September 6, 2016
We are never sure what we are going to find when we go collecting in the backyards participating in the BioSCAN project. We expect the usual suspects: widows, cellar spiders, various ground spiders, orb weavers, jumping spiders, and funnel web weavers. Sometimes we find less commonly collected spiders, like green lynx spiders or crab spiders. But, every once in a while, we find a spider we have never seen before. In March and again in May, we collected a spider new to our survey in a backyard in La Mirada. Falconina gracilis (this spider has no common name), in the family Corinnidae, has been collected in small numbers in only a few locations in Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties since 2013. Originally from South America, it is also found in parts of the US south. It is a ground spider usually found in damp areas under rocks, logs, wooden boards. It is medium sized, and dark brown with a characteristic pattern of light spots on the abdomen.
This is a new spider for our Los Angeles Spider Survey and the museum's collection and we will be looking for more when we go out again.
March 8, 2017
February 29, 2012
On Sunday, February 26, Museum Educator Anna Holden, and myself took some families out to the North Campus to collect spiders! The spiders were collected so they can be identified and preserved as part of our ongoing L.A. Spider Survey. They will also be added to our ever-growing North Campus species list.
Briana Burrows and Anna Holden
(looks like they really like collecting spiders too)
All told, we collected 17 spiders (not bad for a newly planted habitat) many of which were very small and non-descript – think tiny brown specks almost indistinguishable from a piece of dirt (did I mention these children have amazing eyesight?). However, there was one spider that stood out from the crowd. She was large, and yellow, and had oh such lovely legs! Let me introduce you to the Whitebanded Crab Spider, Misumenoides formosipes (her species name is derived from the Latin formosus = beautiful and pes = foot or leg).
Female Whitebanded Crab Spider
This group of spiders is so named for their crab-like appearance and movement. They are adept at quickly moving sideways, backwards, and forwards. This quick movement is only infrequently observed by us humans, as they are "sit and wait" predators. This means they sit very still on a flower and wait for pollinators to visit, and then, quick as a flash, they'll attack and subdue their prey. Also of note, they can change color! Watch out chameleons, these eight-legged lovelies also have the ability to better blend in with their surroundings. Although it has to be said that they can't deviate greatly from their original color and the process takes a few days to complete.
The beautiful specimen we found on Sunday was a female. The sexes are very easy to distinguish as the males are a lot smaller and much less rotund. She was collected on the bright yellow, sunflower-like flowers of Encelia californica, commonly known as bush sunflower. Next time you are in the North Campus, check out the bush sunflowers planted atop the living wall. Who knew so much drama could be unfolding on each and every flower?
Crab spider versus European Honey Bee
(It was a tie, the honey bee flew away)
Thanks to Karen Ewald for taking the spider collecting picture.
August 12, 2016
March 9, 2011
If you read the previous post, you already know the basic idea of the North Campus. Now let's talk more about citizen science. We have three citizen science projects, what we like to call Community Science, that anyone can participate in. They are the Los Angeles Spider Survey, Lost Lizards of Los Angeles (aka LLOLA), and the Lost Ladybug Project which we host in partnership with Cornell University. All these projects help us collect data about what's living here in L.A. today. For instance, recently a LLOLA participant found a new lizard lounging in the Chatsworth area of L.A. Now when I say this lizard was lounging, I'm serious, they hang out by porch lights and wait for flying insects to be attracted. When a moth, or some other unsuspecting insect flies in, the lizard pounces and gobbles up the delicious treat. These Mediterranean House Geckos had never been found in L.A. County before, so it was a new record for science, and discovered by a tween no less!
Immature Mediterranean House Gecko, found by LLOLA participant Reese Bernstein and family.