As commenter Jenna B picked within minutes, Monday’s mystery flower was Theobroma cacao– the magical plant that so generously provides the world with chocolate- and it is pollinated by midges in the family Ceratopogonidae. In particular, the cacao pollinators are found in the large genus Forcipomyia. Here is one feeding not on a cacao nectary but from the hemolymph of a caterpillar.
So. Ten points to Jenna.
This brings us to the end of the month, and I am pleased to report we have a two way, ten point tie for March between Jenna B and Dave Almquist.
Tonight’s mystery is an extremely close look at somebody’s fur coat:
Which of the organisms below is the one depicted at high magnification in the micrograph?
The first person to pick the correct species from the list gets 5 points for the number, and 5 for the genus. Each person is allowed only one guess. The cumulative points winner for the month of March will win their choice of:
The female of the species, photographed at the same location in upstate New York, is more commonly recognized:
Points are awarded as follows:
2 to Guillaume D for guessing the order (Hymenoptera).
5 to Boud for guessing the family (Formicidae), and the sex (male), along with an extra point for being the first to the subfamily (Amblyoponinae).
4 to James Trager for getting the correct genus and species, Stigmatomma pallipes.
Stigmatomma pallipes is one of my favorite ants. North American myrmecologists must remember their first field encounter with this unusual animal. The initial impression is not antlike at all, but of a small, stubby worm. Its movements are sluggish. The segments of the elongate abdomen are visible. And the long, thin, toothy mandibles are unlike anything else in our fauna. And as you’ve seen from last night’s mystery, males of Stigmatomma pallipes are themselves more generically wasp-ish in appearance than those of most other ants.
Well, maybe not. I take that back. It was many tiny feet. But last night’s tarsal task was eventually guessed in its entirety by Dave Almquist, for 10 points. The bees were B,C,E, and F. All the other feet were non-bee wasps.
The trick to the mystery is knowing that the basitarus in bees is typically broader and flatter than in non bees. Like so:
Some bees, including common honey bees, have a simply massive basitarsis. Others are much more subtle. I deliberately made this challenge difficult by including a couple parasitic bees in the genus Nomada. These insects are not as fuzzy as most bees, and their basitarsi are just barely flattened. Kudos to Dave for his sharp eyes.
I’ve put the original challenge below, if you’d like to try again.
The final exam arrives for Ornithology 101, and students enter the classroom to find a considerably more challenging test than expected. Instead of a general written exam, the professor has set up a long table. On the table is an array of 100 bird’s feet. Just the feet, nothing else. The student’s entire grade is to be based on how many of the feet they can identify to species.
Half-way through this difficult exam, a frustrated student storms up to the front of the room and throws his crumpled up answer sheet at the professor.
“I refuse to take this exam!” yells the student. “It’s unfair, it’s impossible, I studied hard and there is still no way I will pass. I’m going to report you to the dean.”
“What is your name, son?” demands the prof.
The student puts his foot on the professor’s desk and says, “I don’t know. You tell me.”
In the spirit of impossible feet, tonight’s mystery concerns the following:
For all 10 points, be the first person to correctly pick which of these insect feet belong to bees.
The cumulative points winner for the month of March will win their choice of: