Futuristic bestiarium - invertebrates
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In this page descriptions of various animals and plants not included to basic chapters are gathered. The wanishing of the description from this part means that you just must search for new chapter in English version of "The incredible world tour to Neocene". Forum

Mammals
Birds
Amphibians and Reptiles
Fishes
Invertebrates
Plants

 

Tunicates


“Amphitrite’s beads” (Doliophora amphithritae)
Order: Doliolids (Doliolida)
Family: Colonial doliolids (Doliophoridae)

Habitat: Indian Ocean and Tanganyika Passage, top layers of water.
Salps, pyrosomas and doliolids are close relatives of vertebrate animals. But it is difficult to believe in it to unsophisticated observer. At the first sight at these creatures it can seem, that they are nearest relatives of jellyfishes: they are fragile and transparent too. But features of embryonic development evidently show that they are representatives of chordates (Chordata).
The body of these animals has turned to true pomp which tirelessly pumps over water through filtering device of huge gullet. Due to it animals can move in thickness of water, similarly to rockets. Some representatives of invertebrate chordates form colonies numbering from two zooids up to several thousand ones at the bottom of ocean or in thickness of water.
“Amphitrite’s beads” is original colonial species of doliolids order, usually including species, existing as singles in adult condition. For usually single animal transformation into the whole colony is very hard process. But invertebrate chordates have one special feature, permitting to carry out such transition easily. In life cycle of these creatures there is the alternation of generations: sexual, breeding by egg laying, and sexless one, breeding by gemmation. It is enough for the individuals developing from gemmas “to be late” in this condition longer and also to become adults quicker and the colony is ready in general. So, obviously, it also had taken place at ancestors of doliolid “Amphitrite’ beads”.
This colonial animal has not lost features of ancestral appearance: it is also ephemeral, watery and transparent. The colony of this species consists of several types of zooids (individuals being as though “bricks” of colony) having had partly lost independence. In the top part of colony six large mover individuals, gathered in one “block” settle down. This is the posterity of initial zooid developed from eggs. “Founder” is at top of all colony.
When the colony was young, mover zooids had well advanced filtering device and could support their own existing. But in due course the colony expands, and the speciality to move colony is “laid on shoulders” of these individuals. In due course at mover zooids filtering device is reduced, but powerful ring muscles, strengthening jet push, develop. They strongly increase in size in process of colony development. Besides on external (concerning to other zooids) surface of each mover zooid the special keel develops, permitting to keep direction of movement.
Long double chain of eating zooids numbering up to fifty individuals branches off from the bottom mover zooid (bottom zooid does not have keel, and runner with zooids of other type branches off from its back side inverted downwards). Due to it all colony is similar to hanging down string of beads. Eating zooids have well advanced filtering device: their duty includes supplying by food of all colony. By common channels of blood system all individuals in colony are supplied with nutrients acquired by these zooids.
For breeding at the basis of eating zooids from special gemmas strongly reduced fertile individuals grow. At them the digestive system is reduced, filtering device is underdeveloped, and they completely depend on nutrients delivered by other members of colony. But at them ovaries, in which some large eggs ripen, are advanced.
Inside eggs larvae develop, right in eggs turning to single sexless individuals. These future founders of colony hatch and also live solitary life for some time. Then on the bottom surface of single individual some gemmas appear, from which additional mover zooids grow, and single individual turns to basis of the future colony. Such “underdeveloped” colonies can be mistaken for separate species of live creatures, but it is only special stage of development. On the bottom side of body of the bottom mover zooid special outgrowth starts to develop, and in body a plenty of gemmas, migrating to this outgrowth, is formed. They settle down on it in two longitudinal lines and turn to eating individuals. And later to this outgrowth new generation of gemmas migrates, turning to breeding fertile individuals.
In rest the colony of “Amphitrite’s beads” dangles in water almost vertically: mover zooids by rhythmical contractions of ring muscles slowly move colony in water, and thick runner on which other members of colony sit, hangs downwards. In case of need other members of colony may be included in movement. “Amphitrite’s beads” is inhabitant of top layer of water: colony keeps in layer of water, rich in phytoplankton. But, having felt beginning of storm, fragile colony swims down to depth up to 50 meters. Storm and sea inhabitants frequently tear this fragile colony to pieces, but it does not harm to “Amphitrite’s beads”: colony easily regenerates. Usually the colony is broken off in area of runner. Then on that part where there are mover zooids, simply the formation of new gemmas begins, and the colony is restored till the initial size. On torn off runner eating zooids sitting closely to place of break, gradually turn to mover zooids. Such recycled colony differs from initial only that on its top part there is no initial zooid from which the development of colony had began. And function of formation of gemmas for growing colony at once two bottom zooids have turned to movers incur.
In Tanganyika passage where strong gales are rather rare, intact colonies of these creatures frequently may be met, but in Indian Ocean approximately two thirds of colonies have signs of damages.
This species of doliolids has ability to light: at all members of colony, except for fertile zooids, organs of luminescence develop. These are small sacs, located near ring muscles, and containing inside luminous bacteria. The colony of “Amphitrite’s beads” can shine greenish and bright blue light.

Whale salpa (Titanosalpa crystallocetus)
Order: Salps (Salpida)
Family: Giant salps (Titanosalpidae)

Habitat: cold subpolar waters of Southern hemisphere, circumantarctic species.
Primitive chordates represent the original transitive group between invertebrates and vertebrates. There is an opinion, that vertebrate animals had descended as the result of loss of adult stage by larva of lower chordates (this phenomenon is named pedomorphosis). Adult individuals of lower chordates may appreciably differ from larvae of the same species, and during the life cycle two completely unlike against each other generations may be replaced.
Lower chordates of Tunicata subtype are very similar to jellyfishes and their relatives – at them there is the same transparent body, which significant part is made of water. But this similarity is only external – tunicates essentially differ from jellyfishes by features of structure and development.
Pelagic tunicates are active filtrating organisms passing through the body hundreds of litres of water per day. During the extinction of cetaceans and large sea fishes, in crisis epoch at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, these invertebrates had got the advantage in impoverished ecosystems of open ocean. Primarily among them many large species of filtrating organisms evolved. But the majority of them had become extinct later, when in seas true pelagic fishes had appeared again. But nevertheless some species of giant tunicates had survived in subpolar areas, rich in plankton.
Whale salpa is one of such huge species of solitary tunicates, a relict of early Neocene. It represents an animal up to 4 meters long at deep of body about 2 meters and width a little bit more one meter. By its appearance whale salpa resembles more the case of ancient sailing ship without masts: its sides are slightly compressed, bottom part of animal is extended, and on it gristle-like “keel”, helping to keep stability, is developed. The consistence of body of whale salpa is rather fragile, and covers are translucent; therefore animal seems made of glass. Ring muscles constantly and rhythmically contracting, passing water through the body of animal, are visible through covers of body. Such large animal could not survive, not having even any similarity of skeleton. At whale salpa the half rings of dense tissue, covering body from sides, develop. From above they are strapped with easily extensible ligament, and the bottom ends of these formations merge with keel.
Due to rather fragile body consistence for this animal ability to feel approach of storm is vital. Long before approach of bad weather whale salpa submerses to depth and motionlessly hangs in thickness of water. This animal is the sluggish swimmer, and its covers are frequently injured by various animals. But whale salpa, similarly to the majority of relatives, can easily repair injured by storm or predators parts of a body. The surface of tunica of this species is overgrown with small symbiotic polyps. They slow down movement of whale salpa in water, and partly compete to it for forage, overtaking a part of plankton, but there is a considerable benefit to whale salpa from such union: polyps protect animal from enemies with the help of burning tentacles. Some pelagic fishes and invertebrates lay eggs on covers of body of animal, because of what old individuals of whale salpa turn to true swimming “kindergarten”. In oral siphon of whale salpa small crustaceans – symbiotic scuds – frequently lodge; in cloacal siphon parasitic isopods frequently live.
As at all tunicates, at whale salpa there is an alternation of generations in life cycle. Single individuals of whale salpa represent sexless generation hatching from eggs. These giants reach the maximal size approximately for two years, and after the attainment of full physiological maturity make the colonial generation sharply distinguishing from single individuals externally. On the bottom side of body of whale salpa, on front edge of keel the runner develops – the outgrowth on which the colonial generation of this species is formed. On runner some whorls of gemmas are formed, from which young individuals of sexual generation develop. The young growth is formed and matures in “clusters” of 2 – 3 pulled together whorls of 6 – 8 individuals in every one. Runner reaches the length about one meter. When young individuals on its tip reach the size of plums, runner is broken off right above them, and young ones swim out from adult individual. Within several months they reach the length about 20 cm (the length of colony of such individuals may be up to half meter), and become able to breeding. The colony of sexual generation of whale salps makes up to 20 large eggs per one week. In the common cavity of colony eggs develop, and already generated young individuals up to 15 cm long, the single sexless generation, leave the colony. They grow to giants which have determined the name of this species of animals.
Whale salps reach the utmost size in cold, rich in plankton waters of Subantarctic region. Sometimes currents flowing to the north along the coast of Antarctica and South America, carry away individuals of this species in tropical latitudes. In warm water this animal does not breed and lives not for a long time. In tropical latitudes whale salpa quickly grows old, but even faster it becomes prey of heat-loving pelagic predators. More often these salps are eaten by huge bat turtles.

Echinoderms

Armour-bearing starfish (Ruderasterias litophoros)
Order: Forcipulatida (Forcipulatida)
Family: Asteriidae (Asteriidae)

Habitat: Europe, a littoral zone of northern seas.
In Neocene the inclination of continental plate of Eurasia has changed: glaciers haв stopped to press it with the whole weight, and northern edge of continent had risen a little. It has had an effect on geography of continent: the rivers of Asia from Arctic Ocean basin spill widely now and flow much slower, and in Europe Northern Sea had receded, having exempted extensive land areas. The northwest extremity of Europe forms the coastal line cut up capriciously with sea gulfs. Along the coast there are numerous low islets and shallows, overflowing by sea, and also the numerous marshes overgrown with grasses steady to sea water. In this world the creatures capable to survive both in water, and on land prosper.
Among littoral inhabitants there are various echinoderms. Being sensitive to change of water salinity, they avoid river mouths and keep in pools of sea water at the coast. Here they are vunerable for birds searching for food at the shoaliness. Therefore in due course of evolution they had developed various protective adaptations promoting their survival.
At the coast of Europe, in area of temperate climate, the armour-bearing starfish lives; this one developed interesting strategy of masking. In Holocene epoch such feature was more characteristic for crabs, but in Neocene this echinoderm has partly repeated it. Common starfish (Asterias rubens), widely settled in human epoch in Northern Atlantic, was an ancestor of this species.
Armour-bearing starfish is a radially symmetric animal about 1 foot in diameter. The body of this animal has small central disk and mobile flexible arms. Colouring of top (aboral) side of body is spotty – on bright yellow background large red or brown spots are scattered. The bottom (oral) side of body is white. The structure of ambulacral tube feet of this echinoderm is unusual. Along each arm on the oral side of body two lines of tube feet of usual structure stretch; they serve for movement. And on the top side of body in intervals between arms and along the edges of arms the large mobile tube feet, capable to grasp and to keep small objects are developed. With the help of these tube feet the armour-bearing starfish keeps on itself the various dust picked up on sea-floor. It gives obvious preference to flat firm objects like bivalve shells and large flat pebbles. Animal gathers these objects, creeping on bottom. Having found suitable object, starfish feels it with grasping tube feet. If it may be lifted, animal sticks to it and tightens it on itself. In total this animal can keep on itself up to twenty pebbles and shells.
Objects kept by armour-bearing starfish on its body help it to mask and complicate an attack of predators as the attacked starfish only keeps the seized objects stronger. In addition to it this species lives at the areas with strong ebb-tide current, therefore stones help armour-bearing starfish to stay in its place. This species eats molluscs and other invertebrates, not differing in this respect from its ancestor.
This species breeds with the help of the planktonic larva, as well as all related species. Fertility reaches 1 million tiny eggs. The larva lives in plankton for about three months, and then turns to bottom-dwelling stage. Young armour-bearing starfishes keep in quiet sites of littoral zone and mask, keeping on their bodies parts of seaweed and other light weighting objects. In process of resettlement to the sites with stronger current they choose heavier objects for masking.
At the sites with weaker current smaller species lives – shield-bearing starfish (Ruderasterias scutifer). This animal does not exceed 15 cm in diameter. It has similar anatomy of the body, but aboral side of body has yellowish-white color. This animal carries on its body large flat cockleshell of bivalve, under which it hides from enemies. Being attacked by predator, shield-bearing starfish keeps shell strongly and sticks to substratum, not giving an opportunity to hook the shell from the edge. The same way it spends outflow, having densely covered by shell and having hidden under it the body from wind and the sun. This species lives at the the top border of littoral zone and frequently stays outside of water.
Life expectancy of both species does not exceed 5 – 6 years.

Surprising planktostella (Planktostella inexpectata)
Order: Larvasterida (Larvasterida)
Family: Plankton starfishes (Planktostellidae)

Habitat: temperate latitudes of Southern hemisphere.
“Planktonic accident” at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene had caused significant updating in structure of World ocean zooplankton. In Neocene among planktonic organisms there are representatives of various groups of animals, including such ones, which had not existed in human epoch.
The echinoderms, developing with larval stage, spent a short part of life cycle in plankton. Their larvae – doliolaria, ophiopluteus, echinopluteus, bipinnaria etc. – lived for some time in plankton, but then had a deep metamorphosis and turned to benthic adult stage, looking completely unlike the larva. But in Neocene one group of starfishes of order Asterida began to spend in plankton considerably longer time. It was connected to presence of free ecological niches in planktonic community. The planktonic larva, brachiolaria, had actually turned at them to independent stage of development like asexual generation of tunicates. This way the separate larvasterid order had appeared among starfishes. As against microscopic brachiolariae of ancestral forms, the larva of larvasterids is long-living (its term of life makes more than 2 years) and reaches great length to measures of larvae: up to 3 – 5 cm. But simultaneously it keeps a typical anatomy of larvae, eats tiny planktonic organisms and swims actively with the help of numerous bristles. As against brachiolariae of typical starfishes, it produces star-shaped adult stage repeatedly – under covers of brachiolaria a row of germs (imaginal disks) is formed, giving rise to new starfishes.
The adult form of starfishes of this group serves for breeding. It leads planktonic way of life and eats small animals. In connection to change of habit of life the anatomy of planktonic starfishes had changed in great degree in comparison with their ancestors. The body of these animals is flattened in oral-aboral direction. Long ambulacral tube feet border flattened arms. They serve for soaring in water, and also grasp small planktonic animals transporting then into the mouth of animal.
In internal anatomy of the animal also great changes had taken place. The part of ambulacral systems of planktostellids is separated and turned to gas floater bladders, arranged in double line along each arm of starfish. Gas glands fill them with nitrogen and the carbonic dioxyde taken from sea water.
The armour is reduced in connection with planktonic way of life; only unary line of sharp plates along each arm remains from it. The body of animal keeps an elastic consistence, but is semi-transparent. Planktostellids are poisonous. As additional means of protection at them autotomy and ability to regeneration are developed. The seized starfish easily throws away one of arms which wriggling distracts attention of predator. The lost arm easily grows back, and on the torn off arm due to available nutrients missing ones grow, and it turns to complete organism. The central disk at these stars is very small, and arms in typical case are expanded in middle part and resemble lily petals in shape.
Surprising planktostella is large starfish reaching almost one meter in diameter. It swims, making synchronous waves by all arms (normally there are 5 arms at this species, but there are separate four- and six-armed individuals). Despite of the size, it is the species leading the least predating habit of life. At feeding it turns stomach out in water and soaks up organic chemical substances dissolved of water with its surface, and also catches the smallest plankton which is pasted to the surface of the turned out stomach. Thus the star keeps immovability and drifts passively in current.
The stomach of surprising planktostella forms a set of pockets of 1-st, 2-nd and 3-rd orders, which, being turned out, turn to root-like outgrowths. Due to it the summary surface of stomach is increased. Bowels at this species, on the contrary, are very short.
Breeding of all planktostellids has no expressed seasonal rhythm. These animals are hermaphrodites, and two genetically different individuals mutually fertilize each other. If two individuals being clones of initial one meet each other casually, fertilization does not occur – this species is self-sterile. When eggs develop, the starfish spawns them in water, and from them larvae hatch, which grow till two months and further pass to asexual breeding.
Waters of World ocean are also inhabited by other species of planktostellids:
Jellyfish-eating planktostella (Planktostella medusiphaga) lives in subtropical waters of Southern hemisphere. Diameter of this animal is about 40 cm; usually it has 6 – 7 arms. This species eats jellyfishes and other soft-bodied pelagic animals (including even small cephalopods) with the help of the stomach turned inside out. The stomach of this species forms a number of suckers which keep prey. Usually this star drifts in thickness of water, having turned out its stomach opened as an umbrella with suckers on its internal side. When prey casually touches it, the star seizes the prey by sucker of stomach and envelops it with the whole stomach, starting the digestion. If prey shows resistance, the starfish puts all arms together, keeping the caught animal between them. The starfish gradually involves prey in mouth in due course of digestion.
“Sea sundew” (Planktostella droseroforma) is a small species about 10 cm in diameter with five-armed body. It is the species actively hunting planktonic crustaceans, worms and molluscs with the help of ambulacral tube feet. Arms of this species have the ribbon-like shape, dulled on the tip. They are bordered with numerous ambulacral tube feet capable to extend to the distance up to 2 cm. The tips of tube feet are supplied with the chemoreceptors catching presence of crustaceans. Having felt prey, the tube foot extends in its side and sticks to the armour of crustacean. The mechanical irritation serves as stimulus for activity of the near feet, and they gradually transport prey to the mouth of animal. This species inhabits temperate and cold waters of Southern hemisphere and is circumantarctic.

Insects

Stinky cave cockroach (Cavernoblattula foetida)
Order: Cockroaches (Blattoidea)
Family: Cockroaches (Blattidae)

Habitat: caves of the Balkan and the Alpes.
Cockroaches existed always and everywhere, up to times of dinosaurs – having appeared on the Earth in Carboniferous, they strongly kept their place in ecosystems of all subsequent geological epoch. They always rustled under legs of larger creatures, eating various organic dust and dross. Before human epoch cockroaches prospered in areas of warm climate, and only few small species had penetrated far to the north. Expansion of communication and trade since Middle Ages has allowed to cockroaches of some species to expand considerably the area and to settle almost on global scale.
Despite of it, synanthropic cockroaches had not become rather hardy insects, and at the extinction of people as a biological species cockroaches had receded from temperate warm and cold areas too. Nevertheless, Holocene epoch and human domination had not passed without results for cockroaches: they managed to stay at the south of Europe, having evolved to some specialized species. In caves of the Balkan formed after receding of glaciers, some underground species had appeared, one of which is stinky cave cockroach. Its ancestor was, obviously, oriental cockroach (Blatta orientalis) – the species widely settled in human epoch.
Stinky cave cockroach is rather sizable insect: sometimes there are individuals of this species up to 6 centimeters long. It has flattened oval body of brown, black, or grey colouring, covered with oily liquid, plentifully secreting by special gland. Regularly secreting a small amount of liquid, this cockroach pounds it on the top part of body by back pair of legs. Oily liquid is its most important protection, especially if the cockroach can not be escaped from the enemy by another way. This liquid smells very unpleasantly and has bad taste; the scared insect secrets it in plenty. Therefore the majority of rather large predators living in caves prefers not to eat cockroaches. And from small enemies the disturbed cockroaches usually seek safety in flight – they run quickly and dexterously swarm up walls of cave. Stinky cave cockroach does not have wings. Sight sense at adult insects is very bad, but young cockroaches have well advanced large eyes, which are reduced with each subsequent moult. But instead of them long antennas develop, which exceed body length at adult insect.
This is unpretentious insect developed a special way of surviving in winter colds – when winter comes, cockroaches are dug in layer of bird and bat guano, and run into anabiosis till spring. It has allowed them to settle in systems of caves far to the north – to the area of seasonal climate. In caves of the Balkan located in area of rather warm climate, these insects keep activity the year round.
Cave cockroaches can not dispense for a long time without water – it is used for secretion of liquid covering their body. Therefore they should run out from cave at night to drink from pools, if the rain took place recently, or, on the contrary, to go down to the depth of cave, if there is an underground reservoir there.
Stinky cave cockroaches are not fussy – they are ready to eat any organic material, including each other. Usually they eat dung of bats, small worms eating dung, sprouts of seeds belched by birds nesting in cave, and dead animals of any species.
Some times per one year the female lays up to 20 eggs made in special capsule, an ootheca, and carries them on its abdomen till about two weeks. Then it leaves an ootheca in secluded place where young cockroaches leave it one week later. In northern parts of area this cockroach makes no more than two clutches per one year. Development from the bursting from egg up to adult individual lasts about three months. The majority of cave cockroaches perishes in youth, when they yet have not reached the size of adults, and their chitinous covers is much softer. They produce less amount of odorous liquid, and rely more in their self-protection to speed of legs; the main enemies of cockroaches are other cave insects, like beetles and soothsayers.
Young cockroaches settle from caves, creeping out to the forest. But they frequently use “services” of birds and bats living in their native cave. Clinging to their body, young stinky cockroaches have an opportunity to appear in other cave. Sometimes they appear in forest, and can live any time like usual cockroaches living there. But they search by smell for entrances in caves and cracks, and occupy them.

This species of insects was discovered by Bhut, the forum member.

Modest dung termite (Apteroregina modesta)
Order: Termites (Isoptera)
Family: Termites (Termitidae)

Habitat: savannas of Northern Africa.
In Neocene extensive areas of Northern Africa, Western Europe and the former Mediterranean region represent savanna which provides with food numerous herbivorous mammals. Among them the significant place is occupied by descendants of hyraxes – flathorns and ndipinotheres. They had inherited from their ancestors a behavioural habit to leave manure in the same place every time. In due course in “lavatories” of these animals high heaps of manure are formed, and around of them the special ecosystem of set of species of invertebrates and mushrooms utilizing manure of these animals is formed. Among the dung-eating insects termites occupy the important place; colonies of these insects usually settle down under manure heaps, and thickness of manure is penetrated with their tunnels.
One species of termites making these ecosystems is modest dung termite, very small species of termites. The length of adult ergate (working individual) of this species is only about 4 mm, and adult “queen” does not exceed 3 – 4 cm in length. The foundator male is also rather small – about 5 mm long only. Only “soldier” individuals reach the length of 6 – 8 mm including large head and massive mandibles. This species of insects differs from others in short term of life of colony – no more than three years, but usually about two years only. It is connected to rather small term of existence of manure heaps in which they live.
Covers of these termites are very gentle and translucent, colored creamy white. Head capsule of black color and wide brownish mandibles represent the firmest parts of body of these insects. Modest dung termite lives only in thickness of manure heaps and under ground, in conditions 100% humidity of air. This species of insects settles in heaps of flathorn manure.
Symbiosis of this species of termites with large dung beetle, “termite bus” beetle, is remarkable. Grubs of this dung beetle of various ages constantly live in colony of termites. Grubs are suppliers of building material – their dung at drying gives durability to walls of tunnels and galleries which termites make. Even after complete decomposition of manure heap the rests of constructions of this termite are kept as tubes with porous walls, sticking out of the ground. Termites also eat dung of the grub, taking from it vitamins necessary for them, which are made by bacteria living in intestines of the beetle.
Modest dung termite lacks clearly expressed period of mass flight of winged foundator individuals. But every time in colony both winged males, and the females ready to fertilization are present. Males of modest dung termite regularly leave termitary in small groups and search for females with the help of smell sense like males of termites of other species. The female, foundress of new colony, at modest dung termite lacks of wings: it saves the resources necessary for the foundation of new colony. Settling of females happens in unusual way. The female, constantly surrounded with some ergates, waits while “termite bus” beetle, having finished metamorphosis, leaves a cocoon where the transformation took place. When the beetle starts to dig a tunnel to the surface, the female of termite with several ergates creeps in its prothorax where there is a deepening protected by beetle’s horn from the front side. During the beetle’s flight the female of termite emits pheromone, involving males. Male fertilizes her right on back of the beetle and at the same time ergates from termitary of the female break off his wings. The beetle carries a colony to new place – to fresh heaps of manure of flathorn. When it is dug in manure, termites on its back appear in safety and start to build a nest at once.

Sailing damselfly (Antarctovelum navigator)
Order: Dragonflies (Odonata)
Family: Damselflies (Calopterygidae)

Habitat: freshwater reservoirs of Antarctica.
In Neocene the territory of Antarctica started gradually free of ice cover. In polar areas glacier still exists, but edges of continent already represent tundra with rare bush islets. Plants and animals of Antarctica represent a mix of descendants of sea species and the species had got to the continent by air. Among insects of Antarctica dragonflies are very typical. Due to great ability to flight they could cross ocean and settle in this rigorous world where they had few competitors, but a great number of prey like other species of insects. Some dragonflies of Antarctica in larval stage occupy an ecological niche of small fresh-water fishes and form an original group of fish dragonflies in damselfly family. Imago of these insects does not differ in way of life from typical dragonflies, except for one species which had lost ability to flight.
During the Antarctic summer on surface of water of Antarctic lakes the genuine flotillas of original creatures appear – these ones are rather large damselflies drifting on surface of water, having lifted wings upwards, as if sails. This insect is sailing damselfly, the species of dragonfly order, not capable to fly. This species has rather large size – body length of adult individual is about 15 – 18 cm. The large size of insect is an exaggeration in many respects: the abdomen of this dragonfly is very thin, and thorax seems large because of two floater air bags developed on each side of the body. The adult individual of this species leads rather passive way of life – it is a filtrator of tiny planktonic animals. Using wind power and operating position of the wings as if sails, it floats passively on the surface of water. As the requirement for oxygen at this one is low, it does not choke, and tracheal system quite successfully supplies this insect with oxygen. Under water this insect has similarity of sea anchor made of rather long legs covered with spikes and long bristles. They stabilize the position of insect in water and do not give it to be overturned. At strong wind sailing damselfly simply folds wings along the abdomen. Wings of this insect resemble a little a yacht sail in their shape – they are strongly expanded in the bottom part and smoothly narrowed to the tip. Some strong nerves stretch from front edge of wing to back one, providing its elasticity and resistance to wind.
For adult dragonflies gnawing oral parts with well advanced mandibles are typical. Sailing damselfly in adult condition eats tiny animals, and the typical oral parts of dragonflies are not suitable for it. During the evolutional development of this species of insects the partial neoteny has appeared, which had made accessible such way of feeding: adult insect keeps the larval oral parts with the advanced lower lip – so called mask which can fold on the bottom side of body. The terminal part of lip is expanded and covered with rich hairs on edge, and on its edges palps covered with bristles on the internal side are developed. Movements of this lip gather zooplankton in thickness of water and bring it directly to mouth. Thus palps are widely opened, increasing a trapping surface of mask. And if the larva of mosquito or other small animal is near, the lip of dragonfly works as a hand: tentacles instantly snap, as if a trap, and keep prey.
Filtrator at this species is only the adult individual. The large larva is an active predator, keeps in thickness of water and in thickets of underwater plants, and catches larvae of others fish dragonflies. Sailing damselfly lives the most part of life as the larva; development takes about two years, and in cold areas of Antarctica it lasts for three years. Only at the end of life for some summer months it turns to imago and is coupled. Imagoes live not for long and perish already in second half of summer when the amount of plankton in water is reduced.
Sailing damselfly lives in reservoirs of Antarctica far from the sea, where sea birds fly seldom, and frequently drifts far from the coast, therefore it is almost not threatened with coastal birds. And dragonflies of other species simply do not hunt such large prey.
This species of dragonflies has great problem of settling. Adult individuals are not able neither to fly nor to creep overland, and only the larva is able to active moving. Therefore sailing damselflies live only in large reservoirs, connected by rivers or flooded in the spring during the snow thawing period. In the closed isolated reservoirs this species does not live, or forms temporary small populations.
Imago of different genders differ from each other in colouring. Female imagoes have yellow cross strips on dark abdomen, and their body has the velvety black color, helping them to warm up in sun light. Their wings are completely transparent. Males have long and mobile abdomen of blue color with metal shine, and their wings are black in the basis.
Competing for the female, males swim to each other and catch the contender by mask for legs or for the basis of abdomen. Courting the female, male keeps her legs with the mask and is coupled with her, having bent abdomen above the head like a scorpion. The clutch of several hundreds small eggs is laid by the female in of a plants floating on waters surface.

This species of insects was discovered by Arthropod, the forum member.

Bromeliad dragonfly (Hyleoanax bromeliophilus)
Order: Dragonflies (Odonata)
Family: Aeshnidae (Aeshnidae)

Habitat: rainforests of South America, forest canopy.

Picture by Tony Johnes

The rainforest of northern part of South America forms unite with huge river system – basin of Amazon and Hyppolite rivers. It is the largest forest area of the Neocene Earth. Overflowing banks, rivers flood forest over tens kilometers in sides from channel, and water level changes may reach ten meters and more. This circumstance favours to passing to life in forest of some aquatic lifeforms.
Plants of bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae) represent the original “advanced post” of water animals in forest canopy. These epiphytic plants form special mini-reservoirs of their leaves. Leaves may be curved like a spoon and then in each of them the tiny reservoir is formed. Or densely pressed to each other leaves form one reservoir in the centre of the crown. These reservoirs in forest canopy are full of life. Frogs and other small animals live in them, and also in full safety from fishes mosquitoes breed.
In Neocene among inhabitants of similar reservoirs one more creature had appeared – it is a large larva of dragonfly. It is flat-bodied with short wide abdomen and strong tenacious legs. Green colouring permits the larva to hide from sights of various predators – usually birds or predatory insects are its enemies. The length of larva reaches approximately 4 cm. This species of insects lives exclusively in leaf axils of bromeliads and consequently is named bromeliad dragonfly. In such reservoirs larva avoids the dangers usual for its relatives in river. The larva of bromeliad dragonfly is protected from beaks of birds by its habitat. Mini-reservoir in leaf axil of bromeliad is small, but too deep. At danger larva simply moves down to the bottom of its dwelling.
Because many inhabitants of forest canopy are interested in presence of such reservoirs, larva of bromeliad dragonfly does not endure lack of food. It basically eats larvae of mosquitoes regularly laying eggs in water in bromeliad leaf axils. Also this insect can eat tadpoles of tiny frogs and catches the insects had casually got in water. At larvae of bromeliad dragonflies cannibalism is usual.
When in mini-reservoir, where larva lives, food sources come to an end, it can leave it. With the help of strong legs larva simply creeps into the next leaf, and eats all animals living in it, including its own relatives.
Many insects live in forest canopy. Here various winged predators hunt them, among which there is remarkable large (up to 9 cm long) dragonfly of metallic red color with black cross stripes on wings. It is the adult bromeliad dragonfly. It constantly lives in forest canopy and does not move down to the river. During courtship displays large male keeps near thickets of bromeliad plants, driving competitors away from them, and involving females to plants.
This insect lays eggs in crowns of bromeliad – some ones stuck in unite slimy mass in each leaf. Clutches are small – no more than 20 eggs to one plant. During the life one female lays eggs in leaves of several tens bromeliads.
The incubation lasts about one week, and eggs are left by transparent tiny larvae. They are very active, and at once start to eat small animals. After several molts, when they become larger, relations between larvae become aggravated, and they start to devour each other. Some of them succeed to survive and to creep to next reservoirs of bromeliads. After furious struggle for survival in one plant one or two larvae of bromeliad dragonfly stay. At such density of setting they normally grow and four – five months later pass metamorphosis successfully.

Butterfly dragonfly (Papilianax multicolor)
Order: Dragonflies (Odonata)
Family: Butterfly dragonflies (Papiliopterygidae)

Habitat: Antarctica, fresh water.

Picture by Fanboyphilosopher

Till millions years Antarctica was the continent absolutely lack of terrestrial lifeforms. Last ice age at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene had completely destroyed all forms of terrestrial life at this continent. When climate started to change and warm currents from the north had warmed coasts of Antarctica, the surface of continent had exempted from ice cover. The areas exempted from ice gradually began to be settled. But isolation of continent had resulted to the fact that only swimming and flying animals, and plants which seeds could be moved by wind, could settle there. Free ecological niches were distributed among these animals by the most unexpected image.
Fresh waters of Antarctica belong to dragonflies. These insects gave surprising variety of species – from small up to very large ones. Some dragonflies of Antarctica surpass in size the largest dragonflies of Neocene tropics of the Earth. And in Neocene among the Antarctic dragonflies one completely unusual species not having of analogues anywhere in the world, Antarctic butterfly dragonfly, had evolved.
This species of dragonflies differs from the relatives living in the neighbourhood in many respects. The butterfly dragonfly belongs to the number of damselflies and differs in flitting flight and very thin prolonged body. It is the largest species of damselflies of Neocene – the length of its body from head up to the tip of abdomen amounts 15 cm at wingspan up to 25 cm. But the size is not the most remarkable feature of this insect. When butterfly dragonfly flies above the swamp, it is very difficult for not noticing. This insect has motley colouring of wings; they have soft blue color with black mesh pattern in the basis, and on tips of wings there are oculate spots with iridescent play of colours from lilac up to pink. The flying butterfly dragonfly sparkles in light of poor Antarctic sun like a brilliant. The body of this dragonfly has strict black color with golden cross stripes on each segment of abdomen. Such bright colouring appreciable from apart permits individuals of this species to distinguish each other. These dragonflies gather for pairing in flights numbering some tens individuals. Adult dragonflies should hasten to find each other for pairing – at this species of insects imago does not feed and lives only due to stocks of nutrients had been accumulated by larva. The maximal life expectancy of adult dragonfly is no longer, than one week.
Time of the adult life given out to dragonfly passes very roughly. Males actively compete to each other for the right to couple to the female, and push each other aside from it, arranging air maneuvers and actively displaying itself to the female. As against to the male, female saves vital resources - at the moment of male rivalry it perches on stalk of grass and waits for the ending of their duel. When the winner is defined, he clings to the body of female and insects make courtship flight together. Having fertilized the female, male protects her for some time, not admitting to her other males. Next day after fertilization, when in organism of the female eggs start development, male lets her off and perishes soon.
For egg laying the female of butterfly dragonfly chooses coastal plants with thick stalks rich in air-containing tissue. It immerses an abdomen in water and makes vertical cuts on integumentary tissues of stalk by sharp ovipositor. In each cut female places one egg, and can lay about 400 eggs in total. The laying of eggs proceeds a very long time – about some hours. This process exhausts the female so much, that it perishes soon after laying of last eggs, and its body becomes prey of water predators. Frequently the female perishes from exhaustion, having not laid last portion of eggs.
The larva of butterfly dragonfly, as opposed to peaceful adult individual, is gluttonous and ruthless predator. It lives in thickness of water, is a good swimmer and has wide flattened body supplied by rounded outgrowths on edges of each segment. Branchial outgrowths on back end of abdomen are wide and have leaf-shaped form. When larva moves in water with the help of vertical waves of body, they work as a tail fin. If it is necessary to swim slower, the larva of butterfly dragonfly uses walking legs covered from two sides by bristles and acting like oars.
The larva of butterfly dragonfly eats various small animals. The young larva eats larvae of two-winged flies, scraping them by its lower lip from substratum. The larva of advanced age reached the length of 18 cm at width of body about 2 cm eats larvae of other species of dragonflies and attacks larger prey: freshwater shrimps and small fishes. Frequently larvae of butterfly dragonflies attack the adult females of their own species laying eggs, or gather their dead bodies from surface of water. The larva of this insect develops rather slowly, and spends under water five years before it will be ready to metamorphosis and will turn to sparkling fragile insect.

Aquatic soothsayer (Dimorphomantis semiaquaticus)
Order: Soothsayers (Mantoidea)
Family: Soothsayers (Mantidae)

Habitat: China, cane thickets at riverbanks.

Picture by Amplion, colorization by Tony Johnes

From the moment of the origin at the Earth insects became one of prospering groups of live creatures. Features of respiratory and blood system do not permit them to grow up large size (to become larger, rather than crabs, for example), but among tiny inhabitants of Earth insects are in the lead unconditionally. They easily adapt to changes of environment and among them new species evolve very quickly. At rather small morphological reorganization insects can develop new habitats easily. One of such species had appeared in marshy plains of China.
In Neocene the climate began more humid, and the plain part of China represents a circuit of rivers, lakes and swamps constantly changing the outlines. Winds bring rains from Pacific Ocean, and in plains flooding often happen. And after flooding the part of water inhabitants may be trapped in shallow ponds drying up quickly. In such conditions inhabitants of water environment develop adaptations for life on land, and ground inhabitants study to develop water.
As a rule, soothsayers, insects having very ancient origin, were inhabitants of woods and dry habitats. But in swamps of China one species of these insects till the evolution process had got ability to live in water, at least, half.
Among water insects water bugs and beetles are very characteristic. These creatures differ in predating behavior and eat any animals they can catch. For prey catching modified front legs working as claws serve to bugs. These insects spend life in thickness of water, regularly emerging to the surface for the portion of air. In comparison with them aquatic soothsayer looks “amateur”, but its habit of existence has the certain grace.
Aquatic soothsayer is completely not able to swim. Nevertheless this insect is not less successful hunter, rather than armed and quickly swimming water bugs. Aquatic soothsayer applies traditional tactics of the ambuscader for hunting. This insect simply sits among water plants upwards an abdomen, having immersed the forward part of body in water. Thus respiratory apertures of insect remain above water, and soothsayer does not risk sinking.
Because aquatic soothsayer actually lives simultaneously in two environments, in air and in water, it seems made of two halves of completely different insects. This feature has determined the generic name of this insect – Dimorphomantis, “the soothsayer of two shapes”. The length of this creature exceeds 15 cm: it is rather large species of soothsayers though its larger congeners live in tropical rainforests.
Forward part of body of the aquatic soothsayer is colored yellowish, very much lengthened and thin. It makes approximately two thirds of general length of insect. Forward pair of legs of aquatic soothsayer is well advanced and very strong. Segments of forward legs are expanded and also resemble a pair of leaves growing on thin stem. From outside they are colored bright green, and their internal surface is grayish-white. Head of this insect is flat and triangular; spherical eyes are very big. It is very mobile, and eyes provide the full circular field of view. Aquatic soothsayer catches prey using sight and chemical feeling. Usually it perches motionlessly at the surface of water, waiting while catch of suitable size will swim up to it closely enough. This soothsayer catches fry of fishes and various water insects. Sharp thorns on internal surface of legs permit it to kill even dangerous insect like water bug quickly.
Abdomen of aquatic soothsayer, on the contrary, is wide and flat. It imitates leaves of marsh plant sticking up from water rather good. Wings folded on back and having pattern of light nerves on green background strengthen the accuracy of this imitation. Walking legs at this insect have usual for soothsayer structure, but are only more tenacious. Aquatic soothsayer frequently masks among water plants, having perched on the bottom side of leaf. So it becomes invisible to predators from air, and protective colouring masks insect from sights of underwater predators. Wings of aquatic soothsayer are very short, and this insect can not fly. But even if wings would be advanced enough, the structure of body would not permit this insect to fly up. Therefore wings of aquatic soothsayer had lost initial function of flight, and serve for masking. At males second pair of wings has bright strips and spots – bases of wings have small brown spots on yellow background, edge of wing is bright yellow. Opening wings and flapping them, male shows to the female readiness for pairing. Also the male of aquatic soothsayer is “musical”: calling the female, it rubs jags on forward pair of legs against each other. The sound is well audible in water, and the ear at soothsayers is located between forward legs. Therefore female reached the maturity and ready to breeding hears courtship calls of the male well. It answers them with short clicks even more stimulating “musical” abilities of the male.
Similarly to all soothsayers, aquatic soothsayer breeds once in life. During the pairing female devours the male. The stock of sperm received by it till the pairing is sufficient to make some clutches. Female lays among reed few ootecas (clutches packed into common dense environment), and then quickly perishes of the exhaustion.
Approximately after 8 – 10 days from eggs larvae very similar to adult insects, but wingless, burst. Young growth of aquatic soothsayer is also connected to water in life, but it occurs differently, rather than at adult individuals. Young aquatic soothsayers are very tiny; therefore it is difficult for them to break through the surface tension film. But it not the obstacle for them: larvae of aquatic soothsayer settle on surface film of water and live in places protected of wind. Aquatic soothsayers settled in other reservoirs mainly at the larval stage, often migrating on floating plants. Adult insects lead settled life.
Larvae have hairs on tips of walking legs with which help they keep on surface tension film. Hairs are covered with wax-like substance that makes them hydrophobous. This substance is emitted from glands on the tip of abdomen, and insect not occupied with hunting serially greases legs with it. Thill first days of life young aquatic soothsayers catch springtails (Collembola) living on water surface, then start to gather small insects fallen in water. Water bugs become catch of larvae of advanced age. Gradually growing up larvae start to hunt fish fry hiding among water plants, applying the same mode, as adult insects.
At later stages of development (after the penultimate moult) young insects start exclusively underwater hunt. At this time wax gland starts to produce much larger amount of wax, and insect starts to grease with it an abdomen. Such feature of behavior helps to immerse in water deeper in searches of catch, and rescues when the insect casually falls in water – in this case aquatic soothsayer has some minutes to get out of water.
The aquatic soothsayer is successfully protected from predatory fishes, striking impacts by spiny forward legs. In ponds of China it has the dexterous imitator – one local frog species.

Super-longest archobaculum (Archobaculum prelongissimus)
Order: Walking sticks (Phasmoptera)
Family: Baculids (Baculidae)

Habitat: rainforests of Meganesia, a forest canopy.
In the world of insects it is difficult to be a giant. Insects have certain features of physiology which impose essential restrictions to opportunities of size increasing. Those ones are tracheal respiring and loss of ability to transfer oxygen by blood (hemolymph). Therefore even largest species of insects, living in atmosphere with low contents of oxygen, can not become giants. Epoch of Carboniferous with the high contents of oxygen in air and absence of competition to flying vertebrates gone irrevocably. Therefore in Neocene the largest species of insects all the same have small weight and represent the unique phenomenon among small relatives. Walking stick species super-longest archobaculum, living in tropical forests of Meganesia, evidently shows the restrictions connected to body weight. This is one of the largest insects of Neocene: the length of its body reaches 40 centimeters. But thus its thickness does not exceed 15 mm. This giant has lost ability to fly, and its wings are strongly decreased in size; at the female of this insect wings are completely reduced.
Archobaculum is, in fact, the huge variant of small walking sticks. Its body has cylindrical form, and head is short and almost spherical, with short antennas. Legs of this insect are very long and thin – they are only a little shorter than the body. The grayish-colored body of archobaculum with knobs and dark spots imitates tree bark texture. On head and thoracal segments knobs are numerous, and covers of abdomen are smoother. Only on terminal segment of abdomen there are some small outgrowths helping to male and female to fix stronger during the copulation.
At archobaculum sexual dimorphism is well expressed. Males of this insect are smaller and more movable, rather than females – their maximal length is no more 30 centimeters. Male also differs from the female in presence of the small outgrowths, imitating parts of leaf almost completely eaten by caterpillars, on shins of forward pair of legs. These sites of body are dark green with bright green longitudinal line on shin imitating middle nerve of leaf. This adaptation serves for courtship combat – males push each other away from the female by front pair of legs. Demonstrating itself to the female, male displays to it courtship ritual: it spreads legs of front pair and opens bright reduced wings of back pair – they are yellow with black border and several spots at the root. These wings can not lift this insect in air, and are used only for courtship display. In rest they are covered, as if by covers, by narrow front wings.
This species is almost defenseless to predators. A plenty of young ones perishes from small insectivorous birds, larger individuals are eaten by reptiles and mammals. The basic protection of super-longest archobaculum is the protective similarity to branch of tree. Having felt danger, insect clings to branch and extends forward front pair of legs pressed together. Thus the walking stick seems the continuation of branch. The disturbed insect emits unpleasant smell, but can not give even any repulse to predator at all.
Males of super-longest archobaculum meet less often, than females, but such disproportion does not interfere with breeding of insects. At absence of males females simply lay parthenogenetic eggs from which normal viable young ones hatch – but only females do. On some islands this species of insects is presented only by females.
The success of this species in settling is caused by two important features of these insects. First, super-longest archobaculum is herbivorous species consuming wide spectrum of vegetative food. At other species of walking sticks the number of fodder plants species may be strongly limited, and it interferes with their settling.
The second component of success of this insect is the feature of eggs structure. The majority of walking sticks lays eggs with dense dry shell, which fall on the ground and can rest during very long time. The female of super-longest archobaculum lays eggs on the bottom side of leaves with the help of mobile tip of abdomen. The egg of this insect is placed on long threadlike stem and has shell sticky because of slime not drying up for a long time. It endures gusts, but is easily pasted to feathers of birds and wool of mammals. Vertebrate animals have considerably larger abilities to settling, than these insects, therefore due to their “services” super-longest archobaculum is very widely settled in rainforests of Meganesia. Besides if the egg will fall on the ground from forest canopy, it will be very difficult for larva bursting from it to rise back to forest canopy to find fodder plants. Eggs at the female of super-longest archobaculum are produced, as if on the conveyor. It can lay no more than 15 – 20 eggs per day, but keeps such daily fertility during the whole adult life (after last moult).
Larvae of super-longest archobaculum differ from adult individuals only in smaller size and smoother body. Outgrowths and knobs characteristic for adult insect appear at them only after penultimate moult. Development of the larva proceeds till about 15 months, and life expectancy of adult insect seldom exceeds half-year.

Saw-legged dragon grasshopper (Serratipodus dracocephalus)
Order: Orthopters (Orthoptera)
Family: “Awful grasshoppers” (Horrodecticidae)

Habitat: woods at the islands of Pacific Ocean.

