Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tiger, tiger, burning bright.

This is a gravid female Tiger huntsman, the undescribed species we have maintained both at Melbourne Museum and at home since finding a single gravid female in 2006. Since then we have bred several generations of these superb spiders, but all are related as they originated from that one female. This individual presents the first opportunity to mix new genetics into the pool in six years. We found her near our home in Kuranda and had a male sent up from Melbourne to pair up with her. They mated on the 12th of January this year, and all appeared to go well.

If she produces an egg sac it will take around 40 days for the young to emerge. We intend to send some spiderlings down to Melbourne Museum if everything goes to plan.

We have been lucky and have found two individuals within the last year. The second actually fell out of a tree and landed beside me. It was bleeding from the stubs of three missing legs and had obviously just escaped the clutches of some sort of predator. She has now moulted twice and has regrown her missing legs, but she has still two more moults to go until she matures.

Since 2006, we are only aware of seven recorded specimens of this species. Unfortunately the specialist Australian Sparassid taxonomist that began work on them retired recently, which is why the species remains undescribed. I have been discussing this with other arachnologists in the hope that someone will pick it up.

For more information about Australian huntsman spiders visit Minibeast Wildlife's page.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Female Hercules

A little while ago we raised a Hercules Moth caterpillar until it pupated. We suspended the cocoon in the kitchen (as you would), and a couple of day ago we awoke to find a giant female moth hanging quietly from it. We allowed her to hang undisturbed for 24 hours, and then took her out to the species' host plant Omalanthus populifolius within the backyard. We were hoping that she might attract a male, but she immediately began to lay eggs. We assume these initial eggs will be infertile (unless a stealthy male managed to sneak into the kitchen). By the following morning she had left the tree.

The face of the female Hercules Moth. The antennae are very impressive, yet those of the male are larger still.

She will only have a life-span of less than two weeks; she will not feed but instead survives only on the fat stores within her abdomen. Hopefully she can attract a male if there are any around at present, as there is no shortage of food plants locally for any resultant caterpillars.

The female Hercules Moth, Coscinocera hercules hanging in a Bleeding Heart tree in our yard

Laying eggs on the stem

The sticky red substance binds the eggs together and onto the plant.

The Hercules Moth, Coscinocera hercules is the largest moth in Australia with a wingspan of up to 270mm.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Big spectacular bug

This large colourful bug was recently handed in to us. It is quite striking in appearance and measures 41mm in length. This is first encounter we have had with this species, so intially we were at a loss to its identity. It is a male; male sucking bugs in this group have robust hind legs quite 'muscular' in appearance. We have since had it identified as Oncomeris sp. possibly O.flavicornis, a species which ranges up to PNG. This individual was found on Omalanthus, but it showed no interest in this plant while in captivity, so perhaps it had just landed on the plant by chance.

A close-up of the rear of the bug, the wings have incredible colour and detail.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Golden Girl

This is a spectacular yellow form of the Giant Rainforest Mantid, Hierodula majuscula. The specimen was donated to us and was found south of Innisfail. Although the nymphs can adopt a wide range of colours including greens, yellows through to rusty reds, the vast majority of adults are green.

While yellow does not seem to be a colour that blends into the lush green rainforest at a glance, when you look up into the sunlit canopy it is a sea of bright yellow. While in Costa Rica last year, we found a bright yellow Eyelash Viper, Bothriechis schleglii in a tree in our backyard. I figured the snake would be easy to spot the next morning – not the case. The colour made it impossible to spot.