Readers’ wildlife photos

I still need nature photos from readers (remember, we usually go through 7 contributions a week), so if you have good ones, send them in.

The superb nature photographer Kurt, also known as “orionmystery,” who produces the website Up Close With Nature, has given permission to reproduce some of his photographs. Thanks to reader Mark Sturtevant, who helped with that, and also sent the following notes on two of the photos (indented):

I hang out at a couple different macrophotography forums, and recently I saw a contribution from the great photographer known as orionmystery (Kurt). You have occasionally posted pictures of his, and so I thought you would be interested in a recent set of pictures of preying mantises that he has taken. He has given me permission to forward this to you, and if suitable perhaps it could make its way to WEIT with the proper links and citations.

Through his web site one can link from there to his Flickr page to see two sets of pictures of mantises from Malaysia. I attach some screenshots to help provide direction.

The first is of a young orchid mantis (Hymenopus coronatus). These vary in color from white to pink, and I assume they hang out a lot on flowers by the looks of them. This species is a candidate for the most beautiful insect in the world.

JAC: Orchid mantises are mimics of flowers, hiding among them to grab a pollinator when it thinks its about to get some nectar.

As lovely as that is, the orchid mantis is well known and I expect you may have posted pictures of them at one time or another. But it was the second species that really got me to send this to you since I had not seen it before. It is known as the dragon mantis, or feather mantis (Toxodera beieri). Not as pretty, certainly, but those leafy ornaments on the body are all mantis! I am still geeking out about this one, and feel gladdened that there are still some pretty amazing things out there to see. [JAC: If you want to buy one of these, it’ll cost you nearly a thousand bucks!]

I’ll add a few more of Kurt’s photos. This is the white-bellied rat snake, Ptyas fusca, from Southeast Asia:

Boiga cynodon, the dog-toothed cat snake from Asia:

Kurt identifies this as “Crab Spider (Thomisidae). Phrynarachne sp., Poring, Sabah.”

Here’s a mimetic spider, identified by Kurt as “Twig Like Feather Legged Spider, Uloboridae. Possibly Miagrammopes sp. ID credit: Nicky Bay.”

Kurt’s caption: “A really pretty female Heteropoda lunula”


  1. Debbie Coplan
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    I love the way the photographs capture the delicacy of the creatures.
    Really gorgeous photographs. Gorgeous creatures too. Beautiful job-

  2. rickflick
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I’m astonished to see that the two snakes in this fantastic array of critters have very different eye configurations. The rat snake has round pupils while the cat snake, appropriately, had vertically aligned pupils. My first guess would have been that all snakes would have the same alignment. But no. Darwin’s wonderful idea has managed to defy my best guess again!

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      There is a generalization that round pupils are found in species that are active in the daytime, and the slit pupils are found in species active at night. That pupil design lets them really dilate their eyes. Not sure how reliable this is, however.

      • darrelle
        Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        Jerry wrote an article some time ago about a study on pupils.

        Yeah, here it is. Why do animal species vary so much in the shape of pupils in their eyes?

        A couple of interesting points from that article.

        “You can see that there’s a strong relationship between pupil shape and foraging mode: herbivores tend to have horizontal pupils, active predators circular and subcircular pupils, and ambush predators vertical pupils.

        . . . imply that foraging mode is more important a determinant of shape than is activity period. In fact, there’s no relationship at all between circular shape and activity period.

        That said, the advantage of having a vertical slit, for complicated optical reasons, diminishes as the eye gets higher off the ground.

        (the following from the paper and quoted by Jerry) Among the 65 frontal-eyed, ambush predators in our database, 44 have vertical pupils and 19 have circular. Of those with vertical pupils, 82% have shoulder heights less than 42 cm. Of those with circular pupils, only 17% are shorter than 42 cm.

        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

          Well, I think that sorts that out! You have an excellent memory, as well.

          • darrelle
            Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

            My wife disagrees with you!

  3. rickflick
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    The feather mantis is simply unbelievable. It’s surprising that it was ever found at all. Darwin probably did not know of it’s existence, but would probably have been less surprised than I am.

  4. Posted February 12, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    What great creatures. Somehow the Asian things always seem a bit more “evolved” than my South American things. The mimicry seems a bit more perfect, the warning colors a bit flashier, the flowers a bit more complex….not sure if this is just “the grass is always greener on the other side of the tracks” or if there is something real going on, but it seems to me to be true across the board, in all large taxonomic groups.

  5. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Kurt is an amazing photographer. Among many attributes, he is a complete master of light diffusion for close up photography.

    • Mark R.
      Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      I’ll say!

  6. darrelle
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Great set of pictures. That dragon mantis is mind boggling.

  7. Vaal
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Fabulous photos! Thanks.

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    All really amazing pics. The feather mantis is stunning. I’ve never seen the orchid one before either – it’s so beautiful!

  9. Mark R.
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    A beautiful batch today, thanks!

  10. Leigh Jackson
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink


  11. een
    Posted February 12, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

    The dog-toothed cat snake had me thinking – that’s quite a collection of animal nouns in one…

  12. Mike
    Posted February 13, 2017 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    The Dragon Mantis, is the strangest insect i have ever seen.

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