Picture by Sergey Ivanov

Islands are fairly named as “hearth of evolution”. Here there is a fastest rate of new species formation, and here life gets the most fantastical forms.
As a rule, at the islands never been a part of continent, the fauna consists of species able to flight, or lost this ability already after island settling. At islands there are no representatives of many groups of animals and plants, characteristic for continents. And at islands there are many free ecological niches which sometimes are occupied with species completely unexpected in this role. At islands of Pacific Ocean the place of small predators was occupied with the huge representative of insects - the distant relative of common grasshoppers, the saw-legged dragon grasshopper.
On contrary to popular belief, the significant part of grasshoppers is predators (and herbivorous locusts belong to other family). The saw-legged dragon grasshopper is the huge representative of grasshoppers: the length of its body reaches 20 cm, and because of long antennae and wings he seems even larger. Among the impoverished fauna of islands it occupies an ecological niche of small predators, attacking large insects and small vertebrates - birds and rodents. This species also eats carrion: after storm or during outflow saw-legged dragon grasshoppers wander along ocean coast, eating dead sea animals or gathering inhabitants of the ocean has got in pools at the coast.
Adaptation to predating is visible in appearance of insect: forward legs of saw-legged grasshopper are very long (they are equal to back legs by length), on their internal side there are sharp thorns: this is the adaptation for catch seizing. Powerful mandibles of insect easily crush both armour of beetle, and bones of small vertebrates. Frequently saw-legged dragon grasshopper swarms up trees searching for bird nests: it equally willingly eats eggs and nestlings of small species of birds.
Back legs of this insect as at the majority of representatives of order, are rather long, but because of large weight this insect is not able to hop. But this huge grasshopper swarms up trees well: on its paws tenacious claws, permitting to heavy insect to cling to slightest jogs of bark, are advanced.
On large head of saw-legged dragon grasshopper there is a plenty of knobs and outgrowths especially advanced at males. They give to this insects fantastical appearance, and serve for tournament fights in breeding season. antennae of saw-legged dragon grasshoppers are very long too: they are equal to body by length. On thorax at males two bent horns are advanced sticking up upwards and in sides.
Colouring of this insect quietly sitting on tree seems modest: body is gray-brown with small black speckles. The brightest part of body of saw-legged dragon grasshopper, the back pair of wings, at this moment is latent. But during courtship duels or at caring for the female males open them, showing bright pattern: black “grid” of nerves on yellow background; near the basement of wing there is big red spot. Top wings of insect are reddish-brown with grey cross strips, on edge nerves the sound device is advanced: a line of tiny denticles. During chirring the insect rubs one wing against another, uttering sounds heard at the distance of one hundred meters.
Despite of size, this insect is able to fly, and even can make distant flights between islands, especially at good fair wind. Such way saw-legged dragon grasshoppers had settled practically at all in slightest degree suitable for life islands in tropical zone of Pacific Ocean. The unique limiting factor for them is the presence of fresh water. But at small islands these insects find enough moisture in puddles accumulating after rain in bases of palm leaf petioles.
These large insects can breed all the year round. The female differs from the male with fuller abdomen, long saber-like ovipositor and pale colouring of wings. Males find females ready to breeding by smell. During acquaintance male creeps up to the female from the side of head, widely opening and planting in sides bright wings. Thus it moves by antennae, touching by them to antennae of the female. When the female reciprocates, male closes wings and starts to chirr loudly, rubbing one wing against another. Thus it declares the rights on the female. If near one female some males gather, they begin original “tournament” in which the strongest one is displaying. Males up to the last moment avoid to enter direct collision which can be finished by death of one of them, and superiority is defined by loudness of chirring and brightness of coloring of wings. Males start to chirr, to short time interrupting warbles with demonstration of unwrapped wings. Weaker males at once leave a place of competitions, and gradually near the female only one or two contenders stay. If it is impossible to define the strongest one in the peace way, and not any male wish to concede, between them fight is possible. Strong forward legs are in use, with which contenders grip each other by bases of antennae and try to push aside from the female. Fight is accompanied with menacing chirring and demonstration of opened wings.
Pairing lasts not for long, then the male loses interest to the female and crawls out. With the help of long ovipositor female places portion of two - three tens large eggs in friable, well warmed up ground, and does not care any more about them. For all life she can make up to ten clutches.
All orthopters are insects with incomplete metamorphosis: from eggs larvae similar to an adult insect excluse. Young saw-legged dragon grasshoppers about 5 millimeters long eat different delicate insects - plant lice and tiny caterpillars. At half-year age they grow up to the size of adult insect, and become able to breeding. At the lack of forage they will turn to “scanty” ones with thin long body and wide wings. Such individuals fly perfectly, and easily move from island to another one searching of favorable conditions for life.

Hawaiian red-masked sawleg (Horrodecticus larva-rubra)
Order: Orthopters (Orthoptera)
Family: Awful grasshoppers (Horrodecticidae)

Habitat: Hawaii Archipelago, rainforest canopy.

Picture by Fanboyphilosopher

In human epoch in New Zealand huge endemic orthopters lived – slow-moving herbivorous wetas (family Deinacridae). These creatures were typical inhabitants of the ecosystem lack of terrestrial predators of small and medium size, and appeared low resistant to competitors in a human epoch when in New Zealand due to human activity terrestrial mammals have appeared. In Neocene epoch wetas had died out at the large islands, and only separate relic species had been kept at the separate small islets where rats and predators of mustelid family had not got.
In Neocene at the tropical islands of Pacific Ocean evolution of insects had created new group of orthopters – sawlegs, large predating insects. They descend from grasshoppers, and, possible, Indonesia was the centre of their origin. Because sawleg ancestors evolved surrounded by possible predators and competitors, they had not lost ability to self-defense. At predator’s attack sawlegs protect themselves actively by bites, seize an aggressor with strong forward legs armed with sharp spikes. Besides as against wetas, sawlegs are good flyers, and one of species, saw-legged dragon grasshopper (Serratipodus dracocephalus), had settled to many islands of Pacific Ocean. Hawaiian Islands became one of the centres of specific variety of sawlegs, where some species of these predatory insects live. One of typical Hawaiian species is Hawaiian red-masked sawleg.
It is rather large species of orthopters kept ability to fly. It had easily settled to all islands of archipelago and lives in crones of trees. Body length of this sawleg is about 18 centimeters. Body and front pair of wings have camouflage colouring – brown with dark faltering lines imitating the facture of wood bark, and separate irregular-shaped light spots. In different populations these spots may differ in color from light grey up to yellow and greenish. The second pair of wings is colored very brightly – on transparent background bright blue spots with iridescent shine and black border are scattered. Head of this insect has no outgrowths and lumps, except for low cross crest between the bases of antennae; it has shining black color, but front part of head and forehead are bright red. It is warning colouring: this insect is well protected from small predators. Hawaiian red-masked sawleg has very large mandibles with jagged internal edges. The external edge of mandibles is colored white, contrasting with colouring of head.
The enlarged front pair of legs is a general feature of sawleg family. At this species legs of forward pair differ in expanded segments and are similar a little to legs of soothsayers. The external surface of legs has camouflage color, and internal side is snow-white and smooth. Threatening an aggressor or the congener, males of sawleg spread in sides front pair of legs, displaying well appreciable colouring of their internal surface. The internal edges of segments adjoining with each other, have saw-like lines of sharp prickles, helping to keep prey. This species is a predator; it hunts large insects, snails, cubs of rodents and nestlings of small birds nesting on trees. Due to strong mandibles this insect easily cracks shells of ground snails and bones of small vertebrates.
Hawaiian red-masked sawleg is well protected from attack of predators. In case of danger it emits acrid liquid from abdomen – it is stored in special outgrowth of hindgut. At threat this insect also displays to aggressor red “mask” and widely opens mandibles. Displaying the threatening pose, sawleg rises on legs and rocks, seizing for branch. If the enemy does not recede, insect opens back wings, showing spots, and raises an abdomen. After this pose “shot” of jet of caustic liquid into the aggressor follows.
The female of red-masked sawleg is heavy-built and moves slowly, but the male is good flyer. Males of Hawaiian red-masked sawleg frequently fly from island to the next one, carrying their genes into new populations, therefore local forms of these insects have a set of transitive variants and are indistinctly separated from each other.
The stridulation organ at these insects is located at the edges of front pair of wings leaning against each other. Courting the female, male sings special “love song”, producing short series of melodious chirring. At the different species living in common, sounding of songs strongly differs.
If near the same female two males meet, they arrange the duel accompanying with loud lingering chirring. As these insects live in the area of tropical climate, seasonal prevalence in breeding is not expressed. The female lays up to 200 large eggs in hole, making it in wood ground with the help of ovipositor. Egg laying repeats every five – six days during eight months (the deadline of imago life is those). Young insects develop within almost two years, and during almost whole life they keep camouflage colouring. They lead terrestrial way of life and can jump – it helps them to escape from ground crabs.
At Hawaii close species of sawlegs live:
Hawaiian mimic sawleg (Horrodecticus trixter) evolved side-by-side with Hawaiian red-masked sawleg and shows an example of Mullerian mimicry. It also has red “mask” and is able to protect itself against enemies. It can not splash out acrid liquid, and only belches from mouth unpleasantly smelling sticky substance. But this insect aggressively defends itself from the enemy and puts to it painful wounds by thorns of front legs.
Reef sawleg (Horrodecticus thalassophilus) lives in mangrove thickets and has intensive green color with brownish nerves on wings. Forward part of body of this insect is yellowish. The length of body of this insect reaches 18 cm. It has rather thin and long front legs; that’s why the insect seems larger. During the outflow reef sawleg hunts small sea animals in littoral pools. This insect immerses forward part of body in water and catches prey by front legs. This insect usually eats young fishes, small crabs and molluscs. If there are no mangrove thickets at coast, this insect lives in forests and hunts at the reef during the outflow.
Flat-legged sawleg (Platydecticus platypodus) is a terrestrial species of sawlegs. It has camouflage colouring, and only internal surfaces of front legs have white colouring. Its body is covered with tiny tubercles, and this insect is successfully masking in fallen foliage. This sawleg has muscled front legs. It eats carrion and and hunts ground crabs. Frequently it digs out holes of crabs and pulls out from them the moulted animals still having soft carapace.

Scorpio earwig (Scorpiforficula cervicera)
Order: Dermapters (Dermaptera)
Family: Earwigs (Forficulidae)

Habitat: Balkan, southern and western coast of Fourseas.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov

Forests of temperate latitudes differ from tropical rainforests in presence of thick layer of soil. In tropical forest soil layer is very thin, and under it there is a layer of infertile mineral substratum. In forests of temperate latitudes and subtropics ground layer is considerably thicker. Ground of these forests is rich in various live beings which process dying off organic substance to the condition easier absorbing by plants.
Among ground animals of temperate latitudes earwigs (order Dermaptera), the insects changed externally a little from Paleozoic era, are characteristic. Separate species of these insects had successfully survived till the ice age at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene, and had given rise to several interesting species of Neocene epoch. In subtropical forests of Balkan and coastal areas of Fourseas there is one very large species of this group, the scorpio earwig.
The body length of scorpio earwig reaches 5 – 6 cm; it is the largest representative of order in Neocene. This is heavy-built wingless insect with strong long legs which is able to run quickly – escaping from the enemy, scorpio earwig accelerates momentum up to 20 cm per one second.
Scorpio earwig looks very impressively – its covers have black color with faint metal shine. This insect is not able to fly, and its wings had undergone the reduction – the back pair of wings had vanished completely, and two small outgrowths on thorax remain from forward wings. Cercuses at this insect are large, reddish-brown, differing in shape at insects of different genders. At males they have the additional outgrowth directed inside – hence the specific epithet meaning “deer-horned”. At females cercuses are wider and lack an additional outgrowth. The difference in cercuses shape is connected to their different role in life of insects of different genders. Males use cercuses for courtship combat, and female hatches posterity on them.
In human epoch at earwigs various forms of care of posterity were recorded. Scorpio earwig is not exception here. It differs in strongly advanced parental instinct and original care of posterity. The laying of this species totals about fifty large eggs. It is covered with the common foamy environment which dries up and forms a semblance of porous cocoon. Female constantly carries clutch in cercuses, having bent them above head (at this moment it is similar to scorpion, hence the name).
Common earwig (Forficula auricularia) which, most likely, was an ancestor of this species, perished right after bursting of young ones and the posterity ate remains of their own mother. The female of scorpio earwig does not perish after the bursting of posterity, because before it had led almost habitual way of life. It continues to carry the hatched young growth on back, and additionally feeds young ones with belched semidigested food. For this reason the survival rate of posterity of early age at this species is very high. During the feeding of young growth female raises head upwards, and belches a part of food. Young insects (similar externally to adult individual, but translucent) creep right on its head and eat belched food.
Scorpio earwig is a predator. Its prey includes slugs and sot-bodied insects (caterpillars and grubs). Also this insect eats carrion.

Rabbit earwig (Graciliforficula cuninculiphila)
Order: Dermapters (Dermaptera)
Family: Earwigs (Forficulidae)

Habitat: New Zealand, colonies of castle rabbit, caves.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov

Species of animals, widely settled at the Earth due to human activity, occupied ecological niches in new ecosystems. Frequently it proceeded to the detriment of local flora and fauna, but occasionally such process passed not so sharply. After extinction of mankind species of animals and plants introduced to habitats unusual for them began to evolve and to survive in equal conditions with native species. Species got advantage because of ability to live in anthropogenous landscape died out, as a rule. Other species adapted to life in natural environment and became a part of new ecosystems.
In New Zealand common earwig (Forficula auricularia) was one of numerous introduced species. Its descendants had adapted to life in forests of islands and differ from the ancestor a little, but one species had chosen absolutely special inhabitancy.
For fauna of Neocene mammals of New Zealand castle rabbit is characteristic. It is a social species of herbivorous mammals building strong and long-term constructions in which all colony lives. Many species of invertebrates being symbiotes, commensals and parasites of rabbits live in system of tunnels and chambers of these animals. The descendant of common earwig living in nest litter is completely blind rabbit earwig.
This insect is perfectly adapted to life in warm and humid holes of rabbit, but hardly can survive at the ground surface. Its covers are thin and soft, as if at termite, colored yellowish-white, even translucent on the bottom side of abdomen. The length of insect does not exceed 25 millimeters. A constitution of this earwig is very fragile and delicate – it has long flexible body with short legs, and thin cercuses bent on tips. Wings at rabbit earwig are reduced – it never leaves rabbit holes and spends the whole life in litter of their nests.
Head and cercuses are the firmest parts of body of this insect. Despite of delicate constitution, rabbit earwig is an active predator. Its prey includes various insects living temporarily or constantly in dwellings of rabbits. More often flea larvae living in litter of nest fall prey of this insect, but occasionally rabbit earwig eats larvae of crickets and cockroaches.
For breeding this insect chooses burrows not visited by rabbits for a long time. In friable walls of holes it digs a short tunnel ending by nest chamber. In chamber the female of this earwig lays up to 50 eggs and protects them right to bursting of young ones, having turned around of them. Frequently females of rabbit earwig form small colonies, arranging holes near each other. Larvae and adult individuals at overpopulation of colony move in new habitats. For this purpose they use “services” of castle rabbits – insects simply creep in their wool.
This species of insects can live not only in colonies of castle rabbits. Rabbit earwig can form small populations in caves populated by bats. In caves they hunt cockroaches and larvae of flies settling in dung of bats.

Spiderweb scorpion fly (Xenopanorpa arachnophila)
Order: Scorpion flies (Mecoptera)
Family: Scorpion flies (Panorpidae)

Habitat: warm-moderate areas of Europe.
In Holocene epoch scorpion flies (Panorpa) were among the most widespread insects in temperate latitudes of Eurasia. These insects, eating dead small animals, had one interesting feature: having got in spider web, scorpion fly easily escapes from it, washing sticky strings from legs by saliva. In Neocene among scorpion flies one species appeared, at which this feature has received unexpected development – it is spiderweb scorpion fly. This species of insects lives in places where it simply dangerous for life to appear for other insects: near spider webs of various species of spiders, where always there is an opportunity to find the insects got in trap placed by spider. Actually, this scorpion fly plunders spiders, sucking out the caught insects. Thus, it displays the phenomenon of cleptoparasitism among arthropods.
Spiderweb scorpion fly has very gracile constitution – it has long body with mobile abdomen, which in rest is inflexed by the way characteristic for these insects. Thin long legs help spiderweb scorpion fly to move quickly. It is able to fly good, but during the feeding on a web moves basically run. Only at approach of spider and occurrence of real danger to life this insect flies up. Body of spiderweb scorpion fly is light grey, head is black, and the tip of abdomen is reddish-brown with yellowish border. Males have this border a little bit wider, than females. Also самец has spender and more graceful addition. Length of body of this insect is about 2 cm.
Head of this insect is extended to long proboscis slightly bent from top to bottom. Due to mobile joint of head with thorax this insect can turn head on a corner up to 180 degrees.
On paws of spiderweb scorpion fly glands are advanced, secreting rich gel-like substance. Spiderweb scorpion fly additionally greases paws with saliva, which provides even more free movement on spiderweb. Due to such adaptation the insect does not stick to web and can move freely on it in searches of prey.
Strong narrow wings allow spiderweb scorpion fly to fly quickly though this insect basically runs.
Spiderweb scorpion flies keep near web of large species of spiders. In rest the insect keeps near edge of spiderweb, having put tips of antennae to web strings. When in web the insect is caught, scorpion fly feels its movements. If the spider moves to prey faster, scorpion fly waits, while it will braid prey by web and will inject digestive enzymes in it. After that the insect cautiously creeps to the prey prepared by spider and sucks it out with the help of a proboscis.
Pairing at spiderweb scorpion flies takes place outside of spiderweb, but near to habitat of the female. Males are less adhered to their inhabitancy, and frequently feed on web near which the female lives. Within one summer the female lays up to 200 eggs in small portions.
The larva of spiderweb scorpion fly lives in wood litter. It is similar to caterpillars of butterflies, but differs from them in high “crest” of gland-bearing hairs. Bulb-like tips of hairs emit unpleasantly smelling liquid with which help the larva protects itself against ants. The same liquid serves as original “glue”: with its help the larva fixes on the body pieces of rotten leaves and bark, providing itself additional masking. It eats small digging invertebrates. Development of the larva proceeds within about one year; it winters, having dug in wood litter.

Vinegar ground beetle (Deinocarabus acetiferus)
Order: Beetles (Coleoptera)
Family: Ground beetles (Carabidae)

Habitat: Southwest Europe, North Africa, Atlas Mountains.

Picture by Amplion

Insects are one of the most successful groups of terrestrial inhabitants. Features of anatomy of respiratory system do not permit them to turn to large animals, but in small-sized class they are out of competition among other groups of terrestrial animals by variety and abilities to adaptation. Huge number of populations, wide spectrum of variability and fast alternation of generations successfully allow them to adapt to various changes of environment. Among insects there are species having interesting adaptations for survival.
In Neocene strait of Gibraltar was closed for ever because of movement of Africa to the north, and Mediterranean Sea had turned to circuit of salt lakes and swamps with few islets of land. The western Europe and North Africa in Neocene became unite land where rather dry climate dominates. On grasslands overgrown with dry light forest, there is penetrating heat in summer, and the majority of animals hide in shadow places, or at all pass to underground way of life. However heat is not dangerous to insects, and they become even more active when sun is almost in zenith.
Large predatory beetle, the vinegar ground beetle lives in grasslands of Western Europe and North Africa. The length of this insect reaches 7 – 8 cm: it is the largest representative of ground beetles living beyond the area of tropical forests. Vinegar ground beetle is not able to fly (it is the common feature of all ground beetles), but runs very quickly. Elytrums form strong armour on its body, protecting insect from birds. However, the main protective adaptation of this beetle is not armour. Colouring of insect is dark blue with metal shine. Elytrums are covered with set of knobs forming longitudal lines. Prothorax of vinegar ground beetle is smooth, with white oculate spots. Long legs of insect strongly contrast with body colouring – they are bright red, covered with shining shell. Such colouring is warning – vinegar ground beetle easily defends from small predators belong to vertebrates.
Sight of vinegar ground beetle is good; eyes are large and spherical. Strong mandibles of the beetle with sharp cutting edges can bite through even skin of vertebrate animals, therefore vinegar ground beetle has very few enemies among animals of size comparable to it. But its main protective adaptation is the chemical weapon, able to stop an attack even of large predator. Ground beetles of Holocene epoch differed in ability to emit caustic chemical substances with unpleasant smell. Hit of liquid of large species on skin could cause painful chemical burns in aggressor. Vinegar ground beetle has even more succeeded in chemical war leading: it has transformed the poison inherited from ancestors to offensive weapon. This insect can be dangerous to rodents and other inhabitants of holes – the beetle emits poisonous easily evaporating substance having suffocating action. This way vinegar ground beetle quickly kills small animals in closed space of holes, where the ventilation is insufficient. Especially frequently cubs of rodents and others burrowing animals become prey of vinegar ground beetle. Secretions of the beetle strongly smell as vinegar – hence its name.
On the ground surface vinegar ground beetle also attacks small vertebrates – frogs and small lizards. As the chemical weapon on ground surface influences less effectively, vinegar ground beetle chases them. Also this beetle eats large insects and spiders. Having killed prey large in comparison with itself, beetle stays near to it while it starts to spoil. Thus the insect furiously protects catch from congeners. If near dead animal two beetles of this species meet, between them severe fight is fastened.
Holes of mammals are not only hunting territory, but also an incubator for eggs of vinegar ground beetle. This insect lays eggs one by one and leaves them slightly dug in top layer of ground inside the tunnels dug by rodents. Fertility of the female makes up to 300 eggs for 6 – 7 months (imago of this beetle lives so much time). In conditions of constant humidity and good aeration eggs of vinegar ground beetle incubating successfully, and after 9 – 12 days from them small worm-like larvae burst. They quickly dig in ground, and till first some weeks of life eat ground invertebrates. Development of larvae of vinegar ground beetle is delayed for two years. The larva of advanced age shortly before metamorphosis is frightening creature in shining armour of black color, up to 15 cm long, with advanced legs. It lives in friable ground where digs a system of its own tunnels and hunts digging insects and their larvae. In droughty districts larvae of vinegar ground beetles meet mainly under stones, where ground is rather damp, or in deep layers of ground, in holes of mammals. Larvae of vinegar ground beetle are creatures on which well-being the set of animals in extensive territory in Western Europe and North Africa depends. These creatures eat clutches of locusts dug in the ground, and thus adjust number of these gluttonous orthopters.

Narrow-sided fur beetle (Pellibius compressipleurus)
Order: Beetles (Coleoptera)
Family: Leather-winged beetles (Cantaridae)

Habitat: South America, moderate and cool areas, commensal at large animals.
Large species of animals are an extensive habitat for various parasites. On each species the unique community of parasitic animal’s species (parasitocenosis) is formed – some of their species are strict special for the present species of large animals. Abundance of parasites involves various predators. Some of them only incidentally meet on large parasitocenosis host animals, and others spend on them at least all life. Usually these predators are insects though among parasite hunters there are even bats living on body of obda – the huge herbivorous animal of Eurasia. On groundsloth rodents living in Neocene epoch in Patagonia, the separate species of tiny marsupial mammals lives. But the original beetle – narrow-sided fur beetle – shares with this mammal places of inhabiting. For quite explained reasons the doctor caenolestes does not settle in feathering of large birds, but this beetle can live even there though it obviously prefers for life mammal wool.
Narrow-sided fur beetle had not changed predating habits of representatives of its family, but it hunts specific catch: mites, trichodecteses and other parasites plentifully inhabiting wool of large mammals. Strong chewing jaws permit this beetle easily crack even firm shells of mites.
The beetle is perfectly adapted to movement among hair – as at the flea, its body is strongly compressed at sides, short and deep. Elytrums of the beetle have the specific shape: they do not cover body from above, but cover it from sides, adjoining along the bottom side of abdomen. Narrow-sided fur beetle has not lost ability to fly. Moreover, this ability is vital for it – having exterminated parasites on any animal, this beetle simply flies to another one. In flight wide elytrums are stretched sideways, creating some elevating force similarly to plane wings.
This species of beetles ise poisonous, as well as many representatives of its family – in body of this insect the small amount of cantarid poison is accumulated. Colouring of elytrums of the beetle is bright and warning: it is orange with faltering longitudinal black strips. Usually birds or mammals do not search this beetle specially, but can injure it, cleaning themselves. In case of danger (for example when the animal is scratched or cleans wool by claws) the beetle simply draws legs in and slips out from wool or feathers of the host on the ground, and then flies up and returns to the body of the host.
At the fur beetle there are short tenacious legs, and this insect can quickly run among wool or feathers of the host animal.
Eyes at this beetle are well advanced, because it leads an active habit of life and can fly. With the help of sharp sense of smell the beetle easily finds parasites sitting on large animal among wool. antennae of this beetle are feather-like (it is an attribute of well advanced sense of smell) and short. When the beetle creeps on body of the host animal, they are wrapped and hided under head.
This beetle lives in conditions of seasonal climate. It spends winter in shelters on the ground, but in northern (warmer) parts of the area it occasionally spends winter on animals.
Fertility of narrow-sided fur beetle is not so big: the female lays for all life no more than thousand eggs in small fine portions. It pastes eggs one by one on covers of the host animal. The larva bursts in one week. It develops right on the body of host animal within approximately two months (larvae bursted later, spend winter on the body of host animal). Larva is active, worm-looking, with well advanced legs. Covers of its body are rather soft, but head capsule is firm, and mandibles are well advanced. It also is a predator and attacks parasitic and blood-sucking insects. While the larva is small, it feeds with mortifying particles of host animal skin. Larva pupates in ground. Duration of metamorphosis is about two weeks.

Menthol leaf beetle (Menthodoromela chemica)
Order: Beetles (Coleoptera)
Family: Leaf beetles (Chrysomelidae)

Habitat: Southern and South-Eastern Asia, thickets of mint tree.
At each species of plants numerous species of animals feed. Sometimes the plant protects itself from numerous eaters, accumulating in leaves and stalks various chemical substances frightening off the majority of herbivores. But evolution develops the absolute weapon seldom: for some animals chemical protection of plants is not a problem, and due to the adaptation produced by plant, they practically lose competitors.
Among shades of greenery of tropical rainforests silvery “caps” of crones of mint tree (Menthoxylon leucophyllum) are remarkable. This plant accumulates in foliage plenty of menthol giving to greenery of plant characteristic smack. But not all insects bypass its foliage. Many leaves of this tree are perforated by holes, and their edges are gnawed.
Originators of damages openly feed on leaves of tree. They are big-bellied beetles of emerald-green color about 1 cm long. At them there are thin short antennae and tenacious legs. They lazily creep on branch, or motionlessly sit on leaves, gnawing their edges. Near to adult insects larvae feed. They gnaw soft pulp of leaves, leaving from them only net of nerves. It is menthol leaf beetle - one of few insects eating leaves of mint tree.
By the habit of life these beetles differ only a little from other leaf beetles. But in connection with specific diet at this insect the special protective adaptation has appeared. For protection against enemies many insects accumulate various liquids having unpleasant taste. Menthol leaf beetle is not exception here. But it has ability to accumulate in special glands menthol from plant, and adds it in pungent liquid secreting for protection. The principle of action of the chemical weapon of this beetle is, that menthol irritates flavoring receptors of predator and by that strengthens action of poison.
Menthol leaf beetles lay eggs on bottom side of leaves where they will not dry up right in the sun. Larvae in first days of life keep on the bottom side of leaves, then creep to top one. They are light green, but through translucent cuticle interior and intestines, filled with chewed greenery are visible. Development of larvae proceeds about one month. For one year the menthol leaf beetle can produce up to 4 generations.

Shepherd beetle (Dolichocurculio pastor)
Order: Beetles (Coleoptera)
Family: True weevils (Curculionidae)

Habitat: Mediterranean deserts, plants of leafless paunchstem invaded by water-bearing plant louse.

Picture by Amplion

Symbiosis is very favourable life strategy: mutually helping to each other, representatives of different species get ability to survive in extreme conditions and to form productive communities. Examples of this benefit are represented, accordingly, by lichens and coral polyps. Besides them, in nature there is a set of other species of live beings forming symbiotic connections and receiving success in survival due to it.
In desert at the edge of ultrahaline Mediterranean swamps sources of food are poor, but some species find an opportunity for specialization and exist due to it successfully even in extreme conditions. Among plants of this area there are many succulents reliably protecting stocks of water from herbivores with the help of poisons. One of these plants is leafless paunchstem, a succulent umbellate plant with thick leafless stalks. This plant is a habitat of various species of invertebrates. One of inhabitants of this plant is a large species of weevil beetles about 3 cm long, named shepherd beetle. This insect has ash-grey color with black legs and bottom part of body.
Adult insect of this species is omnivore. Shepherd beetle feeds on nectar of paunchstem, which is plentifully secreting at the inflorescences, but receives additional protein food, eating various small insects flying to inflorescences of paunchstem. The plant does not receive from its presence of any benefit, but there is one species of insects, for which the union with shepherd beetle has a vital importance.
In desert water is a biggest value for animals. Sap of paunchstem contains a plenty of alkaloids and is not suitable for drinking almost for all species of animals, except for small species of sucking insects, the water-bearing plant louse. In colonies of this plant louse shepherd beetle has found a plentiful source of drinking water. Each individual of plant louse from time to time secrets a drop of almost clean water not containing poisons and suitable for drinking. With the help of head extended as a proboscis this beetle easily gathers water in colony of plant lice, and due to it survives in hot desert.
The head of shepherd beetle is extended to very long proboscis exceeding in length thorax and abdomen in total. The proboscis is arc-like bent from top to bottom, the mouth and short antennae are located on its tip. On the top part of proboscis two or three pairs of acute spikes develop, sticking upwards and in sides. Neck of this insect is very mobile. Due to its movements head may be turned in under body and be curved forward by sharp movement – this way beetle strikes a blow by proboscis, armed with spikes. By such impacts of proboscis shepherd beetle drives away from plant lice of large insects which can injure them – predatory beetles, solitary wasps and grasshoppers. However, at food shortage it also can eat a small amount of water-bearing plant lice from preserving colony. But this casual damage is not comparable with the benefit, brought by this beetle to colonies of water-bearing lice, preserving them from enemies.
Legs of this beetle are very long – they are longer than a body of insect. Usually shepherd beetle cautiously walks in colony of plant lice, gathering liquid secreted by them. By short antennae and tentacles of lower lip this beetle tickles plant lice, and licks off their secretions.
It is able to fly, but makes it reluctantly and flies slowly because of massive head. Shepherd beetle flies at night and in the morning, while birds have not woken up. Being attacked by bird it folds wings or turns in legs, and falls on the ground, and then is hidden in cracks of ground under the plant.
When paunchstem plants begin blossoming, beetles move to their inflorescences and eat nectar. Inflorescences of paunchstem, reaching one meter in diameter, serve as a place of meeting of beetles of opposite sexes, and also as arena for determine of relations between contender males.
Fertilized female of shepherd beetle searches for egg laying for absolutely other species of plants – roots of paunchstem contain not less alkaloids, rather than its overground part, and larvae of this species do not eat them. Due to keen sense of smell the female of shepherd beetle searches for tubers of other deserted plants, located deeply in ground. It is dug in the ground above the tuber, and at the ground surface only a part of proboscis is visible. Having extended an abdomen, the beetle female lays eggs in ground as deep, as possible, and as close, as possible to the surface of tuber. The larva bursts from eggs and at once searches by smell for a tuber of fodder plant. It gnaws through the tuber and develops in its pulp during dry season. The larva keeps activity in winter – it is necessary to have time to pass the metamorphosis. The next year in spring it leaves tuber and pupates in the top layer of ground near to sprouts of fodder plant. Within one month it turns to adult beetle and flies out to search for fodder plant. Adult shepherd beetles perish at the end of an autumn.

“Termite bus” beetle (Termitophorus caementiferus)
Order: Coleopters, or Beetles (Coleoptera)
Family: Dung beetles (Geotrupidae)

Habitat: savannas of Northern Africa.
In Neocene African savannas are populated with large animals like in human epoch. But in the majority these ones are the representatives of other systematic groups, rather than in human epoch. Elephants, rhinos and giraffes had been replaced by other animals – the descendants of hyraxes, cursorial lagomorphs and giant ostriches. And their manure represents the source of food for numerous invertebrates, mainly for insects. Constantly renewed heaps of manure, left in savanna by large animals, represent the nutrient medium where the special kind of biocenosis of various invertebrates and fungi develops.
The important role in decomposition of the manure gathering at the pastures is played by dung beetles. Among the set of species of these insects there is one species surviving due to symbiotic relations with tiny-sized species of manure-eating termites. With the greatest probability it may be met in termitaries, and because of special role of this beetle in settling of termites it is named “termite bus” beetle. This rather large insect begins the life cycle as the thick worm-like grub carefully raising by termites in their dwelling in thickness of manure heap. It feeds on manure, and at early age while it is rather small, termites feed it as if their own congeners. Large larvae can feed independently. As they can destroy galleries of termites, eating manure, termites “move out” such larvae to the edge of termitary. In larval stage of development “termite bus” beetle is the supplier of building material for termites: its dung hardens in air as firm paste, and termites form of it vaults and galleries of their dwelling. Hence the specific epithet: “caementiferus” means “cement-bearing”. At the end of larval stage of life cycle this insect makes of dung pulp strong cocoon in which termites can not disturb it in time of metamorphosis. In addition the larva serves as the supplier of some vitamins and other chemical compounds: the microflora in its intestines differs from microflora of termites, and bacteria produce biologically active substances which are partly used by the larva, and partly by the termites. This is one more advantage receiving by termites from the larva of “termite bus” beetle.
The adult beetle of this species looks very impressively: this is an insect of about 7 centimeters in length, of black color with metal green shine on elythra and bluish shine on legs. Elythra of this insect have the coarse-grained facture. Pronotum of this beetle has the special form at individuals of both genders: on back part of pronotum there is the deep hole covered at the front edge with original flat “screen” made of three fused horns. The internal part of hole is covered with rigid bristles.
The flight of beetles coincides to a greater or lesser extent with swarming of termites. During the courtship flight of termites, taking place at night, short-winged and almost flightless young “queen” leaves termitary in common with the part of “citizens”. The beetle leaves termitary, carrying such “passengers” on itself. During the flight of the beetle termite “queen” emits pheromones involving males. The adult beetle searches for heaps of manure suitable to settling, and frequently flies to manure heap already carrying the couple of termites ready to breeding. When the beetle is dug in manure, “screen” on its pronotum protects soft-bodied termites from damages. In heap of manure the female of “termite bus” beetle lays eggs. Larvae of this beetle can develop without the help of termites. When the colony of termites becomes stronger, ergates start to care of beetle larvae. Frequently females of this beetle lay eggs in available colony of termites, partly destroying it. But termites quickly restore damages, and eggs of the beetle appear in good conditions for incubation.
Besides termites, this bug carries on the body spores of mushroom Copragaricus growing on manure of large herbivorous mammals.

This species of insects was discovered by Mutant, the forum member.

Bird-eating wasp (Ornithosphex ornithophagus)
Order: Hymenoptera (Hymenoptera)
Family: Digger wasps (Sphecidae)

Habitat: Great Antigua, tropical forests.

Picture by Fanboyphilosopher

During evolution solitary wasps had turned to extremely specialized predators with complex behaviour. At these insects female specially prepares for the posterity insects or other invertebrates of certain species – it paralyzes them by sting, pulls to specially prepared nest and lays egg on the body of prey. The larva of wasp devours the paralyzed prey alive, protected by nest.
In Neocene separate species of parasitic Hymenoptera had made original “breakthrough” in development of parasitism. They passed to parasitizing on vertebrate animals. In Southeast Asia doctor wasp (Hygeiosphex antibioticus) lays eggs in hypoderm of small mammals, and its larva develops in body of animal, releasing it from other parasites. The species imitating it, the special kind of ichneumons, killer wasp (Pseudohygeia placebo), also attacks mammals. Its larva even breeds parthenogenetically in host organism. At Great Antigua Island some kinds of wasps parasitizing on vertebrates live. Frog-devouring wasp (Batrachovespa batrachovora) infects tadpoles of local frogs, and develops for a long time in body of animal, leaving it when host animal has undergone metamorphosis and has settled on land. And one more species of wasps from Great Antigua had passed to parasitism on birds independently of these species, and makes it by very complex way.
Antiguan bird-eating wasp is rather large insect. Length of its body is about 35 mm. It differs in fragile and graceful constitution: it has a long thin body, and short drop-like abdomen is located on long pedicle. The female of bird-eating wasp is covered with velvety grey hairs, giving to its body silky shine. The tip of abdomen at this insect is black and hairless, and has bright metal shine. Male differs from female in smaller size and more expressed silvery shine.
This wasp lays eggs in incubating eggs of medium-sized birds – pigeons, small parrots, passerines and other forest birds. Wasp searches a clutch with the help of sense of smell, and easily penetrates even into the spherical nests or nests made in hollows. The ovipositor at this species of wasps is very strong; it easily pierces egg-shell near the air chamber. During the egg laying special glands produce substance, sticking on the spot an aperture from prick of sting and thus the development of bird's egg is not broken. In egg of bird tiny larva finds a developing bird embryo, creeps into its digestive path and sticks to wall of intestines. Modified legs turned into suckers with small claws on edges and semicircular sucker on the back end of body work as organs an attachment at this one. The larva of bird-eating wasp feeds on blood of developing embryo. Usually from the eggs, infected by this wasp, weaker nestling having more chances to die hatches. If it happens, larva turns to active scavenger: in body of dead nestling wasp larva starts to eat meat, growing up to size necessary for further development much faster. If the nestling survives, the wasp larva continues eating of its blood and grows slower. In this case development of larva lasts till about six weeks. To the moment of preparation to metamorphosis it reaches length of about 10 cm. The body of larva at this stage is very long and flat, therefore bird in which body it parasitizes, continues rather normal existence. The larva ready to metamorphosis leaves body of host bird over intestines, and pupates in ground, in litter of nest of host bird, in forest litter or in moss thickets.

Mole wasp (Talposphex terrestris)
Order: Hymenoptera (Hymenoptera)
Family: Burrowing fossores (Terrasphecidae)

Habitat: Great Antigua, ground in rainforests.

Picture by Amplion

During evolution the species can get advantage in struggle for existence, having changed habit of life. As the stimulus to it the free ecological niche, or the big competitiveness of the beginner in comparison with species, that occupied this habitat earlier, can serve. At the island Great Antigua which separates Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, one of species of solitary wasps has gone such way of evolution. From the mobile flyer this insect has partly turned to digging creature which does not see sunlight. The new species of insects, the mole wasp, differs from neighbours by original habit of life: males look as usual wasps, hide in various shelters in daytime, and fly at night; females are not able to fly, burrow in ground and creep out to the surface only before pairing.
Mole wasp is a small insect. The shape of male and female sharply differs in connection with difference in way of life.
Length of body of the female is up to 3 cm. Body is lengthened, flexible, covered with strong chitinous armour. Wide shovel-like head is the main instrument of ground digging. Eyes of the female are small, hided in small holes on edges of head and protected by “eyebrows” composed by bristles. The upper lip is well advanced, serving for ground digging. Wings of the female have lost function of flight – they are dense and skinny, covering body of insect similarly to elytrums of beetle. On edges of wings small hooks grow, due to which wings are densely linked with each other. All legs of the female are rather short, with wide paws. The forward pair of legs is supplied with small thorns on edge – the wasp loosens ground by them, burrowing and repairing holes.
Male strongly differs from the female: it is a long-legged wasp about the same size, but of more graceful constitution with short rounded abdomen sitting on long stem. At it there is mobile head with sensitive feather-like antennae and big eyes. At the male there is very keen sense of smell – its success in breeding depends on how soon it will find out the female and will couple with her. The body of the male is colored black with violet metal shine. Wings of male are narrow and translucent, with black basic nerves.
Male and female eat different kinds of food: male sucks nectar of colors and wood sap flowing down from damaged bark, and female is a predator. Her catch is small digging insects and their larvae, and also small soil worms.
This species of wasps is parasite of invertebrates. Usually single wasps lay eggs on caterpillars of butterflies and other insects living openly, and also on spiders. Frequently they paralyze prey by poison, and larva simply eats alive “canned food”, reserved in nest. Mole wasp avoids competition to them due to that its larvae develop in completely other species of invertebrates. This species of wasps parasitizes on earthworms and other digging invertebrates – larvae of cicadas and beetles, root scale insects and other sedentary insects.
For pairing at night female creeps out on ground surface and hides under leaves. She involves males with smell which is emitting out from the special gland. Having felt it, male starts to run on leaves, as if a police dog, trying to find its source. Having found out the female, he rakes leaves above her, quickly fertilizes her and departs for searches of new females.
Fertilized female digs in the ground. One pairing is enough for her to lay normal eggs all next life. The female of mole wasp moves under ground in its own tunnels, but more often it uses burrows dug by its potential prey – worms and other insects.
For egg laying the female searches by smell holes have been dug by suitable species of animals. This species has some ecological races preferring for development different species of host animal: some races prefer worms, others like larvae of beetles, third race is not so legible in choice of host insect. The form parasitizing on cicadas is especially rare: it is connected with the circumstance that at some cicadas there is very long term of development (much longer, than at the wasp), and their larvae meet not so frequently as at other species.
Having found prey, the female wasp chases it and gets to it’s back. Supporting against ceiling of hole, it presses prey to the ground and deprives with an opportunity to move, then wasp puts to it sting, laying egg in body of chosen animal. Larvae of insects and worms on which this species parasitizes, in some cases many times over surpass the adult mole wasp in weight. In some hours from eggs thin translucent larva bursts immediately starting to eat from within their alive cradle. Sooner or later it puts to the host animal damages incompatible to life. Worms on which the wasp parasitizes, are in best condition, rather than insects - they even can tear itself half-and-half and to be released in such a way from the parasite, and regenerate after that. After destruction of the host animal larva very quickly eats everything, that it is possible to have eaten, and pupates under protection of remains of the had eaten animal. For all adult life (approximately 2 months) the female can lay up to 20 - 30 eggs.
If the larva turns to male, difficult travel upward to ground surface is necessary to it. Many males can not make it and perish. But it is quite enough the number of survived males to fertilize females. Female right after emerging appears in native habitat. It eats various soil animals for some days, accumulating in body the fat necessary for formation of eggs. Only after that at hot tropical night it digs burrow to the ground surface, and waits for the male.

Snail diving wasp (Aquavespilla helicivora)
Order: Hymenoptera (Hymenoptera)
Family: Diving wasps (Aquavespidae)

Habitat: rivers and lakes of South America.
South America of Neocene epoch, as well as in human epoch, has an extensive circuit of rivers and lakes. The huge river of the past, Amazon, had divided to two rivers flowing almost in parallel each other, but their basins nevertheless remain biggest ones in the world. For inhabitants of these places it appears very favorable to adapt to life in water: here it is possible to find a lot of food, and the competition is sometimes lower, than on land or in wood crones. Therefore in rivers of Amazon region it is possible to meet representatives of various groups of animals, at times of rather unexpected ones.
In shallow, but rather wide forest river, which banks are overgrown with set of plants, it is possible to see small insects sitting on leaves above water. Their bodies are colored grey; therefore such insect is clearly visible at the background of green and reddish leaves. Being frightened off, insect immediately jumps off in water, turning as if in quicksilver ball, and quickly swims between plants and driftwood. In some minutes it emerges to the surface of water, clings to petiole of leaves, and stops for some time. Having convinced, that danger has passed, this insect creeps on leaves and then it can be distinguished in full details.
It is obviously not the beetle: it does not have characteristic smooth elytrums. Narrow “waist” indicates that it is not a fly. This insect is snail diving wasp, the fossore, the representative of Hymenoptera. In New World these insects have adapted to aquatic life, having formed the separate family which has reached certain success.
Length of body of this insect is about 2 cm. The body has features of adaptation to swimming: it is short and rounded. Abdominal stem at this species is rather short and thick. Colouring of body is metallic – grey; wings are transparent.
Legs of snail diving wasp also are adapted to aquatic way of life. Two forward pairs of legs have kept the universality, but the hind pair became larger; shin and last segments on it are flat and wide, forming oar-like structure.
The main adaptation to aquatic way of life is at the surface of body of this insect: the wasp is covered with water-repellent hairs, and glands on abdomen secret paste-like wax substance. Under water this wasp is similar to water spider (Argyroneta): due to hairs and greasing its body is surrounded with layer of air; that’s why the body of insect seems silvery, as if quicksilver. Only rowing hinder pair of legs juts out from air bubble.
The unusual habit of life of the diving wasp is connected with the special circumstance: this species of hymenopters parasitizes on numerous snails inhabiting rivers and bogs of Amazon region. Wasp searches under water snails by smell, feeling by antennae trace of slime leaving by mollusk at movement. Wasp finds snail and cautiously swims up to it. Having felt approaching of insect, snail hides in shell, but wasp is able to wait. It cautiously clings to shell of snail, and stands motionless. When the snail, deceived by imaginary calmness, creeps out from shell, wasp pricks it by sting, laying egg in creeping sole of mollusk. In some days from it small larva bursts. It parasitizes in creeping sole of snail, gradually eating away its muscles. Also the larva eats part of liver and sexual glands of mollusk. It eats gradually, and mollusk has time to restore partly injured organs. Except for direct physical harm larva influences life of host snail with the help of biologically active substances emitting with it. Had reached the certain age, the larva with the help of secreted hormones is forcing snail to leave water. Actually it is the death sentence to snail. When the mollusk creeps out to damp ground of riverbank, it still can live any time. But the larva of the wasp will not permit it to make: it starts to eat actively, and for any some hours eats everything, leaving from a snail only empty shell. During this time larva grows up larger then adult wasp. Having to had eaten snail, wasp larva blocks shell fauces with mix of dung and secretions of special rectal glands, forming some kind of partition. Under its protection larva pupates in empty shell. About one week after the partition bursts, and from behind it the young wasp creeps out. Having dried, the insect spreads wings, and flies for searches of the male. Young females emit odorous substances by which they are found by males. Fertilized females fly to bogs and begin life of the swimming hunter, searching for snails. For the short life the female wasp may lay up to 20 eggs.
The genus of diving wasps includes some species; each of them parasitizes on certain species of mollusks:
Tiny diving wasp (Aquavespilla minimissima) is tiny wasp about 4 mm long at all. It differs in coal-black colouring with metal shine; by proportions it is similar to winged ant. This species parasitizes on small orb snails (Planorbidae). Because of very small size is not able to swim, creeping under water. To remain under water longer, the insect has developed an interesting way to update a stock of air: wasp gnaws by mandibles leaves of aquatic plant, and simply rises above bladders of gas rich the oxygen formed at photosynthesis, emitting from plant. Wasp shakes surplus of gas from body by legs. Due to such adaptation the insect can remain under water all the day.
Lung diving wasp (Aq. pulmovora) is the internal parasite of the snails, breathing by lung. It meets in vicinities of savanna rivers and others partly or completely drying up reservoirs. It is small (length of a body about 6 mm), metallic green wasp with reduced wings. It swims and dives very well, similarly to the whirligig beetle (Gyrinus). It parasitizes in large snails, settling in their lung cavities. Wasp lays only one egg in wall of respiratory tube of snail. Further in development the embryo divides to some parts, and as a result from one eggs it appears at once about ten larvae (similar feature was known at some representatives of ichneumons (Ichneumonidae), close relatives of wasps). They settle in walls of lung cavities, rich in blood vessels, and eat blood of snail. In dry season when reservoirs dry up, and snail digs in silt, larvae of the wasp start to develop roughly. Soon they devour the struck snail, and wait a dry season under protection of its shell. In the beginning of rain season they abandon shell and depart to searches of new prey.

