In the past, taking pictures was a challenge and most of our records were only textual notes that we exchanged when we met, and things have changed so much. For the old-time naturalists, photography has been more of a tool rather than an end and it is remarkable how good even the average photograph with a low-end digital camera is these days. One does regret not having these gizmos in the past. Most of these pictures were taken using a rather low-end aim-and-shoot digital camera (A 3.2 megapixel Nikon CoolPix E3700). Putting together these old pictures surprised me a bit especially to see the total volume of images which have a way of accumulating rapidly. out of control. Fortunately I release most of my images under creative commons licenses and include notes and metadata. Posting them on Wikimedia Commons, allows me to keep notes and categorize them while many get identified or go through revisions when group experts find them and these images take a life of their own, making their way into books and newspapers with enquiries landing at your desk from around the world. The benefit to illustrate Wikipedia articles naturally does not need explication and such material is longer lived than the average blog, personal or even organizational website. Anyway, here is a random assortment of free critter images (read that as you may) that have visited and live alongside. None of these are rare (in Bangalore) and are probably right around your home as well.
A couple of years ago we had Ramanella variegata breeding in our water sump - one of these pretty frogs had a favourite PVC tube into which he would croak like a Tuvan throat singer in the mornings. The acoustics inside the tube were perhaps enjoyable, although some studies on frogs have suggested that males might try to cheat in the competition for mates by choosing locations where they sound mightier. Unfortunately, these frogs have not turned up this year even after the first few rains but still look forward to having these pretty residents breeding around.
|Scanning you with advanced spectrometry|
Jumping spiders are lynx eyed although the term "lynx spider" is used for the Oxyopidae. They turn around to take a close look at you but the most interesting times are when they meet others. That is when you see them wave their palps and forelegs in well defined semaphore patterns. They have extremely sharp vision and are said to have the ability to distinguish colours (extending to UV) and detect polarization as well. One rather fascinating species named Bagheera kiplingi is even thought to break from the basic spider characteristic in being herbivorous.
|Heterorrhina elegans - no green pigment|
The rainy weather brings numerous insects that have a short breeding period. These include brilliant beetles that have led the largest part of their lives underground as curly white grubs. Some can appear in rather large numbers especially when they swarm at chosen trees. Among these are the emerald green scarabs. It is amazing that they have evolved such cuticular microstructures that produce green colours entirely without the need for specific pigments.
A change in the angle of lighting turns emerald to gold. The colour is produced by diffracting incident light, amplifying some frequencies, decimating others and letting only a part reach your eye. Naturally lots of people want to be able to replicate such microstructures for applications in human life such as for car exteriors but that would not be much of an innovation as it would still be for attracting mates.
|A lycid beetle|
I never seem to get the Lycidae identity right at first go. These rather soft-bodied beetles are found mainly on plants. As adults some are thought to feed on nectar or not to feed at all. The larvae are predaceous and bear a strong resemblance to the larvae of the firefly beetles and their rather primitive appearance has given them the name of "trilobite larva". The Lycidae belong to the same groups as the click-beetles and the thorax ends in a sharp point in this particular specimen although it does not function as in the click-beetles for flipping them back on their legs.
|Camponotus sericeus under a rock|
|Myrmicaria brunnea at sugar lick|
|Mantis nymph (2 mm long)|
|Wasp possibly Phimenes sp.|
|Camponotus with micro-livestock|
|Platynotus excavatus doing a headstand|
The identification of insects is tricky and it takes a long while to orient oneself with the basic groupings and things get better over time. Many thanks are due to the faculty and friends, especially Prof. C. A. Viraktamath, at the department of entomology at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore for many of the species level identifications above.