We had no correct guesses to this week’s Freak of the Week, so here’s Bob’s answer:If you answered the larva of a Tiger Beetle, you are right on! Specifically, it is the larva of a Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle (Cincindela hirticollis). The sand grains show that this animal is very tiny, and the two large eyes prove that it is not a burrowing spider – which would have either 6 or 8 eyes.
Ohio has twenty species of tiger beetles, a few of which are wide-spread and common. All tiger beetles are predacious – both as larvae and as adults. The larvae burrow into the sand with just the tip of their head at the sand’s surface – exposing only their eyes and their mouth parts. They lay waiting for a small insect to come scurrying by, then dart out and grab them. If you are an ant or other small insect, they are indeed a “tiger.”The adults of the Hairy-necked Tiger Beetle are brown to brownish-green, or in some regions even green, with distinctive marking on their elytra (wing coverings) and stiff hairs around their necks. The adults measure about 10-15 mm long – so the larvae are really very tiny (see the concealed one barely visible in the circle above and right of the mating pair). Adult tiger beetles are swift, running predators of other insects. Many people are familiar with the common bright green Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (the only bright green tiger beetle in Ohio), whose life style is very similar. They sometimes run off or fly off as you approach them, landing a short distance away.
Hairy-necked Tiger Beetles have a continent-wide distribution, from sandy beaches on New York’s Long Island, all the way to Pacific coast of Oregon. Within this huge range however, they are restricted to sandy beaches of larger lakes as well as ocean coastal beaches. In Ohio, they are listed as State Threatened and across their range they are described as “populations in decline.” One of the biggest threats is disturbance of beach habitats. Especially problematic is the custom of driving ATVs and four-wheel vehicles along the beaches that they inhabit. In this regard, they are like the endangered Piping Plover – which pits beach driving fishermen against the welfare of the animal. On a nature preserve like Sheldon’s Marsh they are well protected.
Bob Glotzhober, Curator Emeritus of Natural History
OK. I hope this might be a challenge for many of you – but one that perhaps some of you might be able to hit upon. This photo was taken a year ago June at Sheldon’s Marsh State Nature Preserve, which is in Erie County about two miles west of Huron, Ohio.
Clue #1. Most of what you see are sand grains.
Clue #2. Count the number of eyes, which will tell you what it is not.
Bob Glotzhober, Curator Emeritus of Natural History
Imagine their surprise when the staff of the Human Resources office of the Ohio History Connection looked out of their windows on Tuesday and saw a large adult black bear looking back at them! However, there is no cause for concern since these bears are actually very well-done taxidermy mounts that are on their way to the “Recent Acquisitions” display case. Black bears have returned to Ohio after being extirpated for many years, and are now listed as a state Endangered Species. Thus these bears are ambassadors for our new exhibit “Going, Going, Gone? Endangered and Extinct Species” which is now open at the Ohio History Center. These bears were collected by Mr. Shirley Robey in White River, Ontario Canada from 1978 – 1981. They were donated to us by the Robey Family in 2013.
Come see the newest exhibit at the Ohio History Center: “Going, Going, GONE? Endangered and Extinct Species”!
Planning Your Visit
Slither on in and see “Going, Going, Gone? Endangered and Extinct Species” at the Ohio History Center in Columbus from July 2, 2014, through Jan. 4, 2015. Museum admission is $10, $9/age 60+, $5/ages 6–12 and Free/age 5 and under. Ohio History Connection members enjoy free admission. For more information about the exhibit click here or call 800.686.6124.
Congrats to Aaron for nailing these two identifications, the Eastern Massasauga (also known as the Swamp Rattler) and the Sandhill Crane! These are indeed dwellers of Ohio wetlands, but the other thing I was looking for is that they are both listed in Ohio as Endangered Species. We have endangered species on the brain here at the Ohio History Connection, since our new exhibit “Going, Going, GONE? Endangered and Extinct Species” opens on Wednesday of this week! Come see these two specimens and many more, including rare specimens of extinct species and many endangered or threatened species from the state. And learn what you can do to help the environment and slow down the current rate of extinction. For museum hours, admission, and other information visit: www.ohiohistory.org
By Bob Glotzhober, Curator Emeritus, Natural History
Editor’s Note: Going, Going, Gone? Endangered and Extinct Species is now open at the Ohio History Center. Learn more here.
Next week the Ohio History Connection opens a new exhibit about extinct and endangered animals, titled “Going, Going, Gone? Endangered and Extinct Species”. One small part of that exhibit deals with people making a difference, and one of those people is retired high school teacher and herpetologist Doug Wynn.
