Springtails Are Among The Most Little Things.
Everywhere you look - if you look hard enough - you will find springtails (in nature, anyway). Indeed, with the mites, and especially nematodes, they are almost certainly amongst the most abundant animals on the planet. They can occur in huge numbers in small areas, with several species dominating in disturbed habitats, or a multitude of little lovelies in more wild places. They can be diverse in shape and size and colour like these from the Grampians region of western Victoria, Australia.
To find them you’ll often have to get down on you hands and knees (or lay prone on your tummy like I do) and scrounge. You’ll, of course, be rewarded not only by springtails but by the zooplanet that we live on: down here, when you’re close to the ground, there are so many amazing animals: nematodes, mites, beetles, bugs, ants, wasps, springtails, booklice, thrips and on I could go. All within arms reach.
It’s time you went and had a look!

Springtails Are Among The Most Little Things.

Everywhere you look - if you look hard enough - you will find springtails (in nature, anyway). Indeed, with the mites, and especially nematodes, they are almost certainly amongst the most abundant animals on the planet. They can occur in huge numbers in small areas, with several species dominating in disturbed habitats, or a multitude of little lovelies in more wild places. They can be diverse in shape and size and colour like these from the Grampians region of western Victoria, Australia.

To find them you’ll often have to get down on you hands and knees (or lay prone on your tummy like I do) and scrounge. You’ll, of course, be rewarded not only by springtails but by the zooplanet that we live on: down here, when you’re close to the ground, there are so many amazing animals: nematodes, mites, beetles, bugs, ants, wasps, springtails, booklice, thrips and on I could go. All within arms reach.

It’s time you went and had a look!

springtails collembola insects biodiversity Grampians National Park macro photography macrophoto deakinenviro Deakinscience

Cystopelta: Friends Forever.
Cystopelta is a genus of small-medium slugs (Family: Cystopeltidae) found in southeastern Australia (mainly south of Sydney) but with a species C. septentrionalis found in the Border Ranges region of the New South Wales and Queensland border. This region contains many species who’s nearest relatives occur in cooler southern Australia - it is a relatively large area of cool, high elevation, forest.
On damp days Cystopelta can be seen climbing vegetation to feed on the biofilm (algae, lichens, fungi etc.) that grows on leaf and bark surfaces of forest trees. In this situation they leave a very distinctive calling card - their coiled faeces. On warm and dry days Cystopelta shelter from dessication in crevices on, or under, rotten logs, it tree micro-hollows, or especially favourite, the distinctive bark rolls of mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) and relatives.
Aren’t they the sweetest Little Things?

Cystopelta: Friends Forever.

Cystopelta is a genus of small-medium slugs (Family: Cystopeltidae) found in southeastern Australia (mainly south of Sydney) but with a species C. septentrionalis found in the Border Ranges region of the New South Wales and Queensland border. This region contains many species who’s nearest relatives occur in cooler southern Australia - it is a relatively large area of cool, high elevation, forest.

On damp days Cystopelta can be seen climbing vegetation to feed on the biofilm (algae, lichens, fungi etc.) that grows on leaf and bark surfaces of forest trees. In this situation they leave a very distinctive calling card - their coiled faeces. On warm and dry days Cystopelta shelter from dessication in crevices on, or under, rotten logs, it tree micro-hollows, or especially favourite, the distinctive bark rolls of mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) and relatives.

Aren’t they the sweetest Little Things?

snails land snail biodiveristy Dandenong Ranges deakinenviro slug victoria Deakinscience macro photography macrophoto

Wattle Pigs: Whattle What?

The weevil genus Leptopius is common is Australia where its many large species are conspicuous on wattles (Acacia spp.) and a few other plant genera during the spring and summer - a few have even become pests of orchard trees like apples and of sugarcane. Leptopius belongs to the weevil subfamily Entiminae, a group characterised by, amongst other things, their short rostra (‘noses’) and specifically to the tribe Leptopiini which includes around 50 genera occurring in Australia. R.J. Tillyard in his classic ‘The Insects of Australia and New Zealand' (1926) rightly states that this group 'contains some of the finest of all Australian weevils' - and it does if you like large showy species.

