Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bad bee photos

Took some quick snaps of the variety of native bees visiting some flowering Angophora bakeri yesterday morning. Nothing I was really too proud of in the bunch, but I thought I'd share a few of the photos anyway. My main problems were lack of sharpness (too much sunlight - so the flash no longer froze the motion of the bees and camera shake) and lack of good poses (well that's what I get for spending so little time on the job).

The only IDs I'll attempt are:
No. 3: Lipotriches sp.
No. 4: Yellow-spot bee (family Colletidae, Amphylaeus, Hylaeus or Meroglossa sp.) plus one of the red bees, Lasioglossum sp. a Homalictus species, possibly H. brisbanensis.

Camera batteries are charged and I'll have another go when the weather fines up.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Didymuria violescens

The phasmid species that I wrote about that showed phase change appears to be Didymuria violescens. This photo is of an adult male - I also have some females that have just reached adulthood.

This page lists 'purple winged stick insect' and 'spur-legged stick insect' as common names. I've actually induced one of the males to do a defensive/startle display where it spreads its wings, showing off the purple membranous hind-wings. The habitat seems to match; the page also reports that the species tends to be found at high elevations.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Leaping larvae

Snail mentioned "cheese-skippers", the jumping maggots of the carrion flies (Piophilidae).

It's slightly less obvious why piophilids are called cheese-skippers. You need to see the maggots at work before the common name makes sense. When disturbed, they curl up, grabbing their ... ahem ...anal papillae with their mouthparts. And then they let go, springing several centimetres into the air. Boo!

Jumping in dipteran larvae additionally occurs in several other, taxonomically diverse families. These include Tephritidae (fruit-flies), Cecidomyiidae (gall midges), Agromyzidae (leaf miner flies), Clusiidae (umm...?) and Phoridae (scuttle flies). (Phew, those are a few fly families that you don't come across very often! I wouldn't know a cecidomyiid from Adam!).

Additionally, jumping has been noticed in the Neriidae (long-legged flies). The neriid that occurs in Sydney is Telostylinus angusticollis. This animal is cultured at UNSW and used for studies of sexual selection and aging, as the males have exaggerated features and fight for resources and access to females.

That's a female pictured on the left; males are more slender and elongate. They fight head-to-head, striking each-other with their front legs, heads and antennae. Males also put those long legs to use standing guard over a female - literally.

Larvae of the species, pictured top and bottom, develop in rotting bark, such as that of Acacia longifolia. When they are close to pupation, they evacuate the gut, emerge from their substrate, and at this stage are thought to use jumping as a way of getting off their tree and getting to the soil where they are thought to pupate.

This photo shows what a larva looks like before (left) and after (right) evacuating its gut. Only when it's done this does it gain the ability to jump.

You can see the mechanism in the top photo - the maggot reaches around, grabs a 'ledge' between its last two abdominal segments using its oral hooks, then it contracts its longitudinal muscles. This builds up tension which is then released when the oral hooks are disengaged. Pop!

They're not terribly good jumpers. Not like piophilids which can jump about 50 cm from the surface of a corpse. No, these guys have a lot of trouble jumping from a horizontal surface. They actually do it best if they're upside down - they'll hang off, suspended by their rear ends, before reaching up and jumping downwards off the surface. But put one on a dry surface and crawling doesn't work, so it will wriggle around and try to jump. Normally it doesn't work so well (as in the top photo), as the larva will be lying on its side and therefore not have a great deal to push off.

Jumping in fly larvae is a novel solution to the problem of moving fast and far if you're a small soft-bodied organism. The place where the larva grows up, be it rotting bark, a piece of fruit or a decaying corpse, is generally not a great place to pupate. And a juicy maggot in the open is vulnerable to predation, parasitism, dessication... With a couple of quick jumps, a larva can get away from its food source without crawling laboriously over its surface, settle down and start the business of metamorphosis.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Frog - Amplexus

This image was taken a couple of months ago of a species called the Whirring Treefrog, Litoria revelata, from the mid-north coast, where it's relatively abundant in some areas, though it's not a commonly encountered frog in general.

