Spiderday (#12)

I’m delighted to bring you the twelfth instalment of SPIDERDAY! All your arachnid links, at your fingertips!

Please note: I’m going to be away (vacation time…) for part of August – your next Spiderday will likely be on 22 August. Hope you can wait that long!

From Jonathan Kolby, an awesome net-casting spider! Amazing animals.

From Jonathan Kolby, an awesome net-casting spider! Amazing animals.

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Spiderday (the eighth)

Hip Hip Hooray! It’s Spiderday! I’ve snared some of the best arachnidy links from this past week. But first… a big hug for you:

A spider hug.

A spider hug.

A spider found for the first time in Canada: Myrmarachne formicaria (photo by V. Levesque-Beaudin, reproduced here with permission)

A jumping spider found for the first time in Canada: Myrmarachne formicaria (photo by V. Levesque-Beaudin, reproduced here with permission)

Expiscor (9 September 2013)

Welcome to Monday… Welcome to Expiscor! Weekly links about entomology, nature, and a dash of the curious. Here’s what I came across this past week:

  • Speaking of Harvestmen, as Derek Hennen points out, this one is like a Christmas tree (adorned with shiny mites)
Get a load of this Harvestman! (photo courtesy or Derek Hennen, reproduced here with permission)

Get a load of this Harvestman! (photo courtesy or Derek Hennen, reproduced here with permission)

  • Beetles drinking wine and so much more: Insect dioramas. Go look. PLEASE go look.
The Spiny Oak Slug (copyright C. Ernst)

The Spiny Oak Slug (copyright C. Ernst)

  • Tweet of the week goes to…Marc Ozon. It’s just so true.

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  • Interesting perspectives on Academia, using the concept of reviewing papers as an example:… should we “give up our archaic notions of unpaid craft labor and insist on professional compensation for our expertise”
  • I was at a Science Communication workshop last week, and was introduced to this:

Expiscor (19 August 2013) – The Photography Edition (Part 2)

Last week was Part 1 of the Photography editions of Expiscor (this is because I was been doing remote field work and have thus been unable to keep up on science links, and now I’m on vacation!).  Here’s Part 2 – and again, I thank the Photographers for letting me post their work here, and for directing me to their favourite nature image.

First up, a lovely shot from Morgan Jackson, a Micropezidae fly (genus Raineria)

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An Expiscor favourite Adrian Thysse submitted this photo, with the following comment: My ‘favourites’ change every week, but here is a shot that was one of themost popular images at the Bug Jamboree at the Ellis Bird Farm last Saturday. It is a meadowhawk, Sympetrum sp. , taken with very shallow depth of field to smooth-out the background and to accentuate those magnificent eyes.

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Next, another awesome fly, from Rachel Graham:

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Warren Sarle submitting this photo – lovely little jumping spiders!


The next photo comes with a story, here’s what Matt Bertone writes about this image:

I was walking on a trail near our local lake (Raleigh, NC, USA), when I came upon a harvestman. I didn’t think much of it until I saw this tiny ceratopogonid sucking hemolymph out of its leg. I had been wanting to find this phenomenon, so I took a couple photos (others show the whole scene) and then was on my way to find new subjects. After posting on facebook and having Chris Borkent comment on it, I sent the photo to Art Borkent, a world expert on punkies. He was amazed at what I had found – Opiliones as a host was only recorded once ever, and only in Brazil. I was kicking myself for not getting the specimen, but at least the shot turned out well!

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Ok, time to move away from the “All Arthropod” show… here’s an image of my own and here’s the story: Last week I was in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, doing field work. While doing a “tundra walk” one afternoon, we stumbled across a tiny patch of Asters, tucked in among some rocks. It was a beautiful moment because it was very late season, and we observed very few flowers. However, these stunning Asters took my breath away. Delicate, beautiful, fragile.

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Expiscor (6 May 2013)

Welcome to May! Expiscor is still going strong, and thanks to everyone for the continued support and interest. I’m certainly thrilled about this, and will continue to post weekly links about entomology, arachnology, natural history, biology and a dash of the curious and odd.