The term ‘wattle pig’ is used by many to refer to the large weevils of this genus. The Australian National Dictionary states that this name refers to a specific species, L. duponti, whereas Froggatt (1907: Australian Insects) restricts the name to a single species also, but a different one, L. tribulus, and noted that boys in Sydney used the colloquial name for these conspicuous weevils. CSIRO’s Handbook of Australian Insect Names (1993) doesn’t even list ‘wattle pig’ in its extensive list of common names for Australian insects. The most recent and - I say - final say is that of John Lawrence and Adam Slipinski in their fantabulous recent book ‘Australian Beetles Vol. 1: Morphology, Classification and Keys' - they simply state that Leptopius are known as wattle pigs.

So there we have it. It reinforces one of the reasons why we have scientific names - to avoid confusion as often as possible!

Many Wittle Wattle Pig Things!

Many - Hidden - Little Things!

When taking pictures of some of the Many Little Things I often focus so hard on the task at hand that I don’t notice all that is going on. This photo-set gives examples: the principal foci of the images were the larger organisms, but in each example there are smaller things in the picture too, sometimes obvious, sometimes not so.

In the first image the large ant was the focus but, remarkably in retrospect, the smaller ant carrying what may be a bug went unnoticed. In the second the focus was the aleocharine staphylinid (Coloeptera: Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) but off to the right was a lovely little springtail (Collembola). In the third a tiny little (c. 1 mm) sphaeropsocid book-louse (Psocoptera) wandered into the image of a throscid beetle (Coleoptera: Throscidae) - these booklice are rarely encountered with very few records in southeastern Australia. The final two images show mites (Acarina) hidden in plain view: in the case of the millipede a tiny mite in the wood crack on the bottom right, and in the final image of the charopid land snail Pillomena meraca two mite species immediately to the left of the snail (see if you can find the smallest one!).

Pics 1 & 3 from the southern Grampians region and others from Dandenong Ranges in Victoria, Australia.

land snail acarina mites beetles Coleoptera biodiversity millipede ants Dandenong Ranges manylittlethings deakinenviro Deakinscience macro photography macrophoto Grampians National Park

Hysterical Histerids: Myrmecophilous Chlamydopsis 
Rarely does one come across most myrmecophiles (ant-lovers) outside their host-ant nests. This beetle (Coleoptera: Histeridae) belongs to a genus of myrmecophiles found in Australia and neighbouring countries (more on this genus in a previous post). I came across this specimen whilst photographing inverts in the wet forest of the Dandenong Ranges National Park, near Melbourne in Victoria, Australia . The species is C. leai described by the coleopterist Chas Oke in 1923 on the basis of 3 specimens collected in 1920-1921…and never seen since. All specimens were from Belgrave - only several kilometres from where this one was photographed
I guess I am just lucky, but when you have your eye in for the Many Little Things, luck is always on your side!
(Oh…and for scale there is a termite turd - about 1.5 mm long!)

Hysterical Histerids: Myrmecophilous Chlamydopsis

Rarely does one come across most myrmecophiles (ant-lovers) outside their host-ant nests. This beetle (Coleoptera: Histeridae) belongs to a genus of myrmecophiles found in Australia and neighbouring countries (more on this genus in a previous post). I came across this specimen whilst photographing inverts in the wet forest of the Dandenong Ranges National Park, near Melbourne in Victoria, Australia . The species is C. leai described by the coleopterist Chas Oke in 1923 on the basis of 3 specimens collected in 1920-1921…and never seen since. All specimens were from Belgrave - only several kilometres from where this one was photographed

I guess I am just lucky, but when you have your eye in for the Many Little Things, luck is always on your side!

(Oh…and for scale there is a termite turd - about 1.5 mm long!)