This photo shows, of course, the hold called 'amplexus' where the male (the little yellow fellow in this case) grasps the female in preparation for oviposition. The poor female then has to drag the male around to the spawning site(s) she chooses. Amplexus is either axillary (the male grasps the female in the armpits) as in this species, or inguinal (around the waist).

Male Litoria, at least in my experience, often seem to take on yellow colouration when they're trying to find mates. A classic example is of course the ground dwelling species L. lesueuri and similar. I wonder if it's some sort of advertisement?

Litoria revelata has a high-pitched whirring call, sort of like a sped-up version of the closely related L. verreauxii. At the site where these two were photographed, they can occur in huge numbers, and it's absolutely ear-splitting when the frogs are really going for it. It also seems as if the other species that occur at the site just give up - and shut up - rather than try to compete over the din.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Jumping Spider (quick photo)


check out the new Circus of the Spineless - #15!

Broughton Island

Looking South-east from Pinker Top.

Broughton Island, sized a couple of kilometres across, sticks out of the ocean north-east of Nelson Bay. I recently paid it a visit to do some volunteer work for an ongoing frog project that's being conducted on the island. It was a great place to visit, truly the location made the work much more pleasant.

Esmeralda cove

The island is part of the Myall Lakes National park, but there are several shacks looking out over Esmeralda cove, owned by fishing clubs and leased from the park. No-one's supposed to live there permanently, but some of the blokes seem to spend a good part of the year on the island.

Flat rock

Believe it or not, this photo above is of the best frog site on the island, and it's home to several hundred Green and Golden Bell Frogs (Litoria aurea), the endangered frog that caused venue headaches during the planning of the Sydney Olympics after it turned up in the Homebush Brickpit. There are numerous small ponds on that rock platform, fed by seeps of fresh water. Every now and then a big wave inundates the ponds, killing any tadpoles and other aquatic life. It's a crazy place for frogs to survive, but bell frogs are notorious for doing well in habitats with regimes of regular disturbance, in fact they often seem to be out-competed in static ponds.

Green and Golden Bell Frog (Litoria aurea) on prickly pear

Bell frog on algal mat

Apart from bell frogs, the other species of frog that's on the island is the Striped Marsh Frog. Stripeys are a very common species in suburban Sydney, but are in lower numbers than the bell frogs on this island. There's a handful of reptiles on the island, introduced rats and rabbits, and a nice array of sea-birds. The little penguin colony that exists there is the northern-most population of the species. Numerous Mutton-birds call from their burrows at night, and seem very confused when encountered on the paths that cross the top of the island.

Little (fairy) penguin

Sooty Oystercatcher

Looking back towards Esmeralda cove

One final bell frog

Panoramas compiled using Autostitch v.2.186

Monday, November 20, 2006

Just a phase

These two phasmids (stick insects) are the same species. In fact they're probably siblings. And surprisingly, they're about three years old.

I keep another species of phasmid, the spiny leaf insect (Extatosoma tiaratum), and I was quite surprised a few weeks ago when I had hatchlings emerging from the container with this species in it that were obviously not Extatosoma. Thinking back, the only source of the eggs of this species that I can think of was from some adults I collected from the snowy mountains in the summer of 2003. I must have just thrown the eggs in with my Extatosoma eggs, and now, three years on, they've decided to hatch. Unfortunately I don't know what species they are - when they become adults I should be able to find out.

The really interesting thing about these nymphs is that they show what's referred to as 'kentromorphic' phase change. If an individual grows up in isolation or low density, it will display a cryptic uniform green colouration. If it's in high density however, it turns the colour of the one on the right above - that is highly contrasting black, yellow and white. That's classic warning colouration.

Locusts show a similar phenomenon. Green when solitary, yellow and black when crowded. The interesting thing is that both locusts and some phasmid species (including the ones showing kentromorphic phases) plague. That is to say the population occasionally skyrockets and you've got a swarm of hungry locusts or phasmids on the move as they deplete local food sources.

