Monday, July 15, 2013

Zac - Wildlife photography at OIMB

Last week I posted a short blog about some of the wilderness exploration opportunities around OIMB. As it turns out, one need not even leave campus to experience some pretty fantastic wildlife.  OIMB campus is cut roughly in half by a trickling creek exiting the neighboring "skunk-cabbage swamp" and this stream is a hot-spot for a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate fauna. Seen below is a common inhabitant: a red-veined meadowhawk (Sympetrum madidum).  This particular specimen was in the middle of laying its eggs just below the surface of the water (its larvae are entirely aquatic, until metamorphosis), but unfortunately had completed this task by the time I returned with my camera.   

Red-veined meadowhawk - Sympetrum madidum

Meadowhawks (and just about every other dragonfly) are aerial predators that eat soft-bodies insects like mosquitoes and mayflies.

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A possible prey item - a mayfly - can be seen below.  Mayflies are relatively closely related to dragonflies and share a characteristic "Paleopteran" trait - the inability to fold its wings over its abdomen.  Mayflies have extremely long lived aquatic larvae, similar to dragonflies, but winged adult are extremely short lived, sometimes living no more than a few days. Oftentimes these insects will metamorphose and mate in swarms, ensuring great reproductive success and also great feeding success for predators such a trout. A mayfly mimic, popular among fly fishermen, can be seen right.

Unidentified Mayfly - Order Ephemeroptera (Gr. ephemeros, short-lived – ptera, wing) about 3,000 species)

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Another common arthropod, a harvestman, can be seen below. Although harvestmen look superficially like long-legged spiders they are distinctly different. One noticeable difference, especially at this magnification, is the fact that they have a fused cephalothorax (head-torso combo) and abdomen, whereas spiders have a distinct pedicle - a separation between the two body parts. Harvestmen also lack fangs and instead they have chelicerae equipped with pinchers (seen at right).  This would almost make one think that they are more closely related to scorpions than spiders; and in fact they are - despite some more technical differences between the mouthparts of the these two orders.  Furthermore, harvestmen lack silk glands a distinguishing feature of almost any true spider.

An unidentified harvestman - Order Opiliones 

Giant Flatworm (Kaburakia excelsa)
If the tidepools are too far away for your liking try the sea-tables in any of the OIMB laboratories. The giant flatworm seen right (presumably identified as Kaburakia excelsa) was found crawling around the tunicate cultures of fellow COSEE intern Cris Rangel.  The diamondback tritonia seen below was found crawling around the tanks in the Maslakova lab.  This nudibranch is a marine predator that feeds largely on soft corals. According to my advisor, George, they can grow to be well over four inches long on a diet of sea-pens alone.

Diamondback Tritonia (Tritonia festiva)
Note: all of these images were taken within 50 meters of my dorm room... hence the title "Wildlife photography IN the OIMB".  Stay tuned!

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