Southwestern Research Station, 1 month later: Change


View down Cave Creek Canyon, looking towards Portal. The white bark and branches of the Arizona Sycamores (restricted to riparian areas) mark the path of the creek.

Well, I had hoped to post more while out here, but as I should have predicted, being outdoors in the Chiricahuas took up most of my time. I have a good backlog of stories though, which I will be posting once I return home in about a week. In the meantime, an update on the past few weeks is below.



A spectacular Gibbifer californicus, the aptly named Pleasing Fungus Beetle. A member of a mostly tropical group that just reaches the southwestern U.S. It sure pleased me! (Herb Martyr, Chiricahuas, AZ)

I arrived at the Station one month ago, and while much of it looks the same, a lot of changes have occurred. Spring has certainly sprung, with many trees and other plants flowering; this in turn has brought out the native bees, wasps, flies, and other pollinators, which have proven to be excellent photography subjects! The temperatures have also warmed up, with daytime highs generally in the 70s and 80s (F). This has brought about the emergence of even more interesting insects, as well as the appearance of more colorful birds and lizards. I recently had the chance to take some much better shots of those animals and will be writing a post on Chiricahua birds (wasn’t this supposed to be a bug blog?) at some point.


Pallid-winged grasshopper, Trimerotropis pallidipennis, at San Bernardino NWR. This is a common, widespread western desert grasshopper, found from British Columbia south to Chile, but this encounter was a first for me!

What about the Orthoptera? The last time I posted here, there weren’t many species out, and most were still nymphs. That is most certainly not the case any more. Most of those species that were nymphs are now adults, and I’ve run across a lot of other species starting to emerge too. It is still quite silent at night, but during the day the open oak-juniper woodlands surrounding the station are abuzz with the crepitating flights of Arphia conspersa, the speckle-winged rangeland grasshopper. Down in Portal, riparian areas and small ponds are alive with the chirping of Gryllus field crickets and the trilling of Mormon ground crickets (Neonemobius mormonius). The real chorus will happen during the monsoon season starting in July, but I will be long gone before then unfortunately.


Rustler Park in the high Chiricahuas. Note the ponderosa pines and douglas fir, as well as evidence of a fire in the background.

With the arrival of other interns/volunteers, some of whom possess cars, I have been able to go somewhat further afield on a few occasions. Barfoot Park and Rustler Park, mountain meadows in the high Chiricahuas with plants and animals more characteristic of the Canadian/Hudsonian fauna, were very cool and quite different from habitats around the station. I’ve also made it into Portal a couple of times, which has a desert scrub environment that is tricky to explore due to the prevalence of spiny mesquites and cacti, but well worth the effort. Going further, I had the chance to visit San Bernardino NWR, a preserved area right on the Mexican border that holds a rich marshland contained within desert – a tantalizing combination of habitats that was rich in grasshoppers. In addition to buggin’ forays, I was also lucky enough to partake in a few odd adventures – caving in Chiricahua crystal cave and invasive bullfrog eradication in a manmade pond (which yielded a lot of cool insects as well!).


Scott’s Oriole (Icterus parisorum)

Much change has occurred here in a month, and although I’m sad to be leaving just as spring is setting in, I’ll definitely be back – when, who knows, but the Chiricahuas beckon.


Collared Peccaries (Pecari tajacu), colloquially known as Javelina (Portal, AZ)


An ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) at San Bernardino NWR (Douglas, AZ).


Japygids galore



My first ever individual of Evalljapyx hubbardi, mere seconds before a plane’s thundering boom gave the creature its freedom (Southwestern Research Station, AZ).

I lost my first japygid dipluran because of a plane. I had just snapped a few photos of the tiny, earwig-like creature scuttling around under a rock, but as I reached out to pick it up, an ear-splitting sound wave hit my ears. I jumped up in alarm not knowing what was happening, but I immediately realized what the source of the sound was as I saw the plane zooming off, the sonic boom shrinking into the distance. Cave Creek Canyon in the Chiricahua mountains of AZ is a popular place for such aircraft to fly through, and when you hear one of those for the first time, by golly it’s loud! Of course by the time I had recovered my senses, the japygid was gone. I laughed at what had happened, but I also feared I wouldn’t see another of these animals, supposedly rare. As it turns out, I had nothing to worry about; japygids are common in the Chiricahuas, and I see them almost every day out here. But you’re probably wondering: just what are japygids?


Another individual of Evalljapyx hubbardi from the Southwestern Research Station, AZ.

At first glance you might confuse a japygid with an earwig. They are both elongated creatures with six legs and pincer-like appendages on the ends of their abdomens. But it’s just convergent evolution at work – they belong to radically different groups, and japygids aren’t even considered insects! They are diplurans, which have six legs like insects, but their mouthparts are retracted inside a pouch in the head. Japygids are predators, using their forceps to capture and kill even tinier organisms. They are found worldwide but are more common in southern regions, and tend not to be abundant. At the Southwestern Research Station, however, this logic is turned upside down, for japygids can be found under nearly every rock, and are easy to catch (as long as there isn’t a plane roaring overhead!). I had never seen japygids before coming here, so it was a real pleasure to see them so plentifully. Only one genus and species of Japygidae has been described from Arizona, so I’m pretty sure that this is the species I have: Evalljapyx hubbardi.

Japygidae is one of the two most common families of diplurans – the other is the family Campodeidae. Campodeid diplurans are even more slender than japygids, and have two long cerci instead of forceps at the tips of their abdomens. I have discovered them on occasion in Maine and New York, and they are present at the Station as well, but not nearly in as much abundance as the japygids. The campodeids are also found worldwide, where they mostly feed on leaf litter and other detritus.


An unidentified campodeid dipluran. This individual was running around under the same rock as the japygid dipluran in the previous photo. 

Off to Mozambique

In just over 18 hours, I will be in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, where I will be conducting research on the grasshopper fauna of the park with Dr. Piotr Naskrecki. We have internet at the Chitengo camp, so I plan to post one photo and/or story per day. At any rate, there will be lots of fantastic stuff, as the diversity of life within the park is off the charts. Piotr has posted many of these creatures on his blog, and I will hopefully be encountering these as well as many others. Stay tuned!


A preview of things to come…