Category Archives: Biology

Astylopsis macula (Lamiinae)

Found a bunch of these flat-faced longhorn beetles on a dying tree a few weeks ago. I’m fairly confident it’s Astylopsis macula. But there are a gazillion genera of Lamiinae, so I’m happy to be corrected. Would also be very happy to hear from anyone who knows what elytral pits do, other than providing handy identification. I’ve wondered about that for years. Are they vestigial patterns from forewing ancestry? Sound-dampening trick to elude echolocating bats? Are pits just decorations, useful in crypsis or for intraspecific recognition? If you know, would love to hear from you.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Astylopsis macula

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Banded tussock moth

Banded tussock moth (Halysidota tessellaris) caterpillar with stemmata peeking out from behind the anterior tufts. The second photograph shows the barbed setae, which will eventually be detached and rewoven into the cocoon.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Banded tussock moth (Halysidota tessellaris) caterpillar

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Barbed setae of the banded tussock moth (Halysidota tessellaris) caterpillar

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Checkered-fringe prominent

Found two of these caterpillars on blackberry last week. I really should have brought them back home to see if they would eat morning glory leaves. Apparently they hate morning glory despite being named Schizura ipomoea (and thus traditionally called a morning glory prominent). Also sometimes referred to as the false unicorn prominent. You can distinguish the checkered-fringe from the unicorn prominent (Schizura unicornis) on the basis of head striping (among other differences). But don’t handle them during the identification process: they spray mixture of formic and acetic acid from that dorsal horn on abdominal segment one, and that will hurt and make your skin blister.

According to one study, these caterpillars coat the tissues of freshly-girdled tree stems with fluid. The authors guess that the fluid contains something that blocks the de novo production of chemical defenses in the leaves. This “chew and spit” behavior seems to be common in the family (Notodontidae). More details and papers on the behavior at David Dussourd’s website.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Checkered-fringe prominent (Schizura ipomoeae)

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Checkered-fringe prominent (Schizura ipomoeae)

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Variable oakleaf caterpillar

This is a newly-molted variable oakleaf caterpillar (Lochmaeus manteo), with old head capsule still attached. I initially thought the capsule was the head and that the thorax had eyespots, but John and Jane Balaban on Bugguide.net pointed out the obvious to me.

This species sprays formic acid, apparently.

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Lochmaeus caterpillar

Close-up of Lochmaeus caterpillar

FYI, Al Denelsbeck posted an almost identical image here, complete with close-up of the eyes.

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Galapagos mug with English and Spanish maps

I read a lot of books and articles about the Galapagos Islands, and it’s a tad annoying that the islands all have two names — colonial British, and modern Spanish. Most books (but not articles) have a map, but it’s invariably just a monolingual map and also fixed on a given page so it’s hard to refer to frequently. So out of frustration I designed myself a bilingual map mug. Just hold in right hand when reading modern works, and in the left hand when reading something older like Charles Darwin’s, Voyage of the Beagle. It’s also useful when reading about the various endemics that were given names according to the islands where they were first described. E.g., when reading about Microlophus albemarlensis barringtonensis (one of the lava lizards), a quick glance at the mug will tell you that the subspecies is on Isla Santa Fé, though primary species description was for the specimens on Isla Isabela.

I put it up on Redbubble in case you need one for yourself, or need a geeky gift for somebody who’s doing some reading in advance of a trip to the Galapagos.

Mug with English/Spanish maps of the Galapagos

If you’re curious about the map, it’s one I scanned from Darwin’s, Journal of Researches. It’s probably not suitable for navigation purposes, FYI, especially if filled with hot canelazo.

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