the small surviving population on Balls Pyramid has shown it to fluctuate between about 9 and 35 adult individuals. As a safeguard against extinction, two adult pairs were removed from Balls Pyramid in February 2003 to establish captive populations in Melbourne and Sydney. Although all four founders bred readily in captivity, one pair died only a month after capture. The second female would have also died soon after capture had it not been for veterinary intervention using novel untested techniques. The single surviving pair bred successfully but the hatch rate of eggs was poor. For the next generation, both fecundity and hatch rates were low. The lack of knowledge regarding the specific husbandry requirements of this particular species undoubtedly contributed to these problems. Careful management, together with a cautious scientific approach, eventually led to all problems being resolved. Presently, there are more than 700 individuals and 14 000 eggs in captivity. Approximately 80% of incubated eggs are expected to hatch. To establish additional captive colonies, adults and eggs have been sent to other institutions, both within Australia and overseas. Now that the species is reasonably secure in captivity, the opportunity exists to reintroduce this iconic insect back onto Lord Howe Island, but this can occur only after the introduced rodents have been removed. A programme to eradicate both the Ship Rat and the House Mouse (Mus musculus) from Lord Howe Island is currently being developed."

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Pink Grasshopper

Andrew Gable has a posting on his blog about a rare mutation of a grasshopper found in the UK. I've seen records of pink katydids here in the US; that might make an interesting book, Mutants in the Insect Kingdom.

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Colorful Diurnal Moths

Some research here on the colorful dayflying dioptine moths.


Tuesday, July 07, 2009

New Florida Scarab Beetle

Polyphylla starkae has been described from the scrubs of Polk County, Florida. One significance of the discovery "is that it shows the contributions that citizen scientists — volunteers who don't have years of education and formal training who collect data in natural areas — can make." (News source.)

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Pink-Winged Moth

New insects aren't uncommon, but an Arizona entomologist has discovered a new moth among a genus of normally dull moths that has pink underwings. (News source.)

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Millipede-Eating Dung Beetle

A new paper:

From coprophagy to predation: a dung beetle that kills millipedes
Trond H. Larsen, et al.
Biology Letters (Tuesday, January 20, 2009)
Published online

The dung beetle subfamily Scarabaeinae is a cosmopolitan group of insects that feed primarily on dung. We describe the first case of an obligate predatory dung beetle and contrast its behaviour and morphology with those of its coprophagous sympatric congeners. Deltochilum valgum Burmeister killed and consumed millipedes in lowland rainforest in Peru. Ancestral ball-rolling behaviour shared by other canthonine species is abandoned, and the head, hind tibiae and pygidium of D. valgum are modified for novel functions during millipede predation. Millipedes were killed by disarticulation, often through decapitation, using the clypeus as a lever. Beetles killed millipedes much larger than themselves. In pitfall traps, D. valgum was attracted exclusively to millipedes, and preferred injured over uninjured millipedes. Morphological similarities placing D. valgum in the same subgenus with non-predatory dung-feeding species suggest a major and potentially rapid behavioural shift from coprophagy to predation. Ecological transitions enabling the exploitation of dramatically atypical niches, which may be more likely to occur when competition is intense, may help explain the evolution of novel ecological guilds and the diversification of exceptionally species-rich groups such as insects.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tree Lobsters Split

Three Pacific island stick insects, including the endangered Lord Howe Island stick insect, are distinct species, new genetic investigation shows. (News source.)

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Vampire Moths

Nat Geo has details on an unknown population of "vampire moths" discovered in Siberia.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Longest Insect Discovered

A stick insect, collected in Borneo and held in private hands until recently given to the Natural History Museum in London, has been described and determined to be the longest species yet. It is more than half a meter in length. It's eggs are also of interest, as they are "winged", probably to facilitate dispersion from heights (like maple seeds). (News source.)

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Shimmering Bees

Research on Asian giant honeybees' shimmering behavior continues... (Eurekalert)

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Bumblebee Extinctions?

Several species of bumblebees in North America are declining... (News source.)


Thursday, July 31, 2008

New Species of Fungus-Eating Ants

They like their mushrooms... (News source.)

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Beetle Biomimicry

The "champion" photonic crystal has been found in an iridescent beetle, and may have application in optical computers. (News source.)

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

New Fly is Salmon Buffet

Biologists knew that when the Yolo Bypass flood corridor between Sacramento and Davis floods, the juvenile chinook salmon "grew like gangbusters," but they didn't know why, until they discovered that the fish were feasting on midges. After taking these small flies to an expert, he realized that the flies were a new species that lies dormant in the soil until flooding occurs. (News source.)

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Rediscovered Fly

A strange little Drosophila fly that lives on Caribbean crabs has been rediscovered after 40 years. Of course, no one was actually looking for them until a recent expedition... (News source.)

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Ecosystem Changed by Beetle

From the Eurekalert:

"The mesquite girdler Oncideres rhodosticta may only be 13mm long, but it has a big role in shaping the landscape. Research carried out by Benjamin Duval and Walter Whitford at New Mexico State University has revealed that the beetle is speeding up the degradation of grasslands in the Chihuahua desert..."
"The mesquite girdler does this by regulating the growth of the mesquite shrub, ensuring their offspring have a plentiful supply of food. The beetles chew girdles around the older stems of the shrub, which forces the plant to regrow new stems the following year. The new stems supply the beetle larvae with food, but the mesquite shrub takes more nutrients from the soil for its increased growth, leaving less for the other plant species such as grasses.
"Up to 150 years ago, the North Chihuahuan Desert was completely covered in grassland. The picture today is very different – dunes and mesquite shrubs cover much of the landscape."

