Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Holliday Park Hauntless Halloween

Take one talking tick. Add in a boisterous box turtle. Throw in an outgoing opossum and what do you have?!?! A post just slightly more far-fetched than the last one Janet put up (how cool is that herbivorous spider, by the way!)

These creatures were part of the recipe for the annual Hauntless Halloween event put on at Holliday Park this year. Last Thursday, Friday and Saturday families braved central Indiana's first blast of autumn air to hike the candlelit trails and meet some woodland creatures who had come alive for the evening.
Tyler T. Turtleweather- check out my carapace!

Opal Opossum- silly humans, I don't hang by my tail! That's what my hallux is for.

Sally Salamander- always wanting to show off pictures from when she was a larvae.

American Dog Tick- no Lyme disease here. Those Deer Ticks give us all a bad name.

After learning about each creature (a turkey vulture also shared her natural history- the kids loved hearing how she goes to the bathroom on her legs to stay cool), participants headed back up to the nature center to warm up by the campfire, roast marshmallows and test their creativity with some fall crafts.
Over 400 people were able to enjoy the event thanks to help from dozens of volunteers and Indy Parks staff. A huge thanks to everyone- we couldn't do it without you!!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Herbivorous Spider and a Carnivorous Butterfly

Yes folks, sometimes life throws you for a loop. You have a handle on how things are "supposed" to work and then BOOM, you find out something new that shatters that whole idea. Has this ever happened to you?

Just the other day, I came across an article that had to be a hoax, somewhere up there with newborns singing Christmas carols. I figured it was probably put out by The Onion, but was intrigued to find out more. After reading the story in a few more reputable sources, I realized it was indeed true. There are spiders that are herbivorous, meaning their primary diet is......PLANTS!

I am a lover of spiders, an arachnophile, if you will. I am not an expert, but thought I knew quite a bit about the critters. In all my life, I had NEVER heard of a spider that ate plants. I was quite excited about it.

And here is a picture of said critter. The species is Bagheera kiplingi, a type of jumping spider. Its name comes from The Jungle Book. Bagheera was the name of the black panther and kiplingi is in reference to the author, Rudyard Kipling. This species of spider has been found in Costa Rica and in Mexico. The population that is causing all the recent fuss is located in Mexico and is believed to have a diet of 90% plants. This is unheard of in the arachnid world.

Bagheera kiplingi ©2008 Robert L. Curry

So what is the spider in the photo above eating, you may wonder? The small orange item looks much like an aphid, but actually it is the spider's favorite food called Beltian bodies. Beltian bodies are scrumptious parts of the acacia tree. They are located on the very tips of the leaves and are guarded by ants. Beltian bodies, named after their discoverer Thomas Belt, are rich in proteins and lipids (fats). The spider spends most of its time scurrying around stealing the Beltian bodies and avoiding the ever wary ants.

The picture above shows some ants guarding the Beltian bodies. There is a symbiotic relationship between the acacia tree and the ants. The ants protect the tree from predators and destroy any neighboring plants. In return, the tree gives the ants housing within the thorns, tasty Beltian bodies and nectar .

Besides feasting on Beltain bodies, Bagheera kiplingi also eats nectar from the tree and a few ant larvae. Ant larvae look very similar in shape to the Beltian bodies. I wonder if ant larvae primarily made up the spiders diet at one time and then, maybe by accident, a spider started eating the Beltian bodies. Just a theory... Nature truly ceases to amaze!

For more info on this amazing little spider, visit these sites.


U.S News and World report

And, not to blow your minds all in one day, there is also a carnivorous butterfly in existence and it lives right here in Indiana. One of my friends even had one visit his back yard. This is a horror story that will curl your toes people! You will never look at those cute little butterflies in the same light. But I will cover that story in my next post. (How is that for a teaser? ; P )

For more Camera Critters from all over the world, go here.


Saturday, October 10, 2009

Indy Big Sit 2009!

A day to bird, eat and socialize. What could be better!
Where: Next to the brand spankin' new Eagle Creek Ornithology Center within Eagle Creek Park on the northwest side of Indianapolis, IN
When: Sunday, Oct 11th from 8am-6pm.
Bring a dish to share, if you would like. Come for all day or just hang out for a little while.
We will be birding within a 17 foot circle, counting whatever birds we see. Plus, getting to know other birders and having a grand ol' time. Also, check out the new Eagle Creek Ornithology Center. Fabulous! Hope to see you there!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Snake vs. Toad ---Snake 1-Toad 0

My nephew-in-law, Mike Heindl, sent me some interesting pics this week. He and my niece, Brenda, live in Hockessin, Delaware at the Oversee Farm, a Nature Conservancy Property. They are currently acting as caretakers and helping restore the buildings on the property.

While out walking, Mike found an American Toad, Bufo americanus, in a load of trouble. Apparently, an Eastern Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis, had snuck up on the toad and was proceeding to eat it alive. WARNING-The following pictures are a bit graphic.
I have never seen a garter snake eat a toad, and never imagined they could swallow a toad that large. Amazing! (Mmmmffff, delicious toad burger.)
This pic really shows the toad puffed up. One of the toad's defense mechanisms is to inflate himself to appear larger and to make it difficult for the snake to swallow him. The toad has its legs spread out to further deter the snake. (I am gianormous, you cannot eat me, snake.)

Here the snake has really expanded its jaw to swallow the toad. They can unhinge their jaw to swallow prey much larger than their head. If we could do this, we could swallow a melon whole. It also looks like the toad has given in to its fate.

This photo is great because it looks as if the snake has arms. By now, I would think the toad knows it is a goner.

This photo shows the large lump the toad has made in the snake's belly.

This last look shows the toad's leg pushing against the side of the snakes belly. Is he kicking? Waving goodbye? Or possibly another common American hand signal... Poor toad!

Thanks, Mike for the great pics!

For more critters from all over, visit Critter Camera.StumbleUpon