Doug has spent many years studying Ohio’s Timber Rattlesnakes – a State Endangered species. His studies and the efforts of those working with him continue to provide vital information about these interesting snakes. The life history and habitat information gained provides critical information that can guide management decisions for the Ohio Division of Wildlife and the Ohio Division of Forestry.
This past Wednesday I had the privilege of joining Doug and several other biologists in the field in Southern Ohio to look for rattlesnakes into which he has inserted radio-telemetry transmitters. Four such snakes are checked once or twice a week by Dennis Case and his wife Rita. Angie Boyer, an endangered species biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, had joined us too, and Dennis gave her instructions on using the telemetry receiver to track down a rattlesnake. Our group included Doug, Dennis, Rita, Angie plus Doug’s long-time field companion John Birkhimer and myself.
After about an hour of climbing up and down steep forest hillsides following the transmitter’s signal, we finally spotted the targeted Timber Rattler. It was a beautiful, yellow phase male which apparently had just molted during the previous week since last seen. It was sitting in the open on the hillside and was very, very calm. Previously, when captured to surgically insert the transmitter, it measured at 54 inches long and weighed nearly five pounds – much larger than a “typical” Timber Rattlesnake – but still smaller than a record 72 inch long one recorded elsewhere in the literature.
We watched this snake for at least 20 minutes – during which time it never moved a muscle, and flicked its tongue out only once. It was certainly a lot calmer than we were! I snapped a ton of photos and regretted not having my tripod with me. We had been working with on-again, off-again rain showers all morning, and while it was not raining while we were with the snake, the sky was still dark. Notice the raindrops sitting on top of the snake!
Doug has done this sort of work with a special class of high school students in the past, so he was well prepared to outfit us. Snake bites are very, very rare in Ohio, and lots of folks hike in Timber Rattlesnake habitat with never even seeing one, let alone getting bitten. But then, we were hoping to get close to one – and sometimes they are much better camouflaged than the male we found – or hiding in thick vegetation. To be safe, Doug fitted us with snake-proof leggings, or snake gaiters. These have a layer of Kevlar between the nylon, which reportedly can stop the penetration of rattlers’ fangs. I did not particularly want to test their effectiveness, but was glad to have them.
So why bother studying and trying to conserve rattlesnakes? Some folks would much rather see them totally eliminated after all. I feel sorry for people who feel that way, as all snakes – even the venomous ones – are an important part of the ecology of a natural ecosystem. Furthermore, they are beautiful and fascinating creatures. Knowing they are “out there” when you hike in the woods makes the trip more exciting and makes the woods seem wilder. We don’t always know all the benefits of any particular species—but we do know that research on snake venom promises insight into several important medical advances. The famed National Geographic photographer, Joel Sartore (see www.photoark.com ) sums it quite well, saying: “It is folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity. When we save species, we’re actually saving ourselves.”
The Timber Rattlesnake still survives in a small handful of places in southern Ohio. Thanks to people like Doug Wynn, it’s not gone yet. But we are losing species at an alarming rate. Please come and see the exhibit at the Ohio History Center – “Going, Going, Gone?” and learn more about species that have been lost, species that are still hanging on, and also success stories about species that have been saved from extinction. The exhibit opens to the public on Wednesday, July 2nd. Museum hours and admission fees can be found at: www.ohiohistory.org
Since we haven’t featured a “Freak of the Week” for a while, you now get two for the price of one! Name these two specimens from the Natural History collections, then name what they have in common. What is their “connection”!?
The Orleton mastodon is a mostly complete, disarticulated skeleton that was one of many specimens that remained at Ohio State when our museum left the campus and moved to the current building in 1970. It still belonged to the Ohio History Connection but was kept at OSU for research purposes. To learn more about the history of the Orelton mastodon, see Bob Glotzhober’s article on this skeleton – in a blog post from Jan. 14, 2013: http://apps.ohiohistory.org/naturalhistory/ohios-natural-history-dig-it-yet-again/This all started a few weeks ago when we got a call from Dale Gnidovec, Curator of the Orton Geological Museum at OSU. He was given orders by OSU to move his mastodon skeleton which was being housed in Mendenhall Lab. As is a too common event on college campuses, the space was needed for offices and so fragile, important museum collections have to move. Even hard to move collections like mastodons! The only space that Dale had for his mastodon was the room occupied by our Orleton mastodon. Our mastodon had to come back home, and Dale’s mastodon had to move out of Mendenhall Lab. Thus begins the game of “musical mastodons”. The Orleton skeleton was pretty broken up when originally recovered. One theory to explain the fragmented nature of the skeleton was that bones were trampled by other mastodons who came to the same location for water in subsequent years. Trampling of bones by modern elephants has been documented to occur by researchers in Africa. A few Orleton bones were complete, but the skeleton was in over 2400 individual pieces! So we ended up moving 57 boxes of material and 10 mostly complete large bones. Five of the boxes were of other interesting specimens that needed to be returned to OHC including a fragmented skeleton of an early horse, a huge box of antlers from several elk that were recovered from Silver Lake in about 1961, and a few long bones of a mammoth.