Frog-devouring wasp (Batrachovespa batrachovora)
Order: Hymenoptera (Hymenoptera)
Family: Diving wasps (Aquavespidae)

Habitat: rivers and lakes of South America and the south of Northern America.
In family of water wasps not only the species infecting small animals had appeared. In shallow rivers and ponds usual in selva of South America and the south of Northern America, the set of frog species lives. And one species of water wasps has adapted to parasitize in them.
Frog-devouring wasp is appreciably larger and more massive than its relatives parasitizing in snails. Its body reaches length 2.5 - 3 cm (male is smaller than female). This wasp differs in very thin body, its abdomen sits on long stem. The body is colored black with red cross band on stem and spot on thorax between wings. Males of this species have more red color in coloration, than females, sometimes all abdomen of the male is colored red.
Back legs at males are usual, and at females they are modified to swimming ones. Shins at them are wide and flat, and at external edge of shin there is a line of hairs increasing rowing surface. The frog-devouring wasp also has glands emitting water-repellent greasing. As against snail wasps, it does not grease all body, limiting only with abdomen (where at insects respiratory apertures open) and wings. In case of need, for example, rescuing from fish, this wasp can, having gathered speed under water, jump out in air, and at once depart.
This species differs in some features of life cycle connected with parasitizing in vertebrate animals.
For breeding female ready to lay eggs, dives and searches for flight of tadpoles. It correctly defines by smell among tadpoles of some species of frogs representatives of the necessary species. The wasp chooses tadpoles of largest species of frogs and toads. Usually wasp creeps to flight of tadpoles on floating plants, having turned over upwards by abdomen. Having tracked down prey of the necessary species, wasp does not wait, while it will come closely to it. Insect puts all forces to one successful throw. In case of successful throw the wasp grasps the tadpole in two forward pairs of legs, and lays egg in its body. Then it lets it off, and slowly emerges to the surface of water.
The tadpole in which wasp had injected egg, practically does not differ in rate of growth from neighbours. The matter is that the larva of wasp develops very long and slowly, therefore its presence does not lie down excessive loading to the organism of amphibian. Moving in blood vessels, the larva of the wasp is fixed in bladder of the host animal. The tadpole continues the life, and in necessary time turns to frog. All this time in its bladder larva of the wasp sits, gradually growing up. At last, when the frog becomes adult (at one-year-old age, and even later), larva finishes the development, and begins metamorphosis. The young wasp abandons body of the frog through cloaca. Because traumas, put to the frog at this moment, are minimal, the frog survives in most cases. And wasps flying above pond or river bank are not so terrible to it.
The adult wasp lives not for long time, as against its larva: only 2 – 3 months. But for this time it has time to lay in tadpoles about 250 - 300 eggs: 2 - 3 eggs per day.

Сontravirgo ichneumon (Micrevirator contravirginus)
Order: Hymenoptera (Hymenoptera)
Family: Ichneumons (Ichneumonidae)

Habitat: Siberia. The area coincides with the area of contravirgo moths.
In human epoch ichneumons were one of prospering groups of insects. They had safely gone through epoch of global ecological crisis – among them only some endemic and highly specialized species had died out. But as a whole in Neocene the specific variety of ichneumons is comparable with the situation in human epoch.
Intensive speciation of host insects (in reality each species of insects is the host of any ichneumon) had caused the occurrence of parasites at which life cycle was coordinated with host development. Some kinds of moths of bears family, contravirgo and antivirgo, live in Siberia. These insects are remarkable by the feature of breeding; at them individuals of one gender reach sexual maturity being in larval stage. Poison protects them against large predators from among vertebrates, but it does not save them from parasitic insects. One species of ichneumons living in Eurasia, parasitizes on caterpillars of moths of Contravirgo genus, which turn to males.
Contravirgo ichneumon is tiny insect with thin body and long legs. The length of adult female does not exceed 1 cm, but its ovipositor is three times longer than the body of insect. Male is considerably smaller, than female is – its length is about 5 mm. Covers of this species of insects are colored black with metal shine. By its shape contravirgo ichneumon differs only a few from ichneumons of other genera, including ones known in human epoch.
The female of contravirgo ichneumon searches for caterpillars of contravirgo moth by smell. It attacks caterpillar promptly and is not late near it for a long time. The female makes fast sting by ovipositor to last segments of caterpillar, almost not causing anxiety to it. Due to long ovipositor ichneumon female avoids a prick of poisonous hairs of contravirgo caterpillar. It lays tiny egg to friable connecting tissue of body of caterpillar. Some hours later from egg the microscopic underdeveloped larva hatches and starts to eat caterpillar gradually. At early stages of development it almost does not harm to the host, and the infected caterpillar practically does not differ from healthy individuals by rate of growth and appearance. However hormonal signals of maturing caterpillar change the direction of development of parasite larva. At last stages of metamorphosis of contravirgo caterpillar the development of ichneumon larva becomes more active, and it starts to grow roughly. The growing larva of parasite moves into testicles of contravirgo male. After that event instead of sperm liquid in male organism the larva of ichneumon matures, eating growing tissue of testicles of caterpillar (hence the scientific name meaning “small castrator”).
The larva of contravirgo ichneumon starts in turn to influence to the development of host caterpillar. Secretions of ichneumon larva block the development of smell glands at the male caterpillar of contravirgo at late stages of development. Also colouring of infected contravirgo male is dimmer, than at healthy males. As a result it less visible not only for contravirgo females, but also for insectivorous birds. Obeying an instinct, contravirgo male creeps on leaves and starts to wait for females. But it does not emit smell involving females, and they are not interested in infected male. Such male exists for a long time “in waiting mode”, imperceptible neither for females, nor for predators. In such way the larva of contravirgo ichneumon prepares to itself an opportunity of successful end of development. In some days a body of contravirgo male caterpillar gradually mummyficates alive and it falls on the ground. The significant amount of mummified bodies of such males is hidden among forest litter, and they are not found by insectivorous animals. Inside a mummy of contravirgo male the larva of ichneumon successfully passes metamorphosis. In spring the contravirgo ichneumon leaves the shelter. Pairing at this species takes place on flowers, and adult insects eat mainly nectar, licking it off from opened flowers. Approximately in one week after fertilization in organism of the female eggs start to develop, and it searches for young contravirgo caterpillars suitable for infection.

Cunning spider miner (Arachnomina arguta)
Order: Hymenoptera (Hymenoptera)
Family: Spider miners (Arachnominidae)

Habitat: temperate and subtropical climatic zones of Europe, Atlas Mountains; deciduous forests and bush.
In Neocene among hymenopters various species, which larvae parasitize in other animals, had appeared. Some species of ichneumons and solitary wasps had adapted to parasitizing in vertebrates: mammals, birds and amphibians. Others had remained “faithful” to former food source – invertebrates. The special family of Neocene hymenopters specialized in parasitism exclusively at spiders. For features of individual development these insects are called “spider miners”. These insects are the specialized branch of ichneumons.
These insects are extremely tiny – the length of largest tropical species hardly exceeds 5 millimeters, but usually they are twice lesser. Spider miners are similar externally to small fruit flies, but their thick abdomen is placed on clearly visible pedicle as at wasps and is very mobile. The ovipositor of female differs in durability and can pierce covers of body of various insects.
On narrow head of spider miners there are big eyes consisting of set of facets, and short plumose antennae. Jaws of spider miners are gnawing, and the lower lip is mobile and covered by hairs on the tip. Wings of these insects are short, rounded, covered by hairs on edge.
Males of spider miners are smaller, than females. Adult insects of this group are long-term and eat flower nectar. They are fed on liquid food with the help of lower lip, dipping its tip into liquid. In spring spider miners gather on trees and lick the tree sap flowing down from cracks in a bark.
Ichneumons lay eggs directly in animals become food of their larvae. At spider miners this process proceeds in two stages. First the fertilized females of spider miners search for web of spider of suitable species, and constantly “are on duty” near it. As patiently, as spiders, they wait, while prey will get in web. When any insect appears in web, the female of spider miner rushes to it, trying to get to it before spider, lays some eggs to its body and flies at once. The spider seizes prey, bites it and injects enzymes diluting contents of exoskeleton of prey. Digestive enzyme dissolves tissues and organs of prey, but has no influence on eggs of spider miners. And at the second stage of infection the spider soaks up in common with dissolved tissues of prey eggs of spider miners. They are tiny, but covered with dense environment. Enzymes of spider make an environment of eggs more permeable and stimulate development of the larva. The larva of spider miner is very small. It penetrates into the wall of intestines of spider and moves to its body cavity. Here larva eats tissues of spider and develops. At this time it additionally pedogenetically breeds. During the term of development one larva gives rise to several ones – in body of one large spider it can develop in total up to ten larvae.
The significant part of term of development larva harms to spider a little, and it continues normal life. At them differentiation of organs and tissues proceeds, but they grow very little – they increased in length approximately three times in comparison with the initial size. Shortly before the ending of development larvae start to influence stronger to the life of spider in which they parasitize – it is a part of preparation to their metamorphosis. With the help of chemical substances they change behaviour of spider and force it to bury itself alive in literal sense. Under influence of substances secreting by larvae of spider miner the spider stops usual way of life. It leaves web, finds shelter in forest and makes in it the similarity of cocoon for itself. Soon it perishes here, because larvae begin to grow and eat its tissues. In its mummificated body larvae finish development. They quickly devour soft tissues of prey, grow intensively and soon undergo metamorphosis inside the exoskeleton of spider.
At spider miners fertilized females winter. At species living in the north of area of family, pupae winter right in shelter which is made by spider before its death.
Cunning spider miner belongs to widespread European species and parasitizes in the majority of species of European spiders except for wolf spiders (Lycosidae) and other species not making web for prey catching. Females of this species differ in grey colouring of abdomen; head and thorax are black.

The idea about existence of this group of animals is proposed by Nem, forum member.

Revolutionary ant (Formica comandante)
Order: Hymenoptera (Hymenoptera)
Family: Ants (Formicidae)

Habitat: Central and East Europe, deciduous and coniferous forests.
Between ants of different species, as a rule, there are antagonistic relations. In rare cases ants of various species can enter relations of symbiosis, for example, recruit ant (Recrutoformica latrunculus). In human epoch so-called slave-making ants were rather usual: these species had no their own caste of workers, and for updating the number of working individuals in ant hill they simply grasped pupae of other species of ants, from which new working individuals appeared.
Such tactics brings to slave-making ants the great benefit, therefore species leading such way of life are kept in Neocene. But constant “military actions” between different species of ants resulted in formation of new defensive tactics during the evolution process. One of species of ants, which ancestors had been exposed to attacks of aggressive neighbours, had developed most interesting tactics of protection, because of which it is named revolutionary ant.
Appearance of revolutionary ant is quite usual for these insects. The size of adult fertile female reaches 14 mm; working individuals are much smaller – up to 9 mm. This species has one unusual caste of large workers which are only a little bit smaller, than “queen” – about 12 mm long.
These insects are colored reddish-brown color with white “mask” of short hairs on forward part of head.
Colonies of revolutionary ant lead life standard for ants of Formica genus. They build ant hills about 30 cm high around of mouldering stubs, and penetrate stub through with their tunnels, transforming it to well fortified “palace”. Under roots of stub there is a large chamber where some fertile foundress females live. Working individuals drag various small insects to ant hill, clearing a site of forest from pests.
In posterity of revolutionary ant it is possible to see clear difference of larvae and pupae into castes by size. Working individuals protect the posterity from predators, but are not always able to resist to impact of slave-making ants, which steal many pupae of this species for updating the number of “slaves” in their own ant hills. In this situation that property, for which revolutionary ant has received the loud name, is expressing.
Slave-making ants steal pupae of this species of ants, and pupae, from which large working ants develop, frequently get to their ant hills. But it becomes the original “biological bomb” for a colony of slave-making ants. Large working individuals of revolutionary ant have a special feature: they are females turning to parthenogenetic “queens”. Slave-making ants do not perceive these individuals as threat, because they have a smell peculiar to all members of colony. Being in safety, parthenogenetic “queens” of revolutionary ant at good feeding (if the colony with captured ants prospers) start to lay eggs actively; working ants care of them as of eggs of slave-making species. In this case number of individuals of revolutionary ant in mixed colony gradually grows and soon exceeds number of the former oppressor. Actually, revolutionary ant simply biologically supersedes the slave-making ant from its own ant hill, and gradually forms a normal colony of this species. In it winged females, which normally couple with males of this species, develop and settle.

Hawaiian shell ant (Cochleoformica ostracophila)
Order: Hymenopters (Hymenoptera)
Family: Ants (Formicidae)

Habitat: Hawaii, rainforests.
During the human colonization of Hawaiian Islands intentionally or casually the set of species of animals had been imported there. When large species of vertebrates (pigs, deer, domestic cattle, mongooses) had been introduced purposefully, small ones, especially insects, mostly got to islands casually, as “unbidden visitors”: in the ground with exotic plants, or with any cargoes. So the set of species of insects had settled at Hawaii and among them more than 40 species of ants has appeared there. Being mainly natives of tropical countries, not all these species had gone through the ice age, but survived ones had received a prize – an opportunity of settling of islands. At these islands evolution had caused set of unique species of ants distinguishing by interesting features of habit of life.
Among tens of ant species inhabiting Hawaii, shell ants belong to smallest ones. The length of working ant at this species is about 5 millimeters, and only queen reaches length about one centimeter. These ants are colored rather dim: at them there is brown body with metal shine and only at working individuals (“combining” this occupation with the speciality of “soldiers”) head is colored bright orange with black mandibles. This colouring is warning: sting of this species of ants is poisonous, despite of their tiny size. The sting of ten adult ants of this species may kill pigeon-sized birds, and the solitary ant of this species can kill the beetle or the soldier ant of larger species.
Poisoness of this species of ants is the defensive weapon, rather than hunting adaptation. Shell ants eat small insects, gathering them on the ground, and seldom keep in big groups, gathering food. Such food predilections are partly connected to habit of life of this species: their dwellings are arranged so, that large catch simply does not place in them.
This ant is connected in life with some local birds: most frequently shell ant arranges nests under “dining rooms” of Hawaiian hookbill – the local bird. It lodges in shells of the snails had eaten by bird, therefore many features of its way of life are dictated by opportunities of its dwelling. The colony of shell ants occupies some empty shells of snails. One of these shells, the largest one, is occupied with the queen-foundress. Queen chooses this shell once per life, during the breeding flight, and never leaves it more. Queen sits in the most distant curl of shell, surrounded with set of workers which carry off the eggs laid by it to “kindergartens” located in next shell, and bring to it food – fresh insects. Workers preserve their queen, clear her body, remove dust, and every time are ready rush to its protection if somebody disturbs “imperial” shell. The majority of workers lives in the next bowls, in the same place there are warehouses of food.
About two times per one year at shell ants breeding flight takes place: one month prior to this event female starts to lay large eggs, and workers, obeying her chemical signals, rear from them the generation of future “kings” and “queens” – fertile males and females. For this purpose they clear one of best shells in vicinities of colony, and care of larvae very attentively. Larvae, from which fertile individuals of new generation will develop, receive the increased feeding. If they hatch before time of the common fly of young insects from the next colonies, they stay in shelter shell, and working ants continue to care of them. But usually different colonies synchronize breeding fly, and young insects, founders of new colonies, direct to breeding flight simultaneously.
After pairing which occurs in air, before the fertilized female there is a difficult task: it must find empty shells of snails which collect under “dining rooms” of hookbills. Sometimes the instinct “misfires”: the insect finds and occupies a single shell of snail had perished from any casual reasons. Then growth of colony slows down: it is limited only to this shell, and the place for expansion of ant settlement is absent. Such colonies quickly become victims of ants of other species, or perish from casual reasons.
The fertilized female gets into depth of shell and there lays the first portion of eggs – about ten ones largest of ever laid by it. From them larvae hatch, and the female any time feeds them. They receive partly cut down diet though turn to normal working individuals: development follows due to stocks of nutrients in egg. After they develop, queen female leaves “household chores”, and starts to lay eggs only.
The colony exists, while the queen-foundress is alive – till three years.

Monstrous ant (Horromyrma pestis)
Order: Hymenopters (Hymenoptera)
Family: Ants (Formicidae)

Habitat: Hawaii, mountains, light forests.

Picture by Amplion, colorization by Ilia

Before the people occurrence at Hawaiian Islands many groups of animals, characteristic for continents, had been abscent there. One of such group were ants, which are numerous and various all over the world. They had an opportunity to settle at islands as a result of human economic activity, and due to the opportunities of adaptation they had successfully outlasted their “benefactor”. Many species of ants distinguished by various interesting features live in Neocene at Hawaii. And in conditions of island isolation among them the true monster, one of the most dangerous inhabitants of these islands – monstrous ant had appeared. It is the descendant of fire ant (Solenopsis heminata), introduced from North America. It has kept a migrating habit of life and has even more strengthened predatory behavior of the ancestor.
This insect is the largest species of ants of Neocene world: length of working individual is over 3 cm, and queen surpasses 5 cm lenght. Monstrous ant has silver-gray body with black cross strips on abdominal segments and black legs. At ants of “soldier” caste there are black head and contrasting with it large white mandibles, therefore “soldiers” are well distinguishing on the background of other ants of this species. “Queen” has black colouring and differs from workers in larger abdomen with very wide black cross strips. Its head is silvery and also has lighter shade, rather than at working individuals and “soldiers”. By size of thorax and head queen does not differ from working individuals.
Monstrous ant is heat-loving insect: it lives at sunny and well warmed up slopes of islands; also it does not like dampness and does not go down in marshlands and lowlands. Till the morning these insects are very languid, but become active and very dangerous in the afternoon.
It is one of the most dangerous predators of Hawaii. Monstrous ants attack any animals which could not escape from them for any reasons, including rather large vertebrates. This species does not lodge for a long time in any certain place, and leads vagrant life. In day time the colony of this ant moves in wood stretched to long columns, and for lodging for the night uses holes and others shelters. During the movement queen is protected by plenty of “soldiers” with hypertrophied mandibles, and the most part of a colony is made by workers keeping ahead and behind the queen. Once a week in abdomen of the female up to 200 small eggs develop, and the colony is compelled to stop movement till some time to hatch the next generation of ants. For cultivation of posterity the colony searches for suitable shelter – hole of any vertebrate (frequently thus the owner of hole or its posterity appears had eaten), in which working ants train vegetative rests. If in vicinities there are no holes, workers gather vegetative dust in heap and build of it a friable temporary nest. Having organized a settlement, the colony of ants stops in it approximately for three weeks. For this time the female lays eggs, and from them larvae hatch. Working ants in support of some “soldier” ants hunt small animals, devastating vicinities of nest to the moment of metamorphosis of young generation.
When all posterity undergoes a metamorphosis (within approximately three weeks), the colony abandons shelter and continues wandering in the forest. Only birds able to catch these insects not sitting on the ground represent the potential danger to monstrous ants. Frequently colonies of these insects are accompanied with large omnivorous birds which cause some damage to ant colony, and provide to themselves constant, though also dangerous food source.

Recruit ant (Recrutoformica latrunculus)
Order: Hymenopters (Hymenoptera)
Family: Ants (Formicidae)

Habitat: moderate and subtropical areas of Europe – from Atlantic coast up to Three-Rivers-Land steppes; woods and bushes.
Ants are one of most typical groups of forest insects. Due to their activity some plants settle, and number of pest insects restrains in reasonable limits. Among ants there are no solitary species, though colonies of some species of Holocene epoch could include some tens individuals. In colonies of ants more or less expressed division to castes exists. Relations of ants of different species show the variety though more often they may be reduced to interspecific antagonism. Among ants of Holocene epoch there were species having “slaves” were known: they took larvae of other species of ants from which then individuals carrying out functions of workers in colonies of the aggressor ant grew. In Neocene one species of ants had developed this form of relations with other species in other direction – it had turned to the original “mercenary” living in colonies of other ants. This feature has determined its name: the recruit ant.
This insect has only two castes: fertile queens living in colonies of other species of ants, and furious “soldiers”, which replace own “soldiers” of host species and protect its colony on equal terming of high-grade inhabitants. The shape of representatives of these castes considerably differs.
During the top expression of breeding function the queen resembles the fertile female of termites. At this time it reaches the length of 35 – 40 millimeters, from which only about 10 mm falls to head and thorax, and strongly swollen abdomen makes other lenght. The adult female of recruit ant is completely helpless and can not move independently. It lives in most protected bottom part of ant hill, in special chamber. It is fed and cleaned by working individuals of host species, and all cares of larvae of recruit ant are completely their duty. Such way of life transforms the female to true “factory” of egg producing. In summer when all ants are most active, the recruit ant queen lays one egg each minute. Working individuals of host species immediately carry eggs away and look after them the same way as after eggs of their own species.
The most part of summer from eggs larvae hatch, turning to individuals of other caste – furious “soldiers”. “Soldiers” of recruit ant are absolutely not similar to queen. These ants are easy for detecting in colonies of other species: recruit ants differ in black colouring with metal shine, and white mandibles. The length of these insects reaches 20 – 25 millimeters: these ones belong to the number of largest ants of Eurasia. They concede in size only to some tropical species. But this feature also imposes the certain restriction to opportunities of existence of recruit ant. It can live only in colonies of ants of size comparable to them. Smaller species of ants will have not enough food resources to support giant “soldiers”, and also large “soldiers” simply can not move normally in too narrow passages. Recruit ant can settle in colonies of various species of ants, including ones having their own “soldiers”. The colony protected by recruit ants develops more successfully, rather than other colonies of the same species of host ants. Sting of “soldier” of recruit ant is very painful: in addition the insect injects in wound the poisonous liquid containing ant acid. Efficiency of protection of nest by recruit ants is very great: mouse-sized mammal perishes from ten stings of such ants. And joint attack of recruit ant “soldiers” can turn into flight even large mammal.
In second half of summer queen of recruit ant lays eggs from which winged individuals taking part in breeding develop. These insects are similar to winged ants of other species, but appreciable metal shine of body covers, and also larger mandibles distinguish them. They fly off from populated ant hills of various species of ants almost simultaneously, pair quickly, and males perish soon after that. Females of recruit ant must carry out the important mission just after pairing: to find the colony of other species not populated with congeners, and to settle in it. The female of recruit ant produces special pheromone which reduces aggression of ants of potential host species. Having found a colony, the female of recruit ant defines by smell, whether individuals of its species are present in colony. If the smell of congeners is weak, or it is not present absolutely, the female enters into ant hill, surrounding itself by pheromone smell. It searches for the chamber suitable by size, and settles in it. First time young female of recruit ant is very cautious: it does not lay eggs, and emits pheromones actively. Gradually it starts to smell similarly to environmental ants, and moves in ant hill galleries more freely. When ants of host species “recognize” the female of recruit ant and start to feed it under its requirement, it settles in chosen chamber and starts to produce eggs. After several weeks of intensive feeding its abdomen hypertrophies, and female becomes similar to “queen” of termites.
If the smell of recruit ants is present in ant hill chosen by the female, but is rather weak (that means in colony there is a little number of ants of this species), the female also settles in such ant hill. The large colony of any host ants may feed up to five recruit ant females, using their “soldiers”.
Life expectancy of the female of this species is about three years.

The idea about existence of this species of insects was proposed by Momus, the forum member.

Lantern ant, twilight lanternomyrma (Lanternomyrma crepusculina)
Order: Hymenoptera (Hymenoptera)
Family: Ants (Formicidae)

Habitat: rainforests of Meganesia; the symbiote of lamplighter bird.
In tropical forest live beings receive the set of opportunities for evolution – abundance of various food sources and habitats. But the inhabiting in such ecosystem has an underside – strict competition. As a result various species of live organisms during the evolution develop the oddest and keen life strategies permitting to use effectively an opportunity given by nature and to avoid unnecessary competition. One of effective forms of survival is symbiosis.
One of mysterious and secretive inhabitants of rainforests of North Meganesia is lamplighter bird, the nocturnal species of bowerbirds. This bird builds for courtship displays simple constructions – heaps of pieces of rotten wood. But on them special pileate fungi of Mycolanterna genus grow; these ones have ability to glow. In their illusive light male of this bird arranges courtship displays.
Male of lamplighter bird constantly renews the construction, dragging on it new pieces of rotten wood, which it gathers in forest. And such activity of bird is very favorable for constant settler of these constructions – small ant named twilight lanternomyrma, or lantern ant.
Twilight lanternomyrma is a species of ants a little distinguishing externally from the majority of these insects. It is an ant of red-brown colouring with rather large head and mandibles extended forward and forming similarity of tweezers. Working individuals of twilight lanternomyrma are no more than 4 millimeters long, and the adult “queen” female grows up to 8 – 9 mm. In colony of twilight lanternomyrma there are some breeding “queens”.
Life of colony begins from the important event – fertilized winged female finds a heap of pieces of rotten wood suitable to life which the male of lamplighter bird started to gather. If such opportunity is not present, the female can lodge in already existing, but weak colony which had already rendered habitable construction of lamplighter bird. First days the female leads a secretive way of life, but gradually gets smell characteristic for colony, and working individuals accept her.
The colony of twilight lanternomyrma leads nocturnal habit of life. Ants of this species turn more active in twilight, and hide in nest soon after dawn. For night these insects have time to gather enough forage for feeding of colony. They should not care of repairing and expansion of nest - all work on delivery of “building material” is incurred by lamplighter bird, certainly, not understanding its role in life of this ant.
Nevertheless lamplighter bird receives the certain benefit from presence of such symbiote. When parasitic insects start to annoy bird male vastly, it simply digs a hole on the construction, and lays in it. Ants creep into bird’s plumage and carefully clear it of parasites. Besides stings of ants cause in bird the behavioural reaction similar to euphoria. And ants receive food – parasitic insects and mites.
Male of lamplighter bird would not achieve only by its activity even a half of success in cultivation of glowing mushrooms without these ants. The second species of live organisms with which these insects had entered symbiosis is the glowing mushroom settling on heaps of lamplighter bird. Working individuals of lanternomyrma create conditions for prosperity of these mushrooms – they destroy other species of fungi settling on constructions of lamplighter bird. The saliva of ants contains the substances overwhelming growth of some species of fungi, particularly mold ones. Besides working individuals of lanternomyrma creep on fruit bodies of mushroom and exterminate insects which damage them. Certainly, all this activity is selfish – ants eat a part of mycelium. The mycelium of glowing mushroom forms original galls in places of stings of these ants, and ants from time to time gather a rich “harvest” which serves as addition to usual food consisting of insects and other invertebrates.
Flight of lanternomyrma also takes place in twilight. Males of this species differ in good sense of smell – they can feel the presence of the female for some tens meters, that is too good result for tiny insects. Pairing occurs in air, and then the female at once flies to search the suitable place for future colony. Female is guided by sense of smell in choice of settling place – it searches for mycelium of glowing mushrooms by its smell. Frequently females settle simply on rotten tree trunks decomposing by mushrooms. But such colonies live not for long and degrade after 1 – 2 years.

Gall ant (Nanocamponotus symbioticus)
Order: Hymenopters (Hymenoptera)
Family: Ants (Formicidae)

Habitat: forests at the southern slopes of the Alpes, Balkan and Apennines; symbiosis with gall-forming insects.
In human epoch ants almost have not suffered damage, except for species lived in tropical forests undergone to large-scale cutting down. After human disappearance evolution of ants had proceeded almost in former rate. One of directions of evolution of ants is the symbiosis with various species of plants. In this case plants form special cavities in roots and stalks, which are inhabited by ants saving the plant from herbivorous insects. But at the south of Europe, in dry mountain forests of the Mediterranean area, evolution of ants had gone in opposite direction: these insects have entered symbiosis with the parasitic insect which due to fodder plant supplies them with shelter and food in exchange for protection.
The ant chosen such way of evolution is the descendant of carpenter ants (genus Camponotus). These ants made their dwellings in old dry stubs of trees, but symbiote insect has offered them available dwelling in alive tree, and the ant has turned to its ally. This ant inhabits the galls formed on branches of trees populated by larvae of laurel and oak gallfly (Oncofaber myrmecophila), and hence the ant is named gall ant.
Colonies of gall ant are rather small – they total some hundreds of adult insects. It is a tiny species of ants: length of adult ergate is no more than 3 mm, and flying “queen” females may grow up to 5 mm. Colouring of gall ant is black with white tips of mandibles and longitudinal stroke of brown color on thoracal segments. The ancestral species of ants had original caste of large-headed “gatekeepers” which closed entrances to the nest by massive heads. At gall ant they are absent, but there is a plenty of the soldier ants. Ergates at this species are not specialized – gall ant lives in ready cavities, and its building activity is reduced to minimum. Ergates only expand passageways between cavities inside galls or gnaw new holes. Also they gather food – small soft-bodied insects. This kind of food is rare in dry forests of Southern Europe, and here gall ants almost don’t have competitors.
Activity of larvae of laurel and oak gallfly forms complex galls with set of cavities, representing almost ready shelters for ants of this species. Moreover gallfly supplies ants with a significant amount of food. Secretions of larvae change biochemical processes in plant tissues, and due to it internal walls of galls supply ants with formations rich in proteins and starch – it is so-called “ant bread”.
Ergates of ants look after the larvae living in friable parenchyma on internal walls of galls. They remove dung of larvae and cautiously lick them, clearing from pollution. If larvae are placed too densely, ants move a part of larvae to new places. In the rest the biology of gall ant differs only a little from biology of other species of ants. In the colony of this species there are some females, capable to lay eggs. They are descendants of the first foundator female, and they are impregnated by small wingless males hatched from her eggs. This inbreeding provides genetic uniformity of colony that facilitates the recognizing of “своих” and “strangers” by ants on smell. Colonies of this species exist for rather short time – no longer than three years in succession. It is connected to features of breeding of gallflies – they live in cavity of the gall for approximately the same time, and then pass metamorphosis or perish by virtue of natural ageing. It is inevitable payment for advantages of symbiosis, but for this time ants have time to found some more colonies on tree, simply having dragged there the fertilized females of gallfly. During the existence of colony of ants inside it some generations of females and males of gallflies pass metamorphosis, and ant ergates care of them.
Prospering due to symbiosis with gallflies, ants incur care on their settling – females of laurel and oak gallflies had lost ability to fly. Flight at gall ant begins in spring, when snows in the Alpes thaw, rivers become deep for a short time and trees grow intensively. Young “queen” makes courtship flight, having taken in mandibles the flightless female of gallfly, and one or two more individuals can cling to its legs. During the courtship flight winged males by smell define, whether the female has such “wedding gift”, necessary for the foundation of the colony. If the female does not carry any gallfly, male simply does not pay to attention her, despite of own smell of the female. In some cases females from weak and growing old colonies where shortage of gallfly females for courtship flight is felt, can be engaged in “robbery”, attacking on the females carrying two and more gallflies. In this case they have a real opportunity to be fertilized and to found a new colony. But such cases are rare – the female from a viable colony usually is stronger and easily seeks safety in flight from attacking individual from weaker colony.
The critical moment in life of new colony is its foundation. After courtship flight the fertilized ant female chooses a branch on which the new colony will be founded. She cautiously places on branch the brought gallfly females and leaves them in order to give them time to lay eggs. After that the gallfly female dies, and the ant female carefully protects the branch, where gallfly had placed eggs, from other insects, including from its own congeners. At this time it lives in casual shelter and is very vulnerable for insectivorous animals. When the first gall is formed, ant female gnaws in it the entrance and creeps into the internal cavity. There it lays the first eggs and feeds on “ant bread”. The first small ergates start to care of her and expand the shelter, finding new cavities and connecting them with convenient tunnels. Also they supply a colony with food including small insects.

Water-bearing plant louse (Toxiaphis aquifera)
Order: Homopters (Homoptera)
Family: Plant lice (Aphidiidae)

Habitat: deserts of Mediterranean Lowland, plants of leafless paunchstem.
Plant lice are tiny and delicate insects living in huge amount on whole Earth. As against the majority of insects, the body of plant lice is covered with very thin cuticle. It makes plant lice very vulnerable for any predators who will want to attack them. But protection of these insects is not in the reliable reservation at all. Fast rate of development and the highest fertility save them. Plant lice enter symbiosis with other animals, for example, with ants, and use their protection in exchange for drops of sugary secretions.
Ability to increase number quickly, ease of settling and high adaptive ability easily had permitted plant lice to go through changes in biosphere at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. Their specific variety had not changed almost, and in Neocene increased even more. Among plant lice the specialized species distinguished by interesting adaptations to inhabitancy had appeared.
It is possible to meet plant lice everywhere. Even at the border of severe saline desert of former Mediterranean these insects find house and food. The most important condition for life of plant lice is the presence of fodder plant. In places, where small streams flow in spring, thick not branchy trunks of leafless paunchstem plant stick up from ground. This unpretentious plant is a food source for one Neocene species of plant lice. Insects form white, as if powdered colonies on tops of trunks of this plant where covers of stem still thin, and sap flows more actively.
On surface of colony of plant lice drops of their secretions gleam. It is not dense sugary syrup, but something more valuable in desert – almost clean water. For this feature plant louse living on paunchstem is named water-bearing plant louse.
This insect is the stenophagous species feeding strictly on paunchstem plants. Paunchstem is poisonous, but this plant louse during the evolution had adapted to neutralize its chemical protection. It even defends from enemies, accumulating poisonous substances from plant sap in body. Except for predatory insects, water-bearing plant louse has other enemy – the drying up sun. To escape from it, the insect produces wax, protecting itself from drying. Colouring of body of water-bearing plant louse is light grey, and wax gives to its body whiteness. It does not form continuous cover, and lays on body of plant louse by friable flakes, creating isolation from overheat.
Similarly to all species of plant lice, water-bearing plant louse is inactive insect. It almost constantly stays immovable, having pierced by proboscis covers of plant. From paunchstem sap the insect receives all substances necessary for life. Secretory glands are well advanced; their tips stick up from wax coating as two tubules. Plant lice known in human epoch entered symbiosis with ants. They “bribed” ants, secreting sugary liquid at stimulation. Water-bearing plant louse lives in desert, and secrets substance more valuable to inhabitants of desert – clean water. Ants of various species live in desert, and some of them simply can eat these plant lice. But this plant louse has entered relations of symbiosis with other insect. Plant lice are protected by shepherd beetle of true weevils family. It preserves plant lice, attacking other insects appearing in colony of plant lice. The beetle receives appreciable benefit from mutual relations with these plant lice: it drinks water secreted by them. The paunchstem plant contains a plenty of water, but not many animals can use it, because the plant is poisonous. Plant lice serve as original natural filter, supplying the beetle with water.
For plant lice the phenomenon of alternation of generations is typical. Depending on conditions these insects form various intraspecific forms – winged and wingless, parthenogenetic and breeding with fertilization. In hot summer water-bearing plant louse forms only parthenogenetic generations. They settle on surface of chosen plant of paunchstem and actively breed. In autumn, when weather becomes cooler, and at night fogs form, in colonies of water-bearing plant lice winged males and large mobile females of sexual generation appear. Males find and fertilize such females, and they lay hibernating eggs covered with dense shell. Using cracks in the ground such female penetrates under ground. It creeps on the surface of rhizome and lays eggs on buds, from which in spring new stalks will grow. After the laying of all eggs the female perishes. In winter eggs of water-bearing plant louse are in inactive condition. In spring the stalk of plant starts to grow and takes eggs of plant louse out on ground surface. From them larvae, which settle on tips of sprouts, burst. In process of stalk growth larvae creep higher. The part of larvae turns to generation of small winged settling females. They fly out from the plant where they were born, and search for new fodder plants. The majority of them perishes: winds carry them away in salt desert of former Mediterranean, or in Alps. But those few individuals succeeded to find fodder plant start to give rise to larvae from which the colony develops soon. For one summer season the water-bearing plant louse gives more than twenty generations, and fertility of one female can reach fifty larvae. They quickly grow, and in one week can rise posterity.

Sea wax scale (Thalassorthezia cereifera)
Order: Homopters (Homoptera)
Family: Scales (Ortheziidae)

Habitat: Atlantic coast of Europe; the parasite of leafless sea asters.
Various insects of homopters order – scales, plant lice and bark lice – are among the most specialized parasites of plants. The parasitic habit of life has resulted in simplification of way of life at simultaneous complication of breeding ways. Some insects of this group had lost mobility at adult stage of development, and live, having constantly stuck to fodder plant. Frequently the parasite is highly specialized species, and evolution of host plant results in occurrence of surprising adaptations in its parasite.
In salt marshes of littoral zone of North Europe leafless sea asters grow. These ones are flowering plants enduring regular flooding by tidal waves. This species of plants is a fodder plant for one species of parasitic insects which had also adapted to existence in tidal zone. It is the sea wax scale living on succulent stalks of leafless sea aster. Similarly to all relatives, this is inactive insect almost constantly sitting on plant and sucking its sap with the help of long proboscis.
Males and females of sea wax scale strongly differ by appearance. The female of this species is wingless one about 1 centimeter long. At it very short legs are kept. Because this insect leads motionless way of life, legs do not serve for walking any more. Two forward pairs of legs are reduced and weak. The back pair of legs is longer, than the others; they are mobile, with wide paws. These legs serve for the vital process: using them insect smears over the body wax secreted by special glands. Around of body of the female the scute of wax serving for protection against sea water develops. This scute protects not only the female, but also its posterity, forming brooding chamber in back part of body of the female. For fertilization of the female the male creeps up under her scute.
The male of sea wax scale is tiny – about 2 – 3 mm long. At him wings are advanced, and it flies from one plant to another in searches of females. For the short life males eat of nothing. They have two overall purposes in life – to fertilize female and to settle posterity. However, females easily breed without fertilization.
Fertilizing the female, the male involuntarily takes away on itself tiny larvae from her brooding chamber, and carries them in vicinities. Larvae also easily settle with the help of wind and sea water. They weight so little, that do not break a film of surface tension, and are carrying by currents to long distances along the coast. But they survive only in places, where the fodder plant grows.
This insect receives feed from unique source – from sap of leafless sea asters. The sea wax scale in adult condition constantly sucks sap of plant with the help of very long proboscis three times exceeding the length of body of insect. As sap is not balanced ideally for feeding of insects, the sea wax scale is compelled to remove the substances received in superfluous amount from the organism. Relatives of this insect, plant lice, secret surplus of sugars entering to the organism, with the help of special glands. Sea wax scale emits with their help not only sugar, but also surplus of salt: in sap of fodder plant there is much more salt, rather than in sap of ground plants. Secretory pores on the top side of sacciform body of the female look like two tubules. Through them sweetish brine from time to time is secreting. Salt dries up atop of wax coating and falls off from wax cover of insect as translucent scales. Sometimes butterflies fly to the colony of these scales and suck liquid secreted by them.
Salt dissolved of sea water is a main problem for animals, compelled to develop life in sea. Sea wax scale solves it very simply: insect does not suppose contact of water with its own body. This insect produces plentiful wax coating, and the top part of its body is covered with hairs. Due to such adaptations the insect can endure flooding – around of its body the thin film of air protecting the organism of insect from influence of salt and serving for breath is kept. But air surrounding the body of insect, would not suffice for stay under water during the inflow. However this insect has practically unlimited source of oxygen for breath, and sea wax scale is able to use it. Stigmas on abdomen of insect are shifted downwards and pulled together. They are protected by special kind of scales, which compose the peaked tube. Due to this feature the insect does not choke during inflow: the scale simply sticks tube through thin skin of stalks of plant and respires the gases formed in parenchyma of plant. The gas mix inside the plant is rich in oxygen formed at the photosynthesis, and thus, the plant serves to the insect not only as “dining room”, but also as “aqualung”.
This species can maintain stay in sea water and settle on floating branches of leafless sea aster. Therefore sea wax scale is settled almost in all places where the leafless sea aster grows at the Atlantic coast of Old World. This insect does not live only at New Azora and in Iceland – these islands are too far from the coast of Europe and Africa.

Great mantis bug (Rhinocoris gigas)
Order: Bugs (Hemiptera)
Cемейство: Assassin bugs (Reduviidae)

Habitat: temperate areas of Eurasia, from the Central Europe up to Eastern Siberia.

Picture by Amplion

Bugs represent one of the largest orders of insects alongside with coleopters, lepidopters, hymenopters and dipters. Various species of bugs live in all natural zones, down to the water surface of the tropical seas. Usually they reach very large size in tropics and subtropics, but in Neocene separate very large representatives of this group had evolved in the areas of Eurasia, where seasonal climate is typical. Some of them are descendants of tropical forms, and others descend from local species. One species of large bugs of Eurasia is great mantis bug, the descendant of certain European assassin bugs of genus Rhinocoris. This insect lives among grassy and bushy vegetation in deciduous and mixed forests, especially where the forest alternates with sites of bushes and open area, and also at the riverbanks. This species differs from other assassin bugs in more extended and narrowed body shape. The size is a reason to regard this bug as one of the largest species of insects of temperate latitudes: adult males reach length 4.5 – 5 cm, and females are 5 – 6 cm long. Colouring of adult individuals is changeable depending on inhabitancy: from ochreous up to dark brown, but more often it is light brown or yellowish with darker spots. Larvae of this species are darker, rather than adult individuals. Shine of chitinous covers, characteristic for Rhinocoris genus, is absent at great mantis bug. Tergites of abdomen have strips which may be seen on original “boards” - the edges of abdomen rising a little above the back.
This species of bugs is carnivorous and in absolutely not fussy in food choice. It eats almost everything that may be caught and kept. Due to the size it can attack spiders and large grasshoppers. This species has convergent similarity to mantids in some features of anatomy. The forward pair of legs has original outgrowths on internal surface – spikes for prey keeping. Simple eyes at this species are not present, but complex eyes are large and are combined from multiply facets that provide sharp sight to this insect. Short antennae are 4-segmented, as well as at all bugs of the present genus, and proboscis has three segments. The sexual dimorphism is clearly expressed – the female has larger sizes and underdeveloped wings. At this species only males can fly. Great mantis bugs can utter sounds with the help of friction of proboscis against the oblong groove supplied with cross thickenings and located between coxae of front legs (it is the distinctive feature of all assassin bugs).
Great mantis bug starts food search in the evening, and hunting proceeds during the whole night. In daytime this insect tries to find shelter or simply stays motionless among vegetation, trying not to give out its own presence. Pairing takes place from June to July. The female relates to males tolerantly: despite of similarity to the mantis, cannibalism on the part of the female is not present. The female hides clutch among plants. The clutch has no protective adaptations, and the number of eggs in clutch reaches up to 60 ones on the average, but may vary from 40 up to 80 ones. Within one summer the egg laying repeats up to 3 – 4 times. From eggs mobile larvae hatch. They differ from adult individuals only in size and underdeveloped wings. They also are predators, and plant lice usually are their first prey. Great mantis bug hibernates at the late larval stage, and at this time does not form congestions.
Among invertebrates these bugs have rather little number of natural enemies. They are more vulnerable at young age and then they are attacked by other predatory insects and spiders. Clutches are frequently attacking by ichneumons. At any age birds and small mammals eat these bugs. Protecting itself from large enemies, this bug can put painful wounds by proboscis – its “sting” in morbidity is comparable with hornet’s sting.

This species of insects was discovered by Amplion, the forum member.

Running skimmer (Dolichogerris cursor)
Order: Bugs (Hemiptera)
Family: Water striders (Gerridae)

Habitat: Antarctica, stony areas with sparse grass near glacier edges.
Adaptive radiation of terrestrial representatives of water striders led to the emergence of various kinds of predatory bugs inhabiting a variety of habitats and using diverse tactics in search of prey.
On the surface of rocks warmed up by the summer sun one of the representatives of terrestrial water striders hunts – the running skimmer. This species is a small insect – the body length of an adult is about 12 mm. Its body is elongated, cylindrical, with a spherical head and big bulging eyes. Its front pair of grasping legs at rest is folded under its body. The second and third pairs of legs are of equal length and are developed in equal degree. They are only slightly longer than the body. All individuals have wings.
The main body color is gray or brownish, like the color of rocks prevailing in a given area. The upper side of the body is red, but it is noticeable only during flight or the threatening displaying of the insect.
Waiting for prey, this bug lies on the surface of a stone, having sprawled to the sides its middle pair of legs. At the same time the rear pair is bent under the body and is prepared to pounce. Sensitive hairs on the legs allow the insect to feel the slightest tremor on the surface of the stone produced by insects running on it. When suitable prey is close, bug catches up with it, moving by a “gallop” and keeping its front pair of legs ready. Having overtaken its prey, the predator inflicts a poisonous stab by its proboscis and drains it.
When attacked by a bird the insect opens its wings and shows its raised up red-colored abdomen. A running skimmer has a durable proboscis capable of piercing the skin of birds, and strong poison, causing a short-lived, but very painful sensation.
Within a year, this species provides only one generation. Nymphs of an early age hibernate and begin feeding intensively after the snow melts. Due to their constitution, they are able to withstand even freezing in ice and continue normal development after several years of captivity in the ice.

Translated by FanboyPhilosopher.

Humped nurse stinkbug (Pentatonutrix gibbosus)
Order: Bugs (Hemiptera)
Family: Stinkbugs (Pentatomidae)

Habitat: tropical rainforests of South America.

Picture by Amplion

In Neocene epoch the great number of insects species lives in equatorial areas of the Earth. During the struggle for existence they developed the various strategies, allowing to avoid the competition: new kinds of forage, new ways of protection, new ways of care of posterity. Among South American bug species had appeared, which have got an original way of care of posterity; these ones are nurse stinkbugs.
One of typical species in this genus is humped nurse stinkbug. It is a large bug: the adult individual reaches length from 4 cm (males) up to 5 (females) centimeters. Its body shape is characteristic for typical stinkbug: body of insect is wide and flat, without lateral outgrowths. The shield differs only; its structure is a characteristic attribute of genus – it is large, covers the most part of upper side of body and has the lid shape (it is convex). Usually it adjoins to the body densely enough, but in some cases it is capable to rise above the back – this is promoted also by bends of body.
Colouring of humped nurse stinkbug is bright, but the pattern on the body is rather simple: on each segment of abdomen there are black and light (from bright red up to beige-yellow) strips. Shield is colored light with two black spots; sometimes these spots reach the edge of shield. Prothorax has more or less T-shaped light spot on black general background. On head (also black) there may be an M-shaped spot. Hemelythra are black with a line of light spots along the edge. The present species has sexual dimorphism: female is larger due to more lengthened, pointed back end of body; its hemelythra are short and wings are reduced.
This bug lives in tropical rainforests on large trees. It consumes vegetative food, similarly to other bugs, piercing covers of plants by proboscis. Due to smell glands, producing unpleasantly smelling secret, bug is rather inedible. It feeds in daytime, and at night hides in secluded places, but sometimes it stays in feeding place, simply staying motionless and relying on warning colouring and smell.
During the individual development this bug undergoes four moults, reaching a stage of sexually mature imago at the 30-th – 35-th day of life. Males capable to fly are engaged in search of the partner. When male finds the female, the short phase of recognition follows, and then the pairing takes place, continuing from several hours up to the whole day After pairing the female turns back to male and begins laying eggs on its back, right under the risen shield. The egg laying lasts for some hours; all this time the female keeps male’s back pair of legs. Letting him off, the female lets know, that the laying is completed and male is free.

Picture by Amplion

Eggs are very small; their amount may reach 90 ones. Their development is finished for 20-th day. Being under shield, eggs are protected not only from excessive drying and egg-eating predators, but also from egg parasites from which other bugs suffer in great degree. Moreover, male actively moves all the time while it carries clutch on itself – it allows females hatching from them to settle faster. However, it can not fly at this time – eggs are pasted not only to the internal side of shield, but also to wings.
At the third day after hatching, right after the first moult, young bugs leave their daddy and move to “adult life”. Having removed from under shield the rests of egg shells, male can go to search for the new female. At successful coincidence of circumstances the adult bug can live till 2 years, couple and bear posterity up to 4 – 5 times during its life. The clearly expressed dependence of breeding to any season at these bugs it is not observed.
The basic enemies of these bugs are the spiders, separate species of birds, and also the certain number of large beetles. At the moment of laying bug eggs are vulnerable for tiny ichneumons.