Coleoptera beetles myrmecophile biodiversity manylittlethings Deakinscience deakinenviro Dandenong Ranges ants macro photography macrophoto entomology

Life in a Rotten Log: Saproxylic Invertebrates

Showy stuff tends to be large and conspicuous. But weaving their magic inside rotten logs and trees are a wide array of organisms that contribute to the break-down of forest debris. Foremost among them are the fungi - and the even less appreciated bacteria and relatives - but there are also a wide range of invertebrates that directly contribute to this process or live in the evolving decay habitat.

Often is has been considered that this group of organisms of the ‘saproxylic' habitat live only in dead or dying trees and their products like rotten logs, but many living trees contain similar habitat: they have hollows filled with dead wood or they are partly living and partly dead and many remain like this for decades or even centuries. Subsequently the mass of decay products in forest is proportional to the rate of death and decay of trees and the rate of removal of this dead material from the forest. Hence the significant conservation issues posed by firewood collection, especially in drier forests where the mass of dead wood at any one time can be relatively small.

Any single decaying log or tree in mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans) forest in southeastern Australia has hundreds of species likely living in it. Here are five representing various aspects of the ecology of the rotten log.

The very cute baby snail is Pillomena dandenongensis, probably a grazer of algae and fungi and the like. The unidentified millipede, on a background of lovely orange fungus, is a detrivore, consuming rotting plant products and potentially scavenging dead invertebrates. The beetle is Scopodes tasmanicus, a wet forest obligate that is commonly found inside dead logs when cold and actively diurnally hunting on the log surface when it is warmer. The genus Scopodes is diverse in Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea with species also in New Caledonia and Java. The spider is a hunter too, potentially internally but coming out from the log nocturnally. Finally we have a millipede and centipede relative, a symphalan, extremely abundant in all sorts of decaying plant matter habitats.

So Many Little Things are important in recycling!

land snail spiders arachnids beetles Dandenong Ranges Deakinscience deakinenviro biodiversity invertebrate macro photography macrophoto

Many Little Plants: Dandenong Ranges Liverworts

Sunday was a great day in the Dandenongs. Cosy and tonnes of invert activity in the early Spring weather. For a little while I was distracted by these fertile liverworts which were common on rotten logs and lower tree trunks of mountain ash (Eucalyptus regnans). Mostly they are like the lower image with the capsule still present or like the middle image with the spores released, but I was lucky to find a single specimen with the capsule freshly opened and the spores yet to be released (top).

Bryophytes are some of the Many Little Things too!

liverwort bryophytes Dandenong Ranges Deakinscience deakinenviro plant moss macrophoto macro photography manylittlethings

Sunday Afternoon at Kallista: Happy Little Springtails.

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in the Dandenong Ranges National Park at Kallista. I didn’t move more than 10 metres in the whole 4 hours and was within a 20 metres of a major road. I was rewarded for my stasis with about 200 reasonable invert and other little things images. These are the springtails (Collembola). I could have stayed weeks and continued to get fresh things to take pictures of.

Perhaps my favorite (and I think that of many collembolaphiles) is the lovely, distinctive, springtail genus Acanthanura (middle). This genus belongs to the neanurid subfamily Uchidanurinae which has representatives in Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Micronesia and southeast Asia. Acanthanura itself is reasonably common in and under rotting wood in wet forest habitats in southeastern Australia and Tasmania.

collembola springtails invertebrate biodiversity Deakinscience deakinenviro macro photography macrophoto Dandenong Ranges

