Friday, October 28, 2011

Friday My Town Shoot Out: Creepy Crawlies

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Let's begin with something almost everybody likes. A butterfly.
I love insects, invertebrates in general, I wrote about why in some length here. Let's just say that I find their diversity fascinating, they come up with such outrageous looks and strategies for survival.
Here's one with a particularly weird look:
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That's a Wandering Violin Mantis (Gongylus gongylodes), who looks like a shrivelled leaf. Unlike most other mantis species, they are not aggressive towards each other and if kept as pets, can be kept in groups.

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And here's one with a particularly weird strategy for breeding: a Jewel Wasp, Ampulex compressa. They supply their larvae with roaches to feed on when they hatch, but the wasp is less than an inch long and not strong enough to carry a dead or immobile roach. So they sting their prey, first to paralyse the front legs of the roach. The second sting is delivered with precision into a certain area of the roach's head and it modifies the roach's escape behaviour. The wasp can then just grab the roach's antenna and lead it, like on a leash, to a burrow where it will lay an egg and then wall up the burrow with small pebbles.
The larva will feed on the live roach and it will eat the internal organs in an order that keeps the roach alive as long as possible. It sounds gruesome, but it's absolutely amazing to me how complex all this is.
There are many examples of similar behaviour, parasites are a fascinating lot. Here's one that has a life cycle that involves going from a bird to a snail back to a bird and another who manipulates caterpillars into becoming protective of their eggs. There's even one who first feeds on a fish's tongue and then replaces the tongue with its own body. The fish can live with the parasite as a tongue perfectly well.

And now that I have probably grossed most of you out, on to some more soothing and beautiful butterflies.
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And more creepy crawlies at My Town Shoot Out

All photos were taken at Wilhelma in Stuttgart, where I spent last week.

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