This species of insects was discovered by Amplion, the forum member.

Antiguan giant hawk moth (Toxicomanduca longissimoproboscis)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Hawk moths (Sphingidae)

Habitat: Great Antigua, tropical forest areas.
Butterflies and moths represent the group of insects almost exclusively adapted to feeding on nectar. Only their primitive species, tiny moths, have kept mandibles and are capable to eat pollen. The majority of species of butterflies and moths eats exclusively and only liquid food with the help of long proboscis. Certainly, among them there are the species eating tree sap, liquid fraction of dung of large animals, fermenting rotten fruits, blood of live animals and products of carcass decomposition. But the majority of species of butterflies and moth all the same meets on flowers. Coevolution of flowers and lepidopters is directed to the maximal conformity of both species to each other’s requirements and features of structure at simultaneous disposal of any alien species not bringing advantage to the plant and being competitors of its pollinator.
One of tops of this coevolution is represented by the union of plant and insect, appeared in Neocene at the Great Antigua island. At the broken areas of tropical forest where there are “windows” in solid forest canopy and the sunlight reaches the ground, pipe-flowered tobacco tree grows; it is a large species of Solanaceae family with treelike stalk. Its tubular flowers reaching half-meter length, hide deeply the nectar from the pollinators not adapted to its extraction. And only one species of moths has ability free to feed on nectar of this plant – it is Antiguan giant hawk moth.
This insect is one of the largest species of lepidopters in Neocene. Wingspan reaches 20 cm at the female and 15 cm at male. In outlines of the body this moth is similar to the majority of representatives of the family – its wings are rather narrow and long, providing excellent flight abilities; body is streamlined. Antiguan giant hawk moth is the excellent flyer. In flight this moth is easy for confusing with any small bird. It is capable to hover above the flower and to suck nectar in flight, as all hawk moths do. Colouring of front wings is cryptic, green with brown spots forming a pattern similar to spots of moss and lichens on tree bark. Back wings are purple-red with dark blue oculate spots. In middle of these spots there are sites of sunlight reflecting scales. During rest the moth keeps on bark of tree, having combined front wings atop of back ones, and this pattern is not visible. At danger moth displays back wings, turning front ones in sides. Thus it slightly rises on legs and vibrates by back wings. The sunlight reflects from oculate spots and frightens the enemy, creating the illusion of eyes of moving large animal.
This moth lives in the top part of tree crones and after the metamorphosis it does not fly down to the ground.
The most remarkable feature of Antiguan great hawk moth is its half-meter long proboscis – the longest one in nature. Even at larger butterflies and moths it does not reach such length. This species is adapted exclusively to feeding in flowers of pipe-flowered tobacco tree. Also this moth is the only pollinator of this plant. During the flight the proboscis is turned in hard spiral and is located between legs of insect.
Fertility of this species up to 1000 eggs. It can seem rather low for such large insect, but at Antiguan great hawk moth there are no food competitors, because caterpillars of this species also feed on plants of pipe-flowered tobacco tree. The female lays eggs in flight, simply dumping them on leaves of fodder plant. Due to sticky shell eggs at once paste to leaves and in some days from them caterpillars burst. Shortly before pupating the caterpillar reaches length up to 15 cm. It has bright green colouring with longitudinal black strips. Right behind the head of caterpillar on thoracal segments there is a pair of black oculate spots with red edge. On the back end of body there is long (up to 2 cm) orange tail thorn. At danger caterpillar takes pose of sphynx characteristic for these insects. Very young caterpillars have monotonous green colouring. Age change of colouring is connected to features of protection strategy of caterpillars. As they grow, caterpillars accumulate in their bodies alkaloids of tobacco, and to the final stage they become impregnable for predators. Young caterpillars are much more edible, and green colouring helps them to hide from the enemy. Union with the poisonous plant gives this insect one more benefit: it has only few ichneumon parasites – not all species of these insects can sustain that amount of alkaloids which is accumulated in tissues of caterpillar.
Having reached the age limit, caterpillars pupate in ground directly under fodder plant. Pupae and imago of this species also are poisonous.
Any adaptation has its own price. Antiguan giant hawk moth in its life completely depends on fodder plant, and the reduction of population of pipe-flowered tobacco tree can cause fast extinction of the moth, which, in turn, will result in complete disappearance of the plant. However, the existence of both these species so closely interconnected to each other, indicates that environment of their habitat differs in certain stability.

This species of insects was discovered by Anton, the forum member.

Long-nosed hawk moth (Nasulosphinx longiproboscis)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Hawk moths (Sphingidae)

Habitat: subtropic areas of Europe, deciduous forests.
The role of insects in life of plants is difficult for overestimating. Various species of insects eat plants (less often it happens on the contrary) and are pollinators and seed carriers. Frequently coevolution of plant and insect species results in occurrence of freakish shapes and strict specialization at both sides of this union. One example of it is a tropical plant pipe-flowered tobacco tree (Nicotiana longissimoflora), pollinated only by one species of moth. In Europe relations of plant and insect do not reach such extreme degree of specialization, but among them also there are examples of close interrelation.
On roots of trees of humid subtropical forests of the south of Europe the parasitic plant alien rootflower (Rhizoflosculus xenos) lives. Its stalk and leaves had turned to a circuit of tissue cords stretching under bark of the host tree, causing formation of outgrowths on tree trunk. From under bark flower buds sprout, which form large labiate flowers of lengthened shape, which represent the feeding place of one species of European insects.
Flowers of parasitic plants are pollinated by the large moth found in underbrush of the European subtropical forests. It is long-nosed hawk moth, an insect about 5 cm long, about 8 – 9 cm in wingspan. The majority of hawk moths flies in day time, and some of them are nocturnal. Long-nosed hawk moth belongs to diurnal species, but its habitat is the gloomy humid underbrush. This insect never rises even up to the lowest large branches, and spends night on bark of trees.
Long-nosed hawk moth is excellent flyer. Its body has the streamline shape, and wings are narrow and peaked. Front wings have camouflage colouring – dark grey with faltering longitudinal strips and strokes of black color. In rest the moth keeps on tree bark a head upwards, having folded wings like a roof. Their pattern thus merges with background colouring of bark. Back pair of wings, on the contrary, is very appreciable – they are white with black spot in the basis and cyaneous shining border. The body of insect is covered with downiness of grey color, and legs are black. The disturbed moth emits sharply smelling substance – in such way it frightens off predatory insects and mammals.
In connection with strict food specialization at this species the long proboscis is developed: it is up to 15 cm long. In rest the proboscis is curtailed to hard spiral. Long-nosed hawk moth is feeding, hanging above the flower in flight.
Strict specialization of adult insect is compensated by omnivorousity of its larva. The caterpillar of this insect reaching length of 7 cm and lives in tree crones. It is fed on many species of deciduous trees, eating off completely foliage on separate branches. It obviously prefers soft foliage of maples and horse-chestnut, but avoids foliage of laurels and ivy. The appearance of the caterpillar is typical for hawk moths: in back part of the body there is a peaked horn, and forward part of body grows massive. The caterpillar is colored bright green with several slanting longitudinal strokes. Being scared, it freezes, imitating the tortuous leaf. The bottom part of body is bright red. The disturbed caterpillar bends head and thorax back, displaying to the aggressor red colored areas. It is capable to emit the acrid substances causing in predator plentiful secretion of foamy saliva.
Caterpillar winters in cracks of tree bark and in hollows, in layer of dust. It feeds on young spring leaflets, reaches the condition optimal for metamorphosis, and pupates at the end of spring or in the beginning of summer. In the beginning of summer, to the moment of flowering of fodder plant, metamorphosis is over and adult moths appear.

Conifer silk moth (Neobombyx abietes)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Bombycids (Bombycidae)

Habitat: coniferous forests of Eurasia.
In typical cases lepidopterans and coniferous forests are two mutually excluding things: no matter how voracious caterpillars are, but it is easier for them to eat the leaves of fowering plants than less nutritious and hard needles of conifers.
This rule had been broken in Neocene: the relative warming of global climate had created new specialized species, conifer silk moth.
This species of lepidopterans has retained all of the features of this family. Caterpillars hatch from eggs within a week or so and immediately begin eating. Unlike its ancestor, they are able to eat conifer needles instead of leaves, and even transform some substances from needles to their own biological weapons: the body of grown up caterpillar, pupa and imago has such a high concentration of substances derived from pine needles that they can cause poisoning (though not lethal for large vertebrates) even to such giants as shurga and Siberian obda. And small insectivorous animals like predatory arthropods and taiga lizards can even die from food poisoning.
Besides the inedible taste caterpillars also accumulate in their bodies substances that initially help the conifer needles not to freeze in winter. These substances help caterpillars and pupae to survive in Siberian winter, but the cold weather kills about as much or even more silkworms than the number of them perishing in stomachs of insectivorous animals.
Imago emerges from pupal cover in late spring; it can fly, unlike some species of these insects living farther at south. Moreover, conifer silk moth has very strong wings for 5 cm long insect – they help the insects to find a partner and to mate it at night. The next morning, or in rare cases during the day after, males die and females die around the time of sunset – imagoes do not eat anything, for there it is nothing to eat for them in boreal forest: there are no flowers, nor any other food source.
Despite their enemies and the autumn-winter frosts, the population of conifer silk moth resembles the population of lemmings or white hares of Holocene: once in 12-15 years the population peak of these insects takes place and extensive territories of taiga are deforested by their caterpillars, and it is followed by the population crash of this species. The role of predators in this case is done by predatory insects and spiders. The total life span of this moth is one year.

This species of insects is discovered by Bhut, the forum member.
Translated by Bhut.

Gold-winged metal swallowtail (Metallopapilio chrysopterus)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Swallowtails (Papilionidae)

Habitat: rainforest canopy of South-Eastern Asia.
Butterflies of swallowtails family were among the most remarkable insects of Holocene epoch. Large size and bright contrast colouring draw attention to these insects when they promptly fly by above flowers somewhere at the meadow of temperate zone of Earth or above trees of tropical rainforest. After ecological accident and mass extinction carried away to non-existence tropical woods of Holocene epoch with all inhabitants, some species of swallowtails managed to survive. When the climate became warmer and soft, they had occupied again formed habitats, having given rise to set of effectively looking species. Among descendants of common swallowtails (Papilio) butterflies of separate genus of metal swallowtails (Metallopapilio), distinguished with the special structure of wing scales are especially remarkable.
At metal swallowtails light-reflecting properties of wing scales have amplified; that’s why representatives of this genus flash in various metal shades: from cold silvery steel up to gold and green and reddish metal of amazing beauty. Metal shine is combined at these butterflies with velvety matte blackness at edges of wings. At all species at back wings there are characteristic “tails”. Shine of wings permits insects to find out representatives of species at large distance.
The body of metal swallowtails is usually covered with thick short hairs of grey and black color. At some species at the middle line of body there passes white or yellow strip. Metal swallowtails differ in large size of body: the length of body of the butterfly is about 5 cm, and wingspan at some species exceeds 15 see.
These swallowtails have very long proboscises - up to 10 cm being unwrapped. It is the specialization to feeding at trees with long tubular flowers. Adult insects practically never leave forest canopy.
Caterpillars of these swallowtails feed on trees of other species, rather than adult butterflies. Especially frequently it is possible to meet caterpillars on plants which leaves are rich in essential oils. Caterpillars of metal swallowtails are large (length is up to 10 cm), thick, and they have bright colouring. Usually in their coloring green color is combined with red and white spots and strips. Behind the head of caterpillar there is a repugnatorial gland, which in case of danger turns out as bubble and emits unpleasant smell.
Gold metal swallowtail is one of the most impressive species of genus: its wingspan reaches 18 cm. Wings of this insect are covered with brilliant scales, playing in all shades of gold. On edge of wings there passes narrow black border, corners of forward wings are black too. At every back wing there are two “tails” with the expanded end and rounded tip. The border on back wings is wider, than on front ones.
Caterpillars of this species are about 12 cm long; they are almost entirely black with narrow longitudinal green strips. They feed on trees of family of labiates (Lamiaceae).
Other species of this genus live in woods of South-Eastern Asia:
Mourning metal swallowtail (M. hypochondricus) lives at former Sumatra Island (in Neocene it is a part of Jakarta land). Its wingspan is up to 10 cm. Wings are almost entirely black, with several lines of silvery scales along main ribs and large site of silvery color near a root of forward wing. At every back wing there is one pointed “tail”.
Copper swallowtail (M. chalcopterus) inhabits islands of Indonesia near Australian-New Guinean continent. It is very large species: wingspan is up to 20 cm. Wings are colored copper-red with rust-colored shade; only corners of forward wings and narrow border at back wings are black. At back wing there is one big “tail” with rounded tip.
Steel swallowtail (M. ferrum) lives at the south of islands of Indonesia and at the north of Australian-New Guinean continent. Wingspan is about 10 cm. The basic colouring is grey with bluish shade; black border on back wings forms characteristic indented pattern, on front wings there is only narrow black strip. On back wing there are three very thin “tails” with pulled together bases.

Urushi swallowtail (Necropapilio urushiphilus)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Swallowtails (Papilionidae)

Habitat: Japan islands, humid mountain woods.
Between plants and animals continuous “race of arms” always proceeds. Plants put forward acute spikes against four-footed herbivores, and edible parts are penetrated with rigid fibres. Protecting from eating, plants developed various poisons, pitch and lacteal sap. But the answer to these adaptations of plants is the next coil of evolution of herbivores. Uniquitous insects have especially succeeded in counteraction to plants: any kind of plants protected from the majority of herbivores, appears a forage for any species of insects. As the consequence of such evolutionary transformations, these insects are very highly specialized species. It can result adversely in perspectives of their further evolution, but while nothing threatens to species of fodder plants, they prosper and appear out of competition.
In warm and humid mountain woods of Japan Islands the plant had reached the great successes in chemical war against herbivores prospers. All its parts are literally impregnated with poison (hence its name: “death tree”), and in air the bitterish smell warning possible lovers of greenery about danger is felt. Around of this tree only few insects hover, and on the ground under roots of this tree dead and dying butterflies lay – they all belong to the same species. Their number is too large to explain their presence in such place as simple accident.
Actually large bright butterflies, whose life comes to an end at roots of “death tree”, appeared here quite naturally – they had finished their life cycle. Besides, it is quite possible, that they began life on the plant of this species. And this is one of few insects successfully coexisting the “death tree”. The butterfly is named urushi swallowtail (“urushi” is the Japanese name of poison dogwood (Rhus vernix), the ancestor of “death tree”, and urushiol is one of poisons of “death tree”).
The urushi swallowtail is rather large species of swallowtails: the wingspan at this species reaches 15 cm. Colouring of wings is bright and contrast – orange background with red edges of wings and black nerves especially well expressed at the basis of wings. On tips of back wings there are some “tails” among which the middle one is largest. The basis of this “tail” has round black spot with white “eye”. Male of urushi swallowtail is colored contraster, rather than female – it has more black color in coloring, and at separate ones even narrow black border on wings appears. Body of this butterfly is black with red longitudinal strips on sides. The abdomen of female is greater, rather than at male.
Caterpillars of urushi swallowtail feed on leaves of “death tree”: usually damages on leaves of this tree are left by them. Gluttonous caterpillars of advanced ages leave from leaves of “death tree”only thick middle nerve.
The caterpillar of this butterfly is very big – right before the metamorphosis it reaches the length 12 – 15 cm. Colouring of caterpillar is black with big red spots on each segment. On prothorax there are two white oculate spots which help the caterpillar to imitate a head of small snake or lizard. For additional protection at them smell gland of two outgrowths is advanced – at danger it turns outside and emits unpleasant smell. Tissues of this gland are colored orange and contrastly allocate on the background of caterpillar’s back.
Such colouring of adult butterfly and its larva has the large biological sense – it is warning one. In fat tissue of insect a lot of poison is accumulated: the caterpillar receives it from leaves of “death tree”. Even after the metamorphosis poison remains in body of imago in amount enough to make the butterfly completely inedible. Development of caterpillar of urushi swallowtail lasts approximately 5 weeks, and for one year at this species up to three generations may develop. Last generation of insects hibernates in pupal stage. The pupa of urushi swallowtail also has warning colouring: it is cross-striped red-and-black.
The adult butterfly eats nectar of flowers of various plants, avoiding, however, flowers of “death tree”. Poisonous substances in its body are accumulated in fat organ and are reliably isolated from organs and tissues. Its immunity to poison of plants in which its caterpillar is fed, is much below, rather than at caterpillar. Adult urushi swallowtails often feed at flowers of Urushiphla orchid parasitizing on roots of sumach and “death tree”.
Males ready to pairing gather in well lighted places among tree crones. They fly in sunlight by dense flight seen from apart. Males emit pheromones involving females from the long distance.
Female of this butterfly lays eggs once a life. It finds a fodder tree and sits on foliage, choosing young sprouts. At this time the substances evaporating from leaves of plant start to influence an insect. Development of eggs in body of the female demands a lot of energy, and exhausts an organism of insect. Thus ability to resist to poisonous substances of “death tree” is reduced, and the insect appears poisoned.
Female leaves eggs by some ones on leaves of tree. Common fertility of this species reaches half a thousand eggs and more, therefore laying of all eggs takes a lot of time. Up to the finish of egg laying the female appears fatally poisoned with evaporations of plant and perishes. Dead or poisoned insect falls on the ground under tree. At mass flight of urushi swallowtails the ground under trees appears interspersed with dead butterflies. Males overlive females not for a long time – after pairing they stop eating and perish in some days.

Grieving swallowtail (Funestopsyche necrophagus)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Swallowtails (Papilionidae)

Habitat: savannas and woodlands of North Africa and southern Europe.
At top of food pyramid of the ecosystem there is a large predator. In savannas of North Africa and southern Europe bordering a hollow of dried up Mediterranean sea, such apex predator is deadlynetta (Necrogenetta deima) – huge saber-toothed species of viverrids. Its prey includes large local animals: flathorns and ndipinotheriums, huge giraffe ostriches, and also very large rodent mighty grasscutter. In addition to deadlynetta in savanna there is a set of other predators, from small up to rather large. When such predators eat prey, near them various scavengers wait for their share. They understand that if they will hurry, they may draw upon themselves the aggression of predator. But some impudent ones easily receive the share of forage – they do not demand too much, therefore predators do not drive them away. One of such impudent scavengers is a snow-white butterfly with black border on wings. Long “tails” on wings specify its belonging to family of swallowtails. This species never meets on flowers, but gathers in great number on dead animals. For this feature this butterfly is named grieving swallowtail.
Adult butterflies of this species never meet on flowers – they had completely lost ability to eat vegetative food. But these butterflies fly by tens to smell of blood and meat. They literally stick round the prey tormented by predator, and are not afraid to sit on the muzzle of animal soiled with blood. Having unwrapped long proboscis, butterfly licks off blood and meat juice which make food of this insect. Besides of fresh prey of predators, this butterfly is able to feed on decomposed corpses of animals.
Wingspan of grieving swallowtail makes about 15 cm. Flight of this butterfly seems slow and majestic, but it is deceptive impression – butterflies fly very quickly, and already literally in some minutes gather on prey of various predators in tens. Colouring of wings of this butterfly confirms somewhat the name of species – on white background of wing the black border is brightly visible, and some large nerves in wing basis also may be black. On back wing there is long “tail” near which there are some other shorter shoots.
On prey of predators butterflies not only eat, but also pair. Only time when these insects are interested in plants is a larval stage. The caterpillar of grieving swallowtail eats on leaves of trees – more often it can be met on leaves of acacias in the top part of crone. The caterpillar of this swallowtail is colored dark brown with grey longitudinal strokes on sides. It keeps on bottom side of leaf, escaping from hot sunlight. Development of caterpillar lasts about four months, and for one year the grieving swallowtail can give two generations. This insect goes through driest months in pupal stage and finishes metamorphosis in the beginning of rain season.

Altjira (Aepypapilio altjira)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Swallowtails (Papilionidae)

Habitat: Meganesia, rainforests.

Picture by FanboyPhilosopher

In human epoch New Guinea was known as a motherland of the largest butterfly of the Earth – Queen Alexandra’s birdwing (Ornithoptera alexandrae) from swallowtails family (Papilionidae). This species alongside with a plenty of bright tropical insects had become extinct in epoch of global ecological crisis which had come at the end of human epoch. In Neocene tropical rainforests had covered equatorial areas of the Earth again. And there new species of insects had evolved, many of which do not concede in beauty and size to the most known species of human epoch. One of such species – is swallowtail butterfly altjira from rainforests of the north of Meganesia. The adult butterfly of this species has wingspan over 30 centimeters, and caterpillars reach the length of about 20 centimeters. Such insects had evolved due to stable conditions and an abundance of food in places of their inhabiting. The name “altjira” descends from mythology of one tribe of Australian aborigenes – it is the name of the mythical lord of sky.
Caterpillars of altjira feed on leaves of forest species of leguminous plants. They are rather easy for seeing on the background of vegetation: the caterpillar has black colouring due to which it is quickly warmed up after cold night and has higher speed of metabolism. On the second thoracal segment caterpillar has a pair of large oculate spots of orange color with short vertical stroke in the middle. These spots imitate eyes of small reptiles. The first thoracal segment is orange-red, and head is black, as the rest of body. The disturbed caterpillar draws head in thorax, and thus the forward part of its body becomes similar to head with opened mouth. In such way it frightens off birds. Also it has one more way of defense: on thoracal segments odorous glands of bright yellow colouring stuck out, emitting disgusting smell. With the help of such smell caterpillar frightens off animals searching for food with the help of sense of smell – reptiles and mammals. If both ways do not work, the caterpillar shoots at the enemy by partly digested food, adding to it a secretion of modified salivary glands, stiffening on air in gum-like mass.
Development of the caterpillar, having so numerous protective adaptations, lasts about 3 months. The adult butterfly of this species looks very impressive – long peaked front wings give to it the remote similarity to swallows. Forward nerves on wings are thicken and very strong. Back wings are rounded, and at their external and back edges some tails grow. Back pair of tails is very long – at males they reach length up to 15 cm and extend on tips. Adults males of altjira are colored blue with green metal shine and black front edge of the wing. In the basis of back wing they have some small black spots. Females of altjira are green with slight metal shine. On their front wings the thin cross strokes are scattered, forming faltering mesh pattern, varying at different individuals. Tails on back wings at representatives of both sexes are colored black. At males on larger tails of back pair along the middle line the narrow silvery strip stretches. The bottom side of wings at butterflies of both sexes is colored similarly – it has yellowish-brown tone, imitating colouring of dried leaf. In rest these butterflies hang on bottom side of branches and among foliage, hiding in such way from predators. Body at butterflies of both sexes is black with greyish-white longitudinal strip stretching from head up to tip of abdomen.
Altjira flies quickly, and in flight tips of wings clap against each other from above and from below of the body of butterfly with rather loud sound. In courtship season male, displaying itself to the female, hangs before her in air, loudly flapping wings. After courtship season tips of wings at males look shabby, and their colouring fades up to semi-transparency.
Altjira feeds on flowers of various trees and lianas, not giving preference to any separate species. Due to a long proboscis (up to 12 cm long) this species can feed even on flowers inaccessible to metal swallowtails – distant relatives of this species. The maximal life expectancy of imago makes about 3 – 4 weeks, but usually it is less. For the life the female has time to make up to five clutches of 300 – 400 eggs in each one. The greatest death rate at caterpillars falls to the first weeks of life, while at them all means of protection are not advanced to the full.

Aquatic swallowtail (Exopapilio aquaticus)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Swallowtails (Papilionidae)

Habitat: Sunda Land, freshwater reservoirs.
Neocene is a time of new and unusual animals. After human disappearance the nature has restored the lost specific variety of ecosystems, and the set of new species had occupied the newly formed habitats. Representatives of some groups of live organisms made more or less successful attempts to develop new inhabitancies where their ancestors did not live. An example of such success is an aquatic swallowtail, the butterfly from Southeast Asia, the descendant of emerald swallowtail (Papilio palinurus) of Holocene, a beautiful large insect having 10 cm wingspan. But anthropogenous pressure (collecting of insects and destruction of their habitats) had reduced the number of that species and had resulted in size decreasing of these insects, and then after the ending of ice age epoch the climate of Southeast Asia started to change. Following the climate plants, and after them animals dependent on them, including various butterflies, and among butterflies – the survived species of swallowtails changed also. As a result of influence of these circumstances to butterfly evolution in Neocene world absolutely unusual descendants of old genera had appeared.
The aquatic swallowtail is a butterfly occupied completely new to swallowtails ecological niche due to the small size and ecological flexibility of ancestral species: freshwater reservoirs of Sunda Land. This island was formed at merge of several islands of Indonesia due to the influence of volcanic activity and raising of lithosperic plate at th movement of Meganesia to the north. The passing of this swallowtail to aquatic way of life had partly happened because Sunda Land is the area of numerous reservoirs, medium-sized and small – from streams and rivers up to ponds and lakes. They receive water from daily rains – it is a consequence of hot and humid equatorial climate. The abundance of fresh water and presence of various isolated biotops promotes the development of various freshwater lifeforms, particulary invertebrates, fishes and amphibians. The aquatic swallowtail is simultaneously both one of the strangest animals of fresh water, and one of the most usual inhabitants of this island. Its ancestors passed to semi-aquatic way of life in order to take advantage of new fodder resource representing plentifully growing marsh and aquatic plants. These plants give plentiful food to various aquatic and semi-aquatic animal, including caterpillars of aquatic swallowtail. Its ancestor, an emerald swallowtail, had no bias to life near reservoirs, preferring tree crones more, but in human epoch the area of tropical forests in Asia had been reduced, that had placed this swallowtail literally to the edge of extinction. The swallowtail had adapted to new conditions similarly to some other butterflies and moths (for example, Saturnia and bagworm moths): adult individuals stopped feeding, and their role in life cycle of the butterfly is reduced only to breeding. To any time this strategy had helped these swallowtails to survive, when they existed mainly as gluttonous caterpillars, nonpoisonous, but protected by unpleasant smell. But the situation continued changing. While swallowtails adapted to life on not numerous fodder trees of habitual species, these plants became rare and smaller, conceding places to new plant species. The swallowtail had avoided the complete extinction, having changed the diet qualitatively. Its descendants developed new species of fodder plants, and some populations had moved to the banks of tropical reservoirs where they began feeding first on amphibious, and then on semi-aquatic plants. Caterpillars of new species of swallowtails adapted for temporary existence in aquatic environment, having developed primitive system of breath both in air, and under water – their body haв become covered by hydrophobous hair which kept an air cover around the body of caterpillar, allowing it to breathe. This adaptation was effective in lower degree, especially before the next moult and pupating, but it was the beginning of the origin of one of the most unusual species of lepidopters.
As well as all tropical species, aquatic swallowtails lay eggs all the year round – they do not have mass simultaneous metamorphosis and imago hatching. As they spend the life under water not completely, adult females paste eggs on leaves of plants growing above water. Hatching caterpillars at once fall in water where they grow, eating various plants. They eat both upwater shoots of plants and soft underwater leaves. Duckweed frequently becomes the first food for them. Caterpillars of aquatic swallowtail have ordinary-looking greenish-brown color, masking them from predators. Their skins have the numerous plicas working similarly to tracheal gills of underwater larvae of insects of other groups; caterpillars receive through them oxygen directly from water. Though they have not so pleasant taste, because of large number of this species many caterpillars become food for the various aquatic animals, especially for amphibians and fishes. At growing up caterpillars (life cycle of this species lasts no more than half-year), skin plicas smooth gradually, and absorption of oxygen from water through covers is worsened. Larger larvae of aquatic swallowtail move at first to shoaliness and then creep out from water, living on floating leaves of marsh plants. They pass metamorphosis on land; caterpillars creep on trees and spend in pupa stage for 2 – 3 weeks. From pupae small butterflies (wingspan does not exceed 3 cm) hatch; in their adult life they resemble May flies – ancient winged insects which also continue the existence in Neocene. Back wings of this swallowtail keep tails characteristic for the family. The butterfly is colored white color with black nerves of front wings and wide black border along the edge of back wings. In the basis of every tail there is a large oculate spot – red one with white stroke in middle. When the butterfly lands, having risen wings, they imitate its head, driving the attention of predator from the true head of the insect. However, it is more the atavistic feature which is not bearing real advantage for survival of the species. Life at the imago stage at this species is very short: adult insects mature in some hours after burst from pupal skin. They die during 1 – 2 day, but before the death males have time to fertilize females, and females paste eggs on leaves of floating plants, and so the life cycle of this species repeats again.

The idea about existence of this species of insects was proposed by Simon, the forum member.
This species of insects was discovrered by Bhut, the forum member.

Ribby flower pierid (Petalopterina flosculimima)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Pierids (Pieridae)

Habitat: dry woods and semi-deserts of Southwest Asia.
In wild each species of plants coexists with various species of animals, directly or indirectly dependent on it. It happens, that any species of insects, for example, lives on one plant, feeds on next one, and its larvae eat greenery of third species. It happens on the contrary, when two species, plant and animal, adapt only to each other, and evolve together.
In semi-deserts surrounding the dried up Mediterranean Sea, there are groups of thick-trunk low true cabbage trees (Brassixylon crassus) belonging to crucifers family (Brassicaceae). For some animals these plants are unique source of moisture and food, and sometimes the unique house.
In spring and in the beginning of summer when clouds from Indian ocean and Tanganyika passage reach this droughty district and humidify ground, the true cabbage tree begins to blossom: its crone is crowned by set of large inflorescences with bright pink flowers. They will bloom not for long, and wind breaks them from tree and carries away. It looks, however, that not all petals agree to leave a tree so easily: some of them rather confidently fly against a wind, and sit back on branches. At the nearest acquaintance it becomes completely evident, that they are not flowers, and not plants at all, but animals – butterflies, skillfully imitating by shape and colouring of body flower of cabbage tree. This species of butterflies is named ribby flower pierid, and belongs to family of pierids among which there are species, rather not indifferent to plants of crucifers family. In human epoch some species of these insects were considered as plant pests, but the nature had put the situation to rights when people have disappeared and huge plantations, where one or two species of plants were cultivated have become a thing of the past follow them.
Ribby flower pierid is rather large butterfly: the length of its body is up to 5 cm, and wingspan reaches 8 – 9 cm. Rounded wings of this insect are colored pinkish with dark red nerves. The body and antennae of the butterfly are yellowish, covered with downiness of short hairs. In case of danger this butterfly imitates flower of the true cabbage tree, on which it lives: it plants wings forward and back as a cross, slightly raises them (it is the imitation of petals), lifts up and bends on back the abdomen, lifting head with antennae (imitating stamens and pestle). Its similarity to flowers is so great, that even in the beginning of dry season when the tree has already faded, birds do not peck butterflies sitting among drying up rests of inflorescences of cabbage tree.
The caterpillar eats leaves of the same tree, and for masking is colored green. Usually these caterpillars sit on edges of leaves, eating soft tissues. After them only “skeletons” of thickest ribs remains from leaves. Disturbed caterpillars bend the forward end of body as letter S and belch swallowed and semi-digested greenery, from which the disgusting smell emits. It is their unique protection, and the part of them perishes in beaks of birds and teeth of lizards. But fertility of butterflies of this species giving up to two generations during short rain season, permits to compensate these losses. Butterflies of the first generation are “early”: they are small, grow and perish quickly. From their eggs caterpillars excluse, which gather weight during first half of droughty season, eating withering leaves of tree. They pupate in cracks of ground and among vegetative dust. The second generation of butterflies survives dry season at the stage of pupa, and emerges after first rains of the next year.

“Winged guard” (Pugnatonymphalis lord-protector)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Nymphalids (Nymphalidae)

Habitat: Far East, subtropical and warm-temperate areas, forests.

Picture by Lambert

Forests are rich in various species of butterflies. Nature gives them a generous choice of forages at any stage of development – from caterpillar to imago. In tropical forests extremely specialized species of butterflies frequently meet, connected in life cycle to unique species of fodder plants. And in temperate and cold areas of the Earth butterflies may be very unpretentious in choice of food. Besides of nectar, diet of adult butterflies includes other kinds of food: tree sap (even fermenting), liquid of decomposed bodies of animals, dung of large animals. However, some butterflies not feed in adult condition at all.
Evolution does not stay, and frequently live beings can develop odd and unexpected, but effective ways of survival. At the Far East one species of butterflies had completely stopped to feed on flowers. This small (wingspan is about 6 cm) bright butterfly meets on large grassy plants where colonies of plant lice have settled. This butterfly constantly keeps near the colony of plant lice and drives the congeners away from it. For this feature it is named “winged guard”.
The sugary liquid producing by plant lice is needed for “winged guard”. It quite replaces nectar to the butterfly, and “winged guard” only occasionally may be seen on flowers. Most likely, these ones are “tramps” at which the fodder colony of plant lice was lost. Within several days such butterflies search for new colony and continue to lead habitual way of life.
Similarly to ants, “winged guard” stimulates a plant louse to secret sweet liquid. The butterfly sits in colony of plant lice and cautiously tickles insects by short antennae. Replying to stimulation plant lice secret sweetish liquid which “winged guard” licks off by short mobile proboscis.
Such food source is not as accessible, as flower nectar, therefore “winged guard” is very territorial. Butterflies of this species leave on plants the odorous marks warning congeners that the territory is occupied. Colouring of top side of wings is very bright and clearly visible from apart: they are yellow with black border on edge of wing. Black color of border is shaded with blood-red strip. On bottom surface of front wings of “winged guard” has bright labels – on grey background big there are white spots with grayish scales scattered on them. Scales reflect ultra-violet part of solar spectrum, making the butterfly especially visible for congeners. The back pair of wings has brownish bottom side and brown external edge. When the butterfly hides from predators, it closes bottom side of forward pair of wings by back ones, and light shine does not give out its presence. The butterfly is very cautious: having noticed a flying bird it closes wings, covers shining spots and simply falls in grass.
If the congener interferes to the fodder territory of “winged guard”, the owner of territory protects colony of plant lice from strangers. Driving competitors away, the butterfly arranges bloodless, but active “duels” in air, pushing congeners aside from the chosen colony of plant lice. If the contender flies at the edge of territory, the lawful owner of colony of plant lice flies up and makes some circles along borders of territory. From time to time butterfly stops in air for some seconds, trembling wings and showing ultra-violet “flashes” on inside of wings. Other contenders of “winged guard” are ants. This butterfly can make of nothing against them, and is content with feeding on plant lice colonies located at the distance from ants colonies. If such colonies are not present, butterfly makes a strike on colonies of plant lice occupied by ants, and feeds while ants had not gathered for protection of plant lice.
At “winged guard” male has dimmer colouring, than female – on top side of its wings there is no red strip, black strip is narrower, and background color of wing is paler. It has no constant fodder colony of plant lice and leads “vagrant” life, searching for females. Pairing at these butterflies lasts more than one hour. Thus the female sits vertically on plant stalk, and male hangs headfirst, having closed wings and having drawn legs in. Such position does not cause inconvenience in him: pairing male simultaneously “plunders” fodder colony of the female, actively licking off secretion of plant lice. It is its basic source of food.
After pairing the female leaves for a short time the territory to lay eggs. Caterpillars of “winged guard” feed on leaves of hazel grove and birch, therefore fertilized female flies to the forest for searches of fodder tree. It makes it in evening, in order to prevent congeners to occupy its territory. After egg laying the female flies back, being guided by smell of its own labels. For the life the female has time to make 3 – 4 layings numbering 200 – 300 eggs in each one. Caterpillars have not striking green colouring with brown longitudinal strip on the top part of body. They keep on the bottom side of leaves and skeletonize them.
For summer this species of butterflies gives two generations. Pupae of the second generation hibernate. In spring their metamorphosis is finished, and they turn to butterflies lead a way of life typical for this species.

Sky pilgrim (Caelestoviator transtetramarinus)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Nymphalids (Nymphalidae)

Habitat: Europe, the Caucasian peninsula.

Picture by Lambert

Events of rather recent past had changed the face of southeast part of Europe. In ice age Black, Azov, Caspian and Aral have dried up, but after glacier thawing all of them became parts of the unite reservoir – the Fourseas. While hollows of the seas were empty, above them numerous routes of the birds of passage travelling between the north of Eurasia, Asian Near East and Africa ran. Formation of Fourseas had taken place rather quickly in geological sense, and a part of birds, keeping adherence to old routes, had been compelled to cross Fourseas from the north to the south. In addition to birds other flying creatures, butterflies, use the same route. Some species of migrating butterflies belonging to different families live in Neocene Eurasia. One of their species is sky pilgrim making annually mass migrations between places of wintering and breeding.
Sky pilgrim is the medium-sized butterfly. Wingspan of the female does not exceed 6 – 7 cm, male is smaller a little bit. Wings of this species are strong, dense and lengthened. When butterfly flaps them, tips of wings touch each other above and under the body of insect. The clap of wings of the separate butterfly is almost not audible, but the flock of butterflies, numbering millions of individuals, makes in flight the noise similar to noise of pouring rain.
Wings of this butterfly are colored brightly enough. The basic background of colouring is ochre red; edges are white with separate strokes of black color. It makes a border of wings similar to miniver lining of royal cloak. Edges of wings are angular and have small dredgings between nerves. Front edge of wing is smooth and very dense. Back wings are rounded and have narrower white border. At males wings have more expressed red shade, and white border almost lacks black strokes. The bottom side of wings at insects of both genders has citreous color with grey irregular-shaped spots. It is warning colouring; butterflies are poisonous, because at the caterpillar stage they synthesize a plenty of cantharidin.
Sky pilgrim winters in forests of Caucasian peninsula. Similarly to monarch butterflies from America it gathers in unnumerable congestions on branches of conifers and other evergreen trees. This butterfly spends winter in slow active condition, making short flights only in the warmest days. Birds do not eat these butterflies because of acrid taste, and wintering passes successfully. Pairing at this species occurs in wintering places. When weather becomes warm enough, insects restore forces, eating nectar of the first spring flowers. Males ready to pairing begin courtship flight. They gather above the forest in great flocks similar to clubs of smoke from apart. At once some males start following the female moving near such flock, but always only one of them becomes a winner. Pairing occurs on tree branches right under male flock. In these cases some tens pairs of copulating butterflies may be found on branches simultaneously. Pairing lasts till some hours. After it male strongly sticks the genital ducts of the female with quickly stiffening substance. The “chastity belt” falls off only some days later, when the female loses ability to fertilization. After this action male lives about two hours. It does not fly anywhere, and only creeps on branches. After the period of pairing under trees little heaps of male bodies remain, and wind drives them as if fallen leaves. At females formation of eggs has a pause which is connected to necessity of migration.
The impregnated females should do long and hard way across Fourseas and Three-Rivers-Land steppe. After pairing, having released from the males, females begin prepare to travel. They gather to great flocks above forests of the Caucasian peninsula and gradually move to coastal areas. Here flock of butterflies, numbering hundred thousand individuals, are fed within several days. Having accumulated a small stock of fat, insects begin their travel. They cross Fourseas in the bottleneck, but all the same non-stop flight above the sea within many hours strongly tires them. At this time the subjects floating on sea surface become much desired find for them. Trunks of trees, reed “rafts”, and even the carcasses of terrestrial animals carried by the rivers, appear covered with a carpet of insects having a rest. The part of butterflies inevitably appears in water and perishes, but their death only raises chances of other individuals to leave posterity: On dead or dying butterflies floating on surface of water frequently their congeners land to have a rest.
Having overcome Fourseas, flocks of sky pilgrims fly by above steppe areas, stopping for night in dense congestions on branches of separate trees or simply at tops of heights. Breeding area of sky piligrim is a zone of mixed and small-leaved forests of Europe. Here huge flights scatter in searches of suitable fodder plants. Females quickly restore the physical form, and in their organism eggs start to ripen again. This butterfly lays eggs on leaves of trees in middle part of crone. Caterpillars have clearly expressed warning colouring – they are bright orange with three longitudinal lines of black points along back and sides. Head of caterpillar has white color. The disturbed caterpillar lets out portions of strongly smelling dung, but all the same the part of caterpillars perishes, especially at early stages of development – ants, carnivorous beetles and also small birds occasionally eating caterpillars of this species hunt for them in order to get rid of internal parasites. Ichneumons attack larger caterpillars.
Caterpillars of sky pilgrim grow quickly and pupate at the end of summer After the first frosts, when warm weather returns, from them butterflies burst. Flocks of butterflies of this species, migrating to the south, reach the even greater number – they include males also. The beginning of migration is quick: in warm autumn day of butterflies gather in flocks and in the evening simultaneously fly to the south. The small concentration of the odorous substances secreted by representatives of their species is necessary for launching of migration instinct at this one. Flockr of flying out butterflies keep close to the ground and in wood zone prefer moving along river valleys where the vegetation is lower. In steppe zone butterflies unite large flocks and cross Fourseas in common. At the coast of Caucasian peninsula they restore forces, feeding on nectar of last flowers, juice of fruit beginning to rot and wood sap. When cold snap approaches, they gather on trees and hibernate.

Summer contravirgo (Contravirgo aestiva)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Bears (Arctiidae)

Habitat: Siberia, areas overgrown with grass vegetation and bushes.

Top: summer contravirgo - female, larvae, larva-like male
Bottom: hibernating contravirgo

Picture by Fanboyphilosopher

In Neocene Eurasia has remained huge landmass where the severe continental climate dominates. Therefore in central part of this continent the period favorable for active life of invertebrates is rather short. Evolution of insects in such conditions frequently appears directed to development of adaptations permitting as soon, as possible, to develop and to use resources of the environment more economically.
In this sense among Neocene insects of Siberia moths from Arctiidae family forming the separate genus Contravirgo are interesting. At these insects development was sped up so, that they partly even have got ability to breed, remaining in larval stage. The most common species of this genus is summer contravirgo. The moth of this species flies in middle and in second half of summer.
For contravirgo the expressed sexual dimorphism is characteristic. The female of summer contravirgo develops in usual order, turning from caterpillar to winged imago up to 4 cm in wingspan. The female of this species of insects is poisonous – it synthesizes poisonous substances, being a caterpillar, and keeps them in the body after metamorphosis. Colouring of wings of summer contravirgo is warning: front wings are white with clear black nerves. The bases of front wings and thorax of moth are covered with rich black hairs. Back wings of summer contravirgo are bright red with mesh pattern of shining dark blue nerves. Usually adult insect is rather inactive: in day time the moth hides in grass and sits on bottom side of leaves, having put wings V-shaped. The disturbed moth stretches front wings and shows bright coloring of back wings. But in the evening adult females of summer contravirgo fly, feed and search for males.
There is one more feature of shape of contravirgo – at females of these moths feather-like antennae, fluffy because of additional hairs increasing sensitive surface of antennae, are strongly advanced. Usually males of moths differ in advanced antennae and sharp sense of smell, but at contravirgo the shape of male is completely other, rather than at usual moths.
The male of moths of genus Contravirgo is actually reduced up to larva able to pairing. Usually the survival rate of males at larva stage is higher, than at females – they are smaller and keep secretively, therefore at larval stage the number of males is more, than females. The male caterpillar of contravirgo has dim grey colouring with greenish strip along the back and black strokes on sides. It grows slower, than females, and undergoes less number of moults. After last moult at it sexual glands roughly develop, and the body strongly changes externally: the male caterpillar becomes bright orange, starts to creep out on top side of leaves of fodder plant and emits the special smell attractive to females. At this stage sexual glands filled with sperm liquid occupy about the half of body volume of the male caterpillar. At it tenacious walking legs similar to legs of adult butterfly of other species develop, but abdominal false legs, characteristic for caterpillars, do not disappear. The head of such male also gets separate features of shape of adult insect – eyes become larger, and pectoral segments from above four small shoots appear – these ones are reduced wings. Mouth parts of the male at this stage degrade, and from them only nonfunctional rudiments remain. The oral aperture completely grows out. In such condition the unique applicability of the male is to fertilize the female.
The female flies involved by smell of the male, sits near to it and turns to pose of pairing, having slightly stretched wings and having extended an abdomen aside the male. The male creeps on the female, and goes with her to courtship flight, having clung to her abdomen from below. The male keeps on body of female by walking legs, enters in sexual ducts of the female all seed liquid which was formed at him, and quickly perishes after pairing. Frequently it simply falls down from the flying female on the ground.
Spermatozoids keep viability in sexual ducts of the female for a long time. As against the male, after metamorphosis she can eat and lives for a long time – about two weeks. For the stayed life she makes some clutches numbering 200 - 300 eggs each after the single pairing. Also for this time she can fly tens kilometers, settling to new places of inhabiting. The female finds suitable fodder plants, lays eggs and perishes usually after the first light frost.
Caterpillars of summer contravirgo are unpretentious regarding a feeding: they eat leaves of various evergreen bushes wintering under snow. This species has some externally indiscernible ecological races, feeding on different plants. Eggs of contravirgo hibernate in dormant condition, and start to develop after snow thawing. Caterpillars burst from eggs in early spring, and at once start to eat. They are very hardy: during light frosts they simply remain on foliage of fodder plant, easily tolerating freezing. After night light frost caterpillars easily thaw and continue feeding. Being frozen and motionless, they could become easy catch of various insectivorous animals, but they are protected with poisonous bristles richly covering the body. At first stages of development caterpillars of summer contravirgo of both sexes are similar in colouring to the male caterpillar of advanced age.
Female caterpillars of advanced age have typically warning colouring – they have black color with cross white strips. Besides the female caterpillar is richly covered with hairs. These hairs easily break off and stuck in skin of aggressor, causing irritation. Also they easily get in respiratory ways and lungs, causing strong burning. Colouring of caterpillar is precisely remembered by insectivorous birds or small mammals, and they leave alone dangerous larvae. But in places of inhabiting of summer contravirgo there are some species of birds able to eat caterpillars protected in similar way. Also ichneumons are natural enemies of these moths.
In Siberia there is the close species of moths: hibernating contravirgo (Contravirgo hibernata). This insect eats narrower set of forages, than summer contravirgo. Fodder plants for hibernating contravirgo are poisonous species of buttercups family. Therefore hibernating contravirgo more often lives in damper district where there fodder plants necessary to it grow usually. This species differs from summer contravirgo in larger size – the caterpillar of this moth feeds for longer time and pupates later. Female caterpillars at this species are much larger than males, grow faster and moult more often. They pupate an early autumn, for some days before males. But the basic difference from summer contravirgo is that the male in condition of caterpillar is more active. It finds by smell and fertilizes females being at the pupa stage. Males of these moths also do not turn to imago, but live longer, than at summer contravirgo, and perish after fertilization of several females. The pupa of this species is protected by poison which is received from fodder plants and is accumulated in hemolymph. The female pupa hibernates and in spring the moth undergone the metamorphosis, already lays fertile eggs on suitable plants. The female of hibernating contravirgo has wingspan of about 6 – 7 cm. It also is colored very brightly – front wings have black color with dark blue shade and slight metal shine. On back wings of the female dark red irregular-shaped spots are scattered on white background. The female of hibernating contravirgo does not search for males by smell; therefore its antennae are rather short and only a little hairy. The imago of this species eats nectar of spring flowers and lives for rather long time – up to three – five weeks. The female lays eggs in several portions of 400 – 500 ones within two weeks, and then perishes.