So these insects seem to use their colours in quite different ways. When the population density is low, being conspicuous isn't a good idea - predators may not encounter the insects often enough to learn to avoid the aposematic signal, so it's better to remain camoflagued. But when there are heaps of conspecifics around, predators will get the message pretty quickly and there's a real benefit to advertising unpalatability.

Key, K. H. L. 1957. Kentromorphic phases in three species of phasmatodea. Australian Journal of Zoology 5:247-284.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Friday Frog - Metamorph

Spotted this tiny fellow hanging on between a couple of blades of grass/sedge by the edge of a large pond a few weeks back. It was in the process of metamorphosing and still had a significant tail.

Too small to really tell what it is at ~1 cm long, though I suspect it's a Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifera). Given where it was however, there are a few other species that are possibilities.

At this stage in a frog's life, it generally doesn't eat at all. Its gut is still in the transitional stage between the long spiral-shaped gut it required for its herbivorous diet as a tadpole and the relatively short gut it will need to digest invertebrates. Plus the gape is still widening to give it a big froggy grin, and isn't much use in grabbing prey. So a lot of the energy the metamorph gains is from the resorption of the tail. Numerous other changes are going on; the transition to land involves the switch from using gills to lungs and skin for oxygen absorption, plus the skin needs to toughen up and get ready for retaining moisture.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ancient insects

Funnily enough, today in my house I came across two of these insects, called Silverfish (order Thysanura), in separate rooms. They quite often occur in human habitations, though I've never seen them before in mine. Was it just a coincidence that I saw my first and second on the same day, or am I witnessing the overrunning of the whole house?

These insects, together with the similar looking bristletails (Archaeognatha), are generally thought of as 'primitive' insects. Looking at the phylogeny of insects (e.g. here at it's obvious that the two groups branched off quite early from the rest of the insects. Silverfish and bristletails were originally collectively called the 'Apterygota' (without wings), though this grouping is now considered artificial in the sense that the two orders diverged separately, so do not constitute a clade.

So they're thought to have characters pretty similar to whatever the ancestral insect was. And they seem to survive pretty well by sticking to their guns, dated as they are.

They can eat almost anything, and this keeps them happy places we might think are pretty nutrient poor. Take human houses, libraries, museums; silverfish happily eat book binding glue, paper, photos, fabrics (natural and synthetic)... nothing I'd enjoy munching on.

I sort invertebrate pitfall trap contents brought back from the Simpson Desert, a fairly inhospitable part of the earth. Thysanura turn up regularly in the samples; they obviously don't mind the hot, dry conditions where nutrients aren't a thing to waste.

So I won't be too worried if these things have taken a hold in my house. Hopefully they won't eat through all my books. Moreover, it's fun to see something that looks like it just crawled out of the ocean living happily in our world of processed and synthetic materials.

Further Reading:
Wikipedia: Silverfish
Wikipedia: Insect Evolution

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Frog - Yum!

Litoria peronii, Perons Treefrog, eating a grapevine moth caterpillarWe get a yearly plague of Grapevine moth caterpillars on our ornamental grape. I spotted this Peron's Treefrog (Litoria peronii) just outside our front door just a few minutes ago chowing down on one of the little guys.

Personally I reckon this image should qualify for cute overload, what do you think?

(I have some other images of the frog acting very clumsily but endearingly if you think they'd be better...)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Portrait of a dwarf treefrog

Dwarf Treefrog, Litoria fallax/bicolorThis little guy came in yesterday through the frog rescue service. They're commonly transported around the country in fruit and vegetables.

They're also exceedingly cute little frogs. Their diminutive size of only around 25 mm earns them the common name of 'Dwarf Treefrogs'. There are two species that look almost identical: Litoria fallax and L. bicolor, the former occurring up the east coast to Cairns, the latter from there around the north coast and into WA. I'm not entirely confident about what species this one is, though I can supposedly measure the head width: body length ratio to find out for sure.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday squamate

A couple of reptile images from that field trip I mentioned that took place a month or so ago.

