Wednesday, July 27, 2011

banana slug ~ 07/27/11 ~ Butano

banana slug
Ariolimax sp.

Yep, I know, I just posted another banana slug above. True to my policy on Nature ID, I post according to the date I took the photos. In any case, I wanted to show how big, how small, and how sexy they can be. For more information on slug love, check out this former UCSC's grad student's page and this YouTube vid. They're surprisingly tender in a romantic kind of way... um, except for a certain gnawing behavior they sometimes exhibit.

I've had a difficult time finding decent links to provide with my banana slug posts, hence why I still don't know which of the three species of Ariolimax I see. Two of the top google results were written by undergrad students and are not entirely accurate, so I refrain from linking to their univeristy-sponsored sites. For one of the best comprehensive web pages I've found on banana slugs, check out Clare at Curbstone Valley Farm. I've been impressed with the amount of research she does for her posts. I'd rather link for two reasons: 1) I'm pretty lazy about writing and 2) I try my best to not plagiarize or inadvertently perpetuate misinformation. Speaking of which in a similar vein, I can't believe how many images are re-purposed repeatedly on the web, some under creative commons licenses and others flat-out stolen. Suffice it to say, I prefer bloggers who use their own pictures.

ps - That former UCSC grad student I linked to above got her PhD and then became a professional cyclist with dreams of going to the 2012 Olympics. I only know this because I tried e-mailing her for slug ID help, got a daemon, and then googled her. She's now retired from cycling after doing some prioritizing. Amazing. I'm absolutely fascinated by the multiple lives people can lead in a lifetime. There's hope for me, yet.

satyr comma ~ 07/27/11 ~ Butano

It's rare that I spot a comma butterfly resting long enough to confirm the silvery white comma mark on the underside of its hindwings. Notice how the color of the wings looks very similar to the dead parts of the leaves. Usually when I notice them, they're flying by so fast in an erratic, zig-zaggy, rapid wing beat manner that I can only guess it's a comma. There are several species of Polygonia in North America, including one that has a dot at the end of the curvy mark called, you guessed it, a question mark (Polygonia interrogationis).

ps - I'm waiting for Graeme at Imperfect and tense to make a good pun out of this one.

pss 06/13/14 - I've been looking closely at the shapes of the comma marks.  Note the rounder shape of the white comma here compared to the satyr found in the Monterey area.  Different ssp.?

broadleaf helleborine ~ 07/27/11 ~ Butano

We were really excited to find an orchid that we haven't seen yet. I also posted a picture taken the following day showing the color variation on Flickr. It was common at Butano State Park along the creekside trails under the redwoods. However, I was a bit disappointed to discover the broadleaf helleborine comes from Europe. In fact, it is the only non-native orchid listed in Calflora. I've mentioned before about my developing negative prejudice against non-native plants and animals, which taken to the extreme is what The Biology Refugia calls "biological xenophobia." Before doing this blog and placing labels on everything under the sun, I was pretty content finding something new and simply being in awe. I want to get back to that innocence and unbiased admiration of nature. Interestingly enough, Jennifer at A Passion for Nature recently posted about the broadleaf helleborine blooming in western New York. She's a blogger after my own heart in how she researches for her posts. Also, David at Orchids, Nature, and My Outdoor Life posted finding a broadleaf helleborine across the pond.

CA newt ~ 07/27/11 ~ Butano

I knew Butano State Park was known for their newts based on our brief visit in the rain on October 24, 2010. According to the brochure, February is a good month to spot newts. I didn't expect to find any in the middle of summer. We actually saw a few, both on land well away from any water and in Little Butano Creek. Andy pointed them out to me. I'm discovering he has quite the eye for finding newts/salamanders.

Butano has two similar looking species of newts, the CA newt and the rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa). Based on the bumpy skin of the individual I photographed above, I figured I had a rough-skinned newt. Nope. Thankfully, has this handy-dandy Taricha ID guide. Both transform to a smoother skin during their aquatic reproductive phase - never heard of this before researching for this blog post. Plus, both have yellow patches in the eyes. What sold me on the T. torosa ID was the light-colored lower eyelid.

I'll admit to picking up this fellow to keep him from sashaying into the water before I could get a couple of pictures. We later read that it has poisonous skin secretions. I need to learn to not pick up wild, unknown things, even if they're irresistibly cute. The toes totally get me laughing. Four in front and five in back. As a side note, it looks like this one still has its nuptial pads. Shoot, forget caterpillars and tadpoles, I think I may want to raise a few newts, ones without poisonous secretions.

ps 02/17/14 - Given my outing with fellow bloggers on February 10, 2014, I'm now wondering if this might be a rough-skinned newt intergrade.  Erg.

caddisfly eggs and cases ~ 07/27/11 ~ Butano

caddisfly egg mass

I looked at the usual suspects for this area, like California newt or California red-legged frog, but none of the pictures seem to match this egg mass. Each egg did not appear to have any round definition. The whole gelatinous mass was attached to the rock on the top and loose and flat on the bottom. It was roughly a quarter coin in size. When I found it, it was positioned in such a way that half was in the water and half was above water. After taking the above picture, I placed the rock back to about how it was in the water. Anyone have any ideas of what animal laid this egg mass?

edited 08/05/11 - I originally posted this as an unknown egg mass. I initially thought it might be an amphibian egg case, particularly after I had just spotted a CA newt. Thanks to commenter Neil of microecos and Oryctology blogs, I have an answer. Neil has been extraordinarily helpful in identifying things for me and providing information, although I find I have to google about every other word in his blogs to even get a gist of his topics. All I can do is stand back in awe of people whose brains function on that level.

If I had seen an adult caddisfly, I would have been able to identify it to Order without too much trouble. I like to think of Trichoptera as aquatic versions of Lepidoptera. Indeed the two Orders are closely related with adult caddisflies looking very similar to moths. However, there is very little specific information available on caddisfly eggs. The only picture I can find online that looks anything like the egg mass I found is from Bruce G. Margot's taos-telecommunity. I'm hesitant to agree with his guesses to family and genus since I have no way of confirming his IDs. There are other types of caddisflies that lay eggs on leaves instead of rocks. For lovely pictures of egg masses attached to leaves, check out Natura Mediterraneo and manham's Flickr set.

caddisfly larval or pupal cases

It simply never occurred to me that whatever laid the relatively large egg mass was also the same type of animal that made the gravel clusters seen right next to the eggs on the same rock and all around in Little Butano Creek. I'm guessing these are two different species of caddisflies, but then again, I have no way of knowing for sure. The gravel clusters are protective cases caddisfly larvae make using silk and available materials, such as sand, twigs, or jewels as provided by Hubert Duprat. Depending on the species, they can either live in them through their entire immature stages or make them only to pupate, like a cocoon of sorts. I was hoping to be able to identify the cases since some are distinctive enough to be diagnostic, but that might be asking too much. Aquatic Insects of Central Virginia has a nice posting on saddle-case makers (Glossosomatidae), which was the closest shape of case I could find to match what I saw.

As a side note, you would not believe the amount of e-mail that went on behind the blog scene here. At one point someone sent me a picture of another unidentified case made out of twigs and I forwarded it to an entomologist in Australia. Interestingly enough, caddisflies are not the only insects that make cases from surrounding materials. Bag moths in the Order Lepidoptera and Family Psychidae make startling similar cases, the log cabin shape out of twigs (bag moth vs. caddisfly) and the tubular shape out of sand (bag moth vs. caddisfly). Besides size, the easiest apparent difference is caddisfly cases are usually found in water. If you can manage to get the larvae to peek out, caddisflies have rather long front legs and bag worm caterpillars are short.

This was a really fun post to share. Thanks to everyone who helped out and put in their 2 cents.

ps 09/27/11 - For a good summary of various caddisflies, check out Aquatic Insects of Central Virginia's newest post.

pss 10/03/11 - I'm happy to report this blog post has been included in Circus of the Spineless #66 blog carnival, hosted at Wanderin' Weeta (With Waterfowl and Weeds).