Two-shaped antivirgo (Antivirgo dimorpha)
Order: Butterflies (Lepidoptera)
Family: Bears (Arctiidae)

Habitat: Siberia, areas of landscape overgrown with grassy vegetation and bushes.
Some moths of bears family living in Neocene at the territory of Siberia had developed expressed sexual dimorphism as a result of adaptation to rigorous continental climate. At moths of genus contravirgo (Contravirgo) males in fact remain in condition of caterpillar and do not turn to normal imago stage. Very sharp sexual dimorphism also had developed at moths of other close genus – antivirgo. At this genus the female matures, remaining a caterpillar, and small winged male does not differ by features of development from moths of other species. It finds sexually mature caterpillar females and fertilizes them. During the life male succeeds to fertilize several females. At non-fertilized caterpillar females eggs also develop. During the first division chromosomes in such cells do not separate and new cellular wall is not formed. From such eggs females hatch exclusively. From eggs of fertilized female both females and males excluse. Besides in ovoduct of growing caterpillar female eggs continue to form some time after fertilization. Last portions of eggs in clutch of fertilized female are unfertilized, and from them small haploid males develop.
Fertilized caterpillar normally undergoes metamorphosis and turns to imago. Imago of antivirgo serves only for settling of species – it finds trees suitable for development of caterpillars, lays eggs and perishes. Imago of antivirgo of both genders does not feed, oral parts of these butterflies are underdeveloped.
Eggs of antivirgo winter, and in spring when growth of plants begins, from them caterpillars burst.
Caterpillars and moths of genus antivirgo are protected from predators by poison. 7 – 8 cm long caterpillars of this species are covered in rich black hairs. On black background the white longitudinal strip on back side of body is clearly visible. It is warning colouring supported with effective way of protection. Hairs of antivirgo caterpillars are poisonous and easily break off at the basis. Sticking to mucous membranes they cause strong irritation and hypostasis. Caterpillars of antivirgo produce poison by themselves. They feed on nonpoisonous plants of various species – dogrose, hazel grove and large grassy plants. Male caterpillars grow slower, rather than female ones.
Imagoes of this genus also are poisonous. Male and female of two-shaped antivirgo sharply differ externally (hence the specific name of this moth). Male represents small insect (wingspan is no more than 3 cm) of red-brown color with black tip of abdomen and white spot on thorax. Wing nerves are a little darker, than the basic background of wing colouring. The female is much larger, than male – its wingspan reaches 7 cm. Front wings of female have cross-striped black-and-white pattern; strips are irregular-shaped. Back wings are colored bright blue with metal shine, contrasting with strict colouring of forward wings. The body of female is covered with rich velvety hairs of cherry-red color. The disturbed female opens front wings and displays shining of back wings. It supports the warning of inedibility, emitting sharp bitter smell in air.
Antivirgo males fly in August, and imago females appear at the end of August and in beginning of September. They fly till only some days, but appear simultaneously in plenty. Females of antivirgo are most active within midday hours when their body is well warmed by sun. Flight of antivirgo females marks the end of Siberian summer.

River silkworm (Potamobombyx socialis)
Order: Caddis flies (Trichoptera)
Family: Neotenical caddis flies (Pedopsychidae)

Habitat: Eurasia; rivers, streams and lakes of Siberia.
Representatives of caddis flies order were very characteristic inhabitants of freshwater reservoirs in human epoch. But drainage and pollution of reservoirs had caused the great damage to their populations, and many species became very rare and had disappeared at the significant part of the area. Few populations of caddis flies had been kept only in small rivers, but it was enough for rather quick returning of these insects to the lost positions after human extinction. Among the caddis flies from cold reservoirs of Holarctic the special family evolved, which representatives developed rare for insects ability to breed at larval stage. One species of this family is the river silkworm living in reservoirs of Siberia.
Similarly to all caddis flies, this species spends a significant part of life at the stage of larva. The size of larvae is about 8 – 12 mm. Their body is long and thin; legs are short (about 0.8 – 1 mm long), but keep all segments and are very tenacious. Tracheal gills are present at these larvae, but they are very small and breath is almost exclusively through skin.
In summer, when water plants grow actively, this species forms colonies on floating leaves of water lilies. River silkworm had lost the ability of decoration of shelters with various small subjects, and instead of it makes complex constructions of silk on the bottom side of leaf. Each leaf (or some leaves floating near each other) is occupied with the numerous colony of larvae numbering some hundreds of individuals. Each individual in colony has its individual habitation looking like silk tube hanging downwards. On bottom surface of leaf these tubes are connected at the basis with a circuit of randomly directed tunnels in which walls casually getting dust is intertwined. In common silk tunnels these caddis fly larvae move, bending the body like inchworm caterpillars; the middle pair of their legs at this time is folded and nestled against lateral parts of thoracal segments in order to not prevent movement. In its own tubes it simply creeps, pulling the body by two pairs of walking legs (1-st and 3-rd ones), having folded and pressed to sides legs of the second pair, and pushing by cerci. They make “steps” due to 2 or 3 pairs of prolegs located on first abdominal segments.
The larva spends a significant part of time in its own shelter, and only at its destruction by predators abandons it, escaping in the common tunnels of colony. The larva is a filtering organism; it hangs on the bottom surface of leaf, keeping by cercae on internal surface of shelter and keeping slime-made trap in middle pair of legs. It almost constantly makes wavy movements by the whole body, simultaneously filtering water and promoting skin breath (approximately as many modern sea worms act). Silk glands of the larva produce slime of special sort which inflates in water and turns to long sticky strings. Middle pair of legs of the larva is lengthened: they reach about half of length of the larva body. When it is put out from shelter, these legs extend downwards and in sides. The larva preliminary smears them with such slime, and tips of these legs turn to mucous trap for small prey. The larva makes raking movements by middle pair of legs, and from time to time brings them to the mouth to lick off the gathered plankton. If larger prey is caught, the larva pulls it from slime by forward pair of legs. If near the colony there is a clutch of eggs (usually snail clutch), the larva of river silkworm eats these eggs, covering them with silk web in order to protect it from food competitors.
In case of danger the larva is hidden in silk tube, closing the entrance by large flat head. If danger is great (for example, fish or water beetle tries to break off silk constructions), the larva abandons the tube and escapes in the common tunnels of colony. If the colony is attacked only by one large predator, larvae are easily escaping, simply creeping in tunnels to another edge of colony.
In the colony of river silkworm the complex combination of various ways of breeding takes place. It is a dioecious species, and in some cases for breeding fertilization is necessary. Among representatives of the family this species is primitive enough as it keeps an adult flying stage. The river silkworm breeds during the whole larval life (one larva lives till about 6 – 7 months). Terms of existence of different generations are imposed against each other, especially in cold rivers and lakes where development of larvae is delayed. The generation, at which second half of life falls to spring and the beginning of summer, undergoes metamorphosis and turns to winged imago stage.
This species of insects does not have strict alternation of generations, and development of one or another generation is controlled by pheromons. Larvae have two pheromones, A and B. A pheromone is produced by growing up settling individuals and “prohibits” to other larvae to develop to settlers, and B pheromone is produced by filtrating ones and in higher concentration (for example, at the overpopulation of colony) stimulates larvae to develop to settlers. Development of settlers is possible at high concentration of B pheromone and low concentration of A pheromone. Usually settlers develop from first half of summer when colonies of filtering larvae become numerous enough. At high temperature of water settlers are capable to turn to imago. Growing up settlers can not turn to filterers because of absence of slime-producing glands. They feed, scraing bacterial cover inside the tunnels of colony, and also eat secretions of anal glands of filtering individuals.
The way of life of larvae of river silkworm depends on their age. Larvae of younger age (up to 2-nd moult), not able to make slime traps yet, are feed on edible secretions of anal glands of larvae of more advanced age, and then turn to filterinf organisms. If they should grow outside of a colony, they survive successfully and feed on algae and the sedentary rotifers attached to plants, but at “independent” life their death rate is much higher. Having found a colony, such larvae build silk tubes and lay in them up to 20 – 30 parthenogenetic eggs from which the second generation bursts. They feed up these larvae with their secretions, but these new larvae quickly enough pass to feeding by filtering water. The following generation of larvae is settled on the whole surface of leaf, making narrow temporary tunnels. Further larvae expand and strengthen them, and at the edges of tunnels there are tubes of new filtering individuals. From time to time filtering larvae lay eggs with haploid set of chromosomes, from which males hatch. Male larvae of filtering generation grow slowly and quickly perish, and under the influence of B pheromone develop normally, feeding on secretions of filtering viduals and develop to normal settler larvae.
In an autumn, from the end of September up to middle of October, but before the temperature of water will lower below +5 … +7 degrees Celsius, larvae of settling generations get the tight cuticle during the next moult and leave a colony. Settler individuals of this generation do not turn to imago, but keep activity even in cold water that gives them advantage – fishes pursue them less actively. Settler larvae have stronger walking legs, and back pair of legs becomes swimming organs – on them the fringe of rigid bristles develops. They are inclined to settling with the help of phoresia: these ones frequently cling to floating vegetative dust, feathers and legs of waterfowl and wool of aquatic mammals. Shortly before approach of frosts they creep out on land, creep away to thickets of coastal plants and run into anabiosis in wood litter. These larvae easily endure freezing. In spring they copulate, females creep to the nearest reservoirs and lay eggs gathered to large clutch on the bottom side of leaves of water plants, and then perish. When leaves of water lilies die off, larvae eat a significant part of silk of their constructions (it is literally almost pure protein), and the colony moves to the bottom where spends winter in thickness of friable ground. The next spring survived individuals found new colonies.
In summer representatives of filtering generation are settled also – some kind of “budding” of the colony takes place. They leave their shelters and simply creep to the next leaves.

This species of insects was discovered by Mutant, the forum member.

Crab botfly (Carcinotaba vorax)
Order: Two-winged flies (Diptera)
Family: Horseflies (Tabanidae)

Habitat: South-Eastern Asia, Jakarta Coast, Sunda Land and nearby islands.
Among insects of two-winged flies order parasitism is widely spread. Some of these insects suck blood (mosquitoes, midges, some flies), others parasitize in body of large vertebrates (larvae of botflies). In tropics of Asia one of species of horseflies has adapted to parasitizing on ground crustaceans. Adult flies of this species suck blood of crabs and ground hermit crabs. Larvae are predators as at the majority of horseflies. But their catch is not soil animals, but eggs and young growth of the same crabs.
Externally crab botfly only a little differs from other flies. But at this insect the sexual dimorphism is advanced. The male of this species eats of nothing, and lives not for long time. It is colored white with the silvery shine reflecting ultra-violet rays, and its eyes are emerald-green. It “displays” on the lighted place on tree trunk, uttering characteristic buzzing and involving females by specific smell. The female is colored grey with black longitudinal strip; its eyes are brown. Right after hatching from pupa females search for “displaying” males, pair with them and depart away. At females organs of smell sense are very much advanced: it is necessary for search of the specific host animal on which this species parasitizes. Right after pairing the female quenches blood, and in its organism… not eggs, but at once alive larvae start to develop. Having got to the host animal, they at once start to grow and develop.
For cultivation of posterity the adult crab botfly finds the female of crab had recently laid eggs. Fly cautiously flies up behind, and sits on carapace of crab. Having waited some minutes while the animal will calm down, the insect strongly extends an abdomen, and postpones in cavity between cephalothorax and abdomen of crab the live larva covered only with thin film. If the crab is large (this insect frequently parasitizes on huge “mangrove robber” crab (Archocancer mangrophilus), some larvae can get at once to it. The larva of crab botfly at once starts to eat eggs of crab, and frequently destroys them almost completely. If it does not suffice eggs for feeding, larva can bite through covers of crab and lick off flowing out blood. In case of shortage of forage one larva can to have eaten other ones if they appear together on one crab. Having fattened up to the necessary size, the larva abandons a body of crab, and falls in wood litter. Having buried in the ground, it pupates, and in one week turns to adult insect.

This species was discovered by Arseny Zolotnikov.

Infectiofly (Dolichomusca infectans)
Order: Two-winged flies (Diptera)
Family: Robber flies (Asilidae)

Habitat: tropics and humid subtropic areas of Old World – Asia and the southeast of Europe.
In Neocene on the Earth many species of large insects had evolved. They are usual mainly in warm climatic zone and belong to various systematic groups. Each species of such insects indicates by its existence the stability of habitat, because the very existence of such species is on the verge of physiological opportunities of insect organism in whole.
In tropical areas of Old World where rainforests expand and a plenty of species of vertebrates lives, many kinds of carrion-eating insects live. Among them the large fly having body shape similar to dragonfly, 8 – 10 cm long, is remarkable in its appearance. It is one representative of predatory robber flies adapted in due course of evolution to feeding on carrion. But this fly had developed the special mechanism which simultaneously allows it to feed, avoiding a competition, and also protects it from enemies – it had entered symbiosis with various species of bacteria among which there are the varieties pathogenic even for large vertebrates. Hence it is named infectiofly.
This fly has bright colouring – it is cross-striped like wasp: on dark blue background with expressed metal shine wide cross strips of yellow color stretch. An abdomen of this fly is rather narrow and mobile, and the thorax is very expanded – inside it there are strong flying muscles, which permit this insect to fly at speed making inferior to speed of birds and dragonflies only a few. Eyes of infectiofly are large and have numerous facets, providing almost complete circular field of view. But the main sense for this insect is sense of smell. Infectiofly catches in air even the slightest smells indicating the death and the beginning of corpse decomposition, and due to strong wings it appears on the corpse among the first scavengers.
The mouth parts of this insect represent pointed stabbing proboscis which in rest is placed along the body between the bases of legs. This proboscis is rather long (about one third of general body length of this insect) and strong – it can pierce even thick skin of corpse of large herbivore. Infectiofly has an original analogue of a craw – the pocket in gullet where symbiotic pathogenic bacteria, helpers and defenders of this insect, breed. They easily endure the influence of digestive enzymes of insect.
This fly transfers bacteria, pathogenic to vertebrates, therefore birds and insectivorous mammals seldom hunt it. For the majority of arthropods this fly is too large to hunt it – only large spiders and soothsayers can catch and eat these insects without harm for themselves. Infectiofly eats mainly carrion though it can diversify the diet with other arthropods. This fly is feeding, injecting digestive juice in thickness of decomposed carrion, and sucking out the made “broth” with the help of proboscis.
The care of posterity observed at this insect is original. Larvae of infectiofly develop in carrion. Also this insect is live-bearing, and in ovoducts of the female always there are some larvae ready to be placed to suitable substratum. The insect precisely enough estimates the size of dead animal, and leaves in it exactly as much larvae, as much can successfully live in it. Before the leaving of larvae the female pierces carrion by proboscis some times. It injects in these places the small amount of digestive juice and lets out from “craw” the certain amount of bacteria developing in it. Then female sticks firm ovipositor into the carrion infected with bacteria and places the larva in thickness of meat. In large carrion this fly lays some tens larvae, in small (mouse-sized) only one or two larvae may be placed. Vertebrates do not disturb them, because this carrion is infected and inedible for them. The enzymes produced by symbiotic bacteria slow down process of rotting, and the larva has time to eat food before it will decompose. Also symbiotic bacteria interfere with an eating of the carcass by other invertebrates. Activity of bacteria transforms meat of the carcass to the food easily digesting by infectiofly larvae. Having developed completely, larvae pupate and after the metamorphosis turn to adult flies. In adult condition infectioflies copulate and search for carrion. Male differs from the female in larger eyes and thinner abdomen. Pairing occurs in air; males actively search for females and arrange combat in air forf them, driving contenders away from the female. After pairing the female can lay up to 100 larvae.

The idea about existence of this species of insects was proposed by Arthropod, the forum member.

Sambio (Sambio mortalis)
Order: Two-winged flies (Diptera)
Family: Robber flies (Asilidae)

Habitat: Tropical Africa, equatorial areas of Zinj Land.
In human epoch tsetse fly (Glossina palpalis), a carrier of some fatal diseases, had been one of the most terrible insects of Africa. After human epoch it difficultly enough to trace the history of this species and its descendants. Probably, it became rare in epoch of anthropogenous pressure when number of large species of mammals had been strongly reduced. Probably, it had died out during the ice age, which had followed the extinction of mankind. It is possible also, that any of its descendants passed to feeding on blood of small vertebrates. However, in Neocene, when herds of large animals roam on the Earth again, another fly, also inspiring fear to animals, had replaced tsetse fly. This species is the deadly sambio fly, the representative of robber flies family. Neocene robber flies had evolved very large infectiofly (Dolichomusca infectans), widely settled in tropics of Old World and feeding on carrion. But in due course of evolution of this species at the open spaces of Africa the lateral line of carnivorous flies branched off; these ones get their food in different way. They do not search for already dead animals, and kill live ones by sting. One species of these flies is sambio fly living in tropical rainforests of Africa and Zinj Land.
Small warm-blooded animals – rodents, bats, insectivores – fall prey of sambio. Mouth parts of sambio represent long and pointed proboscis, which length makes about half of total body length of insect. Having tracked down prey by smell, sambio female pursues it, keeping aloof. Having chosen a right moment, sambio rushes to its prey and puts fatal sting to it. At the moment of sting the saliva mixed with contents of “craw”, in which symbiotic bacteria live, is injected to the body of prey. Actually, sambio female poisons the prey (hence the name: “sambio” is a poisonous substance in language of kisi tribe). After that fly continues pursuing of the bitten animal, distinguishing it with the help of smell. The bitten animal is doomed – during one or two hours it perishes from the poisoning. The corpse of animal teeming with pathogenic bacteria becomes food for larvae: sambio female lays larvae in tissues of still warm corpse.
Shape of sambio is considerably less impressing, rather than shape of infectiofly. Length of sambio female is about 30 mm. Its body has ordinary-looking grayish-black color with dim cross rings on abdominal segments. Wings of sambio female are transparent, and only at the basis are dark, as if smoked. Eyes of this insect are dark green. An abdomen of the female is lengthened; its tip is very mobile and supplied with strong ovipositor. After fertilization sambio female turns to the conveyor on larvae producing – within one day in its organism 2 – 3 larvae ready to independent life develop.
Sambio male differs from the female by the shape in great degree. This insect is up to 25 mm long, with very thin abdomen. Colouring of male body is dark blue with sparkling metal shine – some hairs on its body are turned to light-reflecting scales. Wings of male have dark violet colouring, and eyes are emerald-green. Male actively searches for females with the help of sense of smell.
At insects of both genders thorax is strongly inflated and expanded. The digestive path in this place forms the shoot directed upwards – the “craw”, in which symbiotic bacteria develop. The role of these bacteria in life of sambio is very great – they take part in prey killing and prepare it for feeding of larvae. Vertebrates do not eat the dead body of the animal infected with bacteria – it gets a special smell. Tissues of the corpse are decomposed much slower, and sambio larvae eat them up to the moment of metamorphosis. They grow very quickly, and are ready to metamorphosis within one week.
Sambio attacks exclusively mammals, because symbiotic bacteria develop successfully only in their bodies. The birds bitten by sambio survive due to higher body temperature at which development of bacteria is suppressed. And reptiles do not fall ill because of significant distinction from mammals in biochemistry – bacteria do not develop in their organisms and quickly perish. In forests of Africa some related species of these predatory flies attacking other animals are present:
Tormentor sambio (Sambio cruciator) is the large species of flies parasitizing in large tetrapods. The length of adult individual of this species reaches 40 – 45 mm. Female and male differ in colouring in small degree - they both are dark grey with separate silvery hairs on body. Male differs from the female in narrower body and larger eyes. The female lays larvae under skin of large mammals and birds, having preliminary put the sting by proboscis. In place of sting the center of an inflammation is formed, causing strong pain to the host animal. Action of bacteria causes inflow of blood to the bitten place, and the larva eats blood and friable connecting tissue. This species inhabits Africa at the border of savanna and forests.
Snake-eating sambio (Sambio ophiophagus) inhabits tropical rainforests in Equatorial Africa. This species specializes in feeding on reptiles. It attacks usually small snakes up to half meter long, and alongside with predatory birds and mammals exterminates a significant part of young ones of these reptiles. Also snake-eating sambio attacks medium-sized lizards. At this species female is colored goldenyellow with dim shine; wings are transparent, and eyes are dark red. Male is silver-grey with ruby-red eyes; the bases of wings are dark grey.
Bird-eating sambio (Sambio ornitivorus) inhabits rainforest canopy in Equatorial Africa and Zinj Land. This species attacks exclusively birds. Its symbiotic bacteria are capable to maintain high body temperature of attacked animal and differ in high virulence – the pigeon-sized bird, bitten by this fly, perishes less, than in one hour. This species of flies has the smallest size among representatives of the genus: the female is 14 – 15 mm long, and the male’s size is only 12 mm. Colouring of these flies is imperceptible – black with dim shine. The female behaves extremely cautiously, and more often waits for birds, having hidden on branches and from the bottom side of leaves. Sometimes this fly attacks the nestlings having not leaved the nest, and is capable to kill the entire hatch for one visiting of the nest.

Bird leechfly (Bdellomusca ornitina)
Order: Two-winged flies (Diptera)
Family: Leechflies (Bdellomuscidae)

Habitat: temperate, subtropical and tropical areas of Old World: Eurasia (except for Siberia and Beringia), Africa, Zinj Land.
Two-winged flies represent successful group of insects in evolutional aspect. They are cosmopolites and occupy great amount of various ecological niches. Some species had developed even hyperhaline reservoirs of Mediterranean hollow, and others became predators in this inhospitable area. But nevertheless the majority of two-winged flies lives in less extreme conditions.
Among two-winged flies there are many parasites of other animals, including vertebrates. These insects parasitize at various stages of development: some ones at larval stage and others in adult condition. In Neocene in Old World representatives of new family of two-winged flies, leechflies, had widely settled. These insects are adapted to parasitism on vertebrate animals of various species. Some species of these flies are highly specialized parasites of separate species of vertebrates, and others use wide set of species for feeding. Leechflies bear live larvae which destiny at different species develops differently. Some species leave them directly on skin of the host (usually it is characteristic for highly specialized species); at such species fertility is small, but larvae are larger, and also survival rate of posterity is higher. Other species leave larvae in places of most probable occurrence of possible hosts, and do not care of posterity any more. At such species larvae are small, and their survival rate is lower, because they not always succeed to find suitable host in time. High fertility of such species (up to 200 – 300 larvae from one female) compensates death rate of posterity. Right before metamorphosis the length of leechfly larva 2 – 2,5 times exceeds length of adult individual. Imagoes at all species of leechflies eat other food, rather than larvae: rotten organic material, dung of animals, nectar. Depending on breeding way the shape of these insects differs. At leechflies leaving larvae directly on body of host, the sexual dimorphism is sharply expressed. Males of such species have bright and beautiful colouring, and females have ordinary-looking grey or black colouring, and differ from other species of flies only a little. The species which simply leave larvae in suitable places, have bright colouring with metal shine at both genders. The way of breeding is precisely connected to the size of adult individual: more prolific species are larger, than specialized ones. On tips of wings of leechflies there are dark spots; at males they are larger, than at females. Females of leechflies also have the feature connected to gender: on their back pair of legs special attaching hooks and suckers are advanced, permitting to keep on the body of the host.
Larvae of leechflies differ from larvae of other species of flies in few features of anatomy. They have worm-like segmented legless body and lack the expressed head capsule. But, as against larvae of other flies, larvae of leechflies have a special sucker with hooks on forward end of body. Having searched the suitable host, larva of leechfly sticks to its body and drinks its blood. The larva sticks to skin where it is thin or where there are wounds. It keeps on skin of host with the help of attaching hooks. At some species there are additional hooks on body segments. Larvae of flies lack mandibles with which help it is possible to gnaw through or to pierce skin of host. Therefore they solve a problem of feeding rather simply: larvae produce active digestive enzymes which dissolve the top layer of skin of host animal and stick to the wound. Due to action of digestive enzymes of leechflies larvae wounds made by these larvae do not get inflammation and do not fester, and after striking off of the parasite heal rather quickly. The saliva of leechfly larva contains the substance interfering blood fibrillation and rendering local anesthetizing effect.
Larval stage is limiting part in settling of these insects. The adult insect is well protected from drying by chitinous armour, but larva has thin covers and rather quickly loses moisture in dry air. Therefore leechflies meet mainly in areas, where air is damp – in forests and near reservoirs.
Bird leechfly parasitizes on various birds living in forest canopy, and is the typical representative of family. Its length does not exceed 5 – 6 millimeters. The female of this species has grey colouring with darker thorax, and reddish-brown eyes. Male strongly differs from the female in appearance – it is larger and has golden-yellow colouring with metal shine. This insect meets in forests of Southern and Southeast Europe. It attacks small birds, mainly passerines, but occasionally meets on birds of other taxonomic groups.
Males of this species are easily appreciable: during the most part of summer they arrange courtship flights. Males display themselves to females, flying in forest canopy. Involving the female, male can stop for a long time in air in ray of sunlight appear through forest canopy. If the competitor appears near, male rushes to it and drives it away. If the female moves nearer to male, it arranges chase for it, from time to time stopping in air and uttering special hum of higher tone. Pairing occurs in air and lasts for some seconds.
After pairing in ovoduct of female larva starts to develop. It eats secretions of walls of ovoduct, and quickly reaches the weight of approximately one third of weight of adult female. When the larva is ready to independent life, the female searches for host bird of suitable size. Usually the female of leechfly leaves larvae on skin of birds in the evening or in the morning when bird is less active. The insect creeps under plumage of bird, and tries to find by smell the injured site of skin of bird. When suitable place is found, the leechfly female gives rise to the larva which at once starts to feed. Newborn larva attaches to skin of bird by viscous secretions of special glands on the bottom side of body and starts to suck blood.
Development of larva lasts about five weeks. Thus, till the summer bird leechfly can give three, and in warm years even four (at the south of area up to five) generations. At leechflies pupae winter.
The stuck larva eats almost continuously. Nevertheless, it adequately reacts to world around. When bird cleans feathers or searches for parasites, larva unfastens from wound and starts to creep between feathers quickly, escaping from beak of bird. When conditions become quieter, it finds by smell the place of feeding, and continues blood sucking. When development of larva comes to end, it leaves the host and pupates in moss growing on branches. Larvae of other species of leechflies pupate in wood dust, forest litter, or in soft ground.
This genus includes many species differing by habit of life:
Hollow leechfly (Bdellomusca alveophila) lives in forests of Europe from Atlantic up to Three-Rivers-Land steppes and parasitizes on wide spectrum of species of animals – its larvae feed on bats, small carnivores, various birds. This species is easily distinctive from other leechflies by reddish-brown colouring with faint shine, and by bright orange eyes at insects of both genders. Hollow leechfly belongs to largest species of genus – the length of adult insect reaches 10 – 12 mm. Fertility of this species makes up to 30 – 40 small larvae for one laying. The female leaves them not on skin of the host animal, but in hollows of trees where the probability to meet suitable animals for feeding is more. Larvae not constantly live on animal, but only temporarily stick to it for feeding. They prefer to attack bats at which wing membranes are plentifully penetrated by blood vessels. Adult individuals eat fermenting tree sap and fruits of plants beginning to rot: yeast are the main component of food of imago. For one year this leechfly gives only two generations.
Burrow leechfly (Bdellomusca subterranea) lives in Three-Rivers-Land steppes, at Balkan, at the edges of Mediterranean swamps and in savannas at the north of Africa. It parasitizes strictly on burrowing animals – digging mammals and their neighbours (usually on birds). Very seldom larvae of this species may be met on lizards and toads. Adult insect is about 8 mm long and has grey color with metal shine. On each segment of body larva has a fringe of short strong bristles permitting to keep more durable on body of host animal.
Corroding leechfly (Bdellomusca dermatolysa) is the largest species of the genus living in Southern Europe and Southern Asia (to the south from Himalayas mountain circuit). Length of adult female of this insect is about 15 mm; male is about 10 mm long. Male has contrast colouring: body has copper shade, reddish metal shine and green eyes. Female is yellowish-grey with black longitudinal strip on abdomen. This species of flies parasitizes on large mammals. The larva is well adapted to reach blood vessels through thick skin of host animal. It injures skin producing active digestive enzymes. Usually the forward part of body of larva is immersed in skin of mammal. The disturbed larva quickly gets out from the wound and tries to hide in wool of host animal. The female gives rise to large larvae (about 30% of weight of the female) with periodicity in 2 – 3 days, sitting on skin of large mammals. Adult individuals feed on dung of mammals.
Predatory leechfly (Bdellomusca rapax) from North Africa and Western Europe represents the exception among representatives of genus. Its larva is not an ectoparasite, but an active predator. It feeds on large mammals and birds. The adult individual of this species feeds on flowers; its proboscis is long enough, and helps to reach nectar in deep flowers. As against the majority of leechflies which females have dim colouring, at this species the female is colored silver-grey with green eyes. Male, on the contrary, is coal-black with metal shine. It also has green translucent eyes. The animals, instinctively feeling danger of blood-sucking insects, are not afraid of this leechfly. It freely creeps on the body of large animals, and leaves on their skin large larvae. Young larvae of predatory leechfly exhaust parasitic insects and ticks (especially sated of blood), and later start to swallow them entirely. Larva pupates in ground.
Representatives of close genus of aquatic leechflies (Aquabdellomusca) are even more adhered to humid habitats. They parasitize on various amphibians and other water vertebrates. Their larva has the special adaptations, permitting to receive oxygen from water - on its body segments long elastic outgrowths penetrated with tracheal tubules develop. When larva is in water, its stigmas close, and outgrowths extended and promote gas exchange - oxygen from water diffuses through thin covers directly in tracheal system. Besides at larvae of aquatic leechflies additional attaching hooks on two back segments of body develop – it is the adaptation which permits the larva to keep on the body of host at its movement in denser environment.
Duck leechfly (Aquabdellomusca anatina) lives on bottom part of body of waterfowl – ducks and grebes. It has very wide area – from Fourseas and rivers of Southern and Southeast Europe up to Equatorial Africa and South Asia. The settling of this species is obviously connected to migratory ways of European birds. The length of adult individual of duck leechfly does not exceed 6 mm. The female has dark grey color with white points on thorax and the first segments of abdomen. Male is bright green with metal shine. Eyes at individuals of both genders are orange-red.
The imago of this species feeds on rotten parts of water plants, and frequently meets at the coast of reservoirs in innumerable flights. Adult males and females form the common swarm, and feed in common. After pairing when in ovoduct of the female some small larvae start the development, it searches for the host bird suitable for the posterity. The female cautiously sits on plumage of bird, and waits, while the bird will calm down and the will cease to pay attention to it. Then the female creeps in plumage of bird, and quickly bears several larvae on its skin. Larvae creep, find blood vessels stretching close to skin surface, and stick to it. When the bird dives, in its plumage the layer of air which permits to larvae to breathe is kept. At larvae of this species adaptations to inhabiting in aquatic environment are expressed in lesser degree.
Frog leechfly (Aquabdellomusca ranophila) parasitizes on frogs of various species. It reaches length of 6 – 7 mm and lives in tropical and subtropical areas of Old World. Females of this insect have expressed camouflage colouring varying at different populations from sand grey up to brown and black. Eyes at females have about the same color, as a body. Males of this leechfly sparkle golden-yellow colouring with greenish metal shine and emerald-green eyes. They keep near swamps and marshy areas of river channel, gathering to dense swarm. When the female flies nearer to the male congestion, they rush to chase her, and only after several minutes of chaotic flight one male is coupled to the female.
The female shows very big care, searching for the host animal for larvae. Having found a frog, the female of frog leechfly flies behind where frog does not see it, and cautiously creeps nearer to the frog. Some last steps it moves an abdomen forward, having extended it. The female of leechfly slightly touches skin of frog, throwing out the larva on frog skin by contraction of muscles of abdomen. The larva at once is attached to the body of frog, and only after that starts to search on its body for a place suitable for feeding. The body of larva is translucent, and is poorly appreciable on the background of motley skin of frog.
Turtle leechfly (Aquabdellomusca testudophaga) is the largest species of genus. Its length is about 15 mm. It inhabits areas where turtles live – tropics of Old World from Equatorial Africa up to Japan Islands. This insect has copper red colouring, and male differs from female only in yellow color of eyes (at females they are brown) and presence of black spots on wings. This insect leaves larvae on bodies of various turtles - from huge African crocoturtle up to small turtles of Southeast Asia. The female bears larvae on back part of body of turtles, near the basis of tail and under carapace. Larvae are covered with dense cuticle, and tracheal gills at them are advanced only on last segments of body. The adult insect feeds on decomposed corpses of various animals.
Flat-bodied leechfly (Aquabdellomusca platysoma) is named because of body shape of the larva, which is very wide, and resembles flat cake in rounded outlines. On edges of larva body the additional suckers develop from plicas of integumentary tissues, permitting it to keep on smooth skin of host animals. This species lives in Southeast Asia and parasitizes on body of amphibians living in quickly current mountain rivers. More often this leechfly attacks flat toads. The adult fly keeps in thickets of wide-leaved grassy plants, on the bottom side of leaves, waiting while in thickets amphibian of needed species appears. Attack of the female of flat leechfly is very fast – during a split of second it “shoots” to flat toad the larva, and simultaneously throws out a drop of sticky secretions which help the larva to attach to the body of host animal. Flat leechfly is rather large insect: the length of adult individual makes about 15 mm. It has massive constitution (the specific name is determined exclusively by the body shape of larva) and heavy slow flight. Therefore adult flat leechflies prefer to lead a secretive way of life. Bodies of imagoes of both genders are ruby-red with metal shine, and eyes are bordered by thin silvery strips. The same strip stretches along the abdomen. At males of this species wings are almost entirely black; only back edge of wing is transparent. Imagoes of this species are active in twilight and eat pulp of rotting fruits.
Fourseas leechfly (Aquabdellomusca tetramarina) is found in thickets of reed and giant cat's tail at the coast of Fourseas, and is especially numerous at the southern coast and at Caucasian Peninsula. This species is a polyphage; larva feeds on various birds and frogs. By habit of life the larva of this species considerably differs from other species. At the majority of species of leechflies the female by the behaviour provides contact of larva and host animal. At Fourseas leechfly larva leads mobile way of life and searches for the host animal itself. It waits for approach of suitable host, having hidden in leaf axils of marsh plants like ground leeches of tropical forest. Larvae of Fourseas leechfly are rather large. During the life the female can give birth up to 50 such larvae. It leaves them in leaf axils of huge cat's tail where the small amount of water gathers.
Adult Fourseas leechfly feeds on corpses of various animals. It is rather easy to define because of bronze colouring of body with reddish metal shine, and of golden-yellow eyes with tiny black points. Male and female at this species are similar to each other, and differ only in colouring wings – at male they are darker.

The idea about existence of present group of insects is proposed by Nem, the forum member.

Golden dorsobia (Dorsobia chrysaea)
Order: Two-winged flies (Diptera)
Family: Flesh flies (Calliphoridae)

Habitat: Eastern Asia, swamp forests of China.
Insects had firmly kept place in low-size class of inhabitants of the Earth; they had easily gone through epoch of anthropogenous crisis. The most vulnerable and highly specialized species had died out only, but as a whole a specific variety of insects had decreased very unsignificantly. In early Neocene, when ecosystems began to restore again, insects had quickly occupied new habitats. The new species, adapted in the best way to their inhabitancy, had evolved; in stable conditions a plenty of highly specialized forms had appeared. Occurrence of new species of vertebrates had caused a new round of evolution of parasitic insects. The new species of them had appeared, using the most unusual sources of food.
In swamp forests of China the large species of amphibians had evolved – giant mossy tree frog (Bryodorsa titan). In due course of evolution this amphibian had developed the original form of care of posterity – male of this species bears clutch of eggs on back, among numerous skin outgrowths. When from eggs tadpoles hatch, it brings them up with nutritious skin secretions and carries on itself, while they will reach the needed size.
Male can protect the posterity from drying, famine and medium-sized predators like water beetles and small fishes. But the posterity of this amphibian can not feel like in full safety.
Male of giant mossy tree frog carrying its clutch may become an object of steadfast attention of females of one species of insects. Small (4 – 5 mm long) fly of golden-yellow color with brown eyes and spherical abdomen persistently follows the amphibian male surpassing it in thousand times in weight. Having chosen a right moment, the fly lands on its back among eggs and begins laying eggs one by one in various places of clutch. In some hours from eggs worm-like larvae burst. Their first food is slimy secretions on skin of this tree frog, that provide connection of eggs and surface of male’s skin. While larvae are small, they do not harm to eggs, because they feed as commensals. Obviously, it was a first step in the adaptation to parasitic way of life. When tadpoles hatch, male’s skin begins producing of more nutritious slime containing proteins and a small amount of carbohydrates. Eating such secretions, larvae begin to grow quickly and in two days reach the length of 6 – 8 mm. After the next moult they start to attack tadpoles and to eat them. The enzymes produced by larvae of golden dorsobia corrode skin of tadpoles and cause occurrence of wounds in them. Larvae of the fly, feeling a smell of blood, creep to wounded tadpole and eat it. The dead tadpole falls off from the back of the parent soon, and fly larvae attack the next one. If larvae got to the body of the dead tadpole, they can finish their development, feeding on its meat. If the dead tadpole had fallen in water, the larvae kept on it perish. During the time of clutch bearing by the male of giant mossy tree frog some individuals of this fly can lay eggs on it. Larvae do not attack against each other, and on the infected tree frog male it is possible to find the larvae being at completely different stages of development. As a result the activity of larvae of golden dorsobia may destroy up to the half of litter of the amphibian. Having finished their development, larvae leave the host and pupate in layer of soft vegetative dust and in cracks of tree bark.
Males of golden dorsobia differ from females in narrower body and large eyes adjoining each other at the most part of head. Adult insects eat tree sap and flower nectar. After pairing the female can make up to three clutches.

Laurel and oak gallfly (Oncofaber myrmecophilus)
Order: Two-winged flies (Diptera)
Family: Gallflies (Cecidomyidae)

Habitat: dry forests in mountain areas of the Mediterranean area.
Gallflies represent the separate family of plant-parasitizing Diptera. In human epoch their species had been listed as agriculture pests, and many species of them simply lived near to people, feeding on decorative plants and in park zone of cities. Therefore the human epoch had passed absolutely imperceptibly for many species of them, and the specific variety of this group was kept in general. Restoration of the large forests broken by people and the climatic changes, connected to movement of continents, had caused the redistribution of borders of natural zones in Neocene, and it had resulted in changes of fauna of these plant pest insects.
After the drying of Mediterranean Sea the climate of Southern Europe became very dry and hot. In the Mediterranean hollow the remarkable communities of plants steady to salinization of soil and the lack of water had formed. And in mountains, where the conditions are more humid, forests of drought-resistant trees are formed, mainly of oaks and laurel trees of various species. On these plants the tiny insect from the number of gallflies parasitizes – laurel and oak gallfly. This species had developed the special form of relations with small species of gall ants living on trees. The coevolution has resulted in changes of shape and life cycle of these insects.
Larvae of this species, blind worm-like creatures about 3 mm long, settle on young shoots of trees. Their secretions cause ugly growth of branch with formation of large galls with complex internal structure. The gall represents a chain of 4 – 8 apple-sized growths, covered with tiny leaves randomly scattered on their surface keeping the typical form of leaves of the host plant. Inside each gall there is true circuit of cavities of different forms and sizes connected to each other by apertures. Larvae live in external layer of galls, under its strong environment. Influence of chemical substances, secreted by larvae, forces the plant to produce rich in starch and proteins parenchymatose cells on walls of some chambers of galls. Congestions of such tissue form some kind of “ant bread”, which is used for feeding of gall ants. Activity of larvae of laurel and oak gallfly provides both firm dwelling and feed for ants. From their side ants protect galls and their inhabitants from predators and parasites.
The galls, formed by this insect, exist for some years. For the second year of existence of the gall on its surface some shoots sprout. Ant ergates infect them with larvae, and the gall expands further. Larvae of gallfly breed under their protection. Even in human epoch the phenomenon of pedogenesis was known for them, at which the larva produces new generation of larvae without fertilization, not passing to adult condition. These new larvae develop in the body of parental individual, break it off and eat it; further they continue to lead the same life, as their mother did. Ants carefully watch for them in order to prevent the overpopulation among larvae. If necessary they transfer a part of young larvae to new branches where new galls begin forming soon.
Adult males of this species are very similar to other gallflies. These ones are tiny winged insects similar to mosquitoes of about 1 millimeter long, of citreous color with shining black head. Antennae of males are long; their segments are thickened, and tips of antennae have glands. They produce the odorous substance calming ants greatly. Due to such “passing” males penetrate freely in the galls inhabited with ants in searches of females, even if they carry on their bodies a smell of another colony of ants. After the metamorphosis males leave the colony, and ants do not prevent them in it.
Females passed the metamorphosis strictly differ from males. They are larger – up to 3 millimeters long, with thick, almost spherical abdomen. Their antennae are short, but wide, and also are supplied with glands, producing the odorous substance forcing ants to behave to them gently and carefully. Females lack of wings, but have normally advanced chitinous cover. Ants care of them: transfer females with hardened covers to special chambers where they can feed on “ant bread”, and where males flied from other colonies can easily find them. As required ergates drag off the fertilized gallfly females to other branches, where females lay eggs. The part of females lays eggs on the same branch where they were born, on shoots atop of old galls, “attaching” the new gall in younger part of the shoot. After laying of eggs females die.
During the flight of ants the settling of fertilized females takes place – ant females carry away them to courtship flight. One ant female may carry up to three fertilized gallfly females, which keep for its legs. The fertilized ant female finds the tree of suitable species and puts on it the gallfly female. The female lays eggs, and in one day larvae burst. They start to change the shoot of plant with their secretions, forming the gall for new colony of ants.

False-flowermaker (Nanofloricultor pseudanthoformis)
Order: Two-winged flies (Diptera)
Family: Gallflies (Cecidomyidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Southeast Asia.
Among insects in due course of evolution the special ecological group of gall-producing insects was developed. Species of the insects belonging to different orders in due course of evolution had developed skill of changing of character of growth of plants with the help of secretions, causing at them formation of galls of various appearance and size. Frequently galls represent excrescences, but sometimes they may look completely unusually – like leaves and flowers, but not of such appearance that are formed in typical case on parent plant. One of tops in art of gall-producing belongs to false-flowermaker living in Southeast Asia. This insect lives in plants of Bignoniaceae family. Usually fodder plants of this insect represent lianas forming the inflorescences consisting of large tubular flowers of bright colouring, pollinated by birds and large butterflies. But under the influence of secretions of parasitic insect the character of growth of the plant changes. On young shoot the small swelling is formed, in which the larva – worm-like creature up to 6 – 8 mm long – originally lives. This larva never turns to adult individual – its life task includes breeding only. Its secretions result in gradual formation of spherical thickening on stalk of the plant. It is covered with thin elastic bark, under which some buds are forming. One of these buds sprouts and turns to similarity of the reduced flower – narrow green tube on which internal surface tubercles grow, appropriating approximately to stamens of a normal flower. Occasionally a small amount of sterile pollen appears on them. Edges of this flower are surrounded with fleshy blades of brown color – in cells chlorophyll and anthocyan are generated simultaneously. In depth of this “flower” a certain similarity of a nectary develops – the gland producing smell involving males of false-flowermaker. This adaptation develops for attraction of the male which penetrates through this flower inside the gall and fertilizes the female larva. Male of this species represents a tiny winged insect of lacquer-black color with white-and-yellow head. Its total length is less than 2 millimeters. Having coupled with the female larva it perishes and its body stays in gall cavity. Frequently the larva devours its body.
After fertilization the female larva gradually changes and turns similar to any nematode worm: its body grows fat strongly because of forming eggs which number may be up to 200 – 300 ones. The complete portion of eggs ripens simultaneously; and the female larva distributes them on internal surface of its dwelling. Having laid the last egg, it perishes. As it stops the producing of the substances stimulating the formation of “flower”, it dies off and the entrance to the gall cavity is closed with a fuse of friable parenchymatose tissue. Larvae of the second generation have other destiny: they turn to imagoes, to normal winged males and wingless immovable females capable to independent movement at short distance. Females of false-flowermaker have the inflated abdomen and short legs, and also firm ovipositor. They are capable to creep on branches in searches of suitable place for egg laying.
In due course of growth of larvae of new generation the buds generated by activity of their mother gradually germinate. Buds develop to hypertrophied similarity of flowerbuds. When larvae turn to females and males, these “flowers” start blossoming. In outward appearance they resemble normal flowers of the fodder plant, but surpass them in size. At first from these “flowers” males fly out, searching for new females to fertilize them. Then females creep out from the gall. Their abilities to independent moving are very limited; therefore they apply another way of settling. Females stay in depth of “flowers”, waiting for animals which will undertake function of pollinators. In the tube of such “flower” gall nectaries develop, and bright colouring of perianth involves insects and small nectarivorous birds. In searches of nectar beaks of birds and proboscises of butterflies penetrate deeply into the refuge of females which cling to them. Because of their tiny size birds and insects do not notice such “passengers” and carry females to new plants. Females lay under thin skin of plant shoots parthenogenetic eggs, from which the larvae burst, penetrate into the tissues of the plant and form galls.

 

Millipedes

Tear gas millipede (Lacrimacausa irritans)
Order: Snake millipedes (Juliformia)
Family: Snake millipedes (Julidae)

Habitat: Great Antigua, underbrush of rainforest.
Millipedes are among the most ancient terrestrial animals of the Earth. Having evolved in Devonian, they had safely gone through the time of human domination, and in Neocene had kept their positions in ecosystems.
The main protective weapon of millipedes includes various chemical substances. Some of them have strong poison and inject it in wounds during the sting. Others, escaping from the enemy, secret odorous substances with addition of hydrocianic acid vapor. Third ones leave a trace of the caustic substances irritating skin.
In Neocene one of millipedes living at the island Great Antigua, had developed even more effective way of protection against enemies. This species named tear gas millipede lives in underbrush of rainforest. When this millipede feels danger, it emits a mix of easily evaporating substances which influences as tear gas (its Latin name literally means “the reason of crying”) and strongly irritates mucous membranes of predator.
Presence of such way of protection is very useful for tear gas millipede – it does not have other ways of protection against enemies. By the nature it is peaceful sluggish animal. The length of tear gas millipede reaches 20 cm, and thickness of cylindrical body is up to 15 mm. In its body it is totaled 60 segments. This species lives on the ground, and only if necessary can dig in rotten foliage. Occasionally the tear gas millipede gets on trees by thick stalks of lianas.
Tear gas millipede is herbivorous one; its diet mostly consists of fallen leaves and mushrooms. However, tear gas millipede eats snails and carrion equally willingly. This animal belongs to large group of snake millipedes, and has practically all their typical features. Though on each body segment except for first three ones at tear gas millipede there are two pairs legs (it is the common feature of snake millipedes), it can not escape from the enemy by flight – legs are too short. But it is no need in speed because the chemical protection of this millipede is very reliable. It is supported with bright orange colouring of body, and across the body on each segment the strip of silvery color passes, that makes tear gas millipede more beautiful and appreciable from apart. On back end of its body one more protective adaptation is located: two terminal segments of body are colored black with two white points on sides. They form “false head”, which distracts attention of predator from the true head of tear gas millipede.
This species of millipedes breeds the year round. The female lays eggs by small portions of 20 – 30 ones. For each laying it builds a special nest. For this purpose the female digs small jug-like hole by the back end of body. It loosens the ground by legs and densely stamps walls of nest. Thus special secretions from glands on one of segments cement the ground and disinfect an internal part of nest.
From eggs larvae with small amount of legs hatch. First weeks of life they eat only mycelium of mushrooms, later start to eat foliage processed by fungi, and only after reaching of about one third of length of adult individual begin to eat just fallen leaves of trees, rich in cellulose.

