Journal archives for March 2016

March 06, 2016

First record of Common Striped Woodlouse ever from California!

@cedric_lee came through with another great Woodlice find. This time he reported the first record ever of Common Striped Woodlouse (Philoscia muscorum) reported from California.

This European is common in the Eastern United States where it has been introduced. As a result, its not entirely unexpected from California. But until Cedric's record, has never been reported from the state.

Posted on March 06, 2016 04:21 by loarie loarie | 4 comments | Leave a comment

Its Rodent Week on iNaturalist! Mar 6 - Mar 12, 2016


The most numerous and diverse order of mammals, the Rodentia, are the focus of the Critter Calendar this week. A huge order, Rodentia includes mice, rats, porcupines, beavers, gophers, squirrels and many more! Rabbits, hares and pikas, while similar, are not rodents but lagomorphs and are in a different order.


It’s the front teeth of rodents that set them apart from other mammals. All rodents have a pair of large incisors on both their upper and lower jaws, and these teeth continue to grow throughout their lives. The incisors have thick enamel layers on the front and softer dentine on the back, cause the back to wear away more quickly with every bite, thus continually sharpening the tooth. These impressive choppers allow rodents to bite through the tough husks of seeds or even cut down trees. Most rodents have a diastema, or large gap, between the incisors and molars, allowing them to suck in their cheeks and avoid inedible material as they chew.


Rodents are mostly herbivorous but will eat animal matter, and some, like the Shrewlike rats of the Phillipines are, mainly predatory. And because of their large numbers and prolific breeding habits (House mice, for instance, average over 5 litters a year, with each litter averaging over 5 babies), rodents are an important food source for many other animals, such as raptors, snakes, and other mammals.


With these four front teeth as a shared trait, rodents have evolved to inhabit every continent on Earth (except Antarctica) and many islands as well. Flat grasslands are home to rodents such as Prairie Dogs, and Naked mole-rats, who have a complex social life and networks of burrows. With their sharp claws and bushy tails, squirrels have also adapted well to forests and trees, and some, such as the flying squirrels, can glide from tree to tree using outstretched membranes.

Rodents have also adapted to life in waterways. The world’s largest rodent, the Capybara, is semiaquatic and uses its webbed feet to swim and find aquatic plants. Beavers have enormous incisors with which they gnaw down trees, to be used as food and as building material for their dams and dens.



The most common and widespread rodents are the rats and mice of the family Muroidea, who are mainly nocturnal seed eaters. Many of them, like the Black rat and House mouse, are commensal with humans and have been introduced to numerous areas around the world.


If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We’ll be keeping track here. Happy rodent hunting!

Posted on March 06, 2016 07:39 by loarie loarie | 1 comments | Leave a comment

March 07, 2016

Sister species everywhere!

Today, during the break in the rain, I got my wife to drop me and my daughter off at the back-side of Muir woods with a pick up scheduled at the main entrance while she ran some errands. My main target was Brackenridgia heroldi, my boogie woodlouse. Good news is I found it, bad news is... well I don't want to talk about it.. Was beautiful and moist with wonderful waterfalls and lots of Trichodezia californiata were flying everywhere.
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A funny thing about the hike was I saw a lot of pairs of plant species (e.g. two different species in the same genus) which was kind of fun. For example, I found the rarer largeflower fairybells (Prosartes smithii) touching the more common drops-of-gold (Prosartes hookeri)

largeflower fairybells (Prosartes smithii)

drops-of-gold (Prosartes hookeri) with the exerted flower parts

I also saw a Buckbrush (Ceanothus cuneatus) touching blueblossom (Ceanothus thyrsiflorus).

Not touching one another, but I did see a patch of California barberry (Berberis pinnata) at the beginning of the hike up in the mountains and a
Cascade Oregon-grape (Berberis nervosa) near the end deep in the moist redwoods.

Likewise, I saw blooming False Solomon's Seal (Maianthemum racemosum) near the beginning of the hike and Star-flowered Lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum stellatum) near the end..

And lastly, Pacific trillium (Trillium ovatum) with their stalked flowers were everywhere, but at the end of the hike where it felt alot more coastal I saw one Giant Wakerobin (Trillium chloropetalum) with its sessile flowers.

Pacific trillium (Trillium ovatum) flowers are on a stalk

Giant Wakerobin (Trillium chloropetalum) with sessile flowers

Posted on March 07, 2016 03:50 by loarie loarie | 72 observations | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 13, 2016

It's Moss Week on iNaturalist! Mar 13 - 20, 2016


Go back in time to the days when plants began to invade the land - we’re talking bryophytes on the Critter Calendar this week!! The bryophytes are the most primitive of land plants. They lack true vascular tissue and reproduce via spores, not with flowers or seeds. While there is some uncertainty as to whether they share a common ancestor, for the purposes of the Critter Calendar this week we are considering mosses, liverworts, and hornworts as bryophytes.