Welcome to Gynandromorph Land - you’re never going home.
When you are out in the field you see some strange things…sometimes you’d prefer not to see them. When you’re in the lab you might see some great stuff and you have a bit more control there…thankfully. This is one of the most surprising things I’ve ever come across in the lab and it’s certainly something I’m glad I found because it has opened my eyes to a fascinating new world.
Sorting a leaf litter berlesate from forest in southeastern Australia I was finding that the sexually dimorphic males and females of one tiny spider species (a micropholcommatinae anapid) were very abundant (dozens of each). In the image above the female is on the left and the male is on the right. The male has large palps and has a chitinous scute on the dorsal surface of the abdomen. The female has small palps and a distinctive spotty abdominal pattern. The one in the middle has both characters of the male and of the female. What does that mean?
It means simply that that this single little spider is a gynandromorph - in this case a lateral gynandromorph - the left half of the spider is female and the right half is male. Gynandromorphy is well-known in spiders and other taxa but is not especially common; Pontus Palmgren (1979) - oh what a brilliant name - estimated from one sample of 70,000 spiders that gynandromorphs occur at a rate of around 1:17,000 in spiders. A biologist might work on their particular group of organisms and never come across one during their entire career.
I suppose I was just lucky, both in finding a gynandromorph and coming across Pontus Palmgren.
One of the surprising Many Little Things!
Pontus Palmgren. 1979. On the frequency of gynandromorphic spiders. Annales Zoologici Fennici 16, 183-185.

Welcome to Gynandromorph Land - you’re never going home.

When you are out in the field you see some strange things…sometimes you’d prefer not to see them. When you’re in the lab you might see some great stuff and you have a bit more control there…thankfully. This is one of the most surprising things I’ve ever come across in the lab and it’s certainly something I’m glad I found because it has opened my eyes to a fascinating new world.

Sorting a leaf litter berlesate from forest in southeastern Australia I was finding that the sexually dimorphic males and females of one tiny spider species (a micropholcommatinae anapid) were very abundant (dozens of each). In the image above the female is on the left and the male is on the right. The male has large palps and has a chitinous scute on the dorsal surface of the abdomen. The female has small palps and a distinctive spotty abdominal pattern. The one in the middle has both characters of the male and of the female. What does that mean?

It means simply that that this single little spider is a gynandromorph - in this case a lateral gynandromorph - the left half of the spider is female and the right half is male. Gynandromorphy is well-known in spiders and other taxa but is not especially common; Pontus Palmgren (1979) - oh what a brilliant name - estimated from one sample of 70,000 spiders that gynandromorphs occur at a rate of around 1:17,000 in spiders. A biologist might work on their particular group of organisms and never come across one during their entire career.

I suppose I was just lucky, both in finding a gynandromorph and coming across Pontus Palmgren.

One of the surprising Many Little Things!

Pontus Palmgren. 1979. On the frequency of gynandromorphic spiders. Annales Zoologici Fennici 16, 183-185.

spiders invertebrate biodiversity gynandromorph Deakinscience deakinenviro fieldwork manylittlethings

So Many Spiders So Little Time: Welcome to Arachnoland!

Spiders and their relatives, to me at least, are hard work. Not that I don’t like them…I do, and think them wondrous creatures. So what do I mean by ‘hard work’. Well, as someone who can deal with beetles and classify most on sight and when necessary key out less-often-seen-beasts, I find spiders tricky.

First, they rudely hatch out as tiny little versions of their adult self and undergo a series of molts until adulthood. This means that within a single species there are spiderlings at various stages of development. Second, and to confound this, spiders are significantly externally sexually dimorphic. Often you need a adult or even adult male for identification. Finally, is the terminology. When you enter arachnoland from insectland you surely are in a different world…unsurprisingly. I find arachnoland intimidating. I wonder if spider people think the same of beetles or other insect groups?

Here we have spiders from pitfall traps in the Southern Grampians region of Victoria, Australia. Such a diversity from a three day survey by Deakin University students as part of SLE226 Team-based Environmental Research - and this ain’t all of them. They range from the sweet little microspiders in the first image, adult males the first two and less than several millimetres long, to larger ‘furry’ wolf spiders (several in the second image).

Many Little Things with eight legs.

spiders arachnids biodiversity Grampians deakinenviro Deakinscience manylittlethings