Tiger millipede (Bradyjulius rubro-nigrum)
Order: Snake millipedes (Juliformia)
Family: Snake millipedes (Julidae)

Habitat: humid forests of Japan Islands.

Picture by Tony Johnes.

Warming in Neocene had caused expansion of area of tropical climate at the Earth. The abundance of food and rather equal temperature conditions favoured to occurrence of large species with long cycle of development among Neocene invertebrates. Warming had caused the development of humid tropical forests at the southeast of Japan Islands, at mountain slopes, open to winds from Pacific Ocean. As in any tropical forest, in wood litter of humid forests of Japan Islands the set of invertebrates lives – beetles, cockroaches and large snails. Also the largest ground invertebrate at the islands, large millipede named tiger millipede, lives here. This is an animal with cylindrical body up to 20 cm long and about 3 cm thick. In body of this millipede it is about 100 segments.
Despite of large size, this animal does not represent danger to other inhabitants of underbrush. It is a harmless species of ground invertebrates, the exclusive vegetarian eating mushrooms and fallen foliage. The body of tiger millipede is covered with strong armour. Wide and flat head helps it to dig in ground. Such feature helps this millipede to dig out underground fruit bodies of truffle mushrooms, which tiger millipede can sense through the 10 – 15-centimetric layer of ground. Eating mushrooms, this millipede carries their spores. Also tiger millipede can eat tubers and bulbs of various grassy plants. But all the same in its diet fallen leaves of various plants prevail. These millipeds have an important role in processes of decomposition of organic substances in forest.
This millipede has short antennae, developing under the bottom part of head during ground digging, and very small eyes. Eyesight at this species is very weak: tiger millipede confidently distinguishes only light and darkness, and can distinguish movement of large objects around of it. However, it is not required to it of sharp sight – food is always present near it and does not disappear anywhere. And tiger millipede is reliably protected from predators, though is not able to bite at all. Weak mandibles are a common feature of snake millipedes, and it is not an exception.
This large millipede is difficult for not noticing in forest: it has very bright colouring seen from apart. Tiger millipede has red body with cross black strips – one stripe on each segment. It is warning colouring, and any predator, had not stopped the attack in time, in the full can test all abilities of protection of this millipede.
Under attack tiger millipede instinctively turns body off as a spiral, having hidden head in coils of body. It already should become the warning for predator, because after it this animal will involve the second line of defense. Tiger millipede is poisonous, and, being disturbed, lets out easily evaporating liquid with the unpleasant smell, containing a plenty of formaldehyde and organic acids. Having got on skin of aggressor, this liquid causes strong inflammation, which lasts till some days, but seldom comes to an end in fatal outcome. Usually only frogs and toads die from the poison of tiger millipede, because their naked skin is very sensitive to its secretions. Due to the effective chemical weapon of this millipede, there are some imitators at tiger millipede – one small species of snakes and large ground flatworm. As they also are protected, though weaker, than this one, these three species form a “ring”, and represent a good example of Mullerian mimicry.
This species of millipedes arranges spectacular courtship rituals. For breeding a plenty of these millipedes gathers. The congestion may occupy up to hundred square meters, and on each square meter it may be up to two hundreds of animals. All of them emit a specific sharp smell which is felt from the large distance. In such congestions individuals of opposite genders find each other and are coupled within several hours at night. It is interesting, that smell emitting by these millipedes involves some local birds very much. Breeding congestions of this millipede are frequently visited by local bird forest ronin (Roninornis mortifer). These birds usually aggressively relating to congeners do not pay attention to each other, sitting among creeping millipedes. They fluff feathers and try to come nearer to the greater congestion of tiger millipedes. Obviously, birds in such way get rid of parasites living in their plumage.
The female lays eggs, having dug by back part of body in friable ground near roots of tree. In clutch of this species there is up to 50 large eggs, and such clutches may repeat each 2 weeks. The young animal reaches the size of adult individual only at the second year of life.

Arachnids

South American aquatic scorpion (Potamoscorpio aquaticus)
Order: Scorpions (Scorpionida)
Family: Botriurids (Bothriuridae)

Habitat: freshwater reservoirs in tropical part of South America.
Scorpions belong to oldest representatives of arthropods and arachnids in particular; they have appeared at the world scene of life in Palaeozoic era (Silurian and Devonian epochs). The first representatives of scorpions were underwater animals, but later they settled to the land and have mastered the new way of life so successfully that they have outlived their underwater relatives by more than 300 million years.
In Neocene several kinds of scorpions returned back to aquatic lifestyle, taking over the ecological niches vacated after the climatic disasters and anthropogenic impact. South American river scorpion belongs to largest species of secondary aquatic scorpions and of arthropods in general; it reaches a length of 27-30 cm from tips of its massive claws to the sting at the tip of its abdomen. Being covered with thick dark armor of olive color, it’s too heavy to swim, so this creature just creeps on river bottom in search of various invertebrates, carrion and wounded fish or amphibians; its kills prey with its venomous sting.
Being an underwater inhabitant, aquatic scorpion still depends on atmosphere. It breathes not with gills already lost by its Paleozoic ancestors, but with lungs, which had increased relatively to the size and weight of its and allow it breathing under water and on land, when the scorpion crawls from one reservoir to another during the dry season in search of shelter and prey. Perhaps, the adaptation to aquatic lifestyle was a response of terrestrial creature to the periodic flooding of the forests in tropics of South America.
To breathe South American river scorpion crawls to the surface of water on stalks of aquatic plants. If necessary, it can swim a short distance, moving its limbs intensively: this scorpion emerges for breath from the depth of 1 meter and more and clings to aquatic plants to get to the surface. The lower part of abdomen, where the respiratory holes open, is covered with dense water-resistant hair and under water the air layer covers it, giving the silvery sheen to animal’s underside.
The main enemies of aquatic scorpion are some large spiders, scorpions and army ants able to overpower it, as well as various microbes and fungi that destroy its organism from inside. Sometimes these scorpions are attacked by large fishes, and during the moving on land it is vulnerable to crabs and shorebirds.
With the onset of rain season aquatic scorpions turn paler in color and much more visible to each other; at this time females and males of this species search for each other to couple. They mate during the bizarre mating dance, like many other representatives of this arachnid subclass, but the dance and the transferring of spermatophore occur under water. After mating male and female remain together for some time, hiding in burrows excavated near each other in coastal mud. This species is ovoviviparious; female protects the posterity carrying youngs on its back. During this time the female stays on dry land and eats almost of nothing. Young scorpions leave their mother soon and prefer to stay alone, hiding among floating plants or in the coastal thickets. During this time cannibalism is common among them: the juveniles often fall victims of the adult representatives of this species. They become fully mature at the age of about two years.
The average life expectancy of South American aquatic scorpion is quite big: up to 17-20 years.

This species of arachnids is discovered by Bhut, the forum member.
Translated by Bhut.

Four-legged net spider (Tetrapodarachna tetramana)
Order: Spiders (Aranei)
Family: Orb-web spiders (Araneidae)

Habitat: rain tropical forests of South-Eastern Asia, rainforest canopy.

Picture by FanboyPhilosopher

During the evolutional history spiders had developed various ways of prey trapping: from simple chasing up to web traps reaching sometimes a high degree of refinement in design. The majority of spiders trap catch, having stretched web constructions among branches. But some spiders hunt by special way, combining features of hunting spiders and spider web builders. The Neocene inhabitant of woods of South-Eastern Asia, the representative of orb-web spiders, four-legged net spider is those.
It is a large spider: the length of body is about 6 – 7 cm from which big rounded abdomen accounts about 60 per cent. The cephalothorax is wide, in its forward part there is an eminence on which eyes are located: two large shining eyes look forward, and six ones provide the circular field of view. The cephalothorax is covered with rich hairs of black color. Abdomen is cross-striped, “wasp-colored”: on black background there are yellow cross strips. Legs are light green with longitudinal black strips on top side.
Woods of South-Eastern Asia differ in changeable weather. Here is rainy every day, and rain is accompanied with strong winds from ocean. Therefore four-legged net spider does not arrange huge nets: they may be frequently torn by wind. This representative of arachnids has no constant shelter: it hunts, wandering over branches and lianas of forest canopy in searches of catch, similarly to representatives of hunting spiders of family Lycosidae. Each shelter happens occupied in succession of some days, and then spider leaves it. But this species of spiders also is not stopped weaving web, though it makes it extremely originally.
Legs of four-legged net spider are of different length: first two pairs are very long, approximately twice exceeding length of cephalothorax and abdomen taken together. Two back pairs of legs are much shorter, only one and half times longer than the body of spider. Such structure is connected to features of web weaving. For this purpose the spider rises on two forward pairs of legs, and begins making of web on tips of two back pairs of legs. In the beginning it connects claws of back pairs of legs by basis strings, then stretches between them radial basic strings, and braids them by sticky circular string. The web of characteristic circular form, by length and width approximately equal to body of spider turns out as a result. When it is ready, spider gradually takes its corners by long legs of forward two pairs, changing them one by one. At the end of this operation it stands on two back pairs of legs. When the web appears stretched on long forward legs, it is ready for hunting.
The hunting spider moves on two pairs legs, making short dashes and jumps. The web is always ready to prey catching: the spider holds it above eyes, having stretched asides. Having noticed suitable catch (any small animal from cockroach up to tiny lizard), the spider drives it by jumps, or simply moves down from above on web string, and covers catch by web.
The female of this spider looks and behaves so. The male of four-legged net spider is much smaller than the female similarly to males of the majority of spiders. This creature is more similar to large ant - at it there is narrow cephalothorax colored black. Such coloring combined with the body shape gives him quite good chances of escape from insectivorous birds. For improvement of masking it holds up a forward pair of legs put up before head, imitating ant head.
In courtship season the male should be especially cautious: if it will approach to the female too close without the appropriate ritual, she simply will “swaddle” him by web, and will have eaten. Therefore ritual of acquaintance at this spider begins from very cautious acquaintance of the future parental pair. The male defines shelter of the female by smell, cautiously sneaks to it, and leaves odorous labels. Just in case he keeps near suitable shelters, ready to hide at the first threat from the side of female. But gradually the female gets used to his presence, and once the male begins courtship dance near her dwelling. During this ritual the male imitates the actions made at prey capture. Only he holds simply plant leaf or the bird feather in two forward pairs of legs instead of web. The male “covers” by this object an imagined prey, but does not finish action, being limited only by “prey capture”. If the female does not show aggression, the male “presents” her with this object, and while the female holds it in cheliceras, quickly couples with her. After that the male occasionally succeeds to escape, but more often the female eats him.
The female of net spider lays up to 200 eggs simultaneously. She keeps them in web cocoon, carefully clearing it from dust and preserving from damages. Approximately in ten days the posterity hatches from eggs. Young spiders first days “ripe” in cocoon then leave it and get over on back of the female. Having got stronger, they start to lead independent life. First time young spiders hunt plant lice and small termites, and then start to attack larger and better protected insects: ants and beetles.

Mangrove fishing spider (Arachnopiscatorius mangrophilus)
Order: Spiders (Aranei)
Family: Orb-web spiders (Araneidae)

Habitat: Meganesia, mangrove thickets of Eyre Gulf.
Among spiders there are only few species leading completely aquatic habit of life – only separate species do it. For comparison, among insects representatives of several orders had developed aquatic inhabitancy, and they spend in water whole life, or any stage of development (usually larval one). However, the significant amount of species of spiders leads near-water habit of life, and even has skills of catching of water animals. One of such spiders lives in thickets of marsh plants of Eyre Gulf in Meganesia.
Eyre Gulf represents shallow-water reservoir with variable salinity of water in which action of ocean inflow is felt. Two times per day water of gulf directs to the ocean over sandy shallows in mouth, and two times in day it is replaced with tidal wave from ocean. As a result the water level in gulf strongly fluctuates. Rivers drift in some places of gulf a circuit of small sandy shallows and islets separating from gulf extensive sites of quieter water. At these shallows original “mangrove forests” made mainly of Pandanus trees grow. Among sites of such forest various animals find shelter and food – birds, insects, mollusks and other animals.
One inhabitant of Pandanus thickets in Eyre Gulf is a large spider of reddish-brown color with white spots on abdomen. The length of its massive abdomen reaches 4 cm, and leg span exceeds 15 cm. It is mangrove fishing spider which has adapted to inhabiting in changeable world of mangrove forest.
Mangrove fishing spider is very poisonous animal – its sting may kill pig-sized animal in some minutes. Signaling about presence of such strong weapon, mangrove fishing spider has developed very bright and appreciable colouring. All legs of this spider have cross-striped colouring of wide brown and snow-white strips. On reddish-brown abdomen of spider white strokes form a rough border, and along the middle line of abdomen the strip of white round spots is stretched. The cephalothorax of this spider colored white is covered with short velvety hair; pedipalps and killing cheliceras have black colouring. The body of spider is covered with water-repellent hair, which keep air layer on abdomen and permit the spider to breathe any time, having plunged in water. Legs of forward pair are very long – their length is up to 10 cm.
Eyes at this spider are large and shine green light in darkness.
Mangrove fishing spider lives in thickets of Pandanus and keeps on border of usual level of inflow. This spider is too heavy to be able to swim. Nevertheless, its food is made of various water animals. This spider builds webs, having the characteristic circular form, among trunks and roots of Pandanus and other plants. It is engaged in construction and repair of web during the outflow time. The web of mangrove fishing spider is strong and elastic enough to sustain rather strong tidal wave. All way of hunting of this spider is designed for rough waves of inflow and outflow. At this time in web prey gets – fish fry and small crustaceans, crabs and shrimps. At hunting for such prey having slow metabolism it is very important to kill it fast; the strong poison of spider is designed for it.
Web is plaiting so that spider has convenient place above it. If there is no firm support, spider makes for itself small web of dry strings, forming similarity of a hammock. During inflow and outflow mangrove fishing spider keeps front legs on web, thus its body is outside of water. Having felt presence of prey, it slips in water (approximately up to half of abdomen length) and seizes prey by front pair of legs. It accurately breaks off strings of web keeping prey, and kills it by sting. During the hunting spider keeps by one of back legs for strong “safety cable” made of web.
Male at this species is lighter than female in some tens times, but it is equally poisonous. The most part of time it leads the same way of life as the female, but hunts smaller prey. In courtship season male finds the female and starts cautious courting ritual. When female catches prey, male cautiously comes nearer to web from the side and cautiously starts to pull web in special rhythm, warning the female about its presence. When the female replies the male with a special signal, he cautiously comes nearer to her, keeping in sight and observing a distance. At the slightest sign of aggression from the part of the female male hides and begins courting all over again.
Pairing at these spiders occurs quickly, but it is preceded with special preparation – male at first ties legs of the female together by web. After pairing he has some minutes to leave a web of female and to survive. But approximately in one case from four it has not time to make it, and becomes a prey of the female.
The female lays about 200 eggs in large cocoon of strong web which she always carries in back legs. For young spiders she makes a special “children’s” web above the maximal inflow level, and feeds posterity, bringing prey to “children’s” web. Young spiders quickly leave parental nest and settle, flying on web thread. Many of them perish in waves of Eyre Gulf and become prey of fishes. But the part of young spiders survives and reaches places, suitable for life. The first months of life they hunt small invertebrates with the help of simple web traps, and only having reached the size of approximately one third of the length of adult individual, start to make underwater webs.

Tiny republican spider (Microsociarachne numerosus)
Order: Spiders (Aranei)
Family: Orb-web spiders (Araneidae)

Habitat: North America, areas of warm-temperate climate, deciduous forests.
Usually spiders are solitary hunters, and even relations of male and female may be very strained. Occasionally male succeeds to tie the female by web thread and to stay alive, but more often the female catches and eats him after pairing. Among spiders social species represent rather exception, than a rule. In Neocene among spiders there are some social species, which had evolved independently from each other in various areas of the Earth, mainly in tropics.
One of the most northern species of the spiders leading social way of life is tiny republican spider inhabiting forests of North America. Length of the female of this species is up to 9 mm including legs, and male is about 6 mm long. Colonies total up to 100000 individuals.
The appearance of tiny republican spider is typical for orb-web spiders. It has no outgrowths, characteristic for some tropical spiders, on the body, and body also has no rich hair cover. On the body and walking legs of this spider only short tactile bristles are present. This spider has dim cryptic coloration – grey with brown “marble” pattern. Males differ from females not only in size, but also in more gracile constitution.
Presence of spiders of this species is easy for finding out: the tree chosen by a colony of tiny republican spider may be entirely surrounded by spider web. Trapping webs of this spider are circular, characteristic for orb-web spiders. The diameter of a separate web may reach one meter. On each of such webs some adult females of this species wait for prey. Webs are connected with each other by separate alarm strings; therefore spiders from any web receive the information about what is happening in the next web.
On one branch the center of colony is located – the common nest tailored by web strings from live green leaves. These spiders are not specialized to any certain kind of prey, and sometimes catch huge insects comparatively to their own size, obviously preferring dipters and lepidopters. Large prey is killed by stings of some females at once.
In colony of tiny republican spider females work mainly – their duties include prey killing, and they also lay eggs from which the new generation of spiders hatches. When the colony is normally reproduced, there is constantly a set of “superfluous” females, which should not reach sexual maturity, because their posterity may undermine a forage reserve of the colony. In order to make it at such females last moult is delayed: pheromones secreting by mature females have an influence on them. Outside of a colony “superfluous” females can normally develop further, and their fertility does not differ from fertility of usual females of the colony.
Males at tiny republican spider also live in a colony. Among them there are the “homebodies” making a part of functions of colony members, and there are also settling males, which leave a colony after last moult. Male do not differ in any remarkable “labour activity”; they basically perform work on patroling and local repair of the damaged web. It takes place at night when danger of attack of birds and solitary wasps is less. Participation of males in hunting is minimal: they do not kill the caught insects, but having found large prey, they signal about it to females with the help of fluctuations of web threads. Males also actively catch prey on periphery of the web where it is more difficult to females to be kept.
Males in the majority also are exposed to pheromonal “taming”: they do not have last moult. This phenomenon arises at simultaneous influence on the male of pheromones of other mature males and the fertilized females. And the individuals which succeed to moult (it takes place also at the high concentration in atmosphere of the nest of pheromones of not impregnated females) remain in native colony. If the competition between them is great, they become settlers.
“Tamed” males are defenders of colony from small enemies. They show hyperactivity in struggle against ichneumons and the solitary spider-eating wasps. “Superfluous” females struggle with larger enemies – at them poisonous glands are better advanced.
In the nest there are the females bearing cocoons, and also young spiders. They are looked after by the small “tamed” females. The tiny republican spider has exchange of the food, similar the one characteristic for social insects. Hunting individuals living on web are suppliers of food. Like all spiders, tiny republican spiders inject in prey digestive enzymes which transform prey’s tissues into “broth” which is sucked out by females then. Having filled stomachs with food liquid, they move to nest. Here hunting females belch a part of food for the females protecting clutch, and for males looking after them and struggling with parasitic insects. Having received a portion of the liquid forage, males share it with youngest spiders. Male going to feed posterity shakes a web in a special rhythm, involving young spiders. When they gather on his body, male hangs down on web and belches a drop of nutritious liquid, keeping it in cheliceras and pedipalps, and young spiders simply lick off this liquid.
Colonies of tiny republican spider multiply through “division” or “budding”: the large colony is gradually divided to two or three independent ones, or from it the small colony is separated, in which all types of males and females are present. The settled not impregnated females followed by males are frequently observed. Frequently males from other colonies meet such females. Moving of young ones on spiderweb parachutes at this species is not present.
Colonies of tiny republican spider may be met on branches during the most part of year when there is foliage on trees. These spiders winter in multilayered web nest arranged in the abandoned hole of small mammals. For protection against cold spiders make multilayered web “fuse”, which provides heat insulation. From outside “fuse” is encrusted with lumps of the ground and the vegetative rubbish. In spring the colony leaves winter shelter and builds the new nest surrounded with trapping spider webs.

This species of spiders was discovered by Mutant, the forum member.

Bird-catching spider (Avireticulum mortalis)
Order: Spiders (Aranei)
Family: Orb-web spiders (Araneidae)

Habitat: Central America, tropical forests.
In human epoch at studying of features of the spiders leading social way of life, it was established, that adult spiders in small colonies tend to being larger, than adult spiders in larger colonies. Among the Neocene spiders, forming colonies, this dependence also is kept. One species of social spiders of Neocene, tiny republican spider (Microsociarachne numerosus) from North America, displays this phenomenon. It is the small spider forming large colonies, numbering up to hundred thousand individuals. To the south of it, in tropical areas of Central America, its larger relative lives, displaying the opposite tendency – the bird-catching spider.
The colony of the bird-catching spider totals no more than 20 adult females – it is very little number in comparison with colonies of other spiders leading a similar way of life. But each female in colony has length of body about 6 cm, and legspan reaches 20 cm. Female has lengthened cylindrical abdomen and wide cephalothorax. The body of the female is colored black with white spotty pattern on the bottom side of abdomen. Legs of the female are long and thin, black with thin cross strips of white color in the basis. On upper side of cephalothorax there is a white figure as a white irregular-shaped spot. Cheliceras and pedipalps of the female are covered by large red spots. It is a warning colouring – if necessary, the female of bird-catching spider can attack an animal surpassing it in size manyfold.
In colony of bird-catching spider there are males also. They are very tiny – body length of the adult male is about 10 mm. As against females males have grayish-green camouflage colouring, and only pedipalps have white colouring.
Bird-catching spiders are active predators. The bird spiders (family Aviculariidae), known in human epoch, were not the specialized bird hunters, despite of their name received speculatively. As against them, bird-catching spider is true, literal “bird-eater” in tropical forest canopy. Birds like small pigeon in size sometimes fall prey of these spiders though usually they catch smaller birds. Also these spiders eat small mammals, frogs, lizards and young snakes. The sting of bird-catching spider is very poisonous – one sting is enough to kill the hen-sized bird within one minute.
This spider builds the big web trap consisting of several circular spider webs of regular shape made of thick sticky web threads. Spider webs are located in different planes and cover a site of large tree branch. From them the alarm strings stretch to the shelter where adult individuals hide. The shelter represents a ball made of leaves stuck together by spider web threads. The compound plumose leaf is especially well suitable for the arrangement of the shelter. Spiders bend it and attach parts of leaf to each other. Gradually the whole leaf turns to ball with narrow entrance chink, in which spiders hide during the rain or at night.
Males of bird-catching spider are small and vulnerable, but it does not prevent them to have strong poison, and to defend themselves successfully from small predators. Males almost never play a role of hunters – all need for food is provided by females, and males can catch only casual small prey. But males clear bodies of females of parasites. Moreover females leave egg cocoons in the common nest where males care of them. Males clear surface of cocoons of dust and protect posterity. They kill and eat various parasitic flies and ichneumons which constantly penetrate into the nest in order to lay eggs in spider cocoons. Males also look after posterity, feeding up young spiders with belched food. In order to use prey effectively at this spider feature of behaviour, characteristic for termites and other social insects was developed – an exchange of food. Gorged on female under the male’s request (a special sort of touch to her cheliceras) belches liquid semidigested food which is distributed by males among posterity of the colony.

Nurse spider (Curarachne nutrix)
Order: Spiders (Aranei)
Family: Weaver Spider (Araneidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of the Far East (Asia Mainland and nearby islands).
Among the insects, there are many social species, and some taxa are represented exclusively by social species. In contrast to insects, spiders relatively uncommonly form colonies. But when an independent transition to a social way of life occurs among spiders, a considerable variety of colony establishments is found. Social spiders appeared during the Neocene era on different continents, and populated predominantly the tropical belt.
In the tropical forests of the Far East one of the original social spiders, nurse spider, is found. It is a representative of araneidae species, and it forms a colony, numbering up to 500 individuals, most of whom are young and small males. This species has pronounced sexual dimorphism. The female nurse spider reaches length of 15 mm (leg span about 30 mm); it has a big round abdomen. The coloration of an adult female is dark brown, with white leg tips and pedipalps. A male’s length is approximately 5 mm (10 mm leg span); it has a very catchy coloration: the upper part of the abdomen is bright red with some white spots along the midline; the rest of the body is white, with translucent legs. These males have very strong venom and in case of danger they emerge on the web and even sit astride the females, defending them from possible enemies. The bite of several males is enough to kill a small bird. Young individuals remain greenish-white in colour for a long time.
The web of this species is a large structure, with a diameter of up to 3 meters. Usually it is stretched among the branches and consists of several rather regular circular nets from which individual solid web strands stretch to the neighbouring branches. Insects, caught in the nets attract the attention of young and sexually mature females, who attack it, bite it and partially suck it out. Then the old females crawl onto the web, receiving a much larger proportion of the nutrients from prey. Males and juveniles are also present on the net, but keep out of the way, in shelters. Hunting females rarely gorge themselves – usually they leave the prey, as it barely begins to feel the effect of the digestive enzymes. The stated females creep into shelters and use the movements of the legs on the net to send a special “feeding invitation” signal, in response to which the juveniles and males climb on its body. The female belches out a nutritious liquid, and young spiders and males feed on it. Also, the old females distribute nutrients among young females, which are busy in caring for the young.
In this species, despite the sharply pronounced sexual dimorphism, the female is loyal to the male and does not eat it after mating. Sometimes during the mating, the female is fed with “broth” burped out by a “nanny”, and it reduces its aggressiveness. One clutch contains up to 200 small hatchlings, many of which survive to independence. At the age of about 6 months they become sexually mature. Life expectancy is about 2-3 years.

Translated by Bhut.

Amazon spider (Latrodectus bellicosus)
Order: Spiders (Aranei)
Family: Theridiid spiders (Theridiidae)

Habitat: subtropical and warm-temperate areas of Europe, Near East and Central Asia; woody areas, bushes.
Among Neocene spiders some species leading social way of life had evolved. Representatives of different groups of spiders passed to formation of colonies independently from each other. Relations between individuals in colonies of different species have different nature – from simple aspiration to live near to relatives up to complex regulation of development of colony members depending on condition of the whole colony.
In tropics and subtropics at the east of Europe, in Levant and Middle Asia one species of spiders forming colonies lives – it is small, but aggressive and very poisonous amazon spider. Length of body of this animal is about 15 mm; its close relative is Mediterranean black widow spider (Latrodectus tredecimguttatus), known in human epoch.
Amazon spider is similar in shape to its ancestor, but differs from it in colouring – its general colouring of body is black, and on abdomen there is only one big red irregular-shaped spot surrounded with randomly scattered white points. It is typical warning colouring – the spider is poisonous and aggressive, and each individual can repulse a predator attacking the colony. Male of this species is a small creature of grey color of about 5 mm long.
Colonies of amazon spider reach the different size depending on efficiency of habitats. In droughty areas colonies of this species do not exceed 1000 individuals, and in subtropical forests the colonies numbering 10000 individuals are not rare. Amazon spider leads strictly nocturnal way of life. At night these spiders show hyperactivity and catch any prey of suitable size in radius 20 – 100 meters from the nest. Colonies of this species do not stay for a long time in the chosen place: when amazon spiders exterminate all suitable prey, they simply move to new area. The web at such colonies represents the separate irregular-shaped pieces made among vegetation or between stones. Stationary colonies in places, rich in food, have the whole system of web traps among which there is carefully made nest in which all members of a colony spend the daytime.
The sociality at amazon spider is advanced in lesser degree, rather than at other social species of spiders. In particular, this spider hadn’t develop the exchange of food between members of the colony and between adult individuals and young growth. In habitats poor in food the colony is more similar to a simple congestion of individuals. Spiders spend the daytime together in the shelter plaited of web threads, encrusted with sand grains and vegetative dust. At the exhaustion of food resources spiders easily abandon such shelter and move to a new habitat in common.
In long-term colonies strongly advanced influence of pheromones to development of individuals is expressed in full degree. In densely populated colony restriction of birth rate is shown: superfluous (“not wanted”) females moult and reach the typical size, but their ovaries remain undeveloped. Actually, in the colony from 300 to 1000 breeding females exist, depending on the size of a colony. Though in large colonies the quantitative gain is more, than in smaller ones, it is counterbalanced with outflow of settling individuals.
Males also are exposed to chemical “taming”. For them a plenty of pheromones of mature males and smell of egg cocoons are the factors of “taming” (pheromones of fertilized females have lesser effect). Pheromones of not impregnated females render on them the opposite effect – faster growth and maturing of males. Braking of development of ovaries at superfluous females also takes place under action of “egg pheromone” which is emitted by the females had generated egg cocoons. Influence of smell of egg cocoons on females is much stronger, rather than on males. Males have higher losses at moving and in the colony of any type their number is less, than number of females. Any individual can turn free of influence of chemical substances, leaving a colony. Usually males act so, but the not impregnated females sometimes also leave a colony.
Large colonies of amazon spider can separate freely to some independent colonies, or from them settling groups are separated – small groups of individuals of both genders, settling together to new habitats. The fertilized females also sometimes move to the periphery of a colony, promoting its “budding”. Amazon spider gives 1 – 2 generations per one year depending on temperature. In areas of seasonal climate with approach of winter the colony moves to the burrow of a rodent or to other shelter, covering its walls by silk.

This species of spiders was discovered by Mutant, the forum member.

Heraldic spider, shield-spider (Heraldarachne scutiferus)
Order: Spiders (Aranei)
Family: Wolf spiders (Lycosidae)

Habitat: Southern and South-Eastern Europe, Balkans, coast of Fourseas, Caucasus; humid subtropical woods.
In Neocene when the significant warming of climate had taken place, borders of natural zones had changed: the border of humid deciduous woods had moved far to poles. It appeared especially appreciably in areas close to ocean and seas while the central areas of Eurasia had remained a zone of sharply expressed continental climate. In Europe the climate became warmer and humid due to influence of Fourseas – huge brackish lake. It promoted the occurrence of the zone of humid evergreen subtropical forests along western and southern coasts of Fourseas. The fauna of these places is almost as rich, as in subtropics of Holocene epoch. But it is formed mainly by descendants of European species – from the south these woods are separated from Africa and South Asia by mountains, and primal tropical groups of animals and plants are submitted in them by separate species.
In warm tropics and subtropics arthropods are very diverse and often reach large size. Among them as in the world of vertebrates, there are predators and prey. Spiders are one of main predators among arthropods. One large species of spiders, obviously the descendant of European wolf spiders (Lycosa), lives in forests of Balkans. The length of its body is about 8 cm, and legspan may reach about 12 cm. This creature lives on trunks and branches of trees, and leads the vagrant habit of life, spending night in casual shelters. Its appearance differs from habitual shape of spider: this is flat creature with tenacious legs and very originally-shaped abdomen. The abdomen of this spider is expanded, its top part is extended forward and hangs like cap peak above the cephalothorax. The first line of abdominal shield is expanded and is bend a little. The abdomen of animal at sight from above resembles the Medieval French knight’s shield, and its coloring strengthens this similarity. For it the spider is named shield-spider, or heraldic spider. At quietly creeping spider the forward part of cephalothorax with eyes juts out from under “cap peak”, and animal has good circular field of view. In case of danger animal completely hides under abdominal shield, moving it on body from above. Thus due to cryptic colouring and shape spider becomes indistinguishable from any outgrowth on tree bark. In case of need heraldic spider can defend from enemies by stings. Its main enemies are birds searching these spiders with the help of sight and simply pecking them having pressed by paw against bark.
This spider has kept features characteristic for wolf spiders: it also does not build a spiderweb, and catches prey, suddenly snatching on it by jump. Its catch often appear moths spending day on tree trunk. Occasionally heraldic spider catches even young frogs and lizards. Cheliceres of this animal are long (up to half of cephalothorax length), their sting is poisonous and dangerous to pigeon-sized birds. Heraldic spider has fine sight: it has two large forward eyes giving the stereoimage of high quality. Four lateral eyes are small, and the back pair of eyes is shifted upwards, enabling an animal to see everything happening behind of it.
Legs and bottom part of body of heraldic spider are covered with hairs, and top part of shieldis hairless with wrinkled surface – it imitates bark of tree well. Colouring of shield of heraldic spider is cryptic: on brown background there is a pattern of grey and yellowish spots and points, forming figures approximally similar to heraldic figures. Under the armour this spider is colored much brighter, rather than outside. The bottom surface of shield at the male is covered with red hair reflecting light and giving to inner side of shield silky shine. Bases of walking legs of the male are coal-black, and legs are cross-striped black-and-white. At the female the inner side of shield is colored red-brown color, and bases of striped legs are covered with hair of bright blue color.
The male of heraldic spider is approximately 20% lighter, rather than the female. Such small difference in weight permits it to avoid lethal outcome after pairing which is very characteristic for many spiders. The male ready to pairing actively searches for females, running on tree trunk. It tries to keep in places where through forest canopy sun beams penetrate – in bright light it looks very effectively. Having met the female, the male begins courtship demonstration: having risen on three pairs of legs, it turns towards to the female bright inner side of shield so, that sun light reflects from it. When the female ready to pairing freezes (it is a part of ritual too), male gets to it on shield, and densely pastes the female by web against bark. Certainly, it is not enough to of it to keep the female stopped reliably, but the male may win some seconds to escape from the female after pairing.
The female differs from the male not only in size. At it there is the special structure of abdomen: it has asymmetric from of the bottom side forming original “pocket” (usually from the right side). This adaptation is necessary for carrying of cocoon, which this spider hides under the shield.
Heraldic spiders breed the most part of year, except for the coldest winter months when their activity is reduced and they spend the most part of time in shelters. For one year the female bears 3 – 4 cocoons numbering 200 – 250 eggs. Last clutch is usually smaller, rather than others, but eggs in it are larger, and young spiders have chance to go through winter better. Eggs develop within 15 days; young spiders sit in cocoon till three days, and then get over to the bottom side of the shield of the female. Having cast the coat, they abandon the female for ever and lead independent life. Young heraldic spiders reach sexual maturity at the age of one year. Life expectancy of heraldic spiders is rather great and can make up to 9 – 10 years.
All arthropods for growth are compelled to pass through hard process of molt. Usually at molting spider the top part of cephalothorax armour is separated, and it gets out through this aperture. At heraldic spider this process is complicated with very large abdomen of specific shape. Therefore it molts differently a little: at molting spider the seam separating the top side of armour from other body bursts. When the top part on abdomen exfoliates, animal gets out through it, as through the hatch, back to front.
Closely related species of spiders live in subtropics of Europe:
Bullhorn spider (Heraldarachne taurocornis) lives in woods of Caucasus Peninsula. It is smaller species, rather than heraldic spider – it is 6 cm long at all. This species lives on bottom parts of tree trunks in moss cover. The shield outgrowth on its abdomen forms two “horns” sticking forward. The top part of body has masking color: it is black with bright green irregular-shaped spots and thick green hairs on edge. Bottom side of body at this spider is bright orange; legs at males are silver-gray, at females black. In fight for territory males “butt” each other by horn-shaped outgrowths. In the heat of battle spider can fling the contender away or dump it from trunk down by movement of “horns”.
Leaf-bellied spider (Heraldarachne foliomimus) lives in forests at the western coast of Fourseas. It reaches the size of 7 – 8 cm. This species is colored dimmer, rather than its relatives: from the bottom side of shield there are no bright hairs, legs are colored grey with dim white cross strips, and only on forward pair of legs at the male there are reddish-brown “brushes”. But this spider has excellent masking: the abdomen of this species is flat and wide, having on edges some jags with tips extended and slightly bent upwards. Colouring of abdomen precisely imitates dry leaf: the basic background is yellowish-brown with darker spots. Light strokes simulate leaf nerves and form irregular mesh-like pattern. This spider eats insects and can kill spiders of smaller species.
Eared spider (Heraldarachne auriculatus) inhabits Balkan forests. It is the largest species in genus: its length exceeds 10 cm at legspan more than 15 cm. It differs from other heraldic spiders by the shape of shield formed by abdomen overgrown forward: on it forward and upwards two large flat lateral outgrowths stick. Eared spider lives in forest canopy and does not go down on trunks. It is very poisonous, and bright warning colouring is developed at it: shield is bright yellow with black warts on the surface; outgrowths are black with blue oculate spots in the center. Legs of animal are black with red tips. The sting of this spider may kill an animal weighting up to 50 kg. Eared spider eats small vertebrates – frogs, lizards and nestlings of small birds. It also eats large insects – cockroaches and crickets.

Stick spider (Arachnobaculum inconspicuus)
Order: Spiders (Aranei)
Family: Wolf spiders (Lycosidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Southeast Asia, forest canopy.
In due course of evolution there is a constant competition between predator and prey in which new means of survival undergo rigid selection. Speed, force and poison are the results of such struggle. But it would be incorrect to reduce competition between predator and prey only to rough power struggle. The mimicry and procryptic colouring are also results of struggle for existence; thus not the strongest fighter survives, but the skilfulest imitator. And both predators and their prey equally succeed in such competitions. Among invertebrates walking sticks and orthopters among herbivores and mantids among predators are skilful imitators. Among spiders there is also a lot of imitators – some of them imitate inanimate objects, and others mimic well protected animal. In Neocene some spiders in order to masking developed the body shape, more characteristic for insects of phasmopter order (so called “walking sticks”). One of such species, living in Southeast Asia, is named stick spider because of it.
This species has very characteristic body shape. It has squeezed, thin and mobile abdomen. Because of it the length of its body reaches 90 – 100 mm though the width of abdomen does not exceed 8 mm. Cephalothorax is also long, and distance between pairs of legs is about 5 mm. Legs of stick spider are also very long – up to 15 centimeters. This spider differs in fragility of constitution, and is not able to run quickly. It is capable of fast movements only at the moment of prey seizing, and moves in branches simply with fast steps. In case of danger this spider simply jumps in air and stretches legs in gliding. Due to small weight and long legs of spider the jump is very slow, and spider has time to hook for a branch or liana stalk.
The body of stick spider is covered with rich short hair. Colouring of body is camouflaging – greyish-brown with short cross strokes of black color. When the spider freezes among foliage and branches, it cannot be made out. Sometimes insects land directly on its body, not having noticed a spider. Feeling danger, stick spider can run into similarity of catalepsy – it freezes, having extended forward two front pairs of legs, and strongly seizes a branch by back pairs of legs. It keeps immovability even when the predator casually touches its body. But at the first opportunity of escaping by flight the spider jumps off from branch.
Eyes of this spider are large. Their location on cephalothorax is very unusual. All eyes (two large and six smaller ones) are taken out upwards and forward on “tower” – a special outgrowth of cephalothorax which hangs above cheliceras and pedipalps. Due to unusual arrangement of eyes this spider has very wide field of view. Large eyes are directed forward and give the three-dimensional image of an area directly ahead of spider, a line of four tiny eyes is arranged under them, and two medium-sized eyes located above the pair of large eyes, are directed upwards.
Male of stick spider is only a little smaller, rather than the female. In colouring both genders do not differ from each other. Courtship ritual at these spiders is accompanied by special courtship dance – male walks around the female, highly lifting legs and having rised upwards a front pair of legs. Male holds in cheliceras a symbolical gift – a piece of bark or dry leaf slightly wound with web. Usually after pairing male succeeds to escape from the female, but approximately in the tenth part of cases female manages to catch male and to eat him. Some males can make up to four pairings during their life.
The female carries cocoon under the abdomen, having pasted it to spinnerets (it is a typical feature of wolf spiders). In order to hide the white colouring of the cocoon from predators female pastes on its surface small parts of vegetative dust – fluffy cops of seeds, pieces of bark and rotten leaves. When the posterity hatches, the female bears young spiders on the body till some days. The grown up and got stronger youing spiders leave their mother and start to lead independent life. Their first prey includes plant lice or other tiny insects with soft covers more often. After several moults young spiders pass to life among air roots of plants where they hunt larvae of crickets and cockroaches. They reach sexual maturity at the age of 13 – 14 months.

Zakolo spider (Zakolo saurophagus)
Order: Spiders (Aranei)
Family: Jumping spiders (Salticidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Africa.
In the Neocene epoch the jumping spider family experienced an explosion of species. Among its representatives relatively large species appeared, which could partially replace wolf and tarantula spiders in tropical habitats, but have not parted with these spiders’ characteristics of speed and vagrant lifestyles.
In the undergrowth of African tropical forests, and on the roots of large, mossy trees, one of the largest representatives of this family lives: the zakolo spider. This is a rather large spider with a body length of 7-8.5 cm, and a leg length of about 5 cm. The physique of the zakolo spider is quite massive: the cephalothorax is expanded and has a raised front, and the abdomen is relatively small (shorter than the cephalothorax), flattened, and with a rounded shape when viewed from above. The body of the female of this spider is brown with some light spots at the front. Two big eyes look forward, providing great stereoscopic vision. They shine brightly and “glow” in the dark due to a layer of light-reflecting pigments. Two more pairs of small eyes are on the side of the cephalothorax, directed to the sides, as well as a pair of eyes looking back. The front pair of eyes is bordered with a white stripe that gives them the impression of eyes of an animal of much larger size. The pedipalps and the thickened bases of the chelicerae are hairless and have a shiny surface, and are colored a bright red color. Claws at the tips of the chelicerae are white, curved, and about 15 mm long.
The male zakolo spider differs from the female in smaller size (a length of about 3-4 cm, usually less), a gracile physique, and a different color. He has brown upper parts of the cephalothorax and abdomen, but the sides are gray. On the tips of the front pair of legs he has noticeable white cross stripes edged with red hairs. During his “dance” in front of a female he holds his front legs lifted upwards and outwards, showing these signals to the female. His chelicerae and pedipalps are also bright red and lack hairs.
The zakolo spider attacks small vertebrates, or rarely large arthropods. Most often, it attacks small lizards; its bite kills prey within 10 seconds. In larger vertebrates the zakolo’s poison causes painful swelling. The spider prefers to hunt by jumping on prey from above: from tree roots or the branches of young, low trees. This species is diurnally active; at nights it builds a temporary shelter, weaving together several large dried leaves with some threads.
The breeding season for this species is not emphasized, but in areas with seasonally dry climates most juvenile are common in the wet season. The female lays about 30 relatively large eggs and wears them with her in a cocoon of cobwebs. The male often flees after mating, but sometimes it becomes a victim of the female. Spiderlings appear within 10 days and are immediately cared for by the female. For the first few days they sit on their mother’s back and eat part of her prey by sucking up the victim’s tissue dissolved by the female’s poison. Gradually the spiderlings leave their mother and live independently. The last spiderlings leave their mother after their first molt. The first 3 molts occur every month, the following 4 are once a month and a half, and the eighth molt is two months after the previous one. After that, the growth of the spider stops and all the body’s resources are spent on reproduction. The female has time to bear up to three broods.

The idea about the existence of this species was proposed by Nick, the forum member.
Translated by FanboyPhilosopher

Giant Fourseas soliphuga (Galeodes tetramarina)
Order: Soliphuges (Solifugae)
Family: Galeodids (Galeodidae)

Habitat: Fourseas area, zone of coastal thickets; forested areas at the west and south-west of range.
At the boundary of Holocene and Neocene the areas of inland seas in Eurasia have undergone drastic changes. During the ice age the seas dried up, replaced by deserts, and after the melting of glaciers the seas returned to form a large brackish body of water – Fourseas. In a corresponding manor the composition of the fauna has changed. Some species from arid zones have adapted to living in the new environment, and among them there is a giant Fourseas soliphuga, the descendant of the Central Asian solifuge (Galeodes caspius). Its ancestors adapted to life on the steppes, learning to occupy holes of other animals, which was important in the dry climate of the glacial epoch.
This is a very large arachnid species – the length of the body without limbs reaches 10 cm. The cephalothorax is gray, the abdomen is black with a longitudinal red stripe. Limbs are gray, with darker tips. The entire body is covered with dense hairs; on limbs the hairs are sparse and longer, performing tactile functions.
A distinctive feature of the giant Fourseas soliphuga is very large chelicerae, vaguely resembling the claws of some crabs. This species feeds on large arthropods (including its own kind), and occasionally on small vertebrates (mice, shrews, young lizards and snakes). The chelicerae are able to break beetle armor or cut the body of small lizard or snake to bones. In case of danger the animal raises on the two rear pairs of legs and widely spreads apart its front legs. At the same time the chelicerae are opened, and claws are straightened out. This species can utter chirping, rubbing its chelicerae against one another.
This species has a nocturnal way of life, hiding during the day in the burrows of small animals or in other shelters, which are re-built to suit its needs. This animal also hibernates in burrows, demonstrating a strong attachment to the chosen habitats. At the east and north-east of its range the animal digs special wintering holes to the depth of a meter, beginning under a rock and directed vertically.
The giant Fourseas soliphuga lives in a seasonal climate, and therefore its reproduction has a clearly pronounced seasonal nature. This species breeds in August (in the western and south-western parts of its range earlier), with mating behavior resembling that of scorpions – for some time male and female crawl, having linked chelicerae and pedipalps. The female lays up to 30 eggs under rocks in a special chamber whose walls are strenghtened with stones. Young solifuges hatch after hibernation in the spring, shortly after the melting of snow in the northern part of the area, and in the south – about the middle of March.
This species has a large life expectancy – about 10 years, and starts breeding from the second year of life.

This species of spider was discovered by Nick, the forum member.

Translated by FanboyPhilosopher.

