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  • Monad
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The interesting critters thread
Not sure if this is really 'Science' but there isn't a TR embassy and this isn't so much a 'cute' critters thread as a 'wow!' or 'wtf is that thing?!' thread.

Anyway first an excuse to post some interesting Neuroptera, overall one of the most interesting and diverse insect groups and also the least well known. Most people know lacewings and possibly antlions but how about owlflys  - owlflys themselves are really beautiful, like a cross between a dragonfly and a butterfly (Neuroptera appear to have a tendency to converge on moth/butterfly like forms - not just the extinct kalligramatids):



And this is a nemopterid - also butterfly like



- owlfly larvae however would be the stuff of scifi nightmares if they were larger eg:







I love their camouflage

Then there are the spider boarders, which are the larvae of Mantidflys. Mantidlfys probably scare a lot of people but they are actually harmless but fascinating insects - several American species mimic wasps so we have wasps with mastis-like forelegs



but their larvae even more the stuff of scifi horror - think Alien. The first instar hitchhikes on spiders, often a male just about to mate with a female, they suck its haemolymph for a while but when they get to the female about to lay they swap onto her and then manage to get themselves into the egg case as she is laying, then they moult into a less mobile form and suck out the eggs from the inside, then pupate inside the egg case and when they emerge they have a nice juicy adult for their first meal:



More on all of them here:

http://www.bogleech.com/netwings.html





  • Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 08:34:22 AM by Monad

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #1
I love slime molds.
Love is like a magic penny
 if you hold it tight you won't have any
if you give it away you'll have so many
they'll be rolling all over the floor

  • Monad
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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #2
Epomis beetles - these are one of the few cases of a role reversal predator. Many amphibians eat insects, however Epomis beetles literally turn the tables on the amphibian, not only do they eat amphibians alive, their larvae actually lure amphibians to them by pretending to be a meal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epomis

Some gruesomely fascinating videos there - one interesting fact is this appears to be a fairly recently evolved behaviour, so they don't have any specific adaptations to eating amphibians beyond this behaviour, none of their close relatives do this. Consequently they don't have any ability to subdue their prey, which is often much larger than them, with venom for example. Their solution is to use their amazing speed and strong grip to make straight for the amphibians back legs and they bite through its leg muscles so it can't get away!

  • Monad
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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #3


https://www.wired.com/2011/09/epomis-beetle-amphibians/

Not for the squeemish or froglovers

Spoiler (click to show/hide)
  • Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 01:05:30 PM by Monad

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #4
More moth and butterfly convergent neuroptera

These are dilarid lacewings

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dilaridae





this is an ithonid lacewing



and these are psychopsid lacewings - almost butterfly like (Closest living relatives to the kaligrammatids)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychopsidae








amazing examples of convergent evolution

  • Monad
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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #5
Lacewing larvae are less 'cute' - they are active hunters (unlike owlfly and antlion larvae which are more ambush hunters) but they often carry their camouflage with them - their bodies are often covered in spines and protrusions that pick up all sorts of matter to form a portable hide:









sometimes this includes bits of what they have just eaten :)




  • Monad
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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #6
Found a lovely Flickr page with dilarid (spoonwing) lacewings

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/tags/spoonwingedlacewing/interesting/

Like some moths they use these trailing wings to release pheromones to attract a mate

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #7
A beautiful Aussie lacewing - Porismus strigatus



Interesting thing about this one is its an osmylid lacewing - a group whose larvae feed underwater on freshwater sponges

and from a distance I thought this one had a spider on its wing



possibly some form of Aposematism?

  • Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 02:05:00 PM by Monad

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #8
Antlions

Larvae







Adults






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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #9
Nemoptera are very pretty



although their wing extensions can get bizarre in some species





but their larvae are some of the strangest of the neuropteran larvae





  • Last Edit: December 29, 2016, 02:28:29 PM by Monad

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #10
OK onto another fascinating group - the Mecoptera (Scorpionflies and their allies). Although this is a small and relatively poorly known group it is also important because true flies (Diptera) and fleas evolved from Mecopterans (and there are some beautiful transitional fossils that demonstrate this very well, aside from the also strong genetic and morphological evidence). It is also possible butterflies and moths share a common ancestor with this group. Mecoptera were also probably among the first insects to become pollinators for plants (initially with Gymnosperms and Cycads etc) (together with some Neuroptera).

Scorpionflies proper really do look like they have a scorpion stinger in their tail but unlike Mantidfly arms this is not a functional resemblance (except insofar as it may have an aposematic role).



The 'scorpion' tail is used in mating - and only the male has it (but it does also use it in threat displays so the appearance is also useful even if it can't actually sting anything) - this is a female:






These are actually wingless Scorpionflies from a group called 'Snow scorpionflies'



It is from this group that fleas evolved, there have actually been transitional fossils found intermediate between the groups

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v483/n7388/full/nature10839.html

so technically Fleas are highly adapted parasitic Scorpionflies, the group would be paraphyletic without including fleas.

But (and you can see the resemblance in their mouthparts) we now know that true flies also evolved from Mecoptera, one particular intermediate fossil, Choristotanyderus, is one of those rare examples of an almost perfect transitional - it has 4 wings (all true Flies have 2 wings and the other 2 are reduced to stumps called Halteres that are used during flight as little gyroscopes to facilitate more precise flight - this is one reason why some true flies are amongst the most accomplished insect fliers) but the second set of wings is reduced in size, and structurally the wings still resemble Scorpionfly wings but they also have some features of Diptera wings (there is a particular structure in the wing that is a synapomorphy of true flies)

https://ncse.com/cej/7/1/fossil-insects-pests-creation

One group of very fly-like Mecoptera is the Bittacidae or 'Hanging flies' - these are very similar to crane flies in appearance but have 4 wings and they are ambush hunters, literally hanging with their hooked feet from branches and rocks waiting to catch prey on the wing with their long legs.





