Observation of the Week, 5/28/17

Our Observation of the Week is this Algodones Sand Treader Cricket, seen in California by @alice_abela!

“As long as I can remember, I’ve had a consuming interest in nature. Some of my earliest memories are when I was four in Wyoming and catching grasshoppers and asking my mom for help identifying them,” recalls Alice Abela. “ I didn’t know what it was called at the time, but I decided I wanted to be a wildlife biologist when I was five and that’s what I did. I currently work as a wildlife biologist doing surveys for federally threatened and endangered species, special-status species monitoring, and drafting environmental documents.”

On a recent trip to the Algodones Dunes, one of Alice’s target species was the Algodones Sand Treader Cricket (Macrobaenetes algodonensis). “Orthopterans have always been a favorite and I knew Ammobaenetes sp. fluoresced under blacklight so I was curious if Macrobaenetes did too... I went prepared with a lot of oatmeal to lure them out, a 365nm blacklight, tripod, camera and flash set up. The 365nm blacklight and a weak flash allow me to get a more natural color to the background while still capturing the glow of the insect. Interestingly, it was only the adult sand treaders that fluoresced.” Oh, and the glowing purple dots around it are the oatmeal pieces.

The largest sand dunes system in North America, the Algodones Dunes (and its surrounding area) are home to many endemic species, and that, of course, includes the sand treader that Alice photographed so beautifully. Like many desert animals, it hides during the day (by burrowing in the sand) and comes out at night to feed. It eats detritus and various vegetative matter, so oatmeal is a real treat! And if there is any evolutionary purpose for the fluorescence in sand treaders and other arthropods, scientists simply haven’t found a good answer. Regardless, it’s super cool.

In addition to her amazing photos, Alice has contributed many identifications (she’s definitely helped me with orthopterans) and loves the mapping capabilities of iNaturalist. “It’s really neat being able to pull up species distributions and the like. I’m also a big fan of anything that gets more people to take an interest in the natural world.”

- by Tony Iwane


- More of Alice’s photos can be found on Flickr

- Here’s a popular Wired article about fluorescent arthropods with a link to more cool fluorescing animals.

-  Follow a Sand Treader cricket at Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Posted by tiwane tiwane, May 29, 2017 04:13

Comments

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Oatmeal?? Interesting!

Posted by kimberlietx about 3 years ago (Flag)
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Oatmeal is the secret weapon for all orthopterists that want to look at nocturnal species. A secret no more ;)

Posted by silversea_starsong about 3 years ago (Flag)

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