Bryophytes spend most of their lives as gametophytes, which is what you’ll most likely see when you find them. The gametophytes contain chlorophyll and are thus green. They in turn produce sperm and eggs - sometimes on the same gametophyte (monoicous), sometimes on separate plants (dioicous). In order for the sperm cells to reach eggs, there must be water on the gametophyte, which is why nearly all bryophytes are found in damp, wet areas. A fertilized bryophyte will grow a sporophyte, which extends outwards and eventually releases spores to be spread by the wind.

While superficially similar and often sharing the same habitat, lichens are not plants but composite organisms comprised of a symbiotic relationship between algae (or cyanobacteria) and fungi. In general, bryophytes will be green and have stalk-like sporophytes. Lichens are often more grey and pale and their fruiting bodies are usually disc- or cup-shaped.


It can be difficult to differentiate and identify mosses, liverworts and hornworts from each other without a microscope and some studying, but here are some guidelines you can use:

True Mosses (Division Bryophyta) more often have stems with leaves, the leaves can be spiraly arranged and often have a middle rib. The sporophytes of mosses can be green, brown or red and the capsule at the tip has a well-formed opening, however the opening may be covered.

Liverworts (Division Marchantiophyta) usually have a “flattened” appearance in comparison to mosses and often lack clearly differentiated stems and leaves. The leaves can be deeply lobed, and sporophytes are usually pale or colorless and the tips often split open, as opposed to the well-formed openings of moss sporophytes.




And finally the Hornworts (Division Anthocerotophyta), who are so named for their distinctive thin, horn-like sporophytes, which emerge from deep within the gametophyte. The leaves of hornworts can have a distinctive blue-green shade, as they are sometimes invaded by cyanobacteria colonies.


If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We’ll be keeping track here. Happy moss hunting!

Posted on March 13, 2016 07:16 by loarie loarie | 0 comments | Leave a comment

March 21, 2016

It's Borage Week on iNaturalist! Mar 20 - 27, 2016

It’s Forget-me-not Week on the 2016 Critter Calendar! Get out in the field and search for the huge Boraginaceae family of plants, also known as borages or forget-me-nots. There are over 2,000 known species of these plants, and they range widely throughout tropical, subtropical, and temperate regions around the world, so there should be some near you!

With such a diverse family there are many variants among the Boraginaceae. Plus the family has been recently expanded to include the formerly separate waterleaf family, Hydrophyllaceae! But here are several borage traits you can look for. If the plant has all or most of these traits, it’s likely a borage.

  • The leaves are mostly alternately arranged (they do not appear on the stem across from each other), and are usually narrow and hairy. Sometimes the hairs can be irritating to the skin.
  • Flowers are usually with fused petals. They generally have five petals, five sepals, and five stamens (where pollen is produced). Flower bunches are sometimes arranged in a helicoid or spiral pattern, like the fiddlenecks.
  • Fruit a capsules are composed of four individual nutlets.
  • Most borages are herbaceous, meaning they lack persistent woody stems. However, some are shrubs or trees.

Some well-known members of the Boraginaceae are the forget-me-nots (Myosotis sp.), flddlenecks (Amsinckia sp.), scorpionweeds (Phacelia sp.), viper’s bugloss (Echium vulgare), Geiger tree (Cordia sebestena), and heliotropes (Heliotropium sp.). Borage (Borago officinalis) has edible leaves and is sometimes cultivated for food.

If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We’ll be keeping track here. Happy forget-me-not hunting!

Posted on March 21, 2016 07:25 by loarie loarie | 3 comments | Leave a comment

March 28, 2016

It's Carrot Week on iNaturalist! Mar 27 - Apr 2, 2016

Breathe in the pungent aromas of the Carrot family (Apiaceae) for the Critter Calendar this week! With over 3,700 species, this huge family of plants include many commonly used vegetables and seasonings, including carrots, coriander, celery, dill, cumin, anise and more. However, some species such as poison hemlock contain powerful toxins, so please don’t ingest any unless you know exactly which plant it is.

The Apiaceae are also known as the Umbelliferae, and that latter name is taken from their distinctive inflorescence (flower cluster), which is known as an umbel. Umbels are made up of many stalks originating from a stem which resemble the ribs of an umbrella. Some umbels have an almost flat top, as in sweet fennel, while others are arranged in a more spherical shape. Apiaceae flowers have five sepals, five petals, and five stamens, and are often small.

Other general characteristics of Apiaceae:

  • Mostly herbaceous, meaning they lack woody stems.
  • Stems are often hollow.
  • Leaves are usually alternately arranged, dissected (divided into many deep segments), and pinnatifid (the lobes are not discrete).
  • Crushing the leaves of most Apiaceae plants produces a strong odor.

In addition to its culinary uses by humans, many pollinators use the flowers of the Apiaceae as a source of nectar, and ambush predators like crab spiders can often be found on the umbels if you take a close look.

If you think you see any of these this week, share your observations with us. We’ll be keeping track here. Happy Apiaceae hunting!

Posted on March 28, 2016 15:55 by loarie loarie | 10 comments | Leave a comment