Saturday, 27 January 2018

Mystery Gnats & Aquatic Hypho-thingies...

Managed to dodge the worst of the weather today, a quick couple of hours out and about resulted in a mere three minutes or so of stinging rain, hurled into my face by the strong winds just as I reached the house again. Could have been a lot worse.

But first up, I need to go back to last night. A scan of the laundry shed ceiling and walls after dark revealed a number of "gnats" buzzing around the all-night security light. I potted a couple, wondering how do-able (or not) they would prove to be. I haven't attempted keying them yet, other than to the point of saying that I think they belong somewhere in Mycetophilidae (fungus gnats). Both specimens are currently languishing on pins in a storebox. Here's a bunch of pics, any pointers appreciated! Length approx 6mm or so. I was quite taken by the funky legs, why are the femur and tibia so very enlarged?

EDIT: the fungus gnat Mycetophila ornata has been suggested - looks good, but there are quite a few in that genus. Need a key! 

[Blogger says "you may upload multiple files at once" which I just misread as "you may upload multiple flies at once"... oh dear, is there any hope for me?]

Back to today's antics. We've had a lot of rain recently, hence the river is running high. I spied a pile of scummy froth caught up in a small eddy and was instantly reminded of Ali's post on the 1000 in 1KSQ blog from a couple of weeks back. I have to say, I've potted up some pretty weird and wonderful stuff in my time, but this was a first! 

And some went inside the pot too! 
Back indoors I gleefully whacked it on a slide and immediately started scanning for signs of aquatic hyphomycetes, something I'd never even heard of until Ali's post. Rather surprisingly, I found some! Firstly, you should know that they are microscopic and secondly, my microscopic photography technique is something I need to refine. Basically, what I'm saying is that the following pics are shite. But hey, you're used to that by now - right? I also have no idea what they are, but they look kinda cool. If you squint.

It's the thing with long, pointy 'arms' - possibly Alatospora acuminata. Possibly...
Another example of the same sort of thing. Maybe...
Ooh look - it's a cactus with wings! Could be Tetracladium setigerum? Potentially...
And a fork with wings, with a slightly different version alongside. Both Tetracladium spp???
I've never seen these things before, I'm a complete aquatic hyphomycete virgin (hmmm....never been called that before!) and I'm not sure I can do much with them either. If I bump up the mag to the next setting on my compound microscope, everything goes dark and the working depth of field reduces to about zilch. These things are just too damned small. But it's a small bit of knowledge that I didn't have beforehand and I can hopefully find them again in the future. 

Despite the weather being an arse, day length is steadily increasing and spring really is just around the corner. There are snowdrops flowering in the hotel grounds (untickable for my square, but there should be some in the woods too, with luck) and I saw a crocus in bud on somebody's lawn. Daffodils are thrusting forth and Opposite-leaved Saxifrage is just about to burst into flower too

Daffs emerging in a sheltered suntrap. I couldn't find the Daffodil Fly last year, maybe this year?
Slender Speedwell with Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus and a mystery photobombing invert
Talking of Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus, I'm well aware that January is supposed to be my Bryophytes Month. I've not really done very well with The Plan so far, so I have had a wee think about it and have come up with a minor adjustment. March was meant to be Springtails Month. I'm not going to bother with that any longer. Mainly because I think I need a proper 1000x oil immersion lens and a graticule for the eyepiece before attempting the collembolans. I just don't have that kit.

So, I've renamed January as List Building Month, February will now be my Bryophytes Month, March will be my Lichens Month (instead of February). March will still be when the light trapping begins, April onwards will be as originally planned. Hopefully. I think I was fooling myself that January would be anything other than getting the 2018 PSL off to a flying start. I crossed the 300 mark a couple of days ago and would really like to finish January with 334 species on the tally, fully a third of the way towards the  1000 in a 1KSQ target. On the other hand, 337 is quarter of the way towards my own 1350 species target for this years NG3963 tally, so maybe I ought to be aiming for that. It needs a very big push on my part, and I'm still pretty darn busy with work at the moment, but it's definitely possible. Just. 

An immature Iceland Gull was back amongst the loafing gull flock today, the first immature I've seen here in 16 days. The wind was buffeting me too hard and the distance too great for me to say whether it was a first or second winter individual, I simply reported it as "immature" to Skye Birds, I'll let Bob pick the bones out of that. 


  1. Flying Cactus, now that's the kind of name I can understand, much easier than all those latin names.
    By the way, Happy Birthday from the last post, I must have missed that!

    1. To be fair, it's the kind of name I can understand too. Sometimes I'll see a name of something on my lists and I have no recollection of what it was (usually stuuff I struggle with anyway, bryophytes, lichens for example). Luckily I try to add a bit of pertinent detail to each, just to flesh out the bare names on my spreadsheets.

      Cheers for the birthday wishes, Dave. I shall have to gather up that Steve Gale chap and come visit PBO sometime soon, see if we can't all meet up for the day!

  2. missed this one. definitely Tetracladium setigerum. Break it down topographically and the latter pic is two spores of T.setigerum with one "upside down"- there's a root, a middle finger which has another finger off it and a separate side finger. Three "setae" branch out fro the same points - having three or four branches seems to be ophysically optimum for anchoring as it's a feature across many species/genera.

  3. also that magnification is good for pretty much all of them. My recommendation is start at a corner of the slide and just go down it "line" by line. When you start to look they seem like random shapes. Then you see the same "random" shape over and over and you realise it's non-random. The spores are developing the same way every time.