This last month has been very busy for me (partly due to my awesome entomology class), so here’s a quick interlude before I return to the Iceland photos. Today I stopped by the Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster, Colorado, to see the newly remodeled Crawl-A-See-Em exhibit. The Butterfly Pavilion, in addition to butterflies, also exhibits many other invertebrates, ranging from ocean invertebrates like lobsters and jellies to terrestrial invertebrates like bees and probably the most famous resident of the Butterfly Pavilion, Rosie the Chilean Rose-haired Tarantula (or rather, an army of Rosies). The Crawl-A-See-Em focuses on terrestrial invertebrates other than butterflies, and I was excited to see the changes.
While the old Crawl-A-See-Em was always a mixture of animals on permanent exhibit and rotating special exhibits according to what the zookeepers were able to collect in the wild or order from dealers, it didn’t really have a coherent theme. Parts of it were habitat-themed; others were taxonomically themed.
The new Crawl-A-See-Em is arranged by habitat type, which I think gives the room a much better flow. While many of the same familiar animals were there, the most exciting change for me was the addition of a tank highlighting aquatic insects, containing Sunburst Diving Beetles (Thermonectus marmoratus) and some fantastic giant water bugs (family Belostomatidae). I’ve never seen either of these species in the wild, and the tank made them easy to observe.
Predaceous diving beetles (family Dytiscidae) are one of my favorite beetle groups. They have several adaptations for their aquatic lifestyle, including fringed hind legs that work something like oars, as well as a physical gill for respiration. In the picture below, you can see an air bubble at the tip of the abdomen, which is the physical gill. Diving beetles have to surface regularly to renew this air bubble.
Apparently as larvae they also have eyes with two retinas and two focal planes, effectively functioning as bifocals–the only known example of bifocal vision in insects.
I kind of want some now, although after my ill-fated attempt at dragonfly larva-rearing this fall, I’m not sure I’m ready to attempt to keep an aquarium again.