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).
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)
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.