Readers’ wildlife photos

I came to work at 5 a.m. to check on Phoebe and give her some food, and found these photos just sent by reader Tony Eales from Australia. Although I wasn’t going to do a wildlife post today, this is short, sweet, and interesting. Tony’s notes are indented.

I came across what turned out to be a pretty rare find today. An Ant Cricket in the genus Myrmecophilus. [JAC: that means “ant lover”.] I can’t find out a lot about these crickets: apparently they live their entire lives inside ant nests and as a consequence have lost their wings, their ability hear or to make stridulating chirps, and their eyes are greatly reduced. I found this one in a nest of Polyrhachis ammon. I don’t know what they do in the nests—whether they eat scraps or larvae or what. It was a very small cricket, kind of dwarfed by the ants (P. ammon is a big species). Anyway, thought I’d share.

I also got a good shot of an odd-looking Long Spur Garden-Sac spider,  Cheiracanthium gracile. These are notable for the males having very long cymbial spurs that project from the palps [JAC: the palps are the sperm-transfer organs in male spiders; they and their spurs are clearly visible here.]

Finally, I uncovered a nest of Yellow Shield Ants, Meranoplus sp., huddled up against the winter cold.

15 Comments

  1. Linda Calhoun
    Posted August 15, 2018 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    “I came to work at 5 a.m. to check on Phoebe and give her some food…”

    How is she doing? Any sign of Honey?

    L

    • Posted August 15, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      Neither duck was there. I’m sad they left this way, but a bit heartened that Phoebe might have flown off to better climes and ponds. Anna will be tending the pond in my absence and I’ll report what she tells me.

  2. jaxkayaker
    Posted August 15, 2018 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Nice shots, Tony.

  3. yazikus
    Posted August 15, 2018 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I never realized ants were sensitive to the cold, silly of me I suppose.

  4. lkr
    Posted August 15, 2018 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Wow! I’m familiar with the local ant cricket, Myrmecophilus oregonensis, an inquiline in a mound-building species of Formica in wet meadowns in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. I never wouild have thought that the same genus could be native in Australia. In fact, ant-crickets are widespread in the northern hemisphere. But a wingless insect getting to Australia — amazing. [Though I’d not be surprised for DNA work showing Myrmecophilus to be paraphyletic.

    About their role in the nests — either diverse or simply poorly studied. This from Komatsu et al. [Psyche, 2013]:

    Myrmecophilus (Orthoptera: Myrmecophilidae) is the only genus of orthopteran myrmecophilous insect [1]. About 60 species are described, and all of them are myrmecophilous species. These inquiline crickets live in ant nests and exploit food resources in diverse ways (i.e., eating ant eggs, larvae, and nest debris; licking the surfaces of the ants’ bodies; disrupting ant trophallaxis; or feeding via direct mouth-to-mouth transfer). Some Myrmecophilus species mimic the ant colony’s chemicals by acquiring cuticular hydrocarbons from the ants via physical contact to establish a “chemical mimicry”.

    • loren russell
      Posted August 15, 2018 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

      Looking again at Komatsu’s summary of Mymecophilus’ relation to the ants. Aside from eating our eggs and larvae, sounds a lot like cats.

    • Posted August 15, 2018 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Interesting info there. I used to see Myrmecophile crickets in ant nests while I was in gradual school. I would generally see them when turning over a log that had a carpenter ant nest. I should probably pick up my efforts to find them again.

    • tjeales
      Posted August 15, 2018 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      Thanks. Great info. I agree that the family all being under the one genus is more likely due to a lack of taxonomic work than actual closeness. There’s only seven species described for Australia but yes, it’s odd that a subterranean wingless cricket could disperse across the Wallace line

  5. Jenny Haniver
    Posted August 15, 2018 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    These are great photos of some fascinating, and to me hitherto unknown, six- and eight-legged creatures.

  6. Posted August 15, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Great photos! I would love to go there with my camera, and look for these sorts of critters. Thank you for sharing.

    • tjeales
      Posted August 15, 2018 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      Yeah I feel like I’m planning all my travel around what invertebrates I might find.

  7. Mark R.
    Posted August 15, 2018 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    3 great photos, each with many evolutionary stories behind them. !

  8. Diane G
    Posted August 15, 2018 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    Lovely shots and great info, Tony, thanks!

    Do the Yellow Shield Ants not live in ground nests?

    • tjeales
      Posted August 16, 2018 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      Yeah. I rolled over a rock and one of the nest chambers was on the other side.

  9. Posted August 16, 2018 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    Very very nice! I need a new camera…


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