Incidentally they also 'hook' in another sense - male hanging flies 'buy' the right to mate with a female by offering her a gift of prey they have captured. If the gift is too small she's not interested and studies have shown that the size of the gift correlates to the amount of time the male is allowed to copulate:

Quote
Food items such as caterpillars, bugs, and flies are offered to be eaten during copulation. The female is first attracted by a pheromone emitted by one or more vesicles or pouches at the end of the male's abdomen. When the female is near, the vesicles are retracted. The female examines the offering while the male searches for her genitalia with his own. If the gift is rejected, the female flies away. If the gift is accepted, the genitalia of the male couples with that of the female, who lowers herself until she is hanging upside down. She consumes the offering during copulation. The male supports the female by holding her legs or the prey. Field observations show that both sexes mate several times per day. Small or unacceptable offerings result in no or a very short copulation time. Duration depends on the size of the gift. It has been observed that prey 3 to 14 mm long will provide 1 to 17 minutes of copulation in Hylobittacus apicalis. Larger H. apicalis give prey the size of houseflies in return for 20 to 29 minutes of copulation. This results in a maximum sperm transfer, increased oviposition, and a refractory period.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mecoptera

  • Last Edit: December 31, 2016, 07:26:49 AM by Monad

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #11
Don't stop now, Monad, this is very interesting material. I'm sure I've seen some of these winged things and thought they were just some species of moth or cranefly that I am unfamiliar with.

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #12
Incidentally they also 'hook' in another sense - male hanging flies 'buy' the right to mate with a female by offering her a gift of prey they have captured. If the gift is too small she's not interested and studies have shown that the size of the gift correlates to the amount of time the male is allowed to copulate:

Quote
Food items such as caterpillars, bugs, and flies are offered to be eaten during copulation. The female is first attracted by a pheromone emitted by one or more vesicles or pouches at the end of the male's abdomen. When the female is near, the vesicles are retracted. The female examines the offering while the male searches for her genitalia with his own. If the gift is rejected, the female flies away. If the gift is accepted, the genitalia of the male couples with that of the female, who lowers herself until she is hanging upside down. She consumes the offering during copulation. The male supports the female by holding her legs or the prey. Field observations show that both sexes mate several times per day. Small or unacceptable offerings result in no or a very short copulation time. Duration depends on the size of the gift. It has been observed that prey 3 to 14 mm long will provide 1 to 17 minutes of copulation in Hylobittacus apicalis. Larger H. apicalis give prey the size of houseflies in return for 20 to 29 minutes of copulation. This results in a maximum sperm transfer, increased oviposition, and a refractory period.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mecoptera


haha it turns out some males add another layer to this by pretending to be females in order to get a free meal

Quote
During the mating season males of some species use their freshly captured prey as a nuptial gift, offered to the female during courtship, and the larger the prey they can offer the longer and more successful the mating. But not all males play fair. A small proportion of so called "transvestite" males approach those males who already hold a prey item, and wiggle the abdomen seductively in a way a receptive female would. Often they are able to convince the honest suitor to hand over the nuptial gift, leaving the sucker confused and ashamed of himself. Other, lazier males, don't bother with such a nuanced approach, and simply wrestle the food away from courting males, or steal it from mating pairs.

https://thesmallermajority.com/category/insects/mecoptera/

Makes me think we could modify the ad infinitum quote re fleas

"So nat'ralists observe, a cheat
Has other cheats that on him prey;
And these have yet more cheats to fool 'em.
And so proceeds Ad infinitum."



Hanging fly in ambush mode
  • Last Edit: December 31, 2016, 10:56:04 AM by Monad

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #13
Their feet look like seed thorns/hooks.

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #14
Mantis shrimp!

  • Monad
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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #15
Yeah they are cool - was also thinking of doing a post on Robber flies as they are awesome

Maybe also something on tardigrades (and ecdysozoa generally) as I had one at TR that got lost

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #16
Yeah they are cool - was also thinking of doing a post on Robber flies as they are awesome

Maybe also something on tardigrades (and ecdysozoa generally) as I had one at TR that got lost
tardigrades are pretty cool.

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #17
I love this thread.

As a child growing up in FL I was fascinated and amazed and in love with the varied wildlife, especially the insects, caterpillars, bugs, and lizards.  This was before the rampant invasion of species imported from around the world, by design or by accident. 

Many of the species I loved and observed are now gone from observation.  Totally gone. Not just rare, gone, no sightings for 30 years. 

I miss the insects.

"If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man."
― Mark Twain 🔭

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #18





Quote
The Colourful Hummingbird Moth
Unlike most other moths, the Hummingbird Clearwing Moths fly and feed during the daytime. Like other members of the Sphingidae, the Hummingbird Clearwing Moths are fast and strong fliers and have very rapid wing beats. They hover in midair as they feed on nectar and are often mistaken for hummingbirds, for which they are named.

Link


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Reply #19


Lunch in Flight   #hummingbird #moth #macroglossum #insect #stellatarum #butterfly
A hummingbird moth collecting nectar from a thorn blossom in Bulgaria.

Link

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #20
It looks like a furry, flying shrimp.

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #21
Probably tastes like one too

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #22
all that nectar; it'd probably be quite sweet-tasting
braying among the ruins

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Re: The interesting critters thread
Reply #23
Those are quite common here in summer - I have a dozen or so blurry pics of them. They really do look like tiny hummingbirds in flight.

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Reply #24
Article about treehoppers, but the interesting bit is the soundfiles linked near the end.

https://www.wired.com/2014/12/absurd-creature-of-the-week-treehopper/