Saturday, January 29, 2011

Some days are diamonds, some days are rocks..

Tom Petty sums up today's find.(link)

The unexpected somehow eclipses everything else that I find & today couldn't have been more of a surprise if the surprise fairy had flown into my ear and shouted surprise as loud as the little mythical creature could!

Wandering about amongst the ancient woodland on farmland close to home, trying to keep the cold from my fingertips with a degree of efficiency that rivalled 'Eddie The Eagle's attempts at ski jumping. Head down against the chill wind, I noticed a fallen tree that I'd not seen before and was struck by the amount of bark that seemed to be parting company with the trunk.

Knowing from experience that all manner of creatures spend the winter tucked away in such places I decided to investigate one of the looser pieces, more in hope over expectation really but as I'm always telling myself "You never know"

I'd only lifted one little section when I spied something that I thought could be of interest. Little did I know that it would actually turn into probably my best find of the winter.
Further examination confirmed my first thought that it was indeed the rarely seen leafhopper 'Ledra aurita' and that what I'd actually found was an over-wintering larva or nymph of this strange critter.

Ledra aurita or Horned Leafhopper as I've read it described as is distributed worldwide but primarily in the tropics and Australia.
It is found locally across southern Britain but is seen very rarely due to it's superb camouflage.
It's the only member of the Ledrinae to occur in Europe.

This is the first sighting of one of these nymphs during winter, I've seen a couple during late summer but that's it. In the whole time I've been bug-hunting I've only ever seen these nymphs and one adult. I know somebody that spends most of his time looking for insects and bugs as an entomologist and yet he's only ever seen one example that was beaten from a tree.

It's thought that these bugs are dormant over winter, not feeding at all and that development to an adult takes 2 years.
I've also read that they are hermaphrodites but just how reliable that information is I couldn't say, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of information available.

Most Ledrinae exhibit some measure of crypsis mimicking in form or texture the food plant (these hoppers are plant feeders) often they are green or brown with dorsal surfaces resembling that of bark or lichen or leaves.

Strangely prehistoric in appearance, looking as though there's not been much in the way of evolution taken place here there seems to be some doubt as to whether these bugs originate from one single descendant or mixed.
I think the correct terms are:Monophyletic or Polyphyletic as always though I'm willing to be corrected.

And so a day that seemed to hold little promise of any significant finds actually became quite exciting (well that's if you get excited at such things) personally I do but then I've had to cling on to the old adage of 'Sticks & stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me' many a time when being labelled as a 'Nerd' or 'Sad' for finding such things of interest! Oh well, each to his own eh?

An adult specimen from 2009

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