Thursday, September 26, 2013

Cactus Coreid

(Instars) Cactus Coreid, Chelinidea vittiger
Cactus coreid are a type of insect found throughout most of North America, and in parts of Australia as biological control agents. They rely on prickly pear cacti and are often considered pests. These highly host specific insects lay their eggs on the underside of Opuntia species, and the nymphs reside upon the same plant for their entire life. One species in particular, Chelinidea vittigera, was noted to starve rather than find a new host plant upon the destruction of its original host plant. On the other hand, they prefer plants damaged by fire for mating, feeding, and resting, but not as oviposition sites. The reasoning is contributed to the presence of protective spines on undamaged cacti compared to the burned cactus.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Longhorn Beetles

"Sharp-rumped Beetle", Neoclytus mucronatus
Longhorn beetles, characterized by their long antenna, are of the family Cerambycidae. Within this family, over 412 species have been identified in Texas, over 1000 species in North America, over 10,000 species in the Western Hemisphere, and close to 20,000 species worldwide. They can be found in a wide variety of habitats, but generally feed on dead, dying, or decayed wood if not living plant tissue. Those classified as girdlers will sever branches to allow larvae to develop within the distal portion of the branch. In the adult stage, their food preference ranges from flowers and sap, to bark and fungi, to no nourishment beyond water. A longhorn beetle may live anywhere between 1 to 3 years, but general spends most that time within the larval stage.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Scarlet Morning Glory

Scarlet Morning Glory, Ipomoea hederifolia
Scarlet Morning Glory, also called Scarlet Creeper, is an annual vine that blooms starting mid-spring up through fall. It is a native member of the morning glory family that attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Preferring moist hammocks, thickets, and disturbed sites, this plant can be found throughout most of the southern United States and is currently listed as invasive in Hawaii. Although parts of scarlet morning glory are toxic, the roots were once used medicinally.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Bluestem Prickly Poppy

Bluestem Prickly Poppy, Argemone albiflora
Bluestem Prickly Poppy, also known as White Prickly Poppy, is an annual or biennial flower that has a deep taproot and preference for limestone based soils. It may bloom starting mid-spring up until early fall. The prickly leaves, for which it gets it common namesake, results in this flower being a common find in fields as cattle will not eat it. While quail and other birds love the oily seeds, all parts of the plant do contain toxins in the form of alkaloids.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Hyaenodon [Brule Formation, Pennington County, South Dakota]
The genus Hyaenodon contained carnivorous mammals that lived from the Eocene Epoch 42 million years ago until extinction during the Oligocene Epoch 25 million years ago. There so far are records of at least 30 species with fossils found in Asia, Africa, Europe, and North America. Hyaenodon means "hyena-toothed" as these animal had large, sharp teeth for their carnivorous diet.

Teeth of the Hyaenodon
During their existence, Hyaenodon was a dominant predator. The species ranged in size from small and fox-like to others as large as rhinos. It is believed the smaller species hunted in packs, likely at night, whereas the larger species likely hunted alone. Extinction of the order Creodonta, of which Hyaenodon belongs, possibly came from competition with Carnivora, the order most carnivores belong to in modern times.

From the newest fossil collection at the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


Merycoidodon cuibertsoni [White River, Dawes County, Nebraska]
Related to camels, sheep, and pigs, Merycoidodontidae were mammals that once roamed North America 34 million years ago until their extinction 5 million years ago during the Tertiary Period. Their teeth contained long-lasting grinding surfaces well adapted for effective side to side chewing. They were about 1.2 m (4 ft) in length with a heavy build similar to modern day pigs. Fossils of Merycoidodon have most often been found in large numbers in small areas pointing towards the likelihood of these creatures having lived in herds.

From the newest fossil collection at the Heard Natural Science Museum and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Prairie Ring-necked Snake

Hatchling Prairie Ring-Necked Snake, Diadophis punctatus arnyi
The Prairie Ring-Necked Snake, a subspecies of ring-necked snake, is a small, non-venomous snake. They range in size between 25-38 cm (10-15 in) and have a distinctive orange or yellow neck band as well as an orange or yellow belly. Although found throughout the eastern two thirds of the United States up into Canada and down into Mexico, they are secretive. Ring-necked snakes prefer rocky, wooded hillsides for shelter and to search for prey. Their main diet consists of worms, slugs, other soft-bodied insects, and small reptiles. These snakes do not reach sexual maturity until the third year and are thought to have a lifespan close to 20 years in the wild. They rarely venture out during the day and have a single denning site.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Labor Day

Due to some technical difficulties, there will be no post today. Hope you had a great Labor Day Weekend!