Thanks to everyone who helped with the move: Linda Pansing, Kellie Locke-Rogers, and Juli Six of the OHC Archaeology Unit; and to Bill Schultz, former Curator of Natural History and current volunteer.
How many van loads do you think it took to move one mastodon, one partial mammoth, and the other specimens!?
Be sure and come see the Allosaurus and the rest of our new exhibit, which will run from July 2, 2014 to January 4, 2015. Stay tuned to this blog and we’ll feature other interesting specimens that you can see in the exhibit.
P.S. Driving this head from COSI to the Ohio History Center was probably the only time I’ve ever kinda wanted to get pulled over!
Here’s an interesting post from Bob Glotzhober, Curator Emeritus:
On May 31st, I had the privilege of leading a tour at Cedar Bog Nature Preserve near Urbana for a group from the Cincinnati Wildflower Preservation Society. As we were walking through a section of the swamp woods, I was discussing the impact of the exotic invader, the Emerald Ash Borer. Right on the edge of the boardwalk was an 8-inch-diameter Black Ash, with abundant signs of the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB for short). One of the signs of infestation is what is known as epicormic branching. As the EAB larvae cut off the flow of water and nutrients, the top of the tree begins to die. Lower down, often at eye level, the tree’s natural defenses cause it to send out new small branches directly from the trunk. By the time these epicormic branches appear, the tree is well on its way toward total death.As I reached out to place my hand on the trunk and explain the fresh new branches, one of the Cincinnati members stopped me, noticing that my hand was only a foot away from a pair of large dragonflies. What everyone in the group then saw (and anyone with a camera was able to photograph) were two large, three-inch-long brown and black dragonflies. They were both male Gray Petaltails, and the top one was eating the bottom one! Gray Petaltails are from one of the most ancient surviving families of dragonflies, and are often very tame. I have actually grabbed them off of tree trunks using my fingers, and I know at least half a dozen others that have done the same! But the live, successful predator in this case was even more tame than normal, and continued to eat his equally large prey as we watch and photographed him. While we watched, he was eating the head. Presumably, if we had spent the next half hour, we would have seen him move down and consume the thorax as well. As I was leading the tour, I had not brought my camera but participant Joe Bens was able to send me the photo shown here. Gray Petaltails have a very sporadic distribution across Ohio. Their typical habitat is either open, sunny fens like we have at Cedar Bog or semi-sunny, wet seeps in forested habitat. I believe that prior to deforestation, both these sunny seeps and the Gray Petaltail were much more widespread. Deforestation, however, resulted in a lot of the wet seeps and springs drying up, greatly reducing habitat for the Gray Petaltail. By 1940, Ohio’s forests had been reduced from 95% of the state to only 12 to 15% of the state. In recent years forests in Ohio have recovered to now covering about 30% of the state, but these large dragonflies have not re-inhabited many areas that might now be suitable. Gray Petaltails seem to be much slower to recover than the forest seeps they call home. Cedar Bog is one of several good places to see this species, and sometimes they even land on visitors!
If you want to learn more about dragonflies and their close relatives the damselflies, then you might want to join a group of us at the West Woods Nature Center in Geauga County on Saturday, June 21st. The annual meeting of the Ohio Odonata Society (OOS) will start at 9 a.m. in the nature center building with several short talks and a brief business meeting. After a break for lunch (bring your own – no nearby facilities), we’ll head afield to see and photograph whatever Odonata (the order of dragonflies and damselflies) we can find. Long-time members of OOS are all friendly and eager to share information with novices. Several members are authors of dragonfly books and booklets and several are excellent photographers. Famed NE Ohio nature photographer, Ian Adams, will be leading one of the morning talks on how to photograph “Odes” and help will be available in the field as well. Species that might be seen (never any guarantees) include Swamp Darners, Cyrano Darners, Amberwing Spreadwings and – with a lot of luck – Southern Pygmy Clubtails!
Visit the website for the West Woods Metro Parks at: http://www.geaugaparkdistrict.org/parks/westwoods.shtml and for more information on the meeting agenda visit Ian Adams’ website at: http://ianadamsphotography.com/news/blog/
Bob Glotzhober, Curator Emeritus of Natural History