Posts Tagged ‘desert’

Dreaming of the desert

It’s 6ºF (-14ºC) here in central Illinois.  Can’t do much about that, but here are some shots of warmer times and warmer places.


Monument Valley, 2006


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Eusattus dilatatus – dune darkling beetle (Tenebrionidae)
California, USA

Sand dunes are an unusual habitat, and the creatures found on them are equally odd. One of the more charismatic dune endemics is Eusattus dilatatus, a large darkling beetle found in southern California. This scavenging insect has long legs for digging and a waxy cuticle to prevent dessication.

Eusattus is not the easiest photographic subject. It seemed uncomfortable out in the open and would burrow as soon as I placed it on the sand. The series below spans 30 seconds.

**update** Tenebrionid expert Kojun Kanda corrects the identification from E. muricatus to E. dilatatus.

photo details: Canon MP-E 65mm 1-5x macro lens on a Canon 20D
f/13, 1/250 sec, ISO 100, twin flash diffused through tracing paper

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In our front yard we’ve got a busy nest of Pogonomyrmex rugosus seed harvesting ants. Warming weather brought them out for the first time last week, and every now and again I go out to see what they’re up to. Lots of digging, it seems.

Pogonomyrmex is greek for “Bearded Ant”, named 150 years ago by Austrian myrmecologist Gustav Mayr for the thick brush of hairs on the underside of the head. Entomologists affectionately refer to these ubiquitous desert insects as “Pogos”. What does the beard do?


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“I went out collecting with Albert Way of Trinity, who in after years became a well-known archaeologist; also with H. Thompson, afterwards a leading agriculturalist, chairman of a great railway, and a Member of Parliament. It seems therefore that a taste for collecting beetles is some indication of future success in life.”

– Charles Darwin

Cactus Longhorn Beetle, Moneilema sp.
Tucson, Arizona
details: Canon 100mm macro lens on a Canon 20D
f/20, 1/2 sec, ISO 400
camera on tripod, natural light
levels adjusted in Photoshop

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The Saguaro might, one could fancy, be a tree designed by someone who had never seen a tree.

Donald Culross Peattie, 1950



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