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An Australian Insect Sampler

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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The wayward continent of Australia is famous for the strange and relictual creatures that have evolved in near-complete isolation. The insects are no exception. I spent December travelling the great southern continent, and of the 3,000 exposures I took during the month here are a few of my favorites:

A male brentid weevil silhouetted against a leaf in the Daintree rainforest (Queensland).

No, there is no ledriine leafhopper to see here on this eucalptus trunk. Move along. (Bright, Victoria)

Portrait of a Leptomyrmex ruficeps spider ant (Cape Tribulation, Queensland)

A nest of meat ants, Iridomyrmex purpureus (Victoria).

Meat ants bite readily in defense of their nest (Victoria).

Winner of the Silly Antenna award: the Arthropterus ant-nest beetle (Victoria).

Australian bull ants (Myrmecia spp.) are among the world's largest ants (Victoria).

Hygropoda dolomedes showing the fang-bearing chelicerae that define the Chelicerata, a taxonomic group including arachnids and horseshoe crabs (Cape Tribulation, Queensland).


The worst enemies of ants are often other ants. Here, a Rhytidoponera victoriae scout (at left) has discovered an Amblyopone ferruginea worker and attempts to wrestle it back to her nest (Melbourne).

Amyciaea albomaculata is a stealthy crab spider that preys on weaver ants by charming the social insects into thinking she is one of them (Cape Tribulation, Queensland).

Podomyrma adelaidae, the muscleman tree ant (Victoria).

A vinegar fly in flight (Cape Tribulation, Queensland).

Alex Wild About the Author: Alex Wild is Curator of Entomology at the University of Texas at Austin, where he studies the evolutionary history of ants. In 2003 he founded a photography business as an aesthetic complement to his scientific work, and his natural history photographs appear in numerous museums, books and media outlets. Follow on Twitter @myrmecos.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. tcmacrae 9:39 am 03/18/2012

    Some real winners, Alex. With each your photos, I now find myself trying to reverse engineer the lens, lighting technique and camera settings. This selection is an excellent cross-section of methodologies.

    As a beetle man, I find myself whincing just a bit when I say that the fruit fly is actually my favorite. You can’t get any cleaner of a background!

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