Tag Archives: biology

Exobasidium ferrugineae

I found this fleshy, flower-like structure growing on Lyonia ferruginea (rusty staggerbush) at Archbold Biological Station (Venus, Florida). Heaths don’t make flowers like this, so I originally thought it might be an insect gall or phytoplasma infection, but I was wrong. After poking around online I think it’s Exobasidium ferrugineae, a Basidiomycetes fungus. Members of the genus grow in between cells of flower and leaf tissue, then in the Spring send hymenial tissue through stomata and other cracks in the epidermis, eventually turning the surface white with spores. I’d never heard of such fungi before. I’ve led a sheltered life.

Colin Purrington Photography: Fungi &emdash; Exobasidium ferruginea on rusty staggerbush (Lyonia ferruginea)

The above was the largest structure I found (perhaps 3 inches high) but there were dozens of others (see below) at the same location. If you’d like to know more about the species and genus, a good starting point is Kennedy et al. 2012 and references therein. In older literature the fungus was known as Exobasidium vaccinii (Burt 1915), but it seems likely that that species is host specific to Vaccinium vitis-idaea.

Trigger warning for creationist visitors to National Zoo

Here’s a photograph I took several years ago at the National Zoo’s “Think Tank” exhibit on primate cognition. Darwin Day is one week so I thought I’d share.

Colin Purrington Photography: Evolution graphics &emdash; Think Tank warning for creationists

The text is a little hard to read so here’s transcription:

“This exhibit is about animal thinking. It contains some things you may agree with, some you may disagree with, and others that may even trouble you. Come explore and see what you think.” 

The warning sign was crafted by Smithsonian staff to cater to snowflake creationists who complained about the “Changes over millions of years have resulted in today’s humans” panel that covered the age of the earth, human evolution, and how natural selection works. 

The “see what you think” part suggests to visitors that the facts presented within are up for debate and thus shouldn’t undermine somebody’s alternative views about human origins or the age of the earth. But, of course, the warning signage undermines the experience for all visitors. I.e., a curious but uninformed visit might assume that the exhibits are just wild guesses about what might have happened. A shameful use of tax dollars, in my opinion.

Kleptoparasitic fly stealing ant juice from jumping spider

I was photographing a spider a few days ago, and one frame that I was about to trash (jumping spider’s eyes not in focus) happened to show a kleptoparasitic fly that was drinking fluids from the captured ant. Because the fly is not especially visible I haven’t tried that hard to ID the fly (probably Milichiidae or Chloropidae), but I did find an interesting page showing a fly in Australia that was found near a salticid called an ant eater (Zenodorus orbiculatus).

Colin Purrington Photography: Insects &emdash; Kleptoparasitic fly on ant killed by jumping spider

If you have time to waste, here are some fun facts about kleptoparasitic flies:

  • Some species are attracted to volatiles released by captured prey (e.g., stink bugs). I have pics.
  • There are apparently some that are specialists on spiders (Brake and von Tschimhaus 2010).
  • It’s usually just females; when males present they might be looking for mating opportunities with females (Ibid.).
  • In Africa. there’s a milchiid that can induce ants to regurgitate (Wild and Brake 2009).
  • Some plants in the Apocynaceae seem to have evolved the ability to mimic the venom volatiles of paper wasps. The scent is attractive to kleptoparasitic flies because the wasps use the venom when they hunt (Heiduk et al. 2015). This is referred to as kleptomyiophily, apparently (new word for me).

If you really need to more, check out the http://www.milichiidae.info/. Sorry: the Chloropidae don’t have their own site.

I think the spider is Phidippus princeps. Happy to be told otherwise. Here are some better pics of the spider:

Colin Purrington Photography: Spiders and ticks &emdash; phidippus-princeps-eating-ant-003

Colin Purrington Photography: Spiders and ticks &emdash; phidippus-princeps-eating-ant-001