  • Silk farming and biotechnology: the future is here. This paper describes some things that I don’t fully understand, and I am partially fascinated by, and partially terrified about, the idea (anyone read Margaret Atwood‘s book, Oryx & Crake?).
  • On the death of a bug blog? Ted MacRae posts about waning interest by readers, and perhaps by him, with his fabulous Beetles in the Bush blog. Ted will keep posting (phew!) but less regularly. Actually, I have noticed that over the past six months or so quite a few bug blogs have been less active.  This saddens me – high quality entomology blogs are an important way for this discipline to reach a wide audience.  Come on, folks – keep them going!
  • Palpal action. and check out this stunning photo from Chthoniid!  Yes, Harvestmen are among the most lovely of the Arachnida.
A charming harvestmen. © Chthoniid, reproduced here with permission.

A charming harvestmen. © Chthoniid, reproduced here with permission.

  • Worried about the decline of bees and colony collapse disorder?  Read this –> an important message (thanks Bug Girl for posting this)
  • On-line reading – I have been enjoying Nautilus this past week. Here’s their motto: “Nautilus is a different kind of science magazine. We deliver big-picture science by reporting on a single monthly topic from multiple perspectives. Read a new chapter in the story every Thursday”.  Definitely one to follow. And it’s a lovely site to look at.
  • Avoid that mumbo-jumbo.  Here’s Alan Alda’s take on scientific jargon.  Here’s a great quote from him:  “There’s no reason for the jargon when you’re trying to communicate the essence of the science to the public because you’re talking what amounts to gibberish to them“.  He’s right.
  • Think you’r a pretty big deal? What to think about your place in the Universe? Think again. (thanks Sam Heads for tweeting that link!)
  • Kids have an interesting fashion sense. Here’s a photo of my 9 year old, en route to school.  I wish we could all worry a little less about whether or not things might clash, and just be happy that we have clothes to wear and food to eat.
Fashion. That is all.

Fashion. That is all.

  • Unless you’ve been off the grid for months, you have probably heard of the great Canadian Chris Hadfield, up on the International Space Station. He and Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson teamed up a while ago to write and perform a song (yes, Chris was in SPACE during the recording). Well, this was all leading up to MUSIC MONDAY, which is today. A fabulous celebration about music – all the details are here.  And the video of the Hadfield/Robertson song is below. Worth a listen.
  • ….on a related note, Chris Hadfield has more twitter followers than Canada’s Prime Minster (and for good reason).

Ten fun facts about Daddy Longlegs

Animals with many names: Harvestmen, Daddy longlegs, Shepherd Spiders, Grandfather Greybeard, Phalangids, Opiliones.

Cousins of other Arachnids, but an Order all to their own.   Over the past 11 months, I’ve been on a journal of discovery about these amazing creatures.

After nearly 300 tweets, and over 600 pages of text in Pinto-da-Rocha et al.’s book on Harvestmen, the Opiliones Project (in the way it was originally conceived) is over.  To recap – this was a twitter-based project in which I shared content from that weighty textbook with anyone who cared to follow along (using the hashtag #OpilionesProject).  Many folks followed along, notably my twitter friends Derek Hennen, Jaden Walker, Matthew Cobb, and many, many others…

A lovely Harvestmen - photo by B. Valentine, reproduced here with permission

A lovely Harvestmen – photo by B. Valentine, reproduced here with permission

I learned a lot along the way – and will take this opportunity to highlight ten fun facts about Harvestmen – all of these were part of the Opiliones Project.

