7. huhtikuuta 2021

May Bioblitz @ Timberlake Field Station

Good news! Tarleton has approved the May Bioblitz at Timberlake Field Station (one night, May 15 - 16). The bunkhouse will be available, but restricted to one person sleeping per room. There are five rooms, so the first five folks that request a room in the bunkhouse can be accommodated. Due to uncertainties regarding COVID (new variants, localized increases in cases, etc), I prefer that attendees be vaccinated so our gathering doesn't contribute to these uncertainties. Regardless, we've got almost 800 acres to engage in some really enjoyable social distancing! Our previous two bioblitzs only scratched the surface of biodiversity at Timberlake, so I'm excited to continue our inventory of biodiversity.

Tarleton State University’s Timberlake Biological Field Station is an educational and research facility located on the Colorado River in the heart of Texas--midway between Austin and Abilene. The 790 acre property has approximately 3 miles of Colorado river frontage.

Here's the link to detailed info about Timberlake: https://docs.google.com/document/d/19D_D0b94QvtB72GR8e5cSH8XHXFSe9DS69zffjRrbtw/edit?usp=sharing

Since the event is being limited to 25 attendees (5 in the bunkhouse), I'll maintain a list here:
Spot reserved:

  1. annikaml
  2. tadamcochran (bunkhouse)
  3. mikef451
  4. connlindajo (bunkhouse)
  5. gcwarbler
  6. bacchusrock (bunkhouse)
  7. gwaithir
  8. briangooding (bunkhouse)
  9. jwn
  10. Max S. (bunkhouse)
  11. k_mccormack
  12. molly_burke
  13. benjamindurrington
  14. austinrkelly
  15. clairesorenson
  16. nanofishology


I'm tagging some folks that I seem to recall having expressed an interest last time we met, along with some other active observers. Don't be offended if you're not tagged here--I'm severely scatterbrained and loose track easily! Feel free to tag anyone else that you know might be interested. @mikef451, @sambiology, @centratex, @wildcarrot, @catenatus, @brentano, @gcwarbler, @annikaml, @oddfitz, @tadamcochran, @rymcdaniel, @nanofishology, @connlindajo, @k8thegr8, @ecarpe, @galactic_bug_man, @dan_johnson, @tdavenport, @kimberlietx, @anewman, @jeffmci9, @eric_keith, @wild-about-texas, @alflinn329, @tweedledee, @bosqueaaron

Lähetetty 7. huhtikuuta 2021 00:22 käyttäjältä pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton | 40 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

16. maaliskuuta 2021

Anemone bioblitz at Lake Alan Henry

I'm planning on being at Lake Alan Henry north of Post, TX this coming Saturday. I'll spend the night and leave Sunday. Being so early in the season, there won't be a lot of diversity, but my goal is to search for Anemones which only bloom in March/early April. But I'll be scoping the place out for a possible future bioblitz.

Anyone wishing to join me in the search for Anemones is welcome to come. Post here and/or send me a private message with a description of your vehicle (required by the on-site biologist so that she knows who's out there).

I have access to the restricted wildlife area north of the dam (permit required), and there is a camping area on the lake not far from there. Maps:

Observations made Saturday:

Lähetetty 16. maaliskuuta 2021 16:36 käyttäjältä pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton | 11 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

14. maaliskuuta 2021

Last call for Anemone wildflowers!

Mid March is peak Anemone season, which will be winding down over the coming weeks.

This year, I was able to document an unusual morphological variant of Anemone at a new location in Baylor County. Here are observations of what I'm calling the "rolling plains morph" (because I've only seen it on the rolling plains) or "Anemone pilosus" (because it's so hairy both above and below the scape):

Other good news, Anemone edwardsiana has been documented from several new locations this season.

On a downside, no new observations of Anemone okennonii have been posted yet this season:

Here's the link to my previous post about observing Anemones and how folks can contribute to this scientifically under-appreciated group of wildflowers:

Lähetetty 14. maaliskuuta 2021 20:43 käyttäjältä pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton | 3 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

27. tammikuuta 2021

Winter-blooming wildflowers: Part II


It's officially the beginning of Anemone season here in Texas. We kick off the season this year with the first and second observations of Anemone in bloom here on iNaturalist. Congratulations @franpfer and @humblegardener!

There are still many gaps in our knowledge of Texas Anemones. I'll get to those in a moment, but first, here's how to identify the species of Anemone in Texas and adjacent states. Be sure to photograph the key features needed to identify them.

So what what are the gaps in knowledge that iNatters can help with?