Acatou feather mite (Acatoubius plumophilus)
Order: Acariform mites (Acariformes)
Family: Syringophilids (Syringophilidae)

Habitat: South America, giant carnivorous bird acatou.
In nature any animal, large or small, represents true “zoo”: in its organism the plenty of various parasites settles. They are protozoans, flatworms and nematode worms, various arthropods. Among bird parasites mites are rather usual. Various species of these arachnids live on feathering of bird, in pipes and in skin. Some species only temporarily live on bird and hide in litter of its nest. Other species of mites, on the contrary, live on the body of bird constantly or the most part of life, excepting the short periods of settling. Various species of parasites are strictly connected to certain parts of body of the host animal.
When the giant bird acatou opens wings and wants to fly up, it becomes especially appreciable, that in one wing some minor primary feathers are deformed and short. It almost does not prevent this bird to fly, but reduces its maneuverability at prey chasing. Such development of feathers is the result of activity of one acatou parasite, the acatou feather mite.
This tiny arthropod lives in shafts of primary and tail feathers of bird. The adult female of this species represents the translucent worm-like four-legged creature about 3 cm long at the thickness of body about 2 mm. It lives in the basis of feather shaft and does not leave it up to the end of life. When the feather falls out, the female living in it perishes, but more often it perishes before this moment when the basis of feather placed in skin of bird, stops the development.
The male of this species sharply differs from the female: it has typical shape of free-living mite. It is thin-bodied eight-legged creature about 2 mm long. In essence, the male differs only a little from larvae of last age. Larvae and males live on skin of acatou and eat exfoliating epidermis, not harming a bird.
The male fertilizes the female out of feather before her last molt. After fertilization in behaviour and anatomy of the female striking changes take place: she starts to search feather papillae from which largest feathers in acatou feathering – primary feathers in wings and quill feathers in tail develop. The female gnaws in the tip of developing feather an aperture and creeps inside of it. Having found the shelter, she at once molts and turns to inactive creature. The female loses two back pairs of legs, and its abdomen stays covered with soft elastic cuticle. Only in forward part of her cephalothorax rather firm chitinous cover remains. On it there are some elastic bristles which allow the mite to fix inside of feather shaft.
Feather shaft is filled with friable keratinous fibers, and the female partly eats them away from within. She gradually reaches a basement of feather. To this moment it is not formed yet, therefore the female has access to blood vessels surrounding the feather bursa. She pierces an environment of developing feather and starts to suck blood. At this moment at her in an abdomen the development of eggs fertilized before begins. For short life the female of acatou feather mite can form and incubate in the body over 50 thousand eggs. They ripen in small portions in abdomen of the female, and gradually, as on the conveyor, move along the oviduct. From them right in oviduct hexapod nymphs excluse. After birth they live some time inside the feather shaft, eating dung of the female and the rests of keratinous fibers. The female of acatou feather mite prepares for them a kind of “baby food”, only partly digesting the exhausted blood of bird. Nymphs eat liquid dung of the female which actually consists of semidigested blood of acatou and is rather nutritious. Eating such food young acatou feather mites pass some molts inside the feather. Nymphs of advanced age scrape walls of feather from within, making it fragile. Because of their activity the feather breaks or broken off, when the bird cleans feathers, and mite nymphs leave it. They begin life as commensals, crawling on the body of acatou. Nymphs of acatou feather mite settle during the contact of adult birds, or bird and nestling. But they have one more way of moving which they frequently use. Nymphs find larvae of Goliath feather louse (Megalaembothrion goliath) – large parasitic insect, and cling to them. The nymph can not eat very long time, staying in inactive condition on the body of Goliath feather louse larva. They expect, while the Goliath feather louse larva will cling itself to any flying insect and will get on body of new host bird. The part of nymphs, however, stays on body of bird and also turns to adult mites.

Crustaceans

Voodoo sacculina (Voodoocancer zombiefabricatus)
Order: Cirripedians (Cirripedia), suborder Root-headed crustaceans (Rhizocephala)
Family: Sacculinas (Sacculinidae)

Habitat: tropical areas of Old World and Meganesia: from Zinj Land and Tanganyika passage at the west through Hindustan, Southeast Asia and Indonesia up to northern coast of Meganesia.
Root-headed crustaceans represent one of the tops of evolution of parasitic crustaceans. The body of the parasite almost completely loses the features typical not only for crustaceans, but also for arthropods in general. The whole body of sacculina represents root-like outgrowths completely penetrating the body of the host – usually decapode. Only the sac-like body of the parasite in which genitals of animal are placed is visible from outside.
Sacculina parasitizes in host crustacean, not destroying its organs. The animal inhabited by it keeps normal viability and adequately reacts to occurrence of predators, escaping itself and its parasite in common. But sacculinas affect its maturing, causing in various cases parasitic castration or regeneration to the individual of opposite gender. Usually sacculina is a hermaphrodite, but any number of species of close genera has dwarf males. In this respect the species evolved in Neocene and named voodoo sacculina strongly differs from them. At this species both genders are approximately equally advanced – males are only a little smaller, rather than females, and do not cause deep physiological changes in host’s organism during their growth and development.
Voodoo sacculina does not differ externally from other related species. Its body represents mainly root-like bands penetrating the body of the crustacean infected with it up to tips of antennae and legs. Under the abdomen between segments of infected animal sac-like outgrowth of yellowish color, about 20 mm in diameter, covered with dense chitinized cuticle without traces of segmentation is stuck out. It is easy to distinguish males and females of this species by the appearance of this sac. Females have only two apertures of oviducts on it. Males have a pair of special closed sacs; in each of them there is a genital looking like thin tubule. During the pairing the sac is opened and it stucks out, searching for oviduct aperture of the female.
Sexual breeding with fertilization has the great advantage to its owners. At the pairing of two genetically different individuals in their posterity the recombination of their features takes place and it promotes evolution of the species as a whole and complicates the infection with viruses. But for the parasite its complete dependence on its host represents a great difficulty. Voodoo sacculina has one way to overcome this obstacle. Penetrating the host’s body, this animal changes the shape of the host with its secretions: in comparison with the not infected representatives of the host species individuals carrying voodoo sacculina have more advanced antennae covered with lengthened bristles with a plenty of sensor cells. This adaptation aggravates sense of smell of the infected animal in great degree, making it more cautious, that at the same time saves the life of the parasite. But the basic function of this adaptation is absolutely different. Having reached the maturity, voodoo sacculina begins to influence the nerve system of the host animal, changing its behaviour. In breeding season the parasite forces the host to search with the help of smell sense not for the partner of its own species, but for the crustacean of any kind also infected by individual of opposite gender of voodoo sacculina. Hence the trivial name of voodoo sacculina – the parasite completely subordinates the behaviour of the host crustacean. As a result of it at the sea bottom the strange scenes resembling courtship games take place, performed by crustaceans not only of different species and genera, but also of different families (voodoo sacculina is not specialized in choice of the host). Sometimes it happens, that male of voodoo sacculina infects any shrimp, and it, being more mobile, searches for carriers of sacculina females including ones belonging to species eating shrimps in a typical case. But in this case smell of the approaching male forces the female of voodoo sacculina to interrupt the aggressive behaviour of the host in order to pairing. During the pairing the carrier of the female extends an abdomen, making accessible an outgrowth in which genitals of the parasite female are located. Thus male individuals of host species display the sexual behaviour of the female, allowing carriers of voodoo sacculina males to approach the parasite to sufficient distance to make fertilization at parasites. Spermatozoa of the male may keep viability in ovaries of the female till about half-year, but the female is regularly coupled with new самцами and their spermatozoa as more mobile and viable fertilize her ovocytes in the primary order. If the pairing had not taken place for a long time, the last group of impregnated ovocytes divide repeatedly, and from one initial ovocyte some hundreds eggs may be generated.
The further development of voodoo sacculina differs in nothing from life cycle of other species of this group. Fertility of the female makes up to 10 thousand tiny eggs per one week. Planktonic nauplius turns to cypris and is attached to covers of the host. After that it moults once again and penetrates into the body of the host as an unstructured lump of cells of which the whole body of animal develops inside its host. Life expectancy of voodoo sacculina male is short and does not exceed two years. The female of this species lives till five years.

The idea about existence of this species of crustaceans was proposed by Momus, the forum member.

Fish sacculina (Piscisacculina quasisymbiotica)
Order: Root-headed crustaceans (Rhizocephala)
Family: Fish sacculinas (Piscisacculinidae)

Habitat: northern part of Pacific Ocean, seas of Southern hemisphere.
In seas of Holocene one surprising crustacean was known – sacculina, the endoparasite of crabs, developing in the infected crab as long roots in all its body, exhausting nutrients. In Neocene this kind of parasitism had promoted further away, practically up to a level of symbiosis. The crustacean similar to crab sacculina infects fishes of certain species leading mainly schooling habit of life. These fishes do not make long migrations, remaining within the limits of zone of inhabiting of the population, near to coast of continent, and eat seaweed, invertebrates, ground and silt inhabitants.
The microscopic larva of crustacean – the nauplius – finds young fish, is swallowed by it with water and settles on gills. Having attached to epithelium, it has metamorphosis. As a result of it the crustacean larva sprouts inside of host animal body as long tissue outgrowths, and the rests of the nauplial cover on the surface of fish gills disappear after the molt. Gradually “sprouts” pass through all its body and organs, absorbing nutrients of the host organism. The fish does not feel the special discomfort; the parasite has adapted to not affect for the time being the vital centers, and also develops the connections overwhelming unpleasant sensations. Taking root in gonads, the invader dilutes sexual products of fish at early stages of development, and develops its own ovo- or spermatogonies, depending on its sex, occupying all volume of former gonads. Ripening of sexual products of crustacean coincides to terms of egg ripening of the not invaded individuals of fishes of this species. In required term the fish comes to spawning with other congeners. But it can not spawn eggs any more, and generates in its gonads eggs or sperm cells of the parasite. And soon naupliuses of the parasite appear, swimming to searching of new hosts.
The parasite creates alternative communication system in the body of fish, providing transport of substances, oxygen, and participating in their metabolisme. By developed substances it interferes with development of congeners again getting on this fish, and they perish still larvae at attempt of “sprouting” into the fish. Except for it, thr parasite creates a chemical barrier to all this school of fishes for other larvae, frightening them off and overwhelming their development, and it is as stronger, as more is the rate of infected fishes in school. If in fish school there is more than the one fifth of infected fishes, defeats new practically do not occur and fishes receive some kind of “immunity” from new attacks - the parasite has “an interest” to keep a significant part of fishes healthy to permit them to breed.
Through skin of fish long hair-like outgrowths of the parasite sprout. They are supplied with sensitive receptors reacting to the slightest signs of food keener, than fish’s own ones, and fish through system of the mutual biochemical communications moves there, and it is followed also by other fishes of school. Except for it, the poisonous secret of the parasite emitting through the same outgrowths, makes fish almost up to the end of life uneatable. The predators had tried such fish few times, at all try to avoid catching of fishes of this species. The infected fishes live till 5-6 years.
Only at the end of host’s life the parasite takes root into brain of fish, and its coordination of movements is broken. The struck fish swims badly, and larger predator usually swallows such individuals. But it will not be infected, because its biochemistry is not the same, as at host fishes to which the physiology of parasite is very well adapted. In digestive path of predatory fish after digestion of catch beforehand firm formations of the parasite similar to cysts are formed. They will be kept, and the fish will distribute them wandering in open spaces of ocean in wider areas, than migratory routes of the separate population of the host fish. After removing of cysts from the organism with excrement from them plankton larvae of parasitic crustacean will burst.

This species is discovered by Arseny Zolotnikov.

Surveyor scud (Geocaprella geometra)
Order: Scuds, or Side-swimmers (Amphipoda)
Family: Skeleton shrimps (Caprellidae)

Habitat: shores of northern part of Pacific ocean.
Active processes of orogenesis in northern part of Pacific Ocean have resulted to radical changes of the coastal line of Asia and Northern America in comparison with situation known in Holocene. A plenty of new islands has appeared, and it has permitted to some sea inhabitants to master land.
In ebb-tide strip of north - Pacific islands life has to found a convenient place for itself. True “forests” of brown and green seaweed develop here, and in them tens species of invertebrates crawl. In these places one equally well feeling like both in water, and on land, survives successfully.
Among crabs scurrying among rotting thalli of seaweed at the coast, it is possible to find strange creatures of unusual appearance: they are long-bodied, also creep “by steps” similarly to caterpillar of geometer moth. But antennae and well advanced legs indicate, that they are not caterpillars. The body of these creatures is covered with firm armour and colored red - brown with dark irregular-shaped spots. These animal are lineal descendants of crustaceans skeleton shrimps (Caprella). For characteristic manner of movement this creature is named surveyor scud. They are rather large representatives of order: body length of surveyor scud is up to 10 cm.
The body of surveyor scud is covered with numerous knobs and outgrowths, and on antennae and legs rounded scalloped outgrowths stick up. It helps this crustacean to mask among seaweed from enemies and possible catch. During the inflow the surveyor scud stays in thickets of brown seaweed, waiting for small animals: fry, other crustaceans and snails. Having clung by back legs to seaweed, the surveyor scud expects, while the prey will come nearer too close to be seized. The caught prey is kept by forward pair of legs on which tips there are small spikes. During walking the surveyor scud folds these legs under thorax.
Being the inhabitant of an intertidal zone, the surveyor scud is able to live not only in sea, but also on land. In outflow tens of these crustaceans creep in intertidal zone, eating animals cast ashore. But at this time they are endangered: many sea birds fly above intertidal zone, and even ground predators at times search for catch at the coast. Therefore, having remained at the coast, surveyor scuds keep near to natural shelters - usually near heaps of seaweed. At first signs of danger surveyor scud rushes to the nearest shelter. Due to colouring and body shape it easily masks. When the hidden crustacean keeps in seaweed, it may be easily mistaken for a part of plant. Like crabs and fishes surveyor scuds rescue from small predators by jumps: having turned up the back end of body under itself and sharply having straightened, the scud jumps at the distance up to meter. Being overtaken at the flat area, it can escape, very quickly having buried in sand. As a last resort seized surveyor scud easily rejects extremities which completely restore after two molts.
The female of this species carries eggs and posterity on itself. At this species there is direct development, and from large eggs posterity similar to adult scuds bursts. The young growth keeps on body of the female and eats the rests of her catch. Before the first molt the posterity abandons mother and further lives independently.

Plankton living stick (Thalassophasma tenuissima)
Order: Scuds, or Side-swimmers (Amphipoda)
Family: Skeleton shrimps (Caprellidae)

Habitat: Pacific Ocean, top water layers.
After extinction of significant part of plankton organisms the set of ecological niches of open ocean appeared empty. It stimulated the evolution of survived ocean inhabitants and had permitted to some inhabitants of sea shallow waters to make attempt to develop habitats of open ocean. At the initial stage of open ocean settling in plankton there had been a plenty of descendants of shallow water forms, but gradually their amount had decreased, and few lines of new immigrants to plankton had survived only. Even descendants of one rather specialized group of scuds – skeleton shrimps (Caprellidae) were among them. These animals had developed pelagic habit of life rather originally: they had left shallow water adapting to live on huge brown or green algae floating in top layers of water. And only therefrom skeleton shrimps passed to inhabiting in thickness of water, becoming true plankton animals. One species of these creatures differs in very large size and characteristic appearance. It is named plankton living stick.
This crustacean looks the real giant among scuds: it is the animal up to 20 cm long. But the large size does not mean that it is very strong and dangerous creature. Plankton living stick quite justifies its name – it is the fragile and graceful creature adapted to plankton life. The body of this animal is very thin, and four forward pectoral segments are lengthened very much – they amount approximately 80% of the general length of animal. Four forward pairs of legs are also very long. They are covered with hairs facilitating soaring in water. The forward pair of legs is little bit shorter, rather than the others – it is used for prey grabbing. On tips of forward pair of legs small pincer-like outgrowths develop, helping to keep catch.
Segments of back part of thorax appreciably differ from front ones – they are flat; two pairs of short and strong swimming legs with dense bristles on edge grow on them. In case of need the plankton living stick is able to swim – for this purpose it folds long forward legs back, and rows by swimming legs. But this animal is not so good swimmer, also is is not able to swim for a long time. The longest moving it makes is the vertical migration. Having a presentiment of storm, this fragile crustacean falls to the depth of about 20 meters.
The pleon of plankton living stick is reduced (this condition had been present already at skeleton shrimps, ancestors of this animal) and is extended to needle-shaped outgrowth.
Usually plankton living stick motionlessly soars in thickness of water, having stretched pectoral legs in sides. Occasionally one or two swimming legs come in movement, slowly turning animal to the necessary direction. This sluggish creature eats small plankton animals, catching them one by one. At this animal there are maxillipeds of cutting type – plankton living stick bites off pieces of catch.
Fertility at plankton living stick there is rather low for plankton animals – the female lays at all only some hundreds eggs and bears them on segments of back part of thorax (at females these segments are wider, rather than at males) within approximately three weeks. From eggs young animals similar to adults hatch. They sit on body of the female about one week and catch smallest plankton animals floating near it, then abandon the female and live independently. The young growth is able to swim faster, rather than adult individuals – at just passed to independent life plankton living sticks body is shorter and swimming legs are rather long. Also at them the forward pair of pectoral legs is longer than the others. With each molt proportions of young animal advance to proportions of adult individual.

Mantis scud (Deinogammarus rapax)
Order: Scuds, or Side-swimmers (Amphipoda)
Family: Scuds, or Side-swimmers (Gammaridae)

Habitat: Fourseas, coastal thickets of plants. This crustacean can rise against current of rivers and form freshwater populations.
The history of Fourseas had begun from zero, or from the size close to it. When four internal seas at the south of Europe had dried up, all sea fauna appeared simply destroyed. And after rigorous ice age when Fourseas had formed, this reservoir became populated with numerous species of live creatures. They were not descendants of representatives of the extinct fauna, but animals, whose ancestors lived in rivers and lakes.
In geological sense Fourseas had formed very quickly: for some hundreds thousand years thawed snow of glaciers of Northern hemisphere have filled in hollows of dried up seas, and rains have lifted sea level even more. Tectonic processes have closed Bosporus passage, and Fourseas actually appeared a little bit above ocean level.
Processes of evolution of live creatures in new reservoir have gone especially roughly. The set of free ecological niches has permitted to descendants of few founder species to avoid the competition. Among crustaceans which have occupied Fourseas, there were scuds. These crustaceans had survived in glacial lakes with cold and clean water. When glaciers had started to thaw, filling in hollows of dried up seas, scuds first of all began to develop the new world, forming new species better adapted to inhabitancy which Fourseas could give them. They became the most mass group of invertebrates in reservoir. Among them both fine plankton species, and various ground inhabitants have appeared. And one of species, the mantis scud, became the true predator.
The length of this crustacean is about 10 cm: it is one of largest species of scuds of Fourseas. But it seems even larger because of very long antennae, surpassing in length its body. Except for them, on head of the crustacean there are very well advanced eyes consisting of set of very small facets. Due to it mantis scud can distinguish tiny details of environmental district. The body of this crustacean is lengthened and flexible, numbering set of segments.
This animal is active ambuscader eating water insects (larvae of dragonflies, water beetles, etc.), leeches and small vertebrates (fishes, tadpoles, frogs). Also this species willingly eats carrion. In this connection at it the adaptation for keeping of catch and meat tearing are developed: the forward pair of legs has increased, segments on edge are supplied with spikes and jags. In rest these trap legs are put together, but when the animal attacks, they quickly open and grasp catch. This crustacean can swim quickly: three back pairs of legs are feather-like, covered with long elastic hairs. Back pairs of legs also serve for attachment to substratum: on their tips sharp bent claws are advanced.
Colouring is cryptic: the top side of body is olive-brown, and bottom is reddish. It permits the crustacean to mask in thickets of pondweed, waiting for catch. Usually this crustacean hides in plants, and expects for suitable catch. But the hungry crustacean may chase catch, swimming to small distance from shelter. These crustaceans, similarly to many single predators, are strictly territorial: invisible borders share thickets of underwater grasses to set of sites, and each of which is vigilantly protected. If the neighbour has crossed border and does not hurry up to leave another's possession, the lawful owner warns it. For this purpose on trap legs of the mantis scud the special knobs, to which on the next segment small holes are opposed, are advanced. Bending the leg, and pushing knob in hole, crustacean utters sharp clicking sound. The click distinguished by loudness and sounding, is an alarm signal. When above places of inhabiting of mantis scuds the large fish swims, its movement is accompanied by alarm signals of these animals. If the neighbor or predatory fish attacks the mantis scud, the animal is able to protect itself with the help of spiny trap legs. Protection is accompanied by the special gnashing sound which will be remembered by any predator, having received deep painful wounds from the mantis scud.
The pledge of success of survival consists not only in skill of protecting against the enemy, but also in care of posterity. This species differs in child-loving: the female drags eggs and larvae on the body. From large eggs (up to 100 ones in clutch) hot helpless larvae, but tiny advanced youngs – small copies of parents, hatch. Since the first minutes they can move independently, but do not leave mother before hardening of carapace after the first shed. They eat the rests of mother’s catch, and successfully grow up till the size guaranteeing their survival. Young mantis scuds are good swimmers, and can attack animals of size equal to them.

Sea bird louse (Thalassophthirus aviphilus)
Order: Isopods (Isopoda)
Family: Idoteids (Idoteidae)

Habitat: Northern hemisphere, Atlantic and Arctic oceans. The parasite of large sea birds.
Extinction of cetaceans and others sea mammal in epoch of ecological crisis had carried away to non-existence the fauna of their parasites – worms, crustaceans, and other species of invertebrates. In Neocene the place of large sea vertebrates in Northern hemisphere is occupied by large flightless birds. Various species of parasitic animals had settled these birds evolved in appropriate way. Some of them descend from own parasites of birds, and others had settled newly evolving species of huge birds from zero.
One of new settlers of huge sea birds is the parasitic species of isopod crustaceans, externally similar to louse - because of it this species is named sea bird louse. It settles on skin of birds under feathers and eats blood. Length of body of this crustacean is about 7 – 11 mm. Obviously, it is the descendant of one of species of sea crustaceans of genus Idotea – usual inhabitants of interdial zone in Holocene epoch.
The body of sea bird louse is flattened, covered from above and from sides with firm shell. On the bottom side of body chitinous cover is thin and folded. Plicas increase the area of body surface, and help in respiring. And when this animal sucks a plenty of blood, plicas are smoothed, and the body becomes slightly bulging. Mouth feet of this crustacean are modified to thin long proboscis.
At sea bird louse five pairs of walking legs are advanced. The forward pair of legs is similar to hunting legs of soothsayer – on their internal side there are pointed thin denticles. These extremities serve for attachment to the host body – sea bird louse clasps by them feather shaft of host bird, or clings the stretched legs to its skin, sticking denticles in epidermis of the bird. Next three pairs of walking legs are short and hook-like. On penultimate segment of walking legs there is a sharp spike, and last segment is hooked. These two segments form strong claw, therefore sea bird louse is not washed away from host bird by casual wave, and even bird carefully cleaning feathering not always can deliver from these parasites. Last pair of walking legs has changed to similarity of flippers – they are lack of spikes, but last segment of these legs is very wide and is bordered by rigid hairs. With the help of such legs sea bird louse swims well, and in rest these legs cover from below very short abdomen on which gills are located, and protect them from drying.
Though sea bird louse is able to swim, it can stay on land for a long time and even rather quickly creeps on the ground. It settles on head of gannetwhales and other sea flightless birds – plesioloons and laughterloons. Occasionally this species settles on skin of other birds, but, as a rule, it lives on them not for long: small birds clean off these crustaceans from themselves or peck them off one from another. Sea bird louse settles at direct contact of birds, or swims from one bird to another when birds hunt in sea. This crustacean makes risky travels on the ground in cool foggy night when the risk to dry or to be eaten is less.
Sea bird louse breeds, laying many small eggs – up to 2 – 3 thousands in one clutch. When the host bird stays on land, female protects eggs from drying, covering them by swimming legs. Term of incubating of eggs is short – about 3 – 4 days at all. When the host bird dives, tiny free-living pelagic larvae hatch from eggs, quickly leaving egg shells. After that female within day cleans off rests of clutch from the body, and becomes ready to breeding again. For one year one female can make over thirty clutches.
Mouth parts at sea bird louse at any stage of development represent the proboscis. Larvae of early age live among seaweed and eat small soft-bodied animals, exhausting them. They are similar to adult individuals, but at them there are transparent body and only two pairs of walking legs. Later they start to attack large invertebrates. Gradually larvae settle closer to surface of water. Larvae of advanced age, which has reached the size of about third of length of adult individual, pass to amphibiotic habit of life: they creep out on surface of algae carpet, waiting for occurrence of the host bird. Having got on the body of bird, crustaceans pass to feeding on blood, and start to grow quickly, turning to adult individual.

Shogashi (Mesidoteopsis shogashi)
Order: Isopods (Isopoda)
Family: Idoteids (Idoteidae)

Habitat: North America, Mishe-Nama lake.
At the northeast of North America the wide Mishe-Nama lake is stretched. In human epoch at this place Hudson bay was, but in ice age at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene it was repeatedly covered with glacier shield and all live creatures there died out or receded to cold freshwater reservoirs formed along the edge of glacier. Waves of glaciation one after another gradually deposited ground in mouth of the gulf, making poorer its connection to the sea. At the end of glacial epoch Hudson bay appeared completely separated from Atlantic and turned to Mishe-Nama lake.
Among inhabitants of this lake there are some kinds of animals of sea origin. Among them there were isopod crustaceans of genus Mesidotea. Their descendant is shogashi – completely fresh-water species of crustaceans.
Shogashi is rather large species: the length of its body reaches 15 cm. Body of animal is flattened, with four pairs of strong walking legs. The abdomen of animal is short and ends with shovel-like telson dulled at top. Body colouring of shogashi is brown with lighter pattern, but in many respects it depends on color of the ground. Shogashi is capable to change colouring according to color of the ground in places of its inhabiting. In shallow sandy areas of river mouths formed of deposits of light sand there are yellowish-white individuals, and completely black individuals live in deep whirlpools. Nevertheless, each animal is able to change shell color within several days, according the colors of environment. And after the moult color varies much faster – while armour is hardening.
Sight sense plays rather small role in life of shogashi. Eyes of animal are small and consist of several hundreds facets. Sight allows shogashi to distinguish objects at the distance of up to half meter far around of it. Shogashi receives the information about far objects due to sense of smell. Antennae of animal are short and mobile, and have thick bases. They are supplied with the set of chemoreceptors, allowing keen distinguishing of smells.
Shogashi is flesh-eating crustacean. It is mainly a scavenger and small animal hunter. Its three forward pairs of thoracal legs are prehensile – this feature is inherited from ancestors. However, the first pair is increased and stronger, and the similarity of subchelae develops on it, like at mantis shrimps. Subchelae of shogashi are supplied with cutting edge and several pressing tubercles on opposite surfaces of segments. With its help shogashi crushes shells of molluscs and crustaceans which it succeeds to catch, and even cuts bones of prey like small fishes and frogs. Usually shogashi eats snails, catches small crayfishes and eats carrion, but it also can catch quicker prey from an ambush. Hunting fishes and frogs, shogashi hides among ground dust and keeps immovability while the careless animal comes too close. Shogashi frequently settles in water near nesting areas of fish-eating birds and takes prey drop by them.
This crustacean lives at the shoalinesses and hides among plants. In case of danger shogashi can quickly dig in the ground, using its telson like a shovel. This species is also capable to protect itself actively – if the aggressor is not too large, or there is no another way to escape, shogashi seizes the enemy in forward pair of thoracal legs.
This crustacean has direct type of development, and the young ones completely similar to adult individuals leave the female. Shogashi female raises young ones in pair brooding pouches located on abdomen. The brooding pouch contains up to 50 eggs from which transparent young crustaceans hatch. The courtship season at shogashi begins at the end of winter while water is still cold – it is a heritage of life of its ancestors in cold water. In summer, when water gets much warmer, shogashi moves to the depths of lake.
The young individual moults 8 times before it will reach the size characteristic for adult individual. Life expectancy is about 8 – 9 years.

Tridacna louse (Malacophthirus parasiticus)
Order: Isopods (Isopoda)
Family: Aegids (Aegidae)

Habitat: reeves of tropical area of Indian Ocean, shells of giant bivalves.
At the reeves of Neocene corals have the subordinated position. The majority of species of madreporarian corals had died out in human epoch as a result of pollution of oceans and destructions of habitats of these animals. In early Neocene corals with firm calcareous skeleton had been substituted as reef-builders with the set of representatives of other groups of animals. At the reeves of Indian Ocean very large bivalve “blossoming” tridacna (Obliquitridacna florida) lives; it had turned to almost autotrophic species due to symbiotic algae and cyanobacteria which inhabit outgrowths of the mantle, giving to them bluish-green color.
In shells of these huge molluscs various animals settle: crabs, shrimps and even small fishes. Some of them are harmless to their host, others are parasites and harm a huge mollusc, and the third ones help it to clean parasites. One of shell inhabitants is a small species of isopods living on the surface of edge outgrowths of the mantle containing symbiotic unicellular organisms. Because of similarity in habit of life with the appropriate parasitic insects it is named tridacna louse.
It is an active and mobile species of parasitic crustaceans feeding in an adult condition exclusively on the “blossoming tridacna”. Its body had not undergone significant changes which are usually characteristic for parasitic forms, including isopods. Eyes of this animal are large, with a plenty of facets, providing good sight. Tridacna louse reacts to appearing of fishes and other large animals, and quickly hides in shell of the host. The body of tridacna louse is wide and flat, allowing squeezinge inside of the shell of host mollusc through a crack between valves. This crustacean is able to run quickly on the surface of mantle of the mollusc; it has seven pairs of well advanced walking legs. Pleopods of this species are transformed into organs of attachment – they are mobile and lengthened, and on their edges small hooks grow. Tridacna louse can be hooked with their help to outgrowths of the body of host mollusc, as if by nipper. Body cover of this crustacean is greenish, providing the masking on the background of the color of surface of mollusc body.
Oral parts of tridacna louse are transformed into the proboscis made of two halves which press against each other during the feeding. This species sucks colonies of symbiotic algae from tissues of the host mollusc. From them tridacna louse receives not only nutrients. From blue-green algae this crustacean takes poison which is concentrated in its body, making it absolutely inedible for fishes.
Adult tridacna louse can spend the whole its life on the same mollusc, therefore the probability of meeting of the partner of opposite gender could be much less, than at free-living forms. But tridacna louse is a hermaphrodite, and two any individuals of this species mutually fertilize each other at the meeting. The sperm liquid is kept for a long time in special pocket of oviduct, and serves for fertilization of several sets of eggs. Right before pairing these crustaceans clean from each other’s pockets the sperm left by the previous partner. If other individual is not met for too long time, at this species parthenogenesis is possible. Tridacna louse bears eggs (their amount is about several hundreds ones) in a pair of brooding pouches on the abdomen. The egg laying can repeat up to ten times a year.
The larva of this species is free-living; at this stage tridacna louse has an only opportunity to settle to new habitats and to find a shell of the host mollusc. As against adult individuals, it is very mobile and at the certain stage of development is able to swim – the back pair of its walking legs is transformed to swimming legs because pleopods are modified to organs of attachment even at early stages of development. Larvae of tridacna louse keep for some time on the abdomen and back pair of walking legs of the female, but they leave mother rather quickly – right after the first moult. In the first weeks of life swimming legs are not advanced, and larvae of this species live on the surface of reef. The mouth parts of larva at this time are typical for isopods, and larvae eat algae growing on the surface of reef. In addition to algae they eat small sedentary animals – hydroid polyps and bryozoans. At this stage of life larvae are prey for numerous predators, and at early age the majority of larvae of this species perishes. After several moults at them swimming legs develop, and larvae of tridacna louse start active settling. When the large fish swims near, larvae quickly swim to it and cling to its body. But larvae do not parasitize on fish, and use it only as means of transportation. Being attached to the body of fish, the larva catches smells of inhabitants of reef. Having felt a smell of the probable host, it is unhooked from a fish, moves down to the bottom and begins search of the mollusc. Having got on outgrowths of mantle of “blossoming tridacna”, the larva undergoes metamorphosis during the next moult; its swimming legs turn to walking ones, and mandibles form a proboscis.

River driftwood borer (Fluvilimnoria xyloterebra)
Order: Isopods (Isopoda)
Family: Limnoriidae (Limnoriidae)

Habitat: rivers of Iceland, Northern and Northwest Europe.
The rivers of all continents, except for Antarctica, take out in ocean daily hundreds trunks of various species of trees, and also numerous nuts and other fruits in a ligneous environment. In addition at the coasts of the tropical seas mangrove trees grow. The combination of lignificate vegetative material and sea water had caused a special ecological niche for sea animals settling in wood and drilling it. In sea water numerous species of “ship worms” live – these ones are bivalve molluscs drilling wood by rudimentary shell. In addition to them, isopod Limnoria was engaged in drilling of wood in human epoch. In Iceland where the flora and fauna had been actually generated from zero after the ice age, an ecological niche of aquatic driftwood-drilling animal had been empty for some time. On land capricorn beetles settled to this island from Europe play this part, and in fresh water their “colleague” had soon evoloved – river driftwood borer, a separate species of crustaceans descended from one species of genus Limnoria, the sea inhabitant.
River driftwood borer is rather large isopod species; length of adult individual is about 20 mm. Body of this animal is flattened and extended in great degree; because of it this one it can be misinterpreted as any variety of millipeds if it should live on land. River driftwood borer has wide flat head with strong mandibles and very short antennae. It drills tunnels in wood mainly with the help of maxillipeds. Legs are short and strong; with their help this crustacean easily moves in the tunnels forward and back. In connection with this ability the last pair of walking legs of river driftwood borer is lengthened like antennae. During the reverse movement of animal these legs feel the way. Eyes of this crustacean are very small, presented only by several tens facets from each side of head. The body of animal is covered with pale grey chitinous cover and is transparent: tubular heart appears through the armour.
This species of crustaceans eats bacteria and fungi developing in rotten wood. Mandibles of animal allow scraping a surface of wood, and the intestines form the similarity of spiral valve characteristic for sharks. This adaptation extends a way of food in intestines and enables to take from it all edible content in fullest degree. The crustacean throws undigested sawdust out in water, cautiously putting out the back end of body from an entrance of its tunnel. From time to time river driftwood borer makes “cleaning” in the tunnels, pushing out from them the sawdust gathered at drilling, by the back end of body.
River driftwood borer is a dioecious animal. The female of this species is larger a little, rather than male (usually about 5 mm longer) and it has wider back end of the body. It bears about 30 – 40 eggs in brooding pouches at the basis of back pair of walking legs. Development of this species is direct, and larvae are rather large – their length reaches 2 – 3 millimeters. They spend first two weeks of life on the body of mother, and then settle in its tunnels. Passing to independent life, young animals leave tunnels and creep on river bed, searching for the driftwood. At this stage larvae settle very actively. They differ from adult individuals not only in size, but also in shorter body and longer legs. Larvae can endure sea water during long time, and frequently appear at the ocean with floating pieces of wood. Cold coastal current Antigulf Stream carries trunks with larvae along the Atlantic coast of Europe where pieces of wood are cast ashore by storm. In river mouths larvae feel the fall of salinity of water and begin to move against current. River driftwood borers can eventually rise along river channels up to river heads, and move from one river basin to another through bogs.

“Sea broomer” (Pelagoniscus chaetopus)
Order: Isopods (Isopoda)
Family: Sea centipedes (Thalassomillipedidae)

Habitat: Sea of Okhotsk, floating macroalgae.
Thickets of floating algae at th surface of sea of Okhotsk serve as a perfect habitat for various slowly moving, creeping and even sedentary animals though they are located at the great distance from the coast. During millions years in thickets of brown algae the original inhabitants evolved, which do not live at the seacoasts. In addition the life far from the coast above the great depths promoted development of swimming ability at benthic animals. Some species are able only of short rushes in thickness of water, and others are able to swim as much, as necessary, only for a short time sitting on algae for rest. Among the animals developed a new way of movement there were representatives of isopod order. One species of swimming isopods is a long-bodied crustacean named “sea broomer”, the representative of separate family of sea centipedes, which representatives resemble their terrestrial namesakes in lengthened body and numerous pairs of legs.
When “sea broomer” swims in thickness of water, it is easy to think it as any shrimp or small fish. It has thin flexible body about 4 cm long, including the increased number of thoracal segments (15) bearing short legs. During the swimming they are pressed against the body and do not brake movements of animal. Head of “sea broomer” is flattened and wide. The principal organ of swimming at this one includes two forward pairs of walking legs. They strongly differ in structure from other legs: their surface is covered with elastic bristles forming a kind of small brushes on top and bottom sides of leg. These brushes stretch in the same plane, giving the feather shape to two pairs of legs of this crustacean. On maxillipeds of this crustacean there are also bristle brushes. This is an adaptation for feeding: during the swimming of crustacean legs “sweep” plankton which is gathered on brushes. From time to time one or another pair of legs stands motionless, and at this moment maxillipeds rake up got stuck planktonic organisms and transfer them into the mouth. “Sea broomer” swims with the help of the same movements, but at this time maxillipeds are pressed against the head from below and do not prevent movement. If it is necessary to swim faster, “sea broomer” helps itself with antennae, also are covered with bristles.
The back pair of limbs (uropods) does not take part in movement. These legs are lengthened; their size reaches half of body length of animal. They are forked and also are covered with bristles. These limbs serve for balance keeping in water. When “sea broomer” stops, it stretches uropods in sides and opens their branches. In such position they work as some kind of “parachute”, which is slowing down the immersing. If the crustacean gets in rich enough congestion of plankton, it drifts in such position, from time to time catching a portion of plankton in forward pairs of legs. During the swimming branches of uropods are densely pressed to each other, and their resistance to movement is minimal.
“Sea broomer” spends a significant part of life in thickness of water. The body of this crustacean is transparent, with yellowish shade and small black spots on the top part of body. When “sea broomer” rests on algae, it is almost imperceptible. This animal is able to creep on algae, but uses them only as temporary shelter.
This species is dioecious; male is a little bit smaller, than female, and also differs in tapered back end of body. After fertilization the female lays a portion of 40 – 50 rather large eggs; the egg laying repeats up to seven times a year with a break in winter months. Young animals spend first some days of life on walking legs of the female and on the bottom side of her body. They leave mother after the first moult and live in algae thickets for some time. At the length of about 1 cm at them swimming legs develop, and they begin able to eat plankton. At the age of 6 months young “sea broomers” become sexually mature. Life expectancy of this species does not exceed 4 years.

“Phantomic murderer” (Vitromantella microhorrida)
Order: Stomatopods, or Mantis shrimps (Stomatopoda)
Family: Pedomantids (Pedomantidae)

Habitat: Indian Ocean, tropical and subtropical latitudes.
Pedomorphosis is the special way of evolutional transformations when the adult stage is gradually lost and replaced by previous larval one. This phenomenon is closely connected with pedogenesis – the aquiring by larvae of ability to breed not turning to adult stage.
In the epoch of global ecological crisis there was an extinction of plankton organisms and inhabitants of coral reeves. Descendants of a few survived genera (mainly inhabitants of seas of moderate climate zone) occupied the exempted habitats in next epoch of climate stabilization. Among them branches which representatives developed a plankton habit of life had been separated. Such process occured simultaneously in several groups of sea crustaceans, therefore in Neocene plankton there is a plenty of species of “adult larvae” of various crustaceans belonging to different groups. Among decapods the family of infantoportunid crabs (Infantoportunidae) had appeared, and mantis shrimps had “answered” this step of crabs with occurrence of plankton species of pedomantids.
It was easier to stomatopod crustaceans to pass to such way of life, because all their species in development have plankton larva. The result of such evolutionary step became the occurrence of stomatopod species which had received the name “phantomic murderer”. This animal is a plankton predator about 4 – 5 cm long. At it there is translucent body, poorly distinct in water – it is a common attribute of the majority of plankton organisms. In anatomy of “phantomic murderers” many features characteristic for a larva of benthic mantis shrimps are kept.
The main hunting weapon of the “phantomic murderer” is the pair of catching legs, characteristic for representatives of the order. They are big relatively to the body size – the span of completely opened and extended legs exceeds the length of animal almost twice. Catching legs of this crustacean are very thin; their last segment has a small hook on the tip. Thorns with which help the animal keeps and kills catch, are thin and sharp, similar to bristles. Food of “phantomic murderers” includes various small plankton animals with soft and thin body covers, and it is not necessary of the big efforts for their capture.
This predator has very good sight. Eyes of “phantomic murderer” are large, spherical and shining; they are located on thin stems – it improves the field of view and simultaneously facilitates soaring in thickness of water. Facets are small; therefore the animal sees even tiny plankton inhabitants very well.
On the head of the “phantomic murderer” there is long thorn (its length is a half of thorax lenght), directed forward. On it from both sides hairs grow, allowing soaring in thickness of water without efforts.
Abdomen of this crustacean is very thin and rather short: its length makes about a half of general length of the crustacean (at benthic mantis shrimps abdomen is much larger and much wider, rather than thorax).
Not hunting animal slowly floats in thickness of water, flapping by wide fanlike “oars” (propodits of 4-th pair of mouth feet). They are long (their length makes about the one fifth of general length of animal), covered with hairs on edges. With their help the crustacean turns in water, being aimed on prey. Sometimes “phantomic murderer” passively soars in thickness of water, having stretched propodits in sides. If necessary to swim faster (for example, attacking the prey), the crustacean can increase speed, moving by strong abdominal legs. Abdominal legs are covered with hairs on edges, which increase a rowing surface. On the tip of abdomen there is a wide telson plate. Last pair of abdominal legs is also wide and flattened. Joining the telson they form a fin having a role of rudder of depth and turn.
This crustacean is an active predator, hunting small plankton animals – worms, crustaceans, fish fry, larvae and young cephalopods. For “phantomic murderers” the cannibalism is very characteristic – about a quarter of young animals of this species become the prey of their congeners. The crustacean catches prey by sharp throw (accelerating momentum about half meter per one second), and seizes it by trap legs. Per one day the “phantomic murderer” eats the amount of food approximately as much, as it weighs itself. But actually it kills much more animals, because it eats only the richest with nutrients parts of preyed ones body and leaves the rests.
This crustacean is the solitary animal showing interest to congeners only during hunting and in breeding season. Pairing at the north of an area (in tropical latitudes) occurs at any time year; at the south it takes place in summer.
Walking legs at different genders of “phantomic murderers” are advanced unequally: it is connected to their different roles in breeding. At the female all three pairs of walking legs are advanced though they do not participate in walking: the crustacean lives far from coast above the big depths. The female bears eggs (up to thousand fine eggs in one clutch) on walking legs covered with hairs. At the male the last pair of walking legs turned into short strong hooked appendages is advanced only: they serve for keeping of the female at pairing. First pairs of walking legs are reduced up to thin and weak hooks.
Breeding and development of this crustacean is connected to lunar cycles. The peak of sexual activity falls to a full moon and some days after it. The incubating lasts about one week, and from eggs plankton larvae hatch, at once leaving the female. The larva moults about 10 times before it will turn to adult crustacean. The cycle of development of “phantomic murderer” lasts about 2 months, and its life expectancy usually does not exceed half-year.

Cricket crayfish (Symbiosquilla innoxia)
Order: Stomatopods, or Mantis shrimps (Stomatopoda)
Family: Lysiosquillids (Lysiosquillidae)

Habitat: mollusk-spongial reeves of Indian and Pacific oceans, shells of huge bivalves.
Plancton communities of ocean form an enormous biomass. And the greatest variety of species is concentrated at the reeves forming in shallow waters. Reeves of Neocene are constructed not by corals, but by other live organisms: practically all reef-building corals had died out in epoch of ecological crisis at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. The reef of Neocene is formed mainly by slowly growing and living a long time massive bivalves and sponges. But it is as rich in life, as coral reeves of Holocene were. Various predators, often highly specialized are richly presented here: it indicates a variety of food resources.
At reeves of Neocene mantis shrimps of various species live. In epoch of ecological crisis a lot of species of these crustaceans had died out: all of them pass a part of life cycle in plankton as a floating larva.
In majority mantis shrimps are solitary predators and active cannibals. But among them there is a small amount of species living in breeding pairs in common shelter. Obviously, from any of similar species one kind of mantis shrimp living on reeves had evolved – the cricket crayfish. It is a tiny species of mantis shrimps – the length of adult crustacean is about 3 – 5 cm (the male of this species is appreciably larger, rather than the female). Such creature would have a lot of enemies on a reef. But it had adapted to inhabiting in perfectly protected place - in huge shells of goblet-like false rudistes, which tower above the body of reef, as if fortifications. Pair of adult animals lives in each such shell, but occasionally in very large shell of old mollusk one male and two or three females settles.
Life in safety and twilight of shell of huge mollusk has resulted at the appearance of this crustacean. The majority of mantis shrimps living in shallow waters is colored very brightly or has the cryptic colouring which harmonizes with color of environmental district. And the cricket crayfish resembles any cave animals by the shape: at this shell inhabitant the body is depigmentated, translucent and brownish. Eyes of this crustacean are very small, and sight sense is much weaker, rather than at freely living mantis shrimps. Long antennae help the animal to orientate itself in the shell.
The cricket crayfish is, perhaps, the most peaceful species among stomatopods. Inside shells where it lives there is no catch, characteristic for the diet of its freely living congeners. Its trapping extremities are modified to scrapers with which help these crustaceans gather settling suspension from gills of mollusk. It is the basic food of cricket crayfish. On trapping legs of this animal many tiny denticles, not adapted to pierce and kill catch, grow. Presence of such small symbionts renders the big benefit to mollusk: these crustaceans clear its body of parasites, eat worms and smaller parasitic crustaceans which injure gills of goblet-like false rudistes.
The population of shell protects the habitat from neighbours. Except for trapping legs, in set of natural weapon of mantis shrimps there are “clubs” on pectoral legs with which help typical stomatopods break shells of mollusks. This crustacean uses them in intraspecific conflicts. Cricket crayfishes living in one shell, learn each other by smell. The number of animals living in same shell is determined by frequency of their meetings with each other. At too often meetings crustaceans turn more aggressive, and start to attack against each other. Thus the weakest animal abandons shell, or may be killed. “Indigenes” drive off from the habitat of unfamiliar neighbours, trying to lodge in shell, and can attack larvae of their species, getting to the shell in current of water. Avoiding an opportunity to enter fight, these mantis shrimps show in the beginning their presence to unfamiliar congeners. They utter warning sounds, passing by mouth feet along denticles of trapping legs. Such sound is similar to chirring of some orthopters – this feature combined with long antennae and secretivity has determined the name of the animal. Protecting the shell, these crustaceans creep out to the edge of shell of mollusk in which they live, keep in shadow of the closing fold and chirr continuously. If the neighbour does not leave the shell, fight which can be finished by fatal outcome is possible. Protecting the shell, the cricket crayfish can leave it for a short time. It swims with the help of abdominal legs fast and manoeuvrably. Such small creature can put strong and even fatal impact to small animals by “clubs” on armour or head of the opponent. It lasts a split of second, and stuns or kills the opponent. Attacking predatory fishes, the animal quickly comes up from the shell, “clicks” in nose or eye of fish, and immediately hides back.
Under the protection of shell the cricket crayfish breeds the year round. In shell only one male can live. He fertilizes all females living in its shell, and even visits for this in next shells. The female has wider abdomen, than the male, and bears some hundreds of small eggs for one clutch. The incubating lasts about one week; at this time the female is very cautious, and does not take place in habitat protection, because it swims much slower. The egg laying repeats each two weeks.
Transparent plankton larvae hatch from eggs. The larva spends the time up to the first moult on abdomen of the female. Then the female creeps out on edge of shell and throws larvae off in water, intensively moving by abdominal legs. So the plankton stage of development of young crustaceans of this species begins. It is reduced in comparison with time of development of freely living congeners. The larva spends some days in plankton above the reef; at this time it is settled and with the help of sea current may overcome the big distances between islands. Due to this ability the cricket crayfish is widely settled in tropical area of Pacific Ocean and has penetrated to the eastern part of Indian Ocean. The animal occupies pallial cavity of huge mollusk, getting in it with a current of water while the mollusk opens shell and lets out lobes of pallium with symbiotic algae. If it manages to occupy the shell, after 2 moults it will reach the half of length of adult crustacean and will completely lose larval features. At the age of 4 months the young animal is able to breed.
Life expectancy of cricket crayfish is insignificant and exceeds two years seldom.

