The last few weekends I’ve been helping out at an outreach event at the Bell Pettigrew Museum. The event, Gardenlife: biodiversity in urban gardens, is part of the British Ecological Society’s Centenary Festival of Ecology and is designed to get children interested in the awesome little creatures you can find in your garden. It means I get paid to run around with sweep nets and pooters catching insects and spiders to bring back to the museum for identification.
One of the coolest finds so far has been a rather unfortunate cucumber spider.
As you can see the little guy has been parasitised by a wasp (probably a Pimplinae of some sort but don’t quote me on that). The spider is still very much alive as the larva will eat around its vital organs in order to avoid killing it for as long as possible. My plan is to keep the spider until the wasp pupates as I’ll have a better chance of identifying it then.
Overall it’s been an unlucky week for spiders as my male Plexippus petersi Baby died two days ago. While sad, this has given me an opportunity to get some shots of him under the microscope (a previously impossible task). One of his close-ups is below and I’ve added the rest to the gallery.
I’m just starting the 3rd year of my PhD at St. Andrews. I am interested in the evolution of sexual traits and how these affect species ecology.
My working title is: Investigating the causes and consequences of reproductive interference in the Lygaeidae.
Reproductive interference (or RI) is when individuals of one species engage in reproductive activities with individuals of another species, and these interactions reduce the fitness of one or both species. These reproductive interactions can be anything from interfering with sexual signalling, for example the calls of one species of frog masking those of another, to actual attempts to mate with other species.
The Lygaeidae (commonly called seed bugs) are a family of true bugs found worldwide. My work focuses on five species collected from Europe and the USA. Thus I can study interactions between species that naturally co-exist in the wild as well as those who would normally never encounter each other.
What causes animals to mate with the “wrong” species?
In order to answer this question I am looking at the effect of context and previous experience on mate preferences. I am also investigating a possible role of circular hydrocarbons as inter and intra specific signals that could be used in mate recognition and mate choice.
What are the fitness consequences of reproductive interference?
So far I have looked at the effect of harassment by heterospecific males on female seed bugs. I am now looking at how males change their mating strategies in the presence of heterospecific males.
I’m Bugphd. As my name suggests I’m a PhD student at the University of St Andrews studying (surprise surprise) bugs. To be more specific I am interested in the evolution of sexual traits and how these affect species ecology, in particular the causes and consequences of reproductive interference in the Lygaeidae.
I occasionally blog about my life as a postgraduate student over at Inside St Andrews so this blog is going to be for all the stuff I write for them and then decide is either too silly, too self-obsessed or too academic to post there. Topics that are likely to come up are: my research, procrastination, and anything involving spiders.