Archive for the 'Research' Category

Pitfall pleasures

April 17, 2010

Wow, things are busy at the moment. Lots of work on, including some research planning. Going to be having a look at Pheidole megacephala in far north queensland… I will go through a few of the specifics in a later entry. To cap it all off, my wife’s brother and his partner are visiting for a week (starting tomorrow), and my parents are visiting for 3 weeks just after that! Tying off loose ends with work, tidying, gardening and packing for 2 weeks R&R in the Daintree. It’s all happening!

One of the projects I’ve been helping with over the past few months involves pitfall traps, and lots of them! A friend is working on his phd looking at carabid ecophysiology, and modelling the future distributions of both the carabids and associated ant faunas with predicted climate change scenarios. I’ve been giving him a hand, sorting through the pitfall trap samples retrieved from various sites across the wet tropics. It’s not exactly glamourous work, but it’s more interesting than some might think. All kinds of weird and wonderful arthropods turn up, as well as the occasional microhylid (which I can’t help but feel a little sorry for – interesting that I don’t feel the same way about the arthropods).

One of the more interesting organisms were numerous Peripatus, or velvet worms. I’ve not read much about these, but did notice the unusual distribution of the two families of Onchophora on wikipedia. Wonder what caused it… I won’t post any photos of trapped velvet worms here. Lacking a hard cuticle, they usually don’t look too pleasant after a year of rather crude wet storage!

I haven’t yet had time to identify either of these beetles, but as I thought both were unusual (to me at least), here are a couple of photographs taken just prior to labeling. This first pic is of course, a tiger beetle, which was surprisingly abundant considering the dense rainforest location. I’m certainly no coleopterist, but I have always thought of tiger beetles as being inhabitants of fairly open, sandy habitats. All of those found are of the genus Distipsidera (largely tree trunk dwellers). I haven’t had a chance to go through the key and ID to species yet.

The second photo is of another beetle, this one a little larger, sporting rather cool translucent flanges on it’s elytra and thorax. I am unsure of the ID, but I believe it will belong to the Silphidae family.

I’m not sure how much I will be get to post in the coming weeks, but I will hopefully come back from the Daintree with some juicy photographs.