  • There are some gaps in the distribution of Anemone edwardsiana in the Hill Country. Are those gaps real and the populations are disjunct, or are the gaps just a reflection of lack of observations in those areas? A recent post by @bacchusrock of an earlier observation has pushed their iNaturalist-documented distribution westward.
  • Over the past two years, we made much progress on documenting Anemone caroliniana. We might still find some populations of Anemone caroliniana in the DFW area. Beyond DFW, this species remains poorly documented.
  • In the western half of Texas and into eastern New Mexico, we have an unresolved issue of Anemones with an unusual morphology. Thanks to @kayakqueen for posting the first observations of these in the Lubbock area. Do they represent an undescribed species? More observations of these across western Texas and eastern New Mexico, carefully documenting morphological variation of all the plants anatomy, will prove useful. I'm hoping to do some genetic work to help address this question also.
  • A couple of years ago, the most recently described species, Anemone okennonii, was known from only three locations. It was discovered by @bob777 in 1992 in Kimble County. Thanks to several iNatters, we now have many new observations between the Edwards Plateau and West Texas...and maybe even up to southeastern New Mexico.

Special thanks to @kimberlietx, without whom I would certainly still consider this to be just an ugly yard weed.

So, keep your eyes peeled for this winter- and early-spring-blooming wildflower!

Lähetetty 27. tammikuuta 2021 02:33 käyttäjältä pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton | 5 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

12. tammikuuta 2021

Winter-blooming wildflowers: Part I

For those of us eager for spring--or at least the first signs of spring--searching for winter-blooming wildflowers is a great way to feed the soul. The bigroot springparsley (Vesper macrorhizus) is one of the earliest winter-blooming wildflowers in Texas. It's also very easy to overlook because it hugs the earth and definitely isn't what one would call showy. Formerly known as Cymopterus macrorhizus, it's a member of the carrot family (Apiaceae). It can be found from central Texas northward into SW Oklahoma and eastern New Mexico (BONAP map).

As of today, there are only two observations of Vesper macrorhizus in January--one is in full bloom (congratulations @franpfer --you currently hold the record for the earliest documented Vesper macrorhizus in full bloom) and the other is budding out (that would be one observed by yours truly--the earliest documented specimen as of right now). Peak bloom period appears to be March based on iNaturalist data.

I've had most luck finding these in country cemeteries because they grow so low to the ground. If the vegetation is tall, they're much harder to see and may be outcompeted by taller vegetation (speculation on my part).

But be careful with your identifications as a conspecific occurs sympatrically in some areas--Vesper montanus (BONAP map). And I have no clue how to distinguish them! But @nathantaylor has provided some thoughts and maybe he'll stop by here and talk with us some more about these two species.

So head out if you can, and see if you can find this spectacular beauty, er, hidden gem, er, ugly duckling?

Lähetetty 12. tammikuuta 2021 01:59 käyttäjältä pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton | 11 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

23. marraskuuta 2020

Broad-headed bugs of the genus Alydus

Fracker (1918) discusses how difficult it is to identify many species of Alydus (except pilosulus) without examination of genitalia. "Owing to numerous variations, especially in A. eurinus and A. conspersus, the present writer has been compelled to rely on genitalia for the separation of these two species and their relatives." More recently, Schaefer and Shaffner (1994) provide no obvious morphological characters to distinguish eurinus, calcaratus, and tomentosus.

Here's what I've gleaned so far from the available literature:

  • Alydus pilosulus: (eastern half of U.S. and Quebec): Humeral angles of pronotum are sharply acute and the antero-lateral margins of the prothorax are usually pale.
  • A. scutellatus (Rocky Mountains): posterior femora with pale annulus near apex (others members of the genus lack this annulus).
  • A. conspersus (Canada, across northern U.S., south to Arizona along Rocky Mountains): membrane often spotted, body without long, erect hairs.
When the above-mentioned characters are visible, those three species are fairly easily identifiable. The greater challenge lies with the following three species. How to distinguish them in areas of sympatry without genitalia? Evidently, the variation within species makes this task impossible.
  • A. eurinus (U.S. and Canada): pronotum usually black, membrane without spots.
  • A. calcaratus (western Canada, Quebec, Minnesota, Alaska, NW U.S. and south along Rocky Mountains to SW U.S.): body dark brown (fuscous) to black.
  • A. tomentosus (SW U.S. perhaps north to S. Dakota).

A. pluto was synonomyzed with A. calcaratus by Schaefer and Shaffner (1994).

Available literature describing characteristics:
Fracker, S. B. (1918). The Alydinae of the United States. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 11(3), 255-280.
Schaefer, C. W., & Schaffner, J. C. (1994). Alydus calcaratus in North America (Hemiptera: Alydidae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 96(2), 314-317.
Swanson, D. R. (2011). A synopsis of the Coreoidea (Heteroptera) of Michigan. The Great Lakes Entomologist, 44(3 & 4), 4.

Lähetetty 23. marraskuuta 2020 22:46 käyttäjältä pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton | 1 kommentti | Jätä kommentti

12. syyskuuta 2020

It's Agalinis time! False foxglove season!

Here's my guide from last year:

For those in the Tarrant Co. area, A. auriculata was documented long ago but hasn't been seen since. Is it still hanging on in some out-of-the-way place?

