Tags: sex


280 days of Urbpandemonium #68

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Photographing a pair of insects engaged in the copulatory act does not necessarily make you a pervert. Whether you are a pervert or not, when insects are mating, you generally have a male and a female both present, increasing your chances of identifying the species in question. You can see that the male has more white on his head and thorax, for example, pervert.

These ladybeetles are very small ones, only a few millimeters long each. I wasn't positive that I was seeing ladybeetles until I cropped the photo to see them closely. This species, Propylea quatuordecimpunctata*, is yet another Eurasian ladybeetle, introduced to North America by accident and intentionally, at different times.

*"A propylaea, propylea or propylaia (/ˌprɒpɪˈliːə/; Greek: Προπύλαια) is any monumental gateway based on the original Propylaea that serves as the entrance to the Acropolis in Athens." (wikipedia) What does that have to do with this beetle? Dunno. Maybe that central double spot made the taxonomist think of the Acropolis for some reason. The rest means "14 spotted."

280 days of Urbpandemonium #28

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Who ever suspected that this empty cartridge, from Polaroid SX-70 film, would provide habitat for so many animals. I can see three species here--a single blue mussel, a number of tiny barnacles, but most prevalently a whole mess of slipper shells Crepidula fornicata.

Despite their flattened, uncoiled shells, these animals are snails. They don't glide around all the time like most other snails, instead remaining firmly attached to a substrate like a rock or another mollusk's shell or a piece of obsolete technology. Youngsters can crawl slowly, but after about 2 years of age they settle in, living the quiet life of a coastal suspension feeder.

Perhaps you have noticed the racy scientific name. Often you will encounter this shell stacked up on others of its kind. Most snails have both male and female sex organs, but slipper shells have a different strategy. "If the individual settles alone, it becomes male briefly, passing rapidly on to a female, especially if another animal settles on it to initiate chain formation. Sex change can only occur to the bottom-most male in a stack and takes approximately 60 days, during which the penis regresses and the pouches and glands of the female duct develop. If a juvenile settles on an established stack it develops and may remain as a male for an extended period (up to 6 years), apparently maintained by pheromones released by females lower in the stack (Fretter & Graham, 1981 in MarLIN, 2003)."

280 days of Urbpandemonium #16

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In April the snakes around Boston wake up and get right to business! Here are two or three common garter snakes Thamnophis sirtalis in a mating cluster along the fence between our yard and driveway. Once discovered they scattered, and I picked one up for posterity.

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The saliva of garter snakes is toxic, a form of primitive venom that help incapacitate their prey of earthworms, amphibians, and small mammals. The worst it can do to a human is make us a little itchy. This snake didn't bother, and also didn't make use of its more effective defense, emptying the contents of its cloaca--complete with a powerful scent marking musk. That smell may help snakes communicate with their kind, but on human skin it just communicates a need to wash your hands repeatedly to get rid of the clinging stench.

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Garter snakes are gentle creatures, easy prey for cats, dogs, turkeys, and crows in the suburbs. It's possible that their yellow stripes let predators know garters don't taste great--depending on how many toxic amphibians they've eaten. Toad and newt poison can build up in garter snakes, making them one of the few animals that are both poisonous AND venomous.

Dedham trail day!

This past Saturday I went to Dedham Trail Day. There were tables from local businesses and organizations (free pulled pork and ice cream!) and a friendly atmosphere. But the main reason I went was because my friend dedhamoutdoors was going to lead a nature walk on a newly opened trail! photo IMG_6470_zps913e5d80.jpg
As I waited for the nature walk to start, I walked along the milkweed looking for creatures. I found several longlegged flies, but they move so quick that the only way to catch one was to get this shot of its shadow from below.

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May Urban Nature Walk at Cutler Park

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Yesterday we held the May Urban Nature Walk despite the technicality that it was June first. We went to Cutler Park, a 600 acre marsh on the Charles River. We had more participants than any previous walk, I suspect, although it's hard to tell because some people arrived later and some left early! There were three small children, one teenager, and two dogs. All present were enthusiastic nature lovers, including people who knew a lot about plants, reptiles, birds, insects, mushrooms, and so on. These photos are mostly about the people--I can't wait to see everyone's pictures of all the cool creatures we found.

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3:00 snapshot #1317: Eclosion Box and more

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Look who's freshly eclosed! Why it's a... oh, dip I forgot to make note of what species these butterflies are. Suffice it to say they're all native North American species, mostly from Florida. If you really want to know you should go to the Franklin Park Zoo and go into the Butterfly Pavilion. On these wicked hot days when all the birds and mammals are sacked out and panting, the butterflies are super enervated.

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