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Here’s the scoop

July 25, 2017

If you want your fix of monsters you do not have to spend twenty bucks at the movies. All you have to do is spend an afternoon with Kirsten from Waterwatch to get alien looking lifeforms that you never thought possible. And they are all living under the surface of your nearest stream or pond.

I love terrestrial insects. Their outlandish forms and bizarre lives provide endless hours of fascination. But the mere scoop of a net through the reeds and mud of the King Parrot Creek will reveal, arguably, even stranger creatures – very often the young of the insects that so enthrall me.

From a recent primary school outing I reported an activity to search for terrestrial invertebrates (Rock and Rolling) that turned up a large number of scorpions. At the same event Kirsten, having scooped our local waterway was showing off some of the aquatic invertebrates.

The stick-insect-looking creature (pictured above) is a Needle Bug. Needle Bugs are found in a wide range of waterbodies and breathe through a long ‘snorkel’ that extends from the abdomen to above the water surface (see photo). They are ‘sit and wait’ predators that are well camouflaged in underwater vegetation. When prey swims by they grab it with their two front legs, stab it with their proboscis, injecting dissolving enzymes and then suck out the resultant ‘soup’. Who needs to watch Alien.

Despite its ferocious appearance the mayfly nymph (family Coloburiscidae) pictured right is a more benign critter. These genera of mayfly nymph live in cool, fast flowing water. They are herbivores, using the fine hairs on their forelegs and jaws to trap organic particles. Mayflies spend the majority (6 months to 2 years) of their lives in the nymphal stage. The adult insect (featured earlier this year) has a lifespan measured in hours.

Here’s the scoop – if you want to find these creatures yourself just take the kitchen strainer and drag it through the creek. Just don’t tell Mum.

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