Video of Lord Howe Island stick insect hatching

I was captivated by the very-rare-but-getting-much-less-so Lord Howe Island stick insect (Dryococelus australis) when I visited the island, and wrote about it here.

New Scientist recently posted a wonderful video of a LHI stick insect hatching. You can see it here. It’s fascinating to watch the nymph emerge … and emerge … and emerge … and emerge … from the comparatively tiny egg. Check it out!

Sir David Attenborough was recently in Melbourne and made their acquaintance – you can read about it here.

And to get an idea of what has been learned by breeding them, check out the “Husbandry Manual for the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect” here.

What’s in a name?

The scientific names of new species have to be submitted to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature for approval. They are most often two parters – genus first, then species (real proper taxonomy includes the surname of the describer and the date). Subspecies and variety names can lengthen the scientific name. You can read about cacti scientific names here – the rules more or less apply to all species.

The Latin or Greek may translate into something descriptive – or not, depending on the whim of the namer. So we have Tyranno (tyrant) saurus (lizard) rex (king) for the huge lizard dinosaur.

Still in the realm of dinosaurs, an American palaeontologist named one of his finds Dracorex (Draco = lizard; rex = king) hogwartsia (yes, in honour of Harry Potter’s school of wizardry; you can read about it here).

This may seem like a non-sequitur, but bear with me. Margaret from Copmanhurst, down south in dry sclerophyll eucalypt country, has kindly let me show her photos of what she thought was a fungus (thanks, Margaret!).

I suspected it was a slime mould, which is not a fungus at all but has its own taxonomic kingdom. A quick look at the ‘net and in reference books brought me no closer to a species name, so I sent off the photos to the Australian Museum Search and Discover department.

The slime mould was growing on a compost heap …

Slime mould; photo by Margaret Hughes

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Sleeping underwater

On the weekend, perfect subtropical winter weather induced us to go to Woody Head for a snorkel – sparkling waters, fairly calm, water temperature greater than air temperature. Off the rock platform, there’s a spot that is sheltered by a curve of rocks, with a shallow wall (about 2 metres) covered with weed. Here you can find lots of subtropical small fish fluttering about, and nudibranchs if you’ve sharp eyes. It’s also a nursery for the larger fish (like the flathead fishermen love to catch) you can see in the bay.

In the bay you can also see small rays resting on the bottom. They zip off as you approach – a timely reminder that if you are walking in shallow water when the tide is out, you need to do the “stingray shuffle” so that you don’t put your foot down on one. Their barb is not venomous, but a stab would be painful (and no one wants to “do a Steve”, either).

The whole bay is a green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas) home, too. We saw four resting in the snorkelling area. All but one zoomed off when they saw us, and that one stayed still, snoozing in the weed. I only realised I was holding my breath while waiting for the turtle to come up and take one for itself when I felt myself wanting to breathe suddenly.

Green sea turtle; photo by Daniel Schwen, Wikimedia Commons

You can read about green sea turtles in Australia here.

I didn’t have the breath-holding problem with the next snoozers – probably because I know they don’t need to come up for air. Two spotted wobbegong sharks (Orectolobus maculatus) were parked under rock ledges where a current flowed over them, giving them all the oxygen they needed. They rest there during the day and come out to feed on fishes, crayfish, crabs and octopuses.

Spotted wobbegong; photo by Richard Ling, Wikimedia Commons

Heather is going to buy me that sticker that says “Remember to breathe!” I might need it.

National, umm, moth week

Catching up on my blog reading yesterday, I noticed that last week in the United States at least, according to Rebeccainthewoods, was National Moth Week (read about it here; Scientific American mentions it here). This gives me the opportunity, if a bit late, to show my fruit-piercing moth (Eudocima fullonia), which wanted to come in the house at night a couple of weeks ago.

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