Hemisphaeriodon gerrardii, Pink tongued skinkIt looks a bit like a blue-tongue only its tongue is pink. So guess what it's called?

Hemisphaeriodon gerrardii, Pink tongued skinkYup, a pink tongue. Hemisphaeriodon gerrardii to be precise. It's a nocturnal, largely arboreal skink with impressive hooked claws and a flexible tail for climbing. During frogging forays they are occasionally spotted hanging on happily a few metres up a tree trunk.

They've reputedly got a tremendous amount of bite force, used in separating snail shells from their owners (don't tell Snail!).

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Glider babies

Here's a short video from the nestbox camera from a couple of nights ago.

The adults hadn't been visiting for a couple of weeks but now they're back and the mum has revealed her couple of cute little secrets to the world.

Paralysis tick follow-up

Ixodes holocyclus, Paralysis tickIn a previous post I showed a photo that, it turns out, is of an adult female paralysis tick, Ixodes holocyclus.

I realised how little I knew about these guys - everyone's heard of the name and has some sort of fear of getting one, but what's the actual danger?

It tuns out that there's three things that may be problematic. The first is the obvious one - paralysis.

When the tick feeds, it releases a toxin from its salivary glands that spreads from the site of the tick bite. This toxin interferes with the motor neurones and the signals they send to the muscles. So the muscles can't contract - paralysis.

Remove the tick and the problem goes away quite quickly. But it may have left behind some nasty pathogens.

There's rickettsia - a bacterium-like organism that causes 'tick typhus' or 'spotted fever'. Doesn't sound too terrible: rashes, fever and flu-like symptoms.

Another possible problem is Lyme disease, caused by a bacterium, though it's not actually confirmed in Australia. Both of these diseases can be treated with antibiotics.

The final thing that ticks may cause is an allergic reaction, and this may be pretty severe, even life-threatening in the case of anaphylaxis.

Take a look at these links on paralysis ticks for more information:
Sydney uni medical entomology
Tick Alert Group Support

Friday, November 03, 2006

Circus 14 and a nice link

The Halloween edition of Circus of the Spineless is out over at the neurophilosopher's weblog.

Also I stumbled by chance upon cool page that some of you may be interested in. You may remember a couple of years ago a story hit the news about a new insect order being discovered/described. Confined to Africa, the Mantophasmatodea is a strange group looking like something halfway between a mantid (Mantodea) and a phasmid/stick insect (Phasmatodea). I seem to remember at the time one of the common names being used was 'gladiators' and another is apparently 'heelwalkers' due to the way the feet are positioned.

Anyway I remember that trying to find information at the time was pretty fruitless, so it was good to finally get some info and photos via some museums in South Africa. Check it out

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

What's that dunny bug?

Washroom fly, family Psychodidae, possibly Clogmia albipunctataEver been annoyed in the shower by tiny little flying things?

Ever actually tried to work out what they are, only to be baffled by a combination of their tiny size and confusing features?

Well I have. These things are tiny - the ones in my bathroom (ahem... yep it needs cleaning) have a wingspan of only 2-3 mm. There's a larger species (the one in the photo) that I sometimes see which is about 5 mm. In case you're wondering, I actually nabbed this one from a bathroom and brought it home for some photos, which seems somehow wrong...

And what are they? My first thought was a moth. Scaly-looking wings, hairy etc. But the antennae don't look right. And there's apparently only one set of wings.

Turns out they're a fly (order Diptera). They live in the suborder of flies called Nematocera (thread-like antennae) along with things like mosquitos, the other suborder being the Brachycera (short antennae) which are the more typical houseflies, robberflies etcetera.
And the family of these guys? Psychodidae.

They've got a variety of common names - washroom flies, drain-flies (reflecting their frequent use of bathrooms) and moth-flies.

