I had a great day of naturalizing in the forests around the University of Toronto – Mississauga campus.
Perhaps most exciting is this fly:
Some insect ID gurus on twitter (@BioInFocus @stho002) thought this fly was in the genus Aulacigaster, part of the Aulacigastridae, a very unique and species-poor fly family. Many sources say there are less that 20 species in the family, but @ta_wheeler pointed out many species have been described recently, see this revision of Aulacigaster which now has 55 described species. According to BugGuide: “Adults of Aulacigaster are found at slime fluxes and wounds of deciduous trees, where the larvae are also found”. Guess where I found this fly? On the wound of a deciduous tree! So seems very likely that ID is right. So cool. Here is a dorsal shot with the tree wound visible.
I also found some nifty vertebrates.
This is a jefferson salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum). This species is rare in Ontario. It also has some really interesting genetics involving hybridization and polyploidy. Lots about it here. The larvae of a closely related species (the spotted salamander) has a symbiotic relationship with algae, meaning it can photosynthesize, the first vertebrate found to do so! Maybe Jefferson salamanders can too?
Today was also the first day this year I saw snakes, and two species even.
Dekay’s brownsnake (Storeria dekayi) – lots of natural history info here.
Common gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis) – natural history info here.
Here are some other nifty insects I found today:
With my head down looking for insects I stumbled right into an entire family of resting deer laying on the forest floor chewing their cud. The deer here on campus are very habituated to people and these ones only stood up when I got about 5 m away. They eventually laid back down and let me get even closer to get this photo: