Readers’ wildlife photos: Monday

September 15, 2014 • 5:37 am

I hope people are enjoying these photos, as I know the photographers go to a lot of trouble to take them and send them to me. But if you do like some of them, let the photographer know in the comments.  I have a respectable queue now, so there will be more, but if I decide to continue this, please keep sending me photos. As always, I ask for GOOD ones, ones that are interesting, inspiring, cute, or beautiful.

Reader Sarah Crews sent four photos of arthropods:

Here’s an American Carrion Beetle (Necrophila americana), with one photo showing it cleaning up some sort of mammal at night. Hoosier National Forest, near West Baden Springs, Indiana.



An opiliones [“harvestmen”] munching a carabid beetle (also HNF near West Baden Springs) . Opiliones are arachnids without venom that always seem a little dopey and awkward (though tropical ones look pretty tough), but obviously are excellent predators (I mean, it’s eating a predatory ground beetle!)

opiliones + carabid

A one spotted tiger beetle (I think), Cylindera unipunctata, from Morgan Ridge, Hoosier NF. [JAC: it doesn’t look as iridescent as the ones online]:

tiger beetle

Reader Pete Moulton sent some mammal photos, including a skunk, one of my favorite species. I had a striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) for several years as a pet. But I believe there are four species endemic to the U.S., of which this is one.

Western Hognose Skunk Conepatus mesoleucus, just one of the four species of skunks in Arizona, at the Boyce-Thompson Arboretum near Superior. I understand quite well that not everyone likes skunks, but they’re handsome animals, and I always enjoy finding and photographing them.

Hognose Skunk_BTA 10-25-09_7779 copy

Rock SquirrelOtospermophilus variegatus, enjoying a snack at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. The mottled look to the pelage is its key fieldmark, as well as the source of its species epithet.

Rock Squirrel_5-19-13_DBG_8199

Round-tailed Ground Squirrel, Xerospermophilus tereticaudus, apparently seeking some greener pastures from its perch in an ocotillo; also at the Desert Botanical Garden.

Round-tailed GS_6-3-12_DBG_7059



37 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos: Monday

  1. Interesting that the Opiliones, or “Daddy Long-legs” as I knew them as a child, don’t have any venom. I was always under the impression that they had one of the strongest venoms in the animal kingdom, just that they had fangs so small that they couldn’t harm a human with it. I wonder where that rumor came from.

    1. I was surprised by that too. I also thought they had powerful venom. They gave off a noxious odor, and as I kid I correlated that with being venomous. Urban myths abound.

    2. I know the answer…it’s one of the problems with using common names. So, it comes from a study (maybe in Australia) from the 1950s or 60s on daddy-long-legs spiders (family Pholcidae). They took the venom out of a pholcid spider and ran it through a gel and it’s molecular weight was similar to another venom that was very strong and thus their conclusion. It’s been debunked by mythbusters, but I’m not sure it’s ever actually been scientifically rebutted in a peer-review publication. Anyway, opiliones aren’t spiders, and that study was about spiders. Also, not all opiliones can produce odors and some that can actually smell kind of good I think. Yes, I walk around, pick up critters and smell them. The ones in the tropics are quite interesting and on Attenborough’s Life In The Undergrowth, there is a segment about one where the male takes care of the eggs and females that pretend they want to mate with him try to eat his incubating eggs…probably on youtube.

      1. I can’t count how many rural people have told me, over the years: “Why, them daddy-long-legs (harvestman) spiders is the MOST poison of them all!”, and I doubt if they ever heard of the Australian study. I think it’s more to do with a “bigger body and fang size= more poisonous” folk perception. I’ll bet they REALLY freak out when they see them congregating in dense masses!

  2. Great pictures. The carrion beetle dinner might be a shrew, but that is a guess.
    I was wondering why the tiger beetle is called ‘one spotted’ since there are several iridescent spots. Is it b/c one of the spots is white?

  3. I can confirm that the mammal in the second picture is a long tailed shrew, genus Sorex, but impossible to tell the species – they are several in Indiana. According to its present shape, it was probably gobbed by a young and naive carnivore, and vomited shortly after. Shrews are toxic for most carnivorous mammals. Their main predators are owls.
    Interesting picture of a miniatirue world where wultures and jackals are replaced by beetles and ants.

