Thursday, July 16, 2009

Giant Cicada Comes A Calling...

The raucous Giant Cicada (Quesada gigas) was featured on the front page of the San Antonio Express-News this week. I had pitched the story idea to Anton Caputo the prior week. The Exp-News first featured the bug in 2007 when it made quite a splash so Anton didn't need a lot of convincing to go at it again.

This year's version created a bit of a letters-to-the-editor buzz. There were a number of insightful comments (as well as frequent references to my website). One writer, identified as "Charlie," reminisced about (non-giant) cicadas of his childhood:

"When I was young I'd lie in bed for hours after lights out, not going to sleep but listening to the sound of the cicada through the open window. ... The raucous cicada sound soon became a soothing rhythm that entwined me and served as background music as my thoughts transported me into other worlds. Eventually the sound of the cicada and the light wafting of night air would combine to overpower me with sleep."

David G. Huffman, Prof. of Biology, Texas State University-San Marcos was prominently featured in both Exp-News cicada articles (as well as articles on the topic from other outlets). He recently posted the following note to the Cicadas of Texas Google groups list:

"I have described many species of worms, and a genus and 15 species have been named after me, but nobody knew who I was till you posted that silly laptop recording of a bug I couldn't find. What a treat!"

Obviously, cicadas touch people deeply, even resonating with some people's souls...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Monday visit to Brack Track

Visited the insect collection at UT-Austin's Brackenridge Field Lab (BFL) on Monday.

There I found a half unit tray (box about 3 in. sq) full the strange species at left. (Click on image for larger view.) The specimens weren't determined but they resembled really weird scarabs. Turns out they belong to a somewhat obscure family known as Enigmatic Scarab Beetles, a small family of only 15 species n. of Mexico. Referring to the TX Scarab Checklist, I think they are Glaresis medialis (based on that species being recorded from the county
adjacent to where the BFL specimens were collected).

Anyway, what's neat about the bugs are the "hairs" that cover their body. These hairs must facilitate the critter's movement though loose sands which is the family's normal habitat.