Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Loren Russell managed to take photos of arthopods on a snowy hike. Yes, the creatures were on top of the snow! His notes are indented, and we’ll have another batch of ice fauna soon.

Arthropods on snow

A new camera and an email from a friend in Montana prodded me to combine two of my old pleasures — insect hunting and cross country skiing.  The pictures attached are from three recent forays to the snow-covered meadows and noble fir forest”

Noble fir on Marys Peak, a few miles west of Corvallis, Oregon.

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Spiders are common and diverse [anyone know the families for these?];  the opilionid [“harvestman”, third photo] is the first I’ve seen on snow.

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At the base of the food chain — springtails, with several species, often in swarms..  Mostly 1-2.5mm body length.  These are hexapods, but not insects, in current classifications, and were among the earliest land animals (Rhynie Chert, Devonian).

Entomobryidae:

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Isotomidae:

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Poduridae:

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24 Comments

  1. Dominic
    Posted March 6, 2017 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I am sure that is not an opilionid…

    Nice observation to spot these 🙂

    • Dominic
      Posted March 6, 2017 at 7:56 am | Permalink

      I think the second photo is a male Aranedidae… but I await correction.

      • Dominic
        Posted March 6, 2017 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        Araneidae – sorry my typing is terrible! or Theridiidae…???

    • loren russell
      Posted March 6, 2017 at 11:10 am | Permalink

      I meant to include images of an opilionid in the batch. I’ll check and if I left it out, will re-send. OR PCC may be holding the opilionid with other images of insects This was the first I’ve ever seen on snow, though they are abundant and rather diverse in coniferous litter on this mountain.

  2. Siggy in CR
    Posted March 6, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I agree, looks similar to lynx spiders.

    • Siggy in CR
      Posted March 6, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Whoops, meant that as a reply to Dominic.

  3. alexandra Moffat
    Posted March 6, 2017 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    I was out walking through a big field recently, covered in large splotches of very cold very hard ice between the exposed grass clumps. Something tiny moving! A spider! I was amazed – way below freezing. It was moving very slowly. Going where? No camera. But I was deeply wondering how it managed. The life force!!

    • Dominic
      Posted March 7, 2017 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      If you had a camera with you I bet you would not have seen it 😉

  4. Posted March 6, 2017 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Very cool photos and venue!

  5. David Campbell
    Posted March 6, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    No idea on the first spider but I agree with Dominic on the second. It looks like a male Theridiidae, possibly a dull colored Leucage.

    Nice job shooting the springtails. What was your setup?

    • loren russell
      Posted March 6, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      I’m using an Olympus TG-4 in microscope mode, hand held. Illumination is by means of an ingenious ring diffuser operating off the camera’s LED focus light. The microscope mode allows more than 1:1 without digital zoom, and TG-4 does in-camera focus stacking. To get useful images in focus stacking, both the camera and object must be motionless for the 1 second or so that 10 consecutive images are taken. Resting the camera on snow surface is reasonably stable [with image stabilization], and I think I was able to use the stacking about 20 percent of the time with the spiders. Most snow insects are more problematic. Almost all are motoring [at 0 degrees C!], or bigin evasive action when my Gargantuan shadow approaches. Next time, I’ll try bringing a white blanket for ski-troop-style camouflage.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted March 6, 2017 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

        Very good. I would really like to play with in-camera stacking. The traditional method as yet does not interest me.

        • loren russell
          Posted March 6, 2017 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

          The system in the TG-4 is quick and seamless. When selected, camera takes a stack [default is 10], and stores 2 images, one normal autofocus, and one processed stack. Processing usually takes less than 5 seconds, and if object moves too much, no stacked image is stored.

          I’ve never tried doing stacking by hand in Photoshop, probably never will.

          I suspect this will become a common feature in quality P&S cameras as they try to stay ahead of cell phones.

          The ring diffuser is really key to using the microscope mode in this camera. This is the attachment that uses the LED focus illuminator.Olympus also makes a diffuser running off the flash that’s supposed to be effective out about 5 meters. I’ll probably pick it up as well.

          • Dominic
            Posted March 7, 2017 at 7:53 am | Permalink

            Thanks! 🙂

  6. Posted March 6, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    These are neat! Nature is awesome.

  7. Posted March 6, 2017 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Amazing diversity on top of snow! Who would have thought? I had seen springtails on snow back when I lived in such frigid regions but never saw anything else that I can recall.

  8. Posted March 6, 2017 at 11:17 am | Permalink

    Such cool photos. The little guys seem so out of their element.

    • Posted March 6, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I hope they enjoy the snow, but I doubt it.

      • loren russell
        Posted March 6, 2017 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

        What is it like for a springtail to enjoy being a springtail? Their appearance on snow isn’t random. They disappear in very cold weather, show up in droves in peri-freezing, overcast weather [or, usually, in shadows on bright, sunny days], and become more abundant through late winter and early spring. You’ll notice that they are on metamorphosed, “corn” snow, and seemed to be processing the surface of the ice granules. In all likelihood, they’re obtaining nourishement from fine detritus [likely conifer pollen] and algae on these surfaces.

  9. darrelle
    Posted March 6, 2017 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Love noble firs. The bugs are cool (heh) too.

    That 2nd spider does look to be related to the Lynx spider.

    I’ve never seen a spider in the snow before. Fascinating.

  10. Mark R.
    Posted March 6, 2017 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Those springtails against the icy snow are surreal looking. The snow also helps them stand out…I think they would be difficult to spot on a littered forest floor.

  11. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted March 6, 2017 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I have not been able to positively id the first spider. It of course resembles a wolf spider, but that does not mean much.

  12. Posted March 6, 2017 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    I’m glad my husband can’t see this, as he would never step outside again. Not without a flamethrower, at least. (Spiders? He hates ’em. Me, I think they’re weirdly cute.)

  13. Tony Eales
    Posted March 6, 2017 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Amazing. I’m jealous of such interesting subjects


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