Along the Red River, A. aspera may occur. It's been found on the north side of the river, but not the south side.

The distribution of all of the other species hasn't been well documented. But we made much headway last season!

The identifying characteristics can be quite subtle, so photographs of from multiple angles of all the critical characteristics is important.

Lähetetty 12. syyskuuta 2020 13:36 käyttäjältä pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton | 3 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

18. heinäkuuta 2020

Bombus sonorus/Bombus pensylvanicus: evidence of hybridization?

Bombus pensylvanicus was described as a species in 1773 (by De Geer). One hundred years later, in 1873, B. sonorus was described as a species (by Say). Franklin (1912) recognized them as species, but Milliron (1973) and Williams (2014) recognized B. sonorus as a subspecies of B. pensylvanicus. There have been reports of "intermediates" between Bombus pensylvanicus and B. sonorus in Texas and Mexico. However, these reports don't describe very well, if at all, the phenotype of the intermediates that they're reporting. Yet these alleged intermediates have influenced some taxonomists to demote B. sonorus to a subspecies under B. pensylvanicus. Unpublished, preliminary genetic data also contributed to this demotion. None of this evidence is documented very well in the published literature. Because of the longstanding and remaining uncertainty, I'm on a quest to set the record straight--with well documented evidence.

My objective is to find genetic/phenotypic evidence to support or refute the hypothesis of hybridization. I am collecting specimens of both species at locations where both species can be found pollinating the same plant. Then, I'll extract DNA and sequence a mitochondrial gene (I've already confirmed that the two species are genetically unique). If I find the DNA sequence of B. sonorus in a specimen that is phenotypically B. pensylvanicus (and vice versa), that would be evidence of hybridization at some point in the past.

What might constitute a "hybrid phenotype"? Labougle (1990) states: “...it is sometimes difficult to place a Mexican specimen in either subspecies because there are specimens with the coloration of the scutellum...intermediate between the two taxa.” The scutellum is the region of the pronotum between the base of the wings. But what does intermediate coloration mean, exactly? The author does not explain. Among males, intermixed black and yellow hairs is common in B. pensylvanicus so this cannot constitute such evidence. However, among females, B. pensylvanicusis described as having a scutellum usually covered in only black hairs, while in B. sonorus, only yellow hairs. If intermixed hairs is the "hybrid trait" reported in Texas and Mexico, we can discount this as evidence of hybridization if we find this trait in specimens far outside the zone of overlap (sympatry) between the two species--in places where it would be impossible for hybridization to occur. And there are indeed examples of this:

Female B. pensylvanicus with mixed yellow/black hairs on scutellum

@jane41, @mob-critters

Lähetetty 18. heinäkuuta 2020 20:37 käyttäjältä pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton | 1 kommentti | Jätä kommentti

17. toukokuuta 2020

Water beetles

Water beetles aren't a monophyletic group and can be found throughout the Order Coleoptera. So displaying or searching for water beetles requires a bit more effort. Here are links to most aquatic and semi-aquatic beetles found in the U.S. So if you find something that you know or think is a water beetle, scroll through this collection of species to help narrow down your identification.

Water beetles of the U.S. (change location to whatever you wish). This includes the following groups: Hydrophilidae, Dytiscoidea, Haliplidae, Gyrinidae, Scirtidae, Noteridae, Amphizoidae, Hydroscaphidae, Lutrochidae, Dryopidae, Elmidae, Heteroceridae, Limnichidae, Psephenidae, Sphaeriusidae.

Lähetetty 17. toukokuuta 2020 15:40 käyttäjältä pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton | 2 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti

29. maaliskuuta 2020

Dissecting scope and focus stacking

As a kid, I always had my trusty microscope at my desk (a tiny department store model). And I used it regularly.

Since my camera does a poor job of capturing the tiny things--and because I really want to see the tiny things--I bought a dissecting scope. It was on sale 50% off. For the light, the LED ring works well.

The scope has a port for mounting a DSLR camera body, but those cost more money. So I'm using my smartphone with an adapter. A DSLR camera body would be better though.

Then I needed a camera app with the right controls (an infinite focus depth setting is critical), so I'm using Open Camera. Be sure to turn off the flash and auto exposure setting so the brightness stays consistent across focus levels.

When taking pics for focus stacking, I start taking pics focused at the upper plane and then focus downward in small increments taking a photo at each depth. The specimen CANNOT move or twitch at all during this process otherwise the images won't align.

And then, for the focus stacking, I'm currently using PICOLAY software. Before each focus stacking session, be sure to set the option to "Add original name to py file", otherwise it gives the resulting file a generic name. And set stacking parameters to "Align images 2x". From there, it's automagical.

Lastly, I use the Windows Photos app for cropping and enhancement. The "Clarity" adjustment, in particular, really makes them pop.

Lähetetty 29. maaliskuuta 2020 13:35 käyttäjältä pfau_tarleton pfau_tarleton | 11 kommenttia | Jätä kommentti