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Butterflies Remember

Turns out that a butterfly can remember training (shock-associated smells) it went through as a butterfly. (News source.)

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Monday, October 08, 2007

Weird Ant

The Crazy Raspberry Ant is turning up in Texas, and scientists are trying to determine where it came from. The genus appears to be Paratrechina, but the species is not certain and may be undescribed. (News source.)


Sunday, March 25, 2007

A New Wetapunga from New Zealand?

80 scientists just finished a blitz survey of the Otari-Wilton's Bush reserve in Wellington, New Zealand. As part of this 24 hours blitz collected, counted and found over 1300 species, among them a cave living wetapunga.

The researchers speculate that the cave "weta" may be a new species, even genus of the group.

Wetapunga's are the heaviest insects known in the world, weighing upwards of 2 1/2 ounces and over 3.5 inches long. These large wingless crickets once lived throughout New Zealand, and are now reduced to small populations primarily on Little Barrier Island.

If this is a true new species, or even genus, then it is an important geographic find for conservation. Regardless of the taxonomic classification though, the find is key to conservation protection of the native animals of New Zealand and elsewhere.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

UK Beetle Population Rediscovered

The UK press has been celebrating the rediscovery of the short-necked oil beetle, Meloe brevicollis, in south Devon. From the Independent:

"About 40 individuals have since been identified on grassland between Bolt Head and Bolt Tail in Devon. The last time there was a confirmed sighting was at Chailey Common in East Sussex 59 years ago.
"The natural habitats of the short-necked oil beetle, Meloe brevicollis, have been affected by the spread of intensive agriculture since the Second World War. However, the site in Devon is on a steep slope down to the sea, so it has avoided the sort of agricultural intensification affecting neighbouring land.
"This has allowed the beetle to complete its complicated life-cycle, which involves a period of parasitism inside a bee's nest during the beetle's larval stage." ...

"Adult oil beetles live for about three months and are slow-moving and flightless. Their main defence is to exude a toxic oily secretion when they feel threatened.
"Females lay up to 1,000 eggs in a burrow they dig in soft or sandy soil. When the young hatch in spring, they climb up vegetation and lie in wait on flowers for a passing mining bee to take the young beetle back to the bee's nest, where the beetle changes into a maggot-like larva that devours the bee's egg and stores of pollen."

What seems to be glossed over in the various news articles, however, is that this is the rediscovery of a population, not the species itself. This beetle is found elsewhere in Europe (and Russia). Blister beetles are nice large species, and it is certainly noteworthy that a UK native has reappeared, but be aware that the media is focused on the sensational, not the factual, aspects of this rediscovery.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

New Genus of Centipede from Australia

A new genus of centipedes has been described from Western Australia. This new genus is Pilbarascutigera and is described in the paper “A new genus of scutigerid centipeds (Chilopoda) from Western Australia, with new characters for morphological phylogenetics of Scutigeromorpha” by G.D. Edgecombe and L. Barrow within Zootaxa 1409: 23-50 (2007)

The new genus is described based on collected specimens since 2000 by the Department of Environment and Conservation of Western Australia, Biota Environmental Sciences and the Australian Museum from the Pilbara region of Australia.

Morphological differences serve as the basis for the new Pilbara regions genus.

This species has a taxonomic breakout as follows:

Order: Scutigeromorpha
Family: Scutigeridae
Subfamily: Thereuoneminae
Genus: Pilbarascutigera
Species: Incola


Length: Up to 31 mm in males, 28 mm in femalesColor: Orange brown with yellowish sections

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Giant Wetas Reintroduced to NZ Mainland

From the Scoop:

"On Sunday 11 February, volunteers, trustees, iwi representatives and invited dignitaries will watch as up to 100 Cook Strait giant weta (Deinacrida rugosa) are released back into the wild at Wellington’s award-winning Karori Wildlife Sanctuary. This will be the first attempt to re-establish this species on the mainland since they became extinct here over a century ago.
"At around 70mm long, and weighing up to 27g, these mouse-sized insects are one of the world’s heaviest insects and, for many, the stuff of nightmares. But appearances can be deceiving. Deinacrida rugosa are gentle giants - herbivores far less ferocious than the smaller tree weta we find in our garages, gardens and gumboots!
"The weta will be collected on Matiu/Somes Island and released into two different habitat areas at the world-first wildlife sanctuary, where they will be safe from the rats and stoats that lead to their extinction on all but a few offshore islands. This is the first of four planned transfers – up to 450 weta will be transferred in total over four years. The source populations will all be from Matiu/Somes and Mana Islands. Giant weta will be the 15th native species transferred into the safety of the Sanctuary, and the first invertebrate released." ...
"Twenty of the weta will be fitted with radio transmitters so Sanctuary staff can monitor their movements. This is the first time transmitters have been used to track weta as part of a species transfer."

[Full news posted to StrangeArk archive.]

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