They apparently like that gunk of fungus and god knows what else that accumulates in shower drains and the like. I wouldn't be surprised if they did well in sewer environments too.

What's more, my species looks awfully like what is identified as Clogmia albipunctata on this page (go there to see some other funky species too). That's in Japan; the species also appears common in America. I wonder where they're originally from?


Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Lipotriches sp.I'm sleepy. Just an image for tonight. It's a small species of native bee that visits my garden frequently, one of the Lipotriches species. I think it's L. excellens, though flavoviridus is another possibility. It's foraging on a Lobelia flower.

I should start searching for groups of males hanging around in the garden.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Beauty and deceit...

Emerald Cuckoo Wasp (family Chrysididae)I've been having great fun with my combination of extension tubes (70mm or so) plus my 50mm macro lens racked out to minimum focus. Total reproduction ratio is 2.4:1 on the sensor, meaning that the full frame covers about 10 x 6.5 mm.

Impressive figures, but what I love is that the photos that result give me something of the feeling I get from peering down a dissecting microscope. The minute beauty of nature's tiny creatures is apparent in a way that's well beyond the limits of the unassisted eye.

And so to the subject of this post, the emerald cuckoo wasp (family Chrysididae). I'm sure that most people don't realise how common these are. I'll bet they'd turn a few more heads if they were over five millimetres in length. If you want to see some for yourself, just keep your eyes on a brick wall (corners seem to be preferred) in the sun on a warm day.

What they're after are the nests of other wasps. Things like mud-dauber wasps I'll bet, though I've never actually seen one have any success in its search. Like the cuckoo bees that I've written about in the past, these wasps are kleptoparasites, laying their eggs in the nests of other wasps whereupon the larvae eat the provisions and/or the host's larva.

Have a look at for more information and some great pics of cuckoo wasps from all over the world. There's a great part of the story that I gleamed from that page. After the cuckoo wasp makes a hole in the mud structure of its host, it lays its egg inside, then seals the hole back up! Apparently this is to stop mould getting in and wreaking havoc.

And of course, the metallic iridescence that characterises most of the group is another example of structural colour, rather than pigmental.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

More of the blues...

Well that was unbelievably lucky.

I just went out into the garden to attempt to find an animal called Caenoplana coerulea or the Blue Planarian (family Geoplanidae). I rarely see it around, occasionally on wet nights I suppose. One recent observation of it was seeing one preying upon a portugese millipede (Ommatoiulus moreleti).

Anyway, I didn't have high hopes but I was after a couple of photos so thought I'd wander around and try to find one. I sometimes see them under rocks and logs and the odd plant pot.

I lifted a single paver and there one was! Got my photos then went out again and continued searching, but with no luck this time around.

The bottom photo indicates how this creature got its common name and species epithet. The undersurface is a lovely blue colour (coerulea or caerulea means blue).

Interestingly there's another similar geoplanid species called Bipalium kewense, the shovel-headed garden worm. Check out the AustMus page for some pics and info. I bring it up because it was originally described in England from Kew gardens (hence kewense), and occurs all over the globe including in Sydney but is now thought to have originated somewhere in Indo-China, and spread from there in pot plant soil and the like.

I bring it up because I've now found out that Caenoplana is a good traveller too! When it was found in California in the fourties, it got described as a new species, Geoplana vaga, before the mistake was discovered. Now Ogren says: "Other localities are known in Tallahassee, Florida (1961); Statesboro, Georgia (1972); San Antonio, Texas (1978) and James Island, Charleston, [South Carolina]". And North Carolina. And Iowa, as of 1999.

I wonder where else it's got to? And what's the secret to the success of this species and Bipalium?

Ogren, R.E. (1989). Redescription and a new name for the blue land planarian Geoplana vaga Hyman now considered conspecific with Caenoplana coerulea Moseley from Australia (Turbellaria: Tricladida: Geoplanidae). Journal of the Pennsylvania Academy of Science 63, 135-142.

