Cute creepy crawlies

Author
by Mark Norman
Publish date
3 December 2011
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Mark is Head of Sciences at Museum Victoria. He's reporting back from Neds Corner in this series of blog posts.

The range of invertebrate animals that we found at Neds Corner was spectacular. At the robust end of the scale were the Rasping Crickets with their big jaws and impressive biting powers. We encountered pairs of these large crickets, the females having the long egg-laying ovipositor off the tip of their tail.

Rasping Cricket Rasping Cricket
Image: David Paul
Source: Museum Victoria
 

We also found the delicate pottery brood chambers built by potter wasps. They build these perfect small chambers to contain their young and then bring food to the developing grubs.

Potter wasp adult and nest Above: Adult potter wasp | Below: The nest of the potter wasp.
Image: Patrick Honan | Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Grace Lewis from the Entomological Society of Victoria witnessed the life and death tug-of-war between a spider wasp and meat ants over a paralysed wolf spider. The ants won.

Antlion larva and adult Above: Antlion larva in its conical pit | Below: Winged antlion adult
Image: David Paul | Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The ants were not so lucky in the many antlion pits we found scattered in the red sand. Antlions are the juvenile stage of an insect related to the lacewings (order Neuroptera). The young antlions with their big jaws dig a conical pit in the sand and sit in the bottom waiting for ants to slide in. The flying adults were attracted to our night lights. We also saw another related insect known as a mantis fly or mantispid – it has a lacewing body with the attacking front end of a praying mantis.

Mantispid Mantispid or mantis fly
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

The centipedes were beautiful and fast, with lots of legs for running. We also found small red-eyed cicadas everywhere and saw them emerge from their wingless cases.

Colourful centipede Colourful centipede
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Dr John Stanisic of the Queensland Museum was pleased with his tally of ten land snail species including some of the smallest animals imaginable. Our photographer David Paul has perfected photographing "gliding sand grains".

Tiny land snail Tiny land snail
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Every day we found more radical colours, shapes and sizes amongst the invertebrate fauna than the day before.

Bush Blitz is a biodiversity partnership discovery program between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia, that aims to document the plants and animals across Australia's National Reserve System. Museum Victoria also participated in Bush Blitz at Lake Condah in March 2011.

Links:

Parks Australia blog

Bush Blitz

Comments (3)

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Jane Edwards 3 April, 2012 16:06
Can you tell me anymore about the rasping cricket? We saw piles of red dirt thrown up in large finger like masses from the red dirt at the Gluepot SA. Are they from it, and if so how?
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Discovery Centre 20 April, 2012 11:32

Raspy Crickets were once called Wood Crickets or Leaf-Rolling Crickets until it was noted they also burrowed in the ground. There are more than 200 species recorded in Australia and we suspect the majority of these are actually burrowers. Their burrows are often silk lined and may be sealed across the entrance during the day. There's no record we can find in the literature about finger-like piles of red dirt relating to this group but at Neds Corner we did suspect some of these were the work of Raspy Crickets. Ants and mygalomorph spiders often form these 'chimneys', particularly in arid areas, and given the nature of the soil at Neds Corner and its propensity to flood very readily, it would not be at all surprising if these were produced by Raspy Crickets.

Jen 4 December, 2011 16:46
wonderful images!
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