    1. Thanks for the ID. Beetles, ants AND a fly…though not visible in this pic, there is another where a little fly is on the beetle’s back and then on a leaf. Someone ID’d it for me as a phorid, or humpbacked fly…also called coffin flies. I guess they can stay alive in people’s sealed coffins for quite sometime, eating and breeding.

    1. Squirrel is calling to his friend, in a whispering voice, “hey, hey get down – there’s one of those weird pinked skin mammals taking our picture – it’s getting closer! Get down!”

  4. nice skunk. I just had an adventure with a striped skunk. I have a small water pool in my backyard, the typical preformed “water feature”. I looked out one morning and saw some movement where none should be. A small skunk had fallen in and just couldn’t get out, poor thing was swimming around desperately. I scooped him out with a snow shovel and happily, I was not sprayed. I think his fur was so thick for the approaching winter it was just too heavy for him when wet. He shook himself off like a dog, and trundled off into our urban landscape.

    wished I had a camera but I was a bit distracted 🙂

      1. yeah, I would have done it no matter what eve if I had to have waded in to get it. Poor thing, I love skunks, ferrets, etc.

        And if I couldn’t have gone to work because I reeked (kind of a bad thing to have in a meat department in a grocery store), I’d have a great story to tell. 🙂

        1. One of my d*gs got sprayed once…glad she got sprayed and didn’t come home with a dead skunk. Tomato juice works well to get off the smell if ever you get sprayed in the future. I used it on her, and the smell was toned down considerably…though not entirely gone.

          1. We had a d*g that got into a skunk, and got sprayed real good. So I waded in to pull her away from the skunk and I got sprayed.
            We both had to go into the bath, and lacking tomato juice had to make do with big jars of spaghetti sauce. I can report that it actually worked pretty well.

    1. Awww poor wet skunk. He was probably too exhausted to be afraid or to spray. I think skunks have such a laissez-faire personality about them as they go about their day smelling things in the garden.

      1. oh, he sprayed in the pond. We’ve discovered that this will kill fish, because our poor pond fish were belly up the next day.

        he (or she 🙂 ) just looked at me when I was lifting him on the shovel.

  5. I love the photos. Better to enjoy these for a few minutes in the morning before I start looking over my email. Leaves my a much better mood.

  6. Great photos today. The beetle with the carrion and the ant looking on looks like something out of a Bosch painting.

    The rock squirrel is perfect. I love all its hair sticking out like it’s brimming with static electricity.

  7. That skunk looks a lot like a young honey badger, except for the tail. I suppose that’s mainly homology (conserved ancestral features of Musteloidea) but probably a bit of convergence due to aposematism, too. I had to look it up: badgers are basal mustelids, and the kinkajou (which looks like a disembodied arm of a mountain gorilla, i.e. pretty similar except all black) is the most basal musteloid branch. Mephitidae (skunks) are bracketed between those two lineages so the homology idea seems good. The freakishly-weird-ones-out in the whole group are the procyonids (raccoon, coati et al.), nearest sister group to skunks but going in all different directions in behaviour and morphology.

    1. I think it’s the badger & skunk’s disposition of not carrying. The badger doesn’t care about you & the skunk isn’t worried about you.

      1. “caring” not “carrying”. The animals don’t have the option of being armed yet in the US though the skunk does have his own weapons!

    2. You’re referencing a very interesting paper – it shows that Ailurus (the red panda) is the sister group of canids, and evolutionary well away from felids, despite it’s original greek meaning.
      Thus we should be very cautious when using the word “ailurophile” – it could easily be interpreted as “d*g’s first cousin lover”.
      But another word for cat is available in ancient greek: γαλέη – so we could replace ailurophile with galeophile.
      Oh, damned! Galea is a genus of south american rodents, akin to the guinea-pig…
      The situation is hopeless.

  8. I’m sure everyone here likes the photos, its just that, like the science articles, there are fewer sensible comments we can make.

    Just to add that I particularly like close-ups of small furry animals, like the squirrels above.

  9. The ant in the picture of the carrion beetle and shrew(?) is a soil-nesting relative of the carpenter ants – Camponotus americanus – which like many ants is sometimes a scavenger, but mostly a sweet-tooth.

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