• Question: Have you ever stumbled across an interesting specimen? What did you find. Please use as much description as possible, thank you.

    Asked by Us+Nature= Life to Mark, Keegan, Clay, Alex on 4 May 2016.
    • Photo: Alexander Taylor

      Alexander Taylor answered on 4 May 2016:

      Oh, definitely! Some of the most interesting specimens I’ve found have been under the microscope. While looking at moss under the microscope last summer, I found a tardigrade wiggling around. Tardigrades, also called “water bears” or “moss piglets,” are tiny evolutionary odd-balls related to arthropods (like crabs, insects, and spiders). Tardigrades are famous for being able to withstand intense pressures, radiation, and even the vacuum of space!

    • Photo: Clay Robinson

      Clay Robinson answered on 5 May 2016:

      I have to think about that. I have not stumbled across things, but some of my favorite things I encountered in my soil biology class.
      Nematode trapping fungi are super cool! They have 3 different trapping mechanisms that can trap a nematode as it swims through the soil solution. One is a matrix or mesh that works a bit like a spider’s web. Another is a bit like a snare or noose, The other is a bit like a glue trap. Watching those under a microscope is a lot of fun, and quite amazing.
      The craziest thing I ever saw above ground was with ants and termites. A group of queen subterranean termites were just emerging from the ground to go off and start new colonies. But they were coming up in a harvester ant den. The soldier ants were attacking the queen termites with a vengeance. They would attack the queen just as she came out of the ground. Their first attack would clip her wings so she could not fly away. The second would be the union between the head and the thorax – a beheading, then carry her parts away. I watched that for almost half an hour. I took pictures, but did not have a video camera available. That would have been an awesome video.
      And then one time some students and I were describing a soil on a pit face, and saw soil being kicked out of a hole. As we observed, some sort of mouse was digging a hole and closing the tunnel behind him. Of course, we kept digging at that to try to see him and what he was doing. He was fast, and we never got a good look at him.