Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Springtails - that escalated quickly

If you'd asked me what group would turn out to be the biggest surprise of the year I wouldn't have said, "Springtails - I'm going to record a shed load of springtails". But one thing led to another and here I am with 8 on my list already at the close of January, and none unidentified! I should jack it in with weevils on that basis (although I'm "2 for 2" on weevils to be fair).

The latest addition is Hypogastrura manubrialis, which I had photographed and ID'd but wanted confirmation on. It was kind of gazumped by the importance of the Anurida,but it was my first springtail I cleared and examined under the compound. Now I've got the bug though I've a feeling I'll just carry on.

Hypogastrura manubrialis
Two views and a clearing specimen

Claw, furca and anal spines
The list so far
Anurida denisi
Dicyrtomina saundersi
Entomobrya intermedia
Entomobrya nivalis
Hypogastrura manubrialis
Orchesella cincta
Orchesella villosa
Pogonognathellus longicornis  

Exapion ulicis

No new material from yesterday as no site visit but I did have one "stock" item which turned out to be the above. Not new for me but I keyed it out in Duff anyway. Since I had no new material I carried on with a box of unresolved weevils and managed to get at least one out, though I find the keys frustrating. Keys always require a bit of prior knowledge or help to know what exactly they mean by what they say. I probably would have been happy with 5 beetles in January, though I imagine that only shows a paucity of imagination and/or determination. I'll have to up my beetle game quite a bit if I'm going to complete the target 100.

The month will close out somewhere just shy of 240 which is a decent start and ahead of my revised target.

Monday, 30 January 2017

Anurida denisi

While foraging around below HWM at low tide aiming to add some littoral species to my square list I picked up a whelk shell which seemed to have some sort of bryozoan or similar growing over its surface (still don't know). Whatever it was was being grazed by a small herd of springtails, two of which I popped off into an acohol filled pot.

To cut a long story short they turned out to be Anurida denisi, which the key describes as not having been seen since Bagnall recorded them pre-war in England and Ireland. I was pretty sure that I had what the key said I had but nevertheless reference to somebody who knows better was inevitable in this case. Fortunately it turned out that he agreed and so that's it. The record stands, the specimens will be winging their way towards Roehampton University and I'm a very happy springtail botherer this morning!

Here are the pics:

Initial examination in alcohol

Keying in Hopkin

Slide prep of ecelli and PAO at x600

Diagram from Hopkin

And Steve Hopkin's page on the species: Hopkin

Interestingly the species is listed on Buglife's Scottish springtails list, which certainly warrants further investigation: link

Friday, 27 January 2017

Build the wall! Build the wall!

Yesterday had a bit of a wall theme - Tortula muralis, Verrucaria muralis, Asplenium ruta-muraria ... even the tiny Pleosporum herbarum in Thrift stems had muriform spores. Walls make good habitat niches - on top of them, in their crevices, on their sunny and shaded faces, and in the areas underneath them where ruderal plants and bryophytes gather and where invertebrates are channelled and concentrated. I guess I'll get to know the walls of NT1582 pretty well over the next 11 months.

Tortula muralis, (with Bryum capillare already recorded)

Asplenium ruta-muraria

Verrucaria muralis, hiding in plain sight on mortar

Pleispora herbarum, with muriform spores

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Double century up!

Last night saw the double century tick over with a small collection from yesterday being examined. Nice surprise of the day was Uromyces geranii on what appears to be Geranium molle, but I'm going to give that one time to flower.

Another nice one from yesterday though common on the edges of paths and car parks was Bryum dichotomum. I like it because it's a profligate producer of bulbils for asexual propagation and looks like it's holding tiny easter eggs.

Once you have both microscopes out it's tempting to put everything under there so first was this near miss on a Rubus mine which contained only frass

And finally I had collected a Geophilomorph centipede which turned out to be a "repeat" - Geophilus insculptus. However since I'd already killed it it seemed a shame to waste the specimen so under the microscope it went. Shame I forgot to photograph the pores on the hind legs but I think I will routinely do that from now on. It looked fantastic at closer quarters:

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

A new springtail for Scotland - Entomobrya rabbiburnsochayethenooensis

Having thought I'd found the springtail Entomobrya nivalis the other day I discovered that the Hopkin's key didn't go far enough. This is because Hopkin lumped species, not believing them to be separate.On that point I have great sympathy, but I have no idea on molecular work that may have been done since (spose I ought to find out really...)

Three days later I actually found E.nivalis (s.s.) and today discovered that the recording scheme has no prior knowledge of any E.intermedia in Scotland. Hoorah! It extends the range north for the species only by a few 10s of miles.

Here are the two side by side to compare abdominal patterns

E.intermedia - bold but unconnected bar at bottom of "U"

E.nivalis - two "golf tees", no bridge, bottom bar faint
Further info: link

An old friend - Stenocranus minutus

I last saw this species in 2015 when I swept it from the grass at Cullaloe and chewed over whether it might be the 2nd record for Scotland (link). It might have been. No idea! Another square has appeared on NBN apparently since then. I'd place a small bet on Caledonian Conservation or Buglife as the source but I can check later. (score - Buglife, between Kelvin art gallery and the river Kelvin in Glasgow)

I wondered then, as I do now, whether it was limited in records by an early calendar appearance and it's certainly early. It seems like the sort of grassland species that would more or less breed continuously, but maybe it isn't.

It has these fantastically stripey legs, thus:

 But what I most love about this bug is that when you take it as a portrait it is a very convincing hide-behind-the-couch Dr.Who alien overlord wannabee

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Eutypa maura, Hopeward Wood

Any collection of sycamores probably has this someplace, sometimes on the ground and sometimes on dead branches as this piece was. Even when it's above head height it will invariably have the tooth marks of mice as they apparently find enough nutrition in it to make it worth gnawing.

All that's visible on the surface is the stroma (the dark patch) and the ostioles - the little tubes through which spores escape. Cut the surface and you can see the little spheres where all those spores are developing.

Down inside the engine room, where the spores are being developed ...

This lifestyle's a remarkably successful one. There are enough species of fungi like this to put them up alongside the birds and the fish.

Number crunching - what 1000 species might look like

As I approach the end of January with a revised target of >200 by end of the month I sat down and played through the numbers to see what sort of effort would be required to really see this thing through. I have a rough idea of where I'd like to be at the end of each quarter and what the make up of the final list might look like. Will be interesting to see how far off it turns out to be. Targets of course can be revised as time moves along and maybe some groups will do better and others worse than expected. I'll adjust accordingly and target to suit the situation. One thing is sure though - it will require a lot of different techniques to get the job done. I should get the first pitfalls in place by the weekend probably!

Here's a finger-in-the-air estimate of where this is going:

Class Current 2017-tgt %age
Vert - Birds 32 110 29
Vert - Other 1 9 11
Lepidoptera 1 150 0
Diptera 4 125 3
Arachnida 4 61 6
Coleoptera 3 100 3
Invert - Other 26 104 25
Plants - Vascular 36 120 30
Plants - Bryo 11 40 27
Fungi 24 150 16
Lichens 29 55 52
Other 7 11 63

178 1035 17

Edit: some browsing of previous year's totals when this wasn't being attempted. So ballpark I "normally" record about 1000 spp. in a year which I think is encouraging. In 2016 I deliberately focussed on new species and so didn't record many common species I saw.

NT1887, Cullaloe LNR
2015: 773 spp.
2016: 652 spp.

Year totals iRecord - all sites
2015: 1138 spp.
2016: 961 spp.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Children of a lesser ... dung fly

Thoracochaete zosterae. One of my favourite flies. For what reason I can't say, but I do like the lesser dung flies and this little beachcomber is "lovely". Note the gentle sweep of the inward pointing thoracic spines. Poetry in motion. There must be some historic reason why I connect to this species but I can't say what it is.

This was one of many under a rock with sandhoppers and sea slaters (but sadly not Strigamia maritima on this occasion)

Friday, 20 January 2017


So finally my first square moth. Diurnea flagella.This also adds one more to the the count of experts who I have begged advice from! My 1000 species, when I get there, will involve a cast of not many less people I suspect.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

beside the seaside, beside the sea

Planned on bothering Hopeward Wood this lunchtime but the exposed shore peeking through the trees was calling too loud so off to the shore it was ...

Common limpet

Ascophyllum epiphyte Vertebrata lanosa 

Dog Whelk (plus B.balanoides barnacle)

Green Shore Crab

Laminaria digitata
(For latest numbers see totals tab)

Hysterium hysteria

A slow night at the microscope with two "lichens" under examination. One still putting up strong resistance, but the other caved in immediately. At least it did when I accepted it wasn't a lichen! I won't say how long I tried to figure it out from lichen references...

Hysterium angustatum

Brown, 3-septate spores, these still in their asci

 The other new species of the day was the rove beetle Omalium riparium which I required a bit of assistance on. This time I was in the wrong genus, but once that was sorted out it wasn't so bad.

Omalium riparium

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Night moves

A half hour with head torch in Bathing House Wood added a few new species including this interesting spotty form of Lehmannia marginata (Tree Slug). There were more "normal" ones but this one threw me (thanks to A.N. for sorting it out for me)

My other fave of the night was the spider Labulla thoracicia, one of three spider spp.

Latest list update on the list tab

Monday, 16 January 2017

16 Jan 2017

A nice walk added c.20 species and one or two in pots (a fly, a staph, a centipede, two mosses - just to mix things up). Centipede added at #115 now

94 Lecanora sulphurea a lichen
95 Candelariella vitellina a lichen
96 Lichina confinis a lichen
97 Parmelia saxatilis a lichen
98 Chamerion angustifolium Rosebay Willowherb
99 Polytrichum juniperinum Juniper Haircap
100 Armeria maritima Thrift
101 Corvus corone Carrion Crow
102 Xanthoria aureola a lichen
103 Fucus serratus Toothed Wrack
104 Rhizocarpon richardii a lichen
105 Tephromela atra Black Shields
106 Periparus ater Coal Tit
107 Bucephala clangula Goldeneye
108 Turdus philomelos Song Thrush
109 Cladonia portentosa a lichen
110 Cladonia rangiferina a lichen
111 Xanthoparmelia loxodes a lichen
112 Anaptychia runcinata a lichen
113 Plantago major Greater Plantain
114 Plantago coronopus Buck's-horn Plantain
115 Geophilus insculptus A centipede

So that's the first 10% sorted then

Thursday, 12 January 2017

NT1582 - 1000 species in a 1 kilometre square

NT1582, Fife

Fife, VC85, Dalgety Bay. Houses. Woods. The Firth of Forth. A rocky point. A beach. What's not to like? 1000 species in one year in one kilometre square - this should be easy, right?