Barracuda prawn (Sphyraenolemon serripes)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Palaemonids (Palaemonidae)

Habitat: rivers and lakes of Northern Meganesia.
In seas of Neocene crustaceans compete to predatory fishes, have got good chance during mass extinction when the global cataclysm had carried away to non-existence the majority of predator species and has laid down survived species in rather equal conditions. So, at the reeves of Pacific ocean formed by large bivalve mollusks and algae, there are large predatory mantis shrimps. In freshwater reservoirs of Meganesia the similar situation had taken place: the ichthyofauna of this continent was considerably depleted during mass extinction, than decapods have taken advantage. And here evolution showed to the world the new kind of predator – the barracuda prawn.
It is rather large prawn – length of its flexible body is up to 30 cm. Its cephalothorax is rather short: about a quarter of general length of animal, but pleon is very large and muscled. In it there is plenty of muscles providing intense work of swimming legs (pleopods). Swimming abdominal legs of this prawn are covered with numerous hairs. During forward movement of leg hairs press to it and do not interfere with movement, but in rowing time they form extensive rowing surface.
Pincers of barracuda prawn are well advanced: with their help this crustacean seizes and kills catch: smaller shrimps and fishes. Pincers of this prawn are rather large (their size is about half of body length), serrated at the cutting edge. Seizing fish, the barracuda prawn pierces by teeth of pincers its spinal cord, and at the caught shrimps breaks off abdominal nerve chain. It instantly paralyses catch and deprives it of opportunity to resist. Walking legs and sharp serrated mouth feet help predator to kill catch.
Eyes of barracuda prawn are very large, spherical, located on long stems. Facets making these eyes are numerous, therefore prawn can distinguish even tiny details of environmental district. In water inhabitancy the chemical feeling has not less important role. Organs of chemical feeling (chemoreceptors) are placed at the barracuda prawn on antennae. antennae of this prawn are as long, as body, feather-like due to set of hairs (it considerably increases their sensitive surface).
Barracuda prawn spends the most part of time in ambush – among thickets of floating plants. As well as all crustaceans, it is not able to chase prey for a long time, therefore it has selected optimal for crustacean physiology tactics of ambuscader. In this connection at it cryptic colouring was developed: the basic background color of body is yellowish-green with faltering longitudinal dark green strips at the top side of body. The barracuda prawn clings to floating plants upside down: thus it has practically full circular field of view.
Having noticed possible catch, barracuda prawn cautiously creeps to it, having turned pincers together: probability of their hooking for plants during solving throw is less so. When the planned prey appears close, prawn makes throw. Having pushed by walking legs from plants, it starts to work intensively by swimming legs, at once developing the big speed. Usually the chase lasts no more than ten seconds – physiological opportunities of organism of crustacean do not permit longer chase. If the first throw was unsuccessful, the prawn stops chase and again hides in thickets. Usually only one throw from five ones is successful.
Having caught fish or shrimp, the barracuda prawn kills it by strong compression of pincers and starts to eat. But it is not safe occupation: involved by smell of blood, hungry neighbours gather, and at times fairly preyed food becomes the property of the neighbour which simply had appeared in necessary place in necessary time. Therefore the prawn tries to drag prey off in place, where it will not be to found at once by competitors. Usually it hides in thicket of plants and starts to eat catch hasty, beginning to eat softest parts. Barracuda prawn simply throws out rests of catch, and they fall on bottom, becoming food for other lake inhabitants.
Usually barracuda prawns live solitarily, banishing neighbours from territory which they occupy. But from time to time under influence of breeding instinct they become much more tolerant to some neighbours.
Males of this prawn species differ from females in smaller size. But at them pincers and very long antennae are appreciably larger. It gives them certain advantages to larger and strong female: in time of “acquaintance” it looks more impressive, suppressing a little by demonstrations aggression of the female.
The female lays rather small amount of eggs: about hundred ones. But each egg is rather large: its diameter is about 4 mm. After a fortnight incubating on abdominal legs of the female from it not helpless plankton larva, but well advanced young prawn hatch. It differs from adult representatives of species only in underdeveloped pincers and very small size of body. Young prawns are predators of their weight category: they eat plankton crustaceans and fry, gradually passing to larger prey.
Sexual maturity at barracuda prawn comes at the age of half-year at length about 20 cm. After that growth rate of crustacean decreases, but time of intensive breeding comes there. Each two months during almost three years the female bears the next portion of eggs.
But barracuda prawns will never become most numerous inhabitants of Meganesian lakes, and partly they are the reason of it. Among barracuda prawns at any age the cannibalism is usual phenomenon, and because of it only rather few from young prawns can live up to mature age.

Umbrella shrimp (Umbellocaris furtivus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Palaemonids (Palaemonidae)

Habitat: Pacific Ocean, top water layers.

Picture by Fanboyphilosopher

Plankton is the special community of live organisms. Here there are species of predators and scavengers, parasites and symbionts. The competition in plankton is very strong, and predators of different trophic levels are diverse. Therefore various live organisms enter the unions with each other to resist to predators in common. Often one well armed species becomes the involuntary defender to tens species of smaller animals. Such unions are not always safe. Jellyfishes are one of the most widespread animals in plankton. They are a food for many larger predators, but nevertheless they are not too defenceless. Stinging cells of jellyfishes save these animals of the majority of predators, and only few specialized species can unpunishedly eat jellyfishes or parasitize on them.
Animals looking for protection at jellyfishes must be cautious – the casual touch of tentacle may transform them to easy dinner of this animal. But there are live creatures venturing to live in dangerous affinity from poisonous tentacles of these coelenterates.
Under the bell of jellyfishes it is possible to find often the small shrimp keeping by thin hooked pincers for edge of the jellyfish bell. For this feature it received the name of the umbrella shrimp: it looks like hidden from the sun under the umbrella of jellyfish. This is small crustacean: length of its body is about 5 cm. Body of umbrella shrimp is translucent and has bluish shade. Therefore it is absolutely imperceptible in water. Only sometimes, when the jellyfish emerges to water surface, the sun shine in round eyes indicates the presence of this crustacean.
Pleon of this animal is very short and has advanced swimming legs. Walking legs are not adapted to movement on firm surface. They are covered from edges with rigid hairs and help the shrimp to swim. But nevertheless this crustacean spends the most part of life having clung to the bell of jellyfish. At the umbellate shrimp two pairs of pincers twice exceeding length of body are well advanced. Tips of these pincers are very thin and long. The forward pair of pincers is used more often to keep for edge of the jellyfish bell. In case of necessity to hide from the predator, umbrella shrimp bends joints of these pincers, and by one somersault hides under umbrella of the jellyfish. By second pair of pincers of the same length the umbrella shrimp “handles” tentacles of the jellyfish on which it lives. It takes off from tentacles and eats small animals had got to the jellyfish. Hence the specific epithet of this shrimp meaning “thievish”. Such habit of life is possible for it because this shrimp is tolerant to poison of jellyfishes.
Umbrella shrimp spends all life on jellyfishes. If the host jellyfish perishes, shrimp can move to other jellyfish. It swims very reluctantly and mostly soars in water, having stretched antennae in sides. When the jellyfish approaches to it, shrimp seizes it to the edge of bell. First time umbrella shrimp gets accustomed to poison of new host jellyfish and develops immunity. It cautiously touches tentacles of the jellyfish, receiving easy stings. At this time the immune system of shrimp accumulates antibodies to poison of jellyfish. Having got accustomed to new host jellyfish, shrimp starts to live habitual life, taking away a part of catch right from tentacles of jellyfish.
Umbrella shrimps are strongly expressed egoists. Each individual protects the jellyfish from contenders, getting rid them from bell and pinching by pincers. If the opponent is stronger, the crustacean seizes edge of jellyfish bell by all pincers waiting while the contender will leave out. Sometimes after such passive defense the part of legs and antennae of shrimp appears bitten off, but they quickly grow after the molt.
But for the sake of breeding umbrella shrimps are compelled to overcome individualism and to search each other in the ocean. The female stays the homebody, but the male should undertake risky travel to thickness of water in searches of the female. It folds long pincers under the body and swims using walking legs. Male searches for female by smell and leaves the jellyfish only when the female ready to pairing is felt absolutely beside. At the male there are long antennae at the basis with numerous hairs. They are rich in chemoreceptors; therefore male precisely finds the necessary female at the distance of several meters in congestion of jellyfishes. Having found the female, male as soon as possible must couple with it. But for this purpose it should convince the female of peace intentions. At meeting with the female it is very cautious: when the meeting of the male and the female takes place, the male cautiously touches the female by tip of antenna. It strokes the cephalothorax of the female in the area of eyes and maxillipeds, accurately approaching nearer to the female. Courtship ritual lasts till some minutes. Having convinced that the male does not express aggression, the female supposes it to itself. Pairing proceeds fast: male clings to female, leaves on its pleon two large spermatophores and departs. More often it can not return back to the “own” jellyfish, and after each pairing is compelled to search new one. But during one “wedding travel” male has time to fertilize several females.
In some hours after pairing the female lays large eggs and bears them on abdominal legs. At the umbellate shrimp there is direct development: tiny copies of parents burst from eggs. This species has a little posterity in comparison with other plankton animals, but young shrimps are very much advanced. They perch on abdominal legs of the female till some days, then abandon the mother and begin independent life. Since the first days of life young shrimps start to cooperate with jellyfishes. First they live on bell of jellyfishes and clear them of parasites – infusorians and microscopic worms – for any time. Then young umbrella shrimp move on edge of its bell and start to eat its catch.
This shrimp grows very quickly – at three-monthly age the young shrimp reaches the size of adult one and starts to breed. Every five – six weeks the female makes a new clutch.

Dragonfly prawn (Libellulocaris prolongus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Penaeids (Penaeidae)

Habitat: Pacific Ocean, top water layers.
Waters of open ocean represent very specific habitat. Here it is almost impossible to find a point of support, and the majority of plankton inhabitants is adapted to soaring or swimming in water thickness. Some sea inhabitants spend in water thickness only a part of life cycle, and others constantly live in this world. All of them form the special community named plankton. All plankton creatures have one common property – they are not able to resist to current, and constantly wander in ocean.
In plankton constant struggle for existence, not less rigid, rather than in the world of big creatures, takes place. Peaceful vegetarians eat plants – microscopic algae growing in top layers of water. In turn, they serve as food to various predators. Their activity is so great, that plankton inhabitants practically do not have chance to die a natural death. Some predators are passive, and others chase the planned prey actively. One original prawn had received the name dragonfly prawn for features of appearance and habits concerns to number of active predators of plankton.
The length of this crustacean reaches approximately 10 – 13 cm. Body of dragonfly prawn is long, thin and transparent. Through covers of its body it is visible, as heart contracts, and in intestines the digested food moves. This creature becomes well appreciable when it appears in day time in the top layers of water. Then its huge spherical eyes on short stems brightly shine. Eyes of dragonfly prawn are rather large in comparison with the size of its body, and also number hundreds thousand tiny facets. Due to it dragonfly prawn easily distinguishes even the slightest movement in thickness of water. By casual light shine on body covers it finds plankton inhabitants which often are almost completely transparent. Organs of sense of smell are located on long antennae. When this prawn chases prey, antennae are pressed to the body.
Land dragonflies chase catch using opportunities of wings. Dragonfly prawn, certainly, has no wings, but it does not prevent it to chase catch. This crustacean swims with the help of strong abdominal legs. In connection with such way of movement the body of dragonfly prawn had partly changed: the cephalothorax of this crustacean became very short (its length is about one fifth of the general body length), but the pleon is strongly extended. At dragonfly prawn segmentation had changed - the number of pleon segments reaches one and half tens. The fin formed by back pair of abdominal legs serves as rudder for sharp turns – catch of dragonfly prawn often makes sharp jumps aside, forcing predator to stop chasing.
Usually small plankton crustaceans and larvae of fishes become food of this prawn, but occasionally this prawn can catch fry, large crustaceans or floating mollusks. Walking legs of dragonfly prawn are one more feature giving to this crustacean similarity to winged prototype from among insects. At pelagic habit of life ability to walk appeared useless (land dragonflies can not walk too), but legs had got other, much more useful function. On internal surface of all five pairs of walking legs at dragonfly prawn lines of long sharp spikes are developed. Put together, legs represent similarity of fishing-basket. For capture of small animals dragonfly prawn simply rushes through their congestion and catches them by some ones at once, not undertaking special efforts. Usual dragonflies catch their prey, midges and mosquitoes, the same way. Larger animals also can not avoid deadly “embraces” of this prawn – it grasps large animal and strongly compresses it by legs, piercing through by spikes.
When prey is caught, maxillipeds are used. Bristles on their bottom side gather tiny plankton animals to one clod which is swallowing by animal. The prawn dismembers large catch with the help of cutting edges of maxillipeds. For one day the prawn can eat up to ten rather large fish fry or smaller animals in amount approximately equal to body weight of this animal.
The dragonfly prawn is a predator and active cannibal; therefore it does not form congestions in plankton. Only in breeding time the male searches for the female not having the purpose of attack. The male of this species differs from the female in larger back pair of walking legs with which help it keeps the female till the pairing.
The female ready to pairing emits the special substance involving males. By odorous trace they find it – often near one female some competing males gather. One of males (as a rule, the largest one) drives off others and pairs to the female, and then swims away. The fertilized female stops the odorous substance emitting, and becomes dangerous to own congeners again.
Tiniest eggs (up to 20 thousand grains of roe) are bearing on abdominal legs because of what the female loses speed of movement and lives half-starving for some time. Through 3 – 5 days from eggs translucent plankton larvae with long back outgrowth facilitating soaring in thickness of water burst. They are predators, and immediately start to eat unicellular organisms. At one month age the larva finally turns to tiny copy of adult animal. But to this time up to 90 % of larvas perishes of various predators including their own congeners. Sexual maturity comes to them at the age of 7 months. After that the adult female regularly starts to lay eggs with an interval equal to lunar month. The maximal life duration of dragonfly prawn does not exceed one and half years.

Tentacle prawn (Furocaris toxiresista)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Penaeids (Penaeidae)

Habitat: warm and temperate areas of Indo-Pacific.
In Neocene plankton fauna had undergone some changes in comparison with Holocene. The reason of it had been the mass extinction connected to global ecological changes. In early Neocene when conditions of life had stabilized, planktonic habit of life had been developed by plenty of new groups of animals. They had been mainly various descendants of coastal and shallow-water forms. Shrimps are one of typical inhabitants of plankton in epoch Neocene. Among them there is a set of various species – from peaceful filtrating organisms up to predators. Some species of planktonic shrimps had entered symbiotic relations with other animals living in plankton. Generally speaking, forms of relations of shrimps and their neighbours change from symbiosis up to predating with various variants. One of such variants is shown by tentacle prawn living in waters of Southern hemisphere.
It is rather large carnivorous prawn about 15 centimeters long. It keeps near to congestions of jellyfishes, and even constantly lives in tentacles of some species of these coelenterates. Body of this crustacean is lengthened; cephalothorax is rather short. Tentacle prawn is a little similar to another pelagic crustacean, its distant relative, dragonfly prawn. Antennae of tentacle prawn are very long – they exceed body length of this crustacean. Walking legs of this prawn are covered with small bristles and adapted to drifting in water – tentacle prawn frequently floats, keeping for a tentacle of jellyfish by one claw, and having freely stretched legs in thickness of water. Also with the help of such legs shrimp easily keeps on tentacles of jellyfish on which it lives. At the male the back pair of walking legs is larger, than others: these legs serve for keeping on the female during pairing.
In spite of the fact that this prawn is rather large, it is difficult for seeing in water. Armour of animal is almost transparent and has slight bluish shade. Through covers of this prawn it is perfectly visible, as its heart pulsates and food moves in intestines. A parameter of refraction at tissues of tentacle prawn is almost same as at sea water, therefore small grey spots on pleon segments and shining dark eyes are only things visible at this crustacean in water at dim illumination.
The food of this prawn consists mainly of prey captured by jellyfish – the main sense of its relations with jellyfishes consists in it. Tentacle prawn constantly swims near jellyfish, inspecting its tentacles. This occupation, however, is unsafe – tentacles of jellyfishes are poisonous. But tentacle prawn has strong immunity to poison of jellyfishes. This immunity is acquired, and is developed during some time. At first tentacle prawn cautiously moves nearer to jellyfish, touching up to its tentacle by antennae. Usually at this moment it receives weak burn of stinging cells. After attack of jellyfish the prawn does not swim out, but stays near this animal, and even sits on its dome from above, outside of zone of reach of jellyfish tentacles. Within approximately one day prawn actively develops antibodies and gets immunity to poison of present species of jellyfishes, if it had not it earlier. After that it actively creeps in tentacles of jellyfish in searches of its prey. Immunity is kept to whole further life, therefore the “skilled” prawn had replaced host jellyfishes of several species becomes a universal predator. Sometimes this prawn can harm to jellyfish: it simply bites off a tentacle in common with prey, and eats it entirely. Poison of jellyfish accumulates in liver of prawn, and additionally makes it inedible.
Tentacle prawn is a solitary animal. It concerns to congeners neutrally, but at the case of lack of food it can drive them away from jellyfishes on which it is fed by impacts of rostrum.
This prawn is the descendant of pelagic animals, and has kept a way of breeding characteristic for them. After short courtship ritual and pairing female lays set of tiny eggs – up to several thousand ones. 3 – 5 days later from them tiny planktonic larvae hatch; they pass some stages of metamorphosis before turning to tiny similarity of adult individual. Tentacle prawn breeds monthly during half-year, and then in coldest months of year the break follows.
Young tentacle prawns lead a pelagic way of life. They gather to schools up to several hundreds individuals, and avoid meeting with jellyfishes. At young age their immune system is not ready to development of antibodies against poison of these animals, and they frequently become prey of jellyfishes. Only at length of about 5 cm young prawns become advanced physiologically enough to pass to inhabiting on jellyfishes without danger to their own life.

Feather-legged shrimp (Baculophthalmocaris plumopes)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Penaeids (Penaeidae)

Habitat: northern part of Pacific Ocean (temperate and polar latitudes), top layers of water.
In Neocene among oceanic plankton the essential place was occupied by decapod crustaceans. In Holocene many species of these animals spent in plankton only a part of life cycle. But in Neocene among them the true planktonic forms competing to other groups of crustaceans had appeared. One of such species is tiny feather-legged shrimp. This is pelagic crustacean adapted to inhabiting in water thickness. It has translucent body, therefore it is difficult to notice feather-legged shrimp in water. The body length of this crustacean does not exceed 3 – 4 cm.
This crustacean passively drifts in water thickness, having stretched in sides long walking legs. The length of legs is almost equal to body length of this crustacean. Legs from both sides are densely “feathered” with hairs – this adaptation facilitates drifting in water thickness. Claws of feather-legged shrimp are long: they twice exceed body length. In rest they are usually folded along the body on its bottom side, and do not prevent movement of shrimp.
The pleon of feather-legged shrimp is short; it makes less than half of general length of animal (not including antennae and legs). It is wide, and pleopods are covered with hairs on edges and are adapted to drifting in water. When feather-legged shrimp drifts in water thickness, pleopods are spread wide in sides, increasing the common area of body.
The structure of eyes of this crustacean is remarkable. Eyes are rather big – they are cherry stone-sized. They are located on long mobile stalks which can move almost in any side. Eyes of spherical form give this shrimp the full circular field of view. They are combined by set of tiny facets providing sharp sight. Stalks of eyes also serve as the additional organs facilitating drifting in water: the similar attribute was present at fry of deep-water fishes Idiacanthus known to people. The animal can change position of body in water thickness, moving by long eye stalks.
Despite of passive way of life, feather-legged shrimp is a predator. It catches small invertebrates, seizing them by mobile claws and moving to mouth. Occasionally it can make short throws to prey or to escape from a predator, rowing by pleon.
This species of shrimps is dioecious. Male is smaller, than female, and also weighs almost twice less. It is able to swim actively, rowing by walking legs. Pairing occurs quickly and is not anticipated by any ritual. In some days after pairing the female spawns a lot of tiny eggs (up to 3 – 5 thousand ones), and bears it on pleopods within two weeks. From egg pelagic larva (zoea) hatches, which at once leaves the female. Within one year the female can make up to 5 – 6 clutches.
Development of larva takes about three months. Till this time it undergoes up to 8 – 9 moults and gradually turns to tiny similarity of adult individual. To the end of metamorphosis its length reaches about 20 mm. Two months later it becomes sexually mature.

Ice shrimp (Cryopenaeus crystallinus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Penaeids (Penaeidae)

Habitat: Antarctica, shallow rivers.
After thawing of glacier covered Antarctica during late Tertiary and Quaternary periods, at this continent marshes, rivers and lakes had formed. The freshwater fauna of Antarctica formed from zero – its former representatives were destroyed by congelation. Settlers of fresh waters get to the continent in two ways – by air (insects) and from the sea (crustaceans and fishes). In reservoirs of Antarctica invertebrates take more significant place, rather than at other continents – it is connected to small number of local fishes. Among local invertebrates the species having various adaptations had appeared, permitting to survive in extreme conditions which had developed at this continent.
In southern seas shrimps of penaeids family (Penaeidae) are usual. Usually their representatives spend in fresh water only a part of life, and for breeding necessarily migrate to the sea. Among freshwater animals of Antarctica these shrimps are very usual. One of their species is ice shrimp.
Body length of this crustacean is up to 10 cm; male is smaller, than female. The body of ice shrimp is almost completely transparent: through thin covers internals, heart pulsation and movement of food in intestines are visible. On armour small grey points are visible only. Such colouring provides good masking. Only the bases of legs, mandibles and maxillipeds, and also eyes of this shrimp are opaque. Long serrated rostrum, and also large reddish eyes consisting of numerous facets are characteristic features of shape of the ice shrimp. This shrimp is able to swim well with the help of pleopods. The forward pair of walking legs is not transformed into claws, but they are thicker and stronger, than the others. On bottom side of these legs sharp prickles, with which help shrimp keeps food, grow.
Ice shrimp is a predator. It eats larvae of insects – dragonflies and two-winged flies. This shrimp hunts from an ambush. Usually it hangs upside down on plants floating on surface of water, or on stalks of water plants, and waits for occurrence of prey. It catches small animals by throw; having seized prey, shrimp returns to stalk and eats it, keeping by forward pair of walking legs. Having eaten prey, ice shrimp simply lets off the rests, and they are carried away by current.
This species of crustaceans has adapted to survival in shallow reservoirs of Antarctica completely freezing through in winter. Ice shrimp survives in winter, having dug among rests of vegetation at the bottom. While the environment is liquid, shrimp keeps any activity and can even slowly move in thickness of silt impregnated with water, clinging by strong forward pair of walking legs. When the reservoir freezes through to the bottom, this crustacean falls into anabiosis and permits body liquids to freeze. In tissues of shrimp the substances constraining formation of large ice crystals accumulate, and ice does not destroy cells. In such condition ice shrimp can endure frosts up to - 40°С.
In spring, when reservoirs get warm enough, ice shrimps release from winter captivity. They start to fatten actively, searching for larvae of insects fallen into catalepsy, and sometimes eat their own congeners. Approximately one month after clearing of reservoirs of Antarctica from ice, having restored forces, these shrimps start to prepare for breeding. Males compete for females, arranging fierce, but not fatal combats with the help of forward pair of legs. They grasp by forward pair of legs leg or antenna of the opponent, and try to turn it and to keep in such position. But usually the amount of males in population is less, than females – they grow slower and more often become prey of other water animals.
Ice shrimp breeds in sea water. Fertilized females migrate downstream, gathering to numerous schools, numbering tens thousand individuals. At this time in ovaries of females eggs develop; they which will be laid only in water of ocean salinity, far from coast. There are many eggs in clutch – up to 50000 ones; but they are very small. After young ones hatch, the female dumps the rests of clutch from pleopods and moves back to the river. Females come back upstream along the riverbank, where current is slower, and at this time do not gather in schools. Using well advanced sense of smell, each individual finds the river in which it lived before breeding. The egg laying repeats 2 – 3 times per polar summer, but the mass breeding migration takes place in late spring. Males of this species never leave fresh water.
Development of ice shrimp includes planktonic larval stage. After the metamorphosis (at the age of 3 months) young shrimps enter rivers and move upstream. The first year of life young ones stay in lower reaches and central channels of rivers not freezing completely. Strong enough and mature individuals rise upstream farther and settle in lakes and streams. One-year-old shrimps can breed; life expectancy seldom exceeds three years.

Badger prawn (Pedocrangon minimeles)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Crangonid prawns (Crangonidae)

Habitat: rivers of Pacific coast of Asia - from Big Kurils and Far East coast of Asia up to the south of Japan.
In Holocene prawns of crangonid family had started to develop freshwater habitats; separate species of these crustaceans passed the bigger or smaller part of life cycle in fresh water. Among Neocene crangonids species completely passed to freshwater habit of life had evolved, and they had settled rivers and lakes far from seas. Transformation of life cycle of these prawns was the result of this act – they are lack numerous larval stages and the development had to greater or lesser extent come nearer to ametabolous development. In Asian rivers of Pacific Ocean basin the genus of crangonid prawns had evolved, which had a special life cycle during which the individual changes gender depending on circumstances. It is a genus of prawns of massive constitution, which representatives have massive short claws adapted to digging. In dense ground composing riverbanks they dig burrows in which hide during the day time.
Dark colouring and longitudinal white strip along the middle line of cephalothorax, and also skill of burrow digging had denominated this species as badger prawn.
At this species of crustaceans the sexual dimorphism is sharply expressed. The female of badger prawn is massive – up to 20 cm long, with short wide claws and strong legs. It swims not so good, but walks on the bottom much better. The armour of this crustacean is sculptured – on cephalothorax and pleon segments of adult prawns quaint relief of knobs and grooves is expressed. On body numerous tiny hooks and bristles are located. It is necessary for masking – badger prawn fastens on itself parts of plants. Antennae at the female of this species are short.
Male sharply differs from female. It is very small – not larger than 2 cm. It is connected to features of life cycle of badger prawn. The gender at these crustaceans is not fixed genetically, and connected exclusively to age of animal. Badger prawn has ametabolous development: from eggs tiny similarities of adult individual hatch. They keep on pleopods of the female within several days. After the first molt young individuals ready to independent life leave female’s pleon and the first year lead independent life. The next summer they reach sexual maturity and every one of them turns to male. Males find mature females, and sit to bottom side of their pleon. Walking legs of males have special attaching claws. In breeding season (in the beginning of spring) male fertilizes the female but does not leave her after that. He lives on her body as a commensal, eats prey of female and clears her body of parasites. When the female bears posterity, male cares of eggs and young prawns, sitting on bottom side of body of the female. He clears eggs of dust, moves off dead or non-fertilized eggs and protects just hatched posterity from small predators. When posterity leaves the female, male also leaves off. Its male life is finished in this time, and within one year after some molts its transformation into the female takes place. After that transformation up to the end of life this individual will be the female, and male of new generation will look after eggs, sitting on its pleon. At the second year of life females are able to breeding. Active growth proceeds at them up to the seventh year of life, and general life expectancy makes till 20 years.
Badger prawn digs holes, using claws and massive rostrum. Edges of claws of badger prawn are covered with denticles, with which help animal loosens clay ground and even “saws” roots of plants. The hole of this crustacean is made at the depth up to one meter. The length of hole may exceed two meters. Summer holes of this species are horizontal; individuals from southern sites of an area dig similar holes. In areas of seasonal climate and in cold winter badger prawn makes deep hibernating holes directed downwards vertically to the depth up to 160 cm.

The idea about existence of present species of crustaceans is proposed by Nem, the forum member.

Antarctic swamp false jabby (Antarctocancer palustris)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Antarctic false crayfishes (Pseudocancridae)

Habitat: meadows and marshy areas in Antarctica.
Antarctica of Neocene epoch is true “lost world”. It remained isolated from other continents for a long time, and the whole terrestrial fauna of this continent had been exterminated by glaciation held down Antarctica to millions of years. As a result after climate warming in Neocene this continent had been settled by terrestrial animals almost from zero.
Absence of ground mammals in New Zealand (before human colonization of islands) had resulted in occurrence of giant flightless orthopters of Deinacridae family, which became ecological analogues of rodents. In Antarctica the similar situation had repeated. But insects have the limited opportunities for increase of size because of features of anatomy of respiratory system. Therefore in Antarctica they had lost to representatives of decapod crustaceans in struggle for existence.
In Antarctica there are no river crayfishes, fauna of sea crabs is very poor, and ground crabs live far overseas, and their larvae can not get to this isolated continent remarkable by cold climate. But in coastal waters of Antarctica there are many kinds of shrimps. Some shrimps had developed life in fresh water, and one genealogical line of these crustaceans had given rise to unique terrestrial forms. Antarctic swamp false jabby is the largest terrestrial arthropod of Antarctica. It is the true terrestrial species of crustaceans, the close relative of prawns of crangonid family (Crangonidae). It is very large species not only to measures of prawns – the length of this crustacean reaches 20 cm.
Appearance of Antarctic swamp false jabby is freakish and even grotesque. It has rough granular armour and sharp denticles on carapace, growing in three longitudinal lines. Pleon of this crustacean is short and wide; on each segment a cross line of large knobs grows. Edges of carapace at Antarctic swamp false jabby are convex, and on each side of the body extensive cavities are formed. In them there are plicas of thin epithelium penetrated with blood vessels and substituting lungs. The similar adaptation was present at terrestrial coconut crab (Birgus latro) of human epoch. Due to such adaptation Antarctic swamp false jabby well feels like on land many hours in succession. Nevertheless, this crustacean is compelled to fill up stocks of water regularly. For this purpose Antarctic swamp false jabby keeps near to marshes and various temporary reservoirs where dives for wetting of respiratory cavity.
From four pairs of walking legs first pair is advanced rather poorly. These legs are thin and mobile; with their help animal gathers food. The following three pairs of walking legs are rather large and strong. They easily maintain weight of body of Antarctic swamp false jabby on land. With their help animal can even climb on bushes in searches of food – bird eggs and insects. Powerful claws are inherited by this crustacean from ancestors – prawns of crangonid family. Dactyl (“thumb”) is very short, and the propodus (outgrowth of penultimate segment), forming the basic part of claw, is wide and shovel-like, with serrated internal edge and knobby surface. With the help of claws Antarctic swamp false jabby digs holes in which rests and molts.
Male differs from female in smaller size, narrow body and larger claws. At females bottom side of claws is grey with white edge, and at males it is bright pink. Besides female is colored darker, than male.
This crustacean has short antennae – their length does not exceed length of carapace. Basal segments of antennae are thick and covered with tiny thorns. In courtship season males of Antarctic swamp false jabby arrange combat for females, pushing each other away with the massive antennae bases. Eyes of this crustacean are large and located on short and thick eyestalks. The set of facets provides good sight, but animal is short-sighted and in search of food uses sense of smell first of all.
Antarctic swamp false jabby is a predator and scavenger. It eats terrestrial invertebrates – insects and their larvae, and also its own smaller relatives. It willingly eats nestlings of local flightless mousebirds (Musornis spp.), pulling them out from holes. In autumn and in spring, when in Antarctica day and night alternate, at night Antarctic swamp false jabbies may creep out to the coast of ocean in searches of sea animals cast ashore.
This crustacean has almost interrupted the connection with aquatic environment, and does not depend on sea water in breeding season at all. After pairing the female lays large eggs (up to 400 ones about 6 mm in diameter) staying on land. It bears clutch on pleon up to the hatching of young ones. Only just before the ending of incubation female searches for fresh-water reservoir. At this time it behaves very aggressively to any congener, attacking on it and expelling from the reservoir occupied by her. Young jabbies hatch in water, and female with young ones lives in shallow water till some time. After 5 – 6 days young jabbies leave the female, and she comes back to land. To the end of summer young Antarctic swamp false jabbies reach the length of 3 – 4 cm and leave a reservoir in searches of place for wintering.
Features of Antarctic climate had forced this crustacean to develop special forms of behaviour permitting to survive. Antarctic swamp false jabby winters in deep hole (its depth is up to 3 meters) dug almost vertically. In hole there are some horizontal ells closed by friable ground fuses – it provides thermo-insulating and the minimal air change. Along the hole, depending on weather in forthcoming winter, this crustacean arranges up to five fuses. Young individuals winter in casual shelters, and frequently penetrate into holes of adult individuals. In spring nothing threatens to them: while weather is cool, at adult individuals appetite is reduced, and they do not pay attention to young growth, leaving a hole. But in summer, when there is a polar day and the sun shines all day and night, in meadows of Antarctica it is warm weather, and adult false jabbies can eat young ones. Also young jabbies frequently become prey of terrestrial birds and bird-catching sundew (Droserophyllum ornitivorum) – large carnivorous plant.
Young animals reach sexual maturity at the age of 3 years at length of a body about 15 cm. Life expectancy of this crustacean seldom exceeds 15 years.

Bristle-legged shrimp (Planctoatyopsis setipes)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Atyids (Atyidae)

Habitat: rivers and lakes of Northern Meganesia.
Reservoirs of Australia and New Guinea of Holocene epoch were rather poor in true freshwater fishes. Their population developed basically from sea species, adapted to life in fresh water, and from migratory species of fishes. Because Australia at the moment of origin of orders and families of freshwater fishes was separated from other continents by sea passages, it has had an effect on its ichthyofauna which appreciably differs from ichthyofauna of near islands and Asia.
In Neocene the fauna of seas has changed strongly: it is connected to fluctuations of biomass of plankton and extinction of coral reeves. The fauna of fresh waters has suffered less though species of fishes connected to sea biotopes, mostly have died out. Therefore in Australia the nature had organized interesting experiment: ecological niches of fishes were partly occupied with other animals, swimming crustaceans.
Bristle-legged shrimp is one of such species occupying free ecological niches. Absence of fishes filtering microscopic algae in reservoirs of the Australian region has permitted this species of shrimps to reach the certain success. This pelagic crustacean up to 5 cm long meets in big shoals in lakes at small depth. The bristle-legged shrimp gathers food to itself with the help of filtering device developed on forward legs. At shrimps of family Atyidae, known to humans, at two forward pairs of walking legs the special adaptation for getting food was developed: brushes of hairs sticking up in sides. With their help shrimp digs out tiny edible animals, sifting through them sand, as through a sieve. At the bristle-legged shrimp this filtering device is transformed for filtration of plankton organisms and large algal cells from water. At the internal side of legs brushes are especially strongly advanced.
Swimming in thickness of water, shrimp makes paddling movements by forward pairs of legs. At the stroke brush gathers plankton from water and when the leg makes return movement, mouth feet scrape from bristles paste of algal cells and plankton, and push it in mouth. The basic swimming organ at this shrimp is third pair of legs with wide blades (as at water beetles). At the representatives of this family known in Holocene (for example, at Malayan wood shrimp Atyopsis moluccensis) these legs served for keeping at the bottom in stream. In connection with the passing to pelagic way of life function of these legs had changed. Fifth pair of walking legs is thin and adapted to accurate movements. They serve for clearing of gills of silt and suspension.
Body of the bristle-legged shrimp is sharp-nosed and streamline-shaped. This crustacean constantly keeps in thickness of water, occasionally sitting on stalks of floating plants for rest.
Short moments of pairing at these shrimps pass in thickness of water. The female is little bit larger than the male, but at him the claw at the tip of rowing leg is better advanced. Male swims up to the female from below, overturning upside down, and clasps her body by rowing legs. He injects sperm in oviducts of the female with the help of first pair of abdominal legs, and then swims away. Female lays about hundred large eggs and bear them on abdominal legs during some days. Development of this species includes the planktonic larva stage, which transforms into tiny copy of adult animal after two month of life.
Young shrimps do not compete to adults for food: they live near coast in thickets of plants. Their forage is large infusorians and rotifers; growing up, they pass to feeding by small crustaceans and algae. Shrimps had reached length about 2 - 3 cm gather in schools and swim in thickness of water, and pass to adult food. Having reached such length, they can have posterity.
Bristle-legged shrimp lives up to two-year-old age seldom.
In the rivers and lakes of Australia there are also close species of shrimps:
Bearded shrimp (Pl. barbatus) is considerably more specialized species: it eats almost exclusively algae, competing with plankton cladocer crustaceans. At its forward legs there are brushes of very rich thin bristles, permitting to filter only rather tiny cells of algae, and only smallest plankton animals - rotifers. This shrimp is rather small - length of its body is up to 3 cm. Body of this crustacean is practically transparent with light greenish shade: it helps to mask from possible predators among plankton algae. Because the food source, used by this species, differs in big efficiency, bearded shrimp makes big congestions. But its number strongly changes in various seasons proportionally to amount of phytoplankton. Life expectancy of this species exceeds one year seldom, but the young shrimp can breed already at the fifth week of life.
Needle-legged shrimp (Pl. spinosus) as against to relatives is active predator eating large plankton crustaceans (including larvae of other shrimps) and even small fishes. Bristles on legs are hooked, large and thin – they are adapted to hooking and keeping small catch, instead of algae filtering. Length of this shrimp is up to 6 cm. The body is colored green with reddish-brown and black vertical strips; on pair of swimming legs there are white longitudinal strips. It keeps solitarily or in small changeable congestions in thickets of floating plants, immediately attacking shrimps and small fishes. At times shrimps of this species can have fights for catch, and as a result of which crustaceans can lose not only catch, but also pair of legs moreover. Larvae of this species at first eat microalgae, than catch in the beginning small plankton crustaceans, and later small shrimps and fash fry.

Driftwood-boring shrimp (Xylocaris terebratus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Long-armed shrimps (Macrobrachiidae)

Habitat: woods of Amazon region, shallow rivers.
Tropical rainforest and river are practically indissoluble combination. Many forest inhabitants are connected in their life with rivers, and the wood roofs and foods some river inhabitants. In Neocene the set of interrelations between inhabitants of two these worlds has replenished with one more example.
Rainforests of an Amazon region from time to time are overflowing by water. Trees have not sustained flooding, fall and lay across rivers. In their roots and branches fishes and other inhabitants of the river find shelter, and some fishes even rather willingly gnaw mossy moldering wood. In Neocene one more animal has joined to set of dead wood destructors.
The tree has fallen in water about two months back, at first sight looks almost intact. Rotten pieces of bark here and there have fallen off, and dead leaves are carried away by river. But at close look it becomes visible, that tree trunk obviously has traces of someone’s work: in some places wood is pierced by apertures in which small creatures sit. Being scared, they disappear in burrows, but being calmed, they dare to creep out. And then it becomes evident, that they are crustaceans: at them there are long antennae and eyes sit on stems.
It is the special kind of shrimps from tropical rivers of America – the driftwood-boring shrimp. It serves here as the original analogue of bivalve mollusk “ship worm” (Teredo): this crustacean drills holes in wood, destroying trees have got in water. The driftwood-boring shrimp lives in minks by whom itself does(makes) in wood. Sometimes this shrimp lodges even in roots of trees, for any reasons flooded with the river and remaining in water the year round. These species prefer a society to itself similar, therefore settle usually the whole colonies numbering up to hundred of individuals.
Length of the driftwood-boring shrimp is about 5 cm. Body of animal at the back edge is translucent, armour is yellow-colored with black longitudinal strip. Pincers are white color, very short and strong, with jags along the edge. They have turned to powerful drilling apparatus with which help this shrimp destroys wood of the majority of tropical trees.
Eyes are large; they are placed on long stems. When shrimp sits in shelter, from hole only eyes and antennae stick up. Occasionally the crustacean leaves holes, but does not leave far from them. At danger this animal quickly swims and hides into the nearest hole.
The colony occupies tree and pierces it with holes where crustaceans live and breed, while the tree will decay finally. Holes are deep, pulling mainly in top layer of wood. They join, forming complex system in process of colony increasing.
The driftwood-boring shrimp almost does not eat wood: it eats, scratching out from walls of holes fungoid film and colonies of bacteria, and also eats small animals swimming away in holes in searches of shelters. Naturally, as an addition to food it swallows some wood dust, but it is not digested. Due to strong pincers the crustacean easily splits shells of snails.
Development is direct, from eggs tiny shrimps similar to adult individual hatch. In clutch it is about 30 – 50 rather large eggs. Young shrimps live in holes of adults, but in process of growth they are gradually superseded to edge of colony, where they start to drill their own holes.

Needle shrimp (Acuticaris incola)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Tubocarids (Tubocaridae)

Habitat: reeves of Indian and Pacific oceans, colonies of tube worms.
After extinction of reef-building corals, a role of main architects of ocean shallow waters had been undertaken by various animals, first of all by mollusks. But the considerable part of reeves is constructed by sedentary annelid worms both with red algae sedimenting limestone. Settlements of worms form on sea bottom true “towns” of numerous directed upwards straight or bent tubes. Usually from tubes tentacles of these animals stick up, but if any large animal appears nearby, worms immediately hide in tubes. But they will not manage to disappear from some animals of reef thus even because that ones share “apartments”, their own tubes. One of inhabitants of worm tubes is thin transparent shrimp with extended legs and pincers. When it is shown at few seconds from tube of one worm to get into the next tube, it is practically not visible in sea water - only two black beads of eyes give out presence of this crustacean.
The needle shrimp almost constantly sits in tubes of worms. Certainly, these animals are not always glad to meet visitors: the tube is designed only for one worm. But they suffer presence of this shrimp not vainly: this crustacean plays a role of cleaner, cleaning from tube every possible dust, and also gathering from bodies of worms every possible parasites which this sedentary animal is not able to shake out from itself.
The thin and flexible shrimp scurries in dwelling of worm, touching by antennae to its body. By its physical condition shrimp estimates environment and chooses the moment to get over to the tube of the next worm. If worms have quietly opened their tentacles, shrimp can travel in colony under their covering. But if worms are disturbed and start to fold tentacles, shrimp immediately dives into the nearest tube. Its body is flexible and worm-like: armour covering cephalothorax is rather short, and shrimp resembles more any primitive crustaceans. The body of this shrimp is strongly extended (about 5 cm long at thickness only of 3 - 4 mm), and legs are very thin. Pincers account the body length; they are thin and sensitive: with their help shrimp gathers dust and parasites from cautious “host”. On the forward end of a body of needle shrimp the strong spike grows – it is unique weapon of this fragile creature. When too curious fish shows interest to tube where this shrimp is hidden, it risks getting sensitive sting of such spike.
Swimming abdominal legs of needle shrimp are hairless, and serve only to bear eggs - this shrimp is not able to swim, and can only creep clumsily in a bottom outside of worm tubes.
Because needle shrimp is the homebody, at it a breeding problem could arise: eggs should be fertilized to make the posterity genetically various. And at the same time populations of worms in which tubes these shrimps live, are far from each other, and frequently are too small to settle in them many individuals of needle shrimps. But this crustacean has to found a simple way out: the needle shrimp is hermaphrodite, also in case of need it can be simply self-fertilized. But it is the extreme way: more often in colony of worms there are even two shrimps mutually fertilizing each other.
In clutch of needle shrimp it is usually up to 300 very small eggs. From them smallest plankton larvae decorated with long needle-shaped outgrowths on sides and back hatch. Their development passes at the reef, usually at deepest sites of it. This shrimp breeds when for some weeks quiet weather without storm is established. At larvae there are two main problems in life: to survive in plankton where everybody can to have eaten them and find a colony of worms. After the next molt larva loses “ornaments” on body and gets rather recognizable shape of adult shrimp, only without needle on head. It finds tentacles of worm and settles in its tube. It is a crucial stage in life of young shrimp: if it will not to find a colony of worms, it’ll appear completely defenceless against numerous reef predators. If the young shrimp is lucky, it starts to grow and at the age of about 10 weeks already becomes adult. To this moment at it the nasal needle grows.
The first contact of young shrimp and worms never passes smoothly. Worms, one might, “mistrustfully” concern to occurrence of shrimp, and perceive it hostilely: hide, close tube by operculum, or jet out to the shrimp the poisonous substance at all. But persistence and care of shrimp make the business: it starts to clear accurately the future hosts of parasites and dust, and eventually between it and worms communication is established. Gradually the shrimp starts to get into tube constructed by the worm, and soon grows roots in it and takes over “trusteeship” some part of colony of sedentary worms.

Spike shrimp (Paracuticaris echinophila)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Tubocarids (Tubocaridae)

Habitat: reeves of Pacific Ocean, symbiote of sea urchins.
Reeves are favorable place for life, and are comparable to tropical forest on specific variety. In Neocene the main reef-builders, madreporarian corals, had become extinct, and the body of reef is formed by other invertebrates: mollusks and worms. Between inhabitants of reef there is strict competition inducing strict specialization. And the abundance of predators forces to develop more and more effective ways of protection. Some inhabitants of reeves use reliable means tested during millions years of evolution. Sea urchins of various colors are armed with spikes and firm armours. It makes them impregnable for the majority of reef inhabitants. Protection of sea urchins serves not only to them – among spikes of these animals tiny graceful shrimps hide. Pointed spikes with poisonous slime in grooves serve as an absolute obstacle for predators eating crustaceans. The specific pointed body shape had determined the name of this crustacean – spike shrimp.
This tiny (about 5 cm long) crustacean occupies the ecological niche of fishes – shrimpfishes (Aeoliscus strigatus) and urchin clingfishes (Diademichthys lineatus) used such shelter in human epoch. Spike shrimp constantly keeps between spikes of sea urchins – here it finds simultaneously food and shelter. This crustacean gathers parasites and dust from body of echinoderm, and receives safe dwelling in return for it.
Body of spike shrimp is long and narrow. Cephalothorax is short; pleon is cylindrical with wide fin formed by telson and back pair of pleopods. On head of this crustacean there is pointed straight outgrowth directed forward and little bit similar to spikes of sea urchin. If necessary, spike shrimp is able to change color of body cover, adapting to shade of spikes of sea urchin on which it lives. This crustacean sits among spikes directing head outside. Shrimp can move among spikes of sea urchin in any direction, and at danger hides deeper into spikes, closer to body of host animal.
With the help of thin claws shrimp gathers from spikes of sea urchin larvae of sedentary animals settling on them, and kills parasites attached to it. Thus, relations of sea urchin and spike shrimp represent mutually advantageous symbiosis.
On each sea urchin some such shrimps live, forming breeding group. The gender at these shrimps is not genetically determined, and depends on age of animal and its position in hierarchy. Usually the colony is presented by females among which one male lives – it is the largest and strongest shrimp. If for any reasons male leaves colony or perishes, strongest female takes its place in hierarchy. Shrimps growing alone initially develop as males.
Each female regularly lays eggs – up to 100 eggs once in four weeks (the laying is dated for full moon), and bears them within two weeks. At this species there is development without larval stage, and from eggs tiny similarities of adult individuals leave. They at once leave parental colony and search new host for themselves. Young shrimps can live on sea urchins with rather short spikes, and larger individuals whenever possible move to long-spiked species. Spike shrimp becomes adult at the age of about 7 months. Life expectancy of these animals seldom exceeds two years.

Hive snapper shrimp (Alpheus alvearosus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Snapper shrimps (Alpheidae)

Habitat: Pacific Ocean, reeves in tropical zone.
One way of survival in conditions of competition is the social habit of life. Insects (and among them termites and hymenopters did it independently from each other) and to a lesser degