Friday, June 22, 2007

Critters from Uttranchal, Himalayas!

First Post!

Alrighty, I'll throw up a few pictures from the great Himalayas.... Well the foothills at least. From a severe, yet beautiful place called Uttranchal. We were based at the Himalayan Action and Research Centre (HARC), and here are some of the critters we found.



And a might huge one at that. We found it tucked in a big big hole next to the mess hall area. Just look at the size of those pincers!


This male mantid i named goliath, being the biggest mantid i found in the course of my trip, and had the dubious honor of being my pet for the duration of my stay. One way of sexing mantids, other than the comparative (smaller) size to females, is to look at their rear segments from the bottom (called a paragote) - males usually have that last plate thin and slender, while females have it significantly fatter.


This is a spittlebug's nest - they create a foamy nest out of bubbles that keep both parasites and predators at bay.

In need of a serious de-miting:

We found this stick insect while walking along the common's path. The three brown blobs on its legs are actually phoretic mites. These guys treat insects like taxis - whenever they want to up and leave (usually due to crappy environmental conditions), they undergo limited metamorphosis and clamp on to a (specific) insect carrier, which will climb, crawl, fly around untill it reaches a place with good conditions, whereupon the mites drop off and leave, keep the change, thank you.

What a tangled web we weave:
Actually we were arguing whether these webs belonged to social spiders or just one huge bigass spider. Social is really a generalised term for spiders, and unlike insects, who have specific castes, social spiders are defined more as units who cooperate, rather than a cooperative unit. This is generally marked by their tolerance for each other. Spider sociality evolved in 2 main routes: parasocial (environmental factors, where it benefits them to function in a web together) and subsocially (maternal care takes the main route, and offspring delay their dispersal significantly). These webs are small by comparison. There are some truly HUGE webs out in the wild, like those of Anelosimus eximius.

We found this flower by the mystic Yamunatri, and peeled it open. It was choked full with dipterans (species?). I'll need to consult some experts to ID both plant and fly. But no doubt , the hapless flies must have been lured by the flower's nectar and smell to pollinate it.

Finally - double the fun - a moth inspects its own beautiful self on the mirror. And thats all for now! According to resident moth specialist Dave Lohman, this appears to be Limacodidae, better known as cup moths, due to their pupae looking like cups. They have absolutely stunning caterpillars, and here is a site dedicated to them.