Category Archives: Biology

Stalked puffball-in-aspic (Calostoma cinnabarinum)

Here’s a gooey, mysterious find from my trip to Mohonk Mountain House over Thanksgiving. It took me a while to identify, but I think it’s a stalked puffball-in-aspic (Calostoma cinnabarinum), an ectomycorrhizal boletes that is associated with oak tree roots. It has a number of amusing common names such as hot lips and pretty lips. This one was growing around a pine tree, so perhaps they are flexible about their symbiotic partner. It’s also possible that roots from distant oaks extended to this location (there are some leaves in the frame). But I think the former is more likely, partly because I found a paper (Bautista-Nava and Moreno-Fuentes 2009) that says they grow in pine forests in Mexico. But that paper is in Spanish, which I cannot read, so I could have that wrong.

 Colin Purrington Photography: Fungi &emdash; Stalked puffball-in-aspic (Calostoma cinnabarinum)

After reading they were puffballs, I of course had to hike back to the site to confirm that. Sure enough, filled with spores.

Colin Purrington Photography: Fungi &emdash; Stalked puffball-in-aspic (Calostoma cinnabarinum) spores

I’d love to know whether the smaller blobs (most visible in the first photograph) have some supporting function. They apparently are part of the spore case and fall off as the fruiting body matures. But do they also mature into mini puffballs, too? If they don’t, I wonder whether they might act as egg mimics to attract vertebrates (squirrels? raccoons? birds?) that would then step on the larger fruiting bodies, releasing spores. Likely not, but I’m risking the speculation because they look exactly like fish or amphibian eggs, and most guides mention this similarity. In really weak support of this idea, some guide books say it is especially common near streams (where frogs, salamanders, and fish might be common). For those laughing hysterically at me, I would like to mention in my defense that fungi have evolved to mimic termite eggs on several occasions (Matsuura and Yashiro 2010), so it’s not completely without precedent. OK, you can keep laughing now.

Here is a trio of fruiting bodies approximately a foot or so away from the above location. They are in the process of emerging from the soil. The egg-like pieces are still attached underneath, I believe. Would be nice to capture the emergence and maturation on time-lapse.

 Colin Purrington Photography: Fungi &emdash; Stalked puffball-in-aspic (Calostoma cinnabarinum)

If you can share any natural history on this species, I’d love to know more. Please leave a comment or email me.

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Jumping spider on decaying log

I think this is Phidippus princeps, but it’s a highly variable species and I didn’t feel like hacking it apart to examine genitalia. Plus I don’t know how to key out spider genitalia at all, so it would have been a senseless thing to do. But it was definitely capable of jumping: leaped onto my lens twice, which is always a bit unnerving. They are harmless, but when you are habituated to seeing them through a macro lens, the subconscious brain tags them as massive predators. I survived. This was one of three spiders I photographed within a small area in Swarthmore, PA, a few days ago.

Colin Purrington Photography: Spiders and ticks &emdash; Phidippus princeps

Colin Purrington Photography: Spiders and ticks &emdash; Phidippus princeps

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Daring jumping spider (Phidippus audax)

I’m pretty sure this is a daring (or bold) jumping spider, Phidippus audax. He was very, very large, though you can’t tell it from the photograph. Found at same location as the spider I posted earlier. It was a good spider day (and there’s even one more).  Swarthmore, PA.

Colin Purrington Photography: Spiders and ticks &emdash; Daring jumping spider (Phidippus audax)

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Copulating stilt-legged flies

Copulating pair of Taeniaptera trivittata, a type of still-legged fly (Micropezidae). Males (or females, according to one source) apparently brush the eyes of the partner during mating, though this frame didn’t capture that. When flitting around leaves they wave their white-tipped forelegs and look just like small ichneumon wasps. They have thin waists but the pattern on their wings makes them look even thinner, waspier. Known to feed on rotting Typha, which was abundant nearby (John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, Tinicum, PA).

If you come across a pair, please take a video so I can see the legs in action. I like to watch, and I know of others who are interested in this species.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Copulating stilt-legged flies (Taeniaptera trivittata)

Huge thanks to John S. Ascher and John F. Carr on Bugguide.net for help identifying them.

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