Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sponge Fly: Fiber Artist

Lately i haven't blogged enough about crafters, so here's a report on a really tiny one:

My husband teaches an invertebrate zoology course and regularly collects live specimens for his students to study, believing that live material is much more likely to capture the rapt facination of students, than dead and preserved specimens. You might think it would be impossible to find an example of live sponge in the high plains desert, but not if you are willing to go that extra mile. He found freshwater sponge in the bosque out Fort Sumner way and upon microscopic examination he found the larvae of a little neuropteran called a spongefly chewing about on the growth (view it on Youtube).

The adult is a tiny (5-6mm) lacewing (Climacia sp.). The larvae are only about 2mm long when they are mature and ready to pupate. They build this outer "cage" and then spin their little coccoon within it. (Again, hubby is the photographer.) You can see clearly the way the fibers of this outer wall are woven together just like a chain link fence! How do these tiny little larvae do that?

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