Oh, what's occurin'?

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Thursday 25 February 2016 19:37

Last Sunday we went to South Wales to see some slugs. Seriously. This part of the world, thanks to Christian 'Sparrow' Owen, has become a bit of PSLers pilgrimage of late, with some people going back three times to get their fix! I actually don't know how many new species I saw on Sunday, I lost count. I do know that I quadrupled my slug list. 

Until last Sunday, I hated slugs. Both physically and taxonomically but thanks to Christian, I am now rather fond of them. I can't state enough how impressive a naturalist Christian is, I don't think he has left a stone unturned in South Wales. He's found two species new to the UK (including the cracking Alsatian Semi-slug Daudebardia rufa above, who wears his shell like a flat cap and is the size of an Alsatian) within a few miles of his house by adopting this approach and his knowledge of myriapods and molluscs is impressive. He was the real star of the day and I am very grateful for the time he gave us, great company and a cracking teacher. Here he is on the left, King of the Edgelands. There I am on the right experiencing my nth new mollusc; bewildered, soaked and slug-blind but loving every minute! (thanks for the photo Tony).

Would you believe it, the photo above is of Ghost Slug habitat. And here is one in all its glory. Impressive hey?! These are actually the spirits of other species of dead slug that have unfinished business in this world. This particular individual was murdered by his best friend and has come back to seek revenge. Heartbreaking and haunting in equal measure, I'm sure you'll agree. The sense of loss is profound.

Some of the above was rubbish. Also there I saw my first ever Worm Slug (below). And my first Tree, Hedgehog and Tramp Slugs! I'm not even gonna start with the Arions!

Later on we went to a woodland site where we saw the Lemon Slug. Quite the looker!

Now I think this cool harvestman, a real specialist of the area, was perhaps my favourite species of the day. This is Sabacon viscayanum subsp. ramblaianum. Check out the funky palps.

And the myriapods! This is Lithobius pilicornis, I think it's out biggest centipede and it totally bit Christian before we got it in this pot! What a beast.

And there are some interesting millipedes recently found new to the UK, such as this Hylebainosoma nontronensis.

And this one that Christian found new to the UK a while ago that doesn't even have a name yet! I reckon Gavin. Or maybe Stacey. Anyways, it was an amazing day and I'm so glad that I finally have a foot in the door with slugs. Happy days!

First record of Columbus Crabs in Sussex?!

Posted by Graeme Lyons , Tuesday 9 February 2016 12:11

A few weeks ago I'd never heard of Columbus Crabs Planes minutus but then Steve Trewhella started posting pictures of them he had found in goose barnacles and other flotsam on beaches in Dorset. After a walk along Brighton Beach on Sunday, I did indeed find several Common Goose Barnacles Lepas anatifera but not the kind of large fresh clumps I had seen in Steve's images. So, yesterday while looking at the wind direction and ferocity of Storm Imogen, I thought it would be worth a look this morning on Brighton Beach. So Olle Akesson, Michael Blencowe and I met in a miserable car park by the Marina. It was pouring down and very cold and I was wondering what I was doing there. As I said though, "fortune favours the bold."

Ten minutes later we found a big patch of Common Goose Barnacles right by the Marina and there, sticking up for all to see, was a tiny claw! There it was, the first known record of this incredible species for Sussex!

We walked along and found several more patches of goose barnacle and then we stumbled upon a partially buried patch on a buoy that yielded another four individuals, this time showing how varied they can be. Here is Little Red, Little Blue, Christopher Columbus's Ghost and Weetabix-head. Who is your favourite?

My favourite response on facebook to this image was: "It's an itteh bitteh crustacean commiteh."

And here is their habitat!

So what is a Columbus Crab? It, like the goose barnacles, is an entirely pelagic animal (yes, they are both crustaceans). The barnacle attaches itself to flotsam (trees, boats, floating plastic bottles!) and the crab lives among the barnacles. It can also live on turtles and in bits of floating rubbish (a number turned up recently in an old rope). So these little guys may well have come all the way across the Atlantic! What a life! I thought the name would come from this very behaviour but it seems that it is actually named after Christopher Columbus who could well of been the first to see this animal! This is likely to be the first record for Sussex but is not the furthest east in the UK as they have been recorded in Kent a couple of months ago (thanks to Steve Trewhella for this fact).

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