Blue on Black

Papilio ulysses, Ulysses butterfly wing
Blue on black,
tears on a river
Push on a shove,
it don't mean much
- 'Blue on Black', Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band
Don't mean much? Take a look at the colours of the Ulysses butterfly (Papilio ulysses) from Australia's tropics and say that again. The amazing contrast between the two regions of this butterfly's wings is actually teaching us some things about optics that we didn't realise.

The butterflies are actually doing two separate things - creating not only the brightest blue, but also the blackest black to make the contrast as strong as possible.

You can just see the tiny scales that coat the surfaces of the wings in the photo on the right. But each of those scales is covered with further structures so minute that they actually do strange things with the light that hits the scale. Take a look at the structure of those matt black scales.

From Vukusic et al. (2004, Figure 2b). This is a scanning electron micrograph of the ridges and latticing on a scale (bar represents 2 μm). While there's black pigment on the surfaces and interspersed throughout the material, this pigment can only absorb so much light. The rest is reflected. But the structure is such that the light actually seems to bounce around in those pits (which are tiny; a thousandth of a millimetre across by my estimate) and get scattered towards the absorbing pigment, some of it getting absorbed each time it encounters the pigment. The end result is an absorbance as high as 95%. This is actually the first time that the use of microstructures to create black colouration has been demonstrated.

Now take a look at the fine structure of the blue scales (right; from Vukusic et al, 2001; fig. 3; scale bars: a: 1 μm, b: 20 μm). Those ridges are still there though the complex pits within them are not. So it's not really the surface structure that's responsible for the brilliant azure.

Also from Vukusic et al, (2001, figure 5, scale bars from top: 3 μm, 1 μm and 1 μm), this final figure shows some cross-sections through the scale. The physics is a bit complicated and I don't understand it fully myself, but from what I gather, the 3D matrix of air-filled spaces (often referred to as a 'multilayer nanostructure') within the scale leads to a phenomenon called 'coherent scattering'. So some wavelengths undergo interference and are 'cancelled out' while others are reinforced (i.e. the blue).

So there it is. A great illustration of two completely different types of structural colour and how they are used to produce a conspicuous distinction between a bright colour and its background. Blue on black never looked so amazing.

Prum, R. O., T. Quinn, and R. H. Torres. 2005. Anatomically diverse butterfly scales all produce structural colours by coherent scattering. The Journal of Experimental Biology 209:748-765.
Vukusic, P., J. R. Sambles, and C. R. Lawrence. 2004. Structurally assisted blackness in butterfly scales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B (Biological Sciences), Biology Letters 271:S237-S239.
Vukusic, P., R. Sambles, C. R. Lawrence, and G. Wakeley. 2001. Sculpted-multilayer optical effects in two species of Papilio butterfly. Applied Optics 40:1116-1125.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Hang on a Tick...

Just a novelty image that I took of a huge tick that I noticed clinging to me while I was out on a walk whilst out in the field.

No doubt it was preparing to have a go at me, luckily I noticed it first.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Following the leader

Found a couple of these cool animals on a field trip recently. No, it's not an earthworm, it's actually a young Blackish Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops nigrescens). I was reminded of the following great story concerning these beasts.

They're a highly specialised snake species - while we occasionally get them at the surface at night, a large proportion of a blind snake's life is spent underground (and hence the reduction of the eyes to small pigment spots). And the diet of these creatures? Ants - specifically they get into the galleries and feast on the larvae and pupae. Obviously ants aren't always the most obliging of creatures and this may explain the smooth surface of the blind snake that offers no purchase for a set of angry ant mandibles.

As it turns out, at least one of the way these guys find their food is by following the scent trails of worker ants! Even trails a week old are still followed. When one encounters an ant trail, it stops, tongue flicks the trail before following it, tongue-flicking as it goes. Eventually it hopefully ends up at the ant nest where it feasts on the developing young.

But the story doesn't end there.

