Nature in L.A.

Showing posts with label : Blog

September 10, 2016

Mutant Snail!

Take a close look at this Brown Garden Snail, Cornu aspersum. Instead of the usual two optical tentacles (a.k.a. eye stalks), this snail has three! The photo was sent to us by one of our citizen scientists, Rhondi Ewing and added to our Snails and Slugs Living in Metropolitan Environments project. There aren't many records of land snails with this sort of mutation, but a number of sea slugs (nudibranchs) have been recorded with forked appendages. Check out the iNaturalist page Amazing Aberrants. The project aims to...

September 8, 2016

We Want Your Baby (Lizard) Photos!

People all over L.A. have been finding baby lizards lately. Here are a few of my favorites: 

Okay, so this one was found by me, but I mean come on is there anything cuter than a baby western fence lizard? Found while hiking in Griffith Park (August 9), I moved him off the trail so he wouldn't get stepped on.

My friend Yara Zair posted this picture to her Instagram account @califlorescence of a wee alligator lizard found while watering her garden in Hermon (August 26).

This baby lizard came via text message from fellow @nhmla staffer Laurel Dickow. Her cat found it in her Highland...

September 6, 2016

L.A. Spider Survey News: Locally Rare Ground Spider Found in La Mirada Backyard

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...

September 1, 2016

Breaking Arachnophobia News!

A local silver garden orbweaver, Argiope argentata, in our Spider Pavilion. 

In a study published in Current Biology, researchers from two Swedish universities have used arachnophobes to demonstrate the success of "memory disruption" in the treatment of anxiety disorders. The authors set out to improve on the results of exposure therapy, in which a patient is gradually exposed to the object or context that provokes fear, anxiety or trauma. (In the study's case, subjects were exposed to photos of spiders.)

Exposure therapy works by replacing an old fear memory with a safer one. But sometimes exposure therapy fails to have a...

August 30, 2016

Moth Flies Living in Your Drain?

Is this guy in your drains, too? Moth fly larva. Photo by: Kelsey Bailey

Have you ever gone into your bathroom and noticed tiny, dark, gnat-like bugs flitting around your sink? If you try to drown one with a spray of the faucet, it miraculously rises from the deluge like a minuscule, winged Lazarus. You may regularly find the gnats hanging out on the bathroom wall, and because they are relatively sedentary and witless, unlike your wily common house fly, you can leisurely grab a square of toilet paper and smush them, which leaves a dark smudge on your wall. It is the kind of bug for which you instinctively have disaffection. More so when you know the reason for their presence in your bathroom: their larvae are living...

August 25, 2016

Monarch Chrysalis Gets a Hotel Upgrade

Many people know that camera traps capture photos of mammals, but few people know that they are also good at detecting the presence of other animals. Camera traps are motion-activated cameras used mainly to target terrestrial mammals.  Surprisingly, I regularly detect insects and other arthropods as well. Not in the pictures but inside the actual camera trap—because they make homes out of the camera trap housing! When checking cameras, I've been surprised to find everything from large black widows to hundreds of earwigs flowing from the camera trap case. In fact, a select few of the spiders even become data points for the NHM Spider Survey!


August 23, 2016

A Campus Trek, Wildlife Camera In Hand

Esparanza elementary school students wrote about another one of their urban wildlife explorations on campus with the help of their renaissance principal, Brad Rumble. Once again, they knocked it out of the park! I spent an afternoon with some students to talk about the ins and outs of camera trap research. From finding an optimal location, the technology, why camera traps are handy tools for assessing the health of an ecosystem, to cool local discoveries already made with camera traps (obviously I talked about P-22 our Griffith Park Mountain Lion).

Miguel introduces students to camera trap technology....

August 18, 2016

Did You Know There are Wasp-mimicking Beetles in Los Angeles!

Wasp-mimicking beetle in the genus Necydalis found in Monrovia, CA. Photo credit: Kelsey Bailey

If you spot a brightly colored, slender, 1 inch-long insect in your yard, you might hesitate to get too close. It is not uncommon for residents of L.A. to come into contact with large wasps that have bright orange or yellow warning coloration, letting you know that they can sting if threatened. Colors can be misleading however, as you can see with this impressive longhorned beetle that was recently collected in Monrovia as part of the BioSCAN Project. The insect may have the same general shape (that characteristic thin wasp "waist") and bright orange body that screams out "I'm a wasp! Don't touch me!," but in reality it is completely incapable of stinging. This form of...

August 16, 2016

Was Hancock Park Beachfront Property 120,000 Years Ago?

Pacific Gaper Clam: A large, common bivalve that inhabits sandy areas of bays along an open coast, often buried a foot or more. Today it ranges from Humboldt Bay northern California to Punta Rompiente, Baja California Sur.

Metro Fossils

Asphalt soaked fossils are not new to the Hancock Park area of Los Angeles and most residents are already familiar with the iconic mammoths, saber-tooth cats, and dire wolves on exhibit at the La Brea Tar Pits and Museum that are between 11,000 and 40,000 years old. However, in 2014 during test excavations for a future Metro...

August 12, 2016

#Parasiteweek: Fly Attacks Caterpillar

Despite being the type of vegetable gardener who studies tomes on best practices, I have a hippy family that nurtures the welfare of tobacco hornworms (Manduca sexta). The big green caterpillars—considered major garden pests—feast and fatten like Henry VIII on the leaves, stems and fruit of the tomato plant. The caterpillars are masters of camouflage, blending into the dense, green foliage while clinging to the underside of leaves, and you often don't know that they're there until you spot their sizable dark droppings, the swift defoliation of your plant, or the mauled flesh of ripening tomatoes.

Caught in the act. Tobacco hornworm enjoying a black cherry tomato. Photo by: Candice Kim

You might consider the caterpillars...