Monthly Archives: September 2009

The living fossil

This is Trilobitideus paradoxus, the only extant trilobite left, a true living fossil, standing proudly alongside coelacanths.

Trilobitideus paradoxus Wasmann

Trilobitideus paradoxus Wasmann

Just kidding.

Trilobites have been extinct for a long time now. This analogously formed beast is actually a staphylinid.

This is a truly remarkable insect. So truely remarkable, thought Fauvel, that he place Trilobitidius in its own subfamily Tilobitideinae.

Wasmann saw that Trilobitideus was probably an “aberrant” aleocharine, drawing a link through Phyllodinarda, but retained subfamilial status of Trilobitideinae.

And finally, Seevers  observing Trilobitideus‘ unmistakable aleocharine genitalia, sunk Trilobitideinae within Aleocharinae (tribe Trilobitideini).

These beasts are apparently myrmecophiles of Dorylus – the African driver ants. Presumably this shield-like limuloid, or teardrop shaped, body form is advantageous in defense against their hosts.

Kansan myrmecophilic update

Arriving in Kansas I realized that there is a very rich fauna of myrmecophiles here. For one thing, unlike Ithaca, Aphaenogaster seem to dominate woodland habitats and I have been seeing a plentiful fauna associated with them.

Meet the genus Cedius. A myrmecophilous genus of the staphylinid subfamily Pselaphinae. Myrmecophiles of Aphaenogaster, Lasius etc., they are found only when these ants nest in relatively dry wood. Cedius are especially easily collected when nest entrances are exposed under bark of these dry woods.

Cedius zeigleri - largest member of the genus

Cedius zeigleri - largest member of the genus

There was too much dust on the sensor to remove in a resonable amount of time. I know there are glares on the image but this was the first time using this imaging system here at KU. We will be getting a new imaging system setup soon and that’ll be bye bye to all that dust.

Back from my petite field trip

So I’m back. We stopped in New Mexico and Texas. Oddly, it was cool (not quite cold but too cool for bugs) and drizzling almost the entire trip.

Fun times with big’n-showy thangs but unproductive in the staph department. I was going to pitfall trap for Papasus in the sand dunes in New Mexico but the weather really didn’t permit even this. I struggled but was able to pull a few things out of plant debre.

The best catch of the trip was a phorid that I found hovering over a Pheidole immigration column. At the time I figured they were all females because they would hover over Pheidole workers, but I was never able to actually witness oviposition. Sure enough, when I took a look at them under the scope I saw that I had only collected one female while I collected close to five males. I think they’re Pseudacteon but I’m not sure.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On a different note. Let’s walk memory lane whilst discussing the urgent matter of myrmecophiles – well it’s not urgent.

This is from road trip ’08 – chapter, coastal California.

Cremastocheilus defends itself from the scarry camera by outstreching his limbs

Cremastocheilus defends itself from the scary camera by outstreching his limbs

Cremastocheilus is restricted to the New World and most are myrmecophiles. Larvae develope in nest debre and  adults prey on brood. There are a few odd balls, one occurs in Neotoma (pack rat) middens and and another in rotting yucca.

And down the hill side, a real beautiful mountain river where Myllaena and Geodromicus were common under river bank cobble stones.

River runs through mountains of coastal California

River runs through mountains of coastal California

Tree hole feaver (フィーバー)

Tree holes are awesome.

A nice tree hole here in Kansas

A nice tree hole here in Kansas

Trees apparently don’t need all that wood in the middle but use the outer perimeters for nutrient and water transport. This is why a tree’s core can rot away, leaving a cavity, while still being quite vigorous and alive.

Of course there are insects, and especially beetles, that specialize (can you specialize on a tree hole microhabitat or are they jest restricted – is there a distinction?) on tree holes.

Back in Ithaca I struggled to find a good tree hole. Here in Kansas they seem to be a bit more abundant.

Me with a lot a tree hole litter

Me with a lot a tree hole litter

And this is what happens when I see a sexy tree hole – like the photo above. I tend to sift the hell out of it.

Inside I found a Lasius and Aphaenogaster nest so I sifted away at them too. I hope to get some guests that are deep in the nest that may not be so easily collected otherwise.

Tree hole litter can be saw-dusty like the one pictured above (you can see the saw-dusty stuff coming out) but still seems to house interesting pselaphines, scydmaenines, omaliines and histerids. Also, because it’s saw-dusty, the litter tends to be on the drier side but still seems to suite those tree hole inhabitants (even dry intolerant staphs).

I will keep you readers updated on the tree hole litter situation. Currently they’re being Berlese funneled to death.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

On a different note. I will be taking a very last minute trip to New Mexico, not the old one…, and will be returning on Monday. Wish me luck and I’ll keep you readers posted on how it goes.

Microdon gluttony

I collected some Microdon larvae from Lasius like formicine colony. I noticed yesterday that these piggies had finished their mound of ant larvae.

Today I head out to collect more ant larvae.

Microdon larva

Microdon larva

Microdon is a genus of syrphid flies that are myrmecophilous as larvae, feeding on ant young. These larvae are so bizarre, they were initially described as slugs. I thought this was a bit ridiculous, but this is all until I got to see them alive for myself. There undersides especially remind me of slugs – minus the slime.

This (these are Japanese species, click the images to enlarge) is what the adults look like, quite pretty and clearly a syrphid.

Microdon larva spiracle

Microdon larva spiracle

Posterior spiracle of a Microdon larva. A reminder that Microdon are in fact Diptera.

Kojun visits

I got to Kansas on August 16th after a wonderful visit to the Field Museum. Thanks Al and Margaret for your wonderful hospitality!

Kojun came to visit on the 19th. My apartment still littered in boxes and more came on the 20th. What a time to have a visitor. Regardless it was a nice fun visit and Kojun was able to add more new species to his on going generic revision.

One of the main missions for Kojun was to collect a specific Bembidion species for Dr. David Maddison here in Kansas. With some help, Kojun and I headed for a locality north of Lawrence.

Kojun looks for Bembidion on a cobble stone river bank

Kojun looks for Bembidion along a cobble stone river bank

According to Kojun sorting through tent caterpillar nests yields some interesting beetles. One of particular interest for Kojun was a tenebrionid in the genus Paratenetus (Lagriinae). And sure enough we found them, but what a peculiar habitat, although Paratenetus don’t seem to be restricted here. We also collected latridiids, carabids and other LBB’s (Little Brown Beetles).

Kojun sorts through a tent caterpillar nest

Kojun sorts through a tent caterpillar nest

A cool snake from sifting a hay stack

Carphophis vermis (ID courtesy of "Dale Hoyt") from sifting a hay stack

Any ideas as to what this snake could be? Very cool looking, awesome red underside and literally sifted from substrate.

First post here at WordPress

I’ve now moved here to WordPress. I was disappointed by Blogger’s features and I enjoy the flexibility and graphics that WordPress provides.

I have now settled into my space here at the Public Safety Building, where the entomological collections is held, at the University of Kansas. My apartment, there I’m not quite settled, boxes everywhere.

New University of Kansas work space

New University of Kansas work space

Now that my life has gotten back on track (somewhat), I hope to start bloging regularly again. I’ve already started collecting locally, so I hope to introduce the cool beasts that I’ve been picking up.

Here at KU we’ve got two microptics units so I hope to start using them and sharing my images too.