There's a species of snake called the Bandy Bandy (Vermicella annulata) which feeds pretty much exclusively on blind snakes. It's a beautiful creature (though I've not seen one), boldly annulated in black and white. Offer it a scent trail of a blind snake and lo and behold it's transfixed; progressing along the trail while flicking its tongue. Trails of non-prey species are ignored.

So if you ever see a bandy bandy or a blind snake making its way along the ground with a determined look in its eye, think about the way in which both these snakes are specialised to use their olfactory environment to track down their hard-to-find prey.

Greenlees, M., J. K. Webb, and R. Shine. 2005. Led by the blind: bandy bandy snakes Vermicella annulata (Elapidae) follow blindsnake chemical trails. Copeia 2005:184-187.

Webb, J. K., and R. Shine. 1992. To find an ant: trail-following behaviour in the eastern Australian blindsnake Rhamphotyphlops nigrescens. Animal Behaviour 43:941-948.

Wee buggers

These newly-hatched plant bug nymphs were found aggregating on a lemon leaf in the garden and I decided to try illuminating them through the leaf.

Don't think I really got the composition perfect though I think it's still an interesting enough image.

Friday, October 13, 2006

On the nose

It's a busy time of the year with end of semester projects being wrapped up and assignment due dates looming. Don't even mention exams.

Took a break from research to grab some photos of a planthopper that I noticed in the garden. I believe this is a Dictyopharid planthopper in the superfamily Fulgoroidea. You really expect to find nostrils on the end of that snout, don't you?

Used the 50mm macro with extra extension to get this 'portrait' of a bug that's only about 10mm long.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Orchids of spring

I had a great long weekend in the field - spending some time up on the mid-north coast around Smith's Lake. Lots of interesting animals and even a few plants that I had to admit were very attractive and interesting.

I saw these four species of orchid within a few hours while on a walk first skirting then within some dry sclerophyll forest. The first one to catch my eye was the Sun Orchid (Thelymitra sp.) poking up through some grass.

Next a species which always thoroughly amazes me. It's the aptly named Flying Duck Orchid (Caleana sp., possibly C. major). I've seen these guys only once before but was happy to find them again, their flower stalks sprouting out of the disused 4WD track.

In similar places to the duck orchids were a few Beard Orchids (Calochilus sp.)

Finally, somewhat inconspicuous in amongst the grass, these tiny onion orchids (Microtis sp.) were in good numbers. Each of those little blooms is tiny, less than a centimetre long!

As I have time I'll slowly put up some more photos and information of other things I saw and photographed - it was quite a rich weekend sightings-wise.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Litoria peronii, Perons Treefrog, EmbryoFor today, not only do we have another Litoria peronii embryo (left), but a rather smaller beastie.

This afternoon I spotted the little guy on the right attached to some weed in one of my aquaria, so fished it out and put in on a microscope slide to try to get a photo, seeing as embryography seems to be my current obsession.

It's an egg of the Crimson Spotted Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia duboulayi. Close to hatching too. You can see a photo of a newly hatched larva here.

Now we're talking about something of a different scale to the frog embryos here. My estimate for the diameter of the frog eggs at this stage is 4 mm. The rainbowfish egg is about 1mm. To photograph it I used a 28mm lens reversed on bellows with about 13 cm of extension. It's a bit hard to see how the fish is arranged in the capsule, but basically it's got its body and tail coiled around its head. Those eyes even swivel at this stage.
Rainbowfish embryo

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Roll up!

The circus is in town again this time courtesy of Deep Sea News.

Another tiny tot

Litoria peronii, Perons Treefrog, embryoWell here's another little embryo photo, taken today. I'm really getting into this! For the record this is Litoria peronii, the Perons Treefrog. Read earlier post.

Bit tricky getting the capsule to show up, required some experimentation with the lighting and positioning to get it right, but I think it paid off.

If you look closely you can see the external gill filaments - little fingery projections behind where the operculum is forming. You can see the eye developing too.

I'm going to call this stage 22.