Did you know that…

1. Salvador Dali featured Harvestmen in his work!  It’s true – check it out: “Daddy Longlegs of the Evening

2. Harvestmen can breath through their legs!  Spiracles in harvestmen are located just posterior to the coxae of the 4th pair of legs and this supply of oxygen to Harvestmen legs (e.g., after they are removed) contributes to the duration of twitching

3. Harvestmen have been around for at least 400 million years!  Phenominal!  And Harvestmen from the Rynie chert have an extensive tracheal system – the oldest record of such tubes of ANY arthropod

4. Harvestmen are NOT venomous! They don’t have venom glands!  A common urban myth.

5. Over 60 chemical compounds have been isolated from Harvestmen secretions (e.g., the secretions that are often used in chemical defense)

6.  At least a dozen species of Harvestmen are known to be parthenogenetic (females lay eggs that produce only females)!

7.  Harvestmen often show aggregation behavior, and the largest aggregation recorded is 70,000 individuals on a candelabrum cactus!

8. Unlike other Arachnids, Harvestmen males have a penis!

9. In some Harvestmen species, males use their chelicerae to offer oral secretion to female – a type of nuptial gift!

10. In some species, Harvestment moult even after they are have reached adulthood!

So there you have it.  Many fascinating and fun facts about Harvestmen (and there are many, many more) – you can access all the tweets from the Opiliones Project here (all 24 pages of them).

There were some other notable Harvestmen events over the past year, and it was fortunate this project coincided with these events.  For example, the Taxonomy Hulk burst onto the scene, and highlighted an article depicting a mix-up between a spider and a Harvestmen (a common mistake…).  Also, a truly HUGE harvestmen species was discovered – this sucker had a 13 inch legspan.  As May Berenbaum said over twitter…that’s a Daddy Loooooonglegs!

So, to finish – a big THANK YOU to everyone who followed along.  I hope this project was a fun for you as it was for me.

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Another lovely Harvestmen, photo by B. Valentine, reproduced here with permission.

A special thanks to Brian Valentine for permission to use his Harvestmen photos on this blog!

We need the Taxonomy Hulk

The Taxonomy Hulk burst onto twitter yesterday. We need superheroes like Taxonomy Hulk. As his/her alter ego, s/he surfs the internet, working away as a taxonomist, doing things that taxonomists do – describing species, inferring their evolutionary relationships, discovering their natural history. However, if s/he spots a taxonomic mistake on a website, news story, scientific article, or blog – LOOK OUT. The Hulk goes through an impressive metamophosis. S/he gets mad and gets even. If you make a taxonomic mistake, you will be shamed. Message: DON’T MAKE A #TAXONOMYFAIL. Taxonomy Hulk points out misidentifications in images (e.g., see this website with a Harvestmen instead of a spider.. oops [although a common mistake]).

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Taxonomy Hulk reminds us to use Latin names, not common names.

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Taxonomy Hulk is also funny. We need humour – every day.

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On a slightly more serious note: correct taxonomy is critically important. Other posts (e.g., see here or here) have pointed out taxonomic failures – and I especially like Bug Girl’s Flickr set!. One letter difference in Miridae (a family of plant bugs) gets you to Muridae (rodents and their relatives) – yeah those two are just a bit different. As an ecologist (although one with envy of taxonomists, and one in awe of the work taxonomists do!), I admit that I am perhaps not as careful as I should be when it comes to checking nomenclature, or ensuring spelling is always correct. I try – but given that my training is not in taxonomy, I surely make mistakes. I fear that some ecologists appreciate the importance of sound taxonomy even less than I do, and we need a watchdog. Reminders about correct taxonomy are a good idea. Taxonomy Hulk reminds us that we must be clear in what we are saying, whether it be in science journalism, writing a blog post, or working on a scientific paper.

Taxonomy Hulk is a concept not a person and this is a good thing: the humour and fun and ‘alter ego’ perspective is non-threatening, and allows taxonomic issues to be brought into the open easily and effectively. We can fix our mistakes, smile about it, and move forward.

Thank you Taxonomy Hulk. (and yes, you should follow Taxonomy Hulk on twitter)

I finish by stating that Taxonomy Hulk’s ‘regular’ persona (the Bruce Banner) is known to some of us (and s/he’s an incredibly competent taxonomist!, and a super-nice person).

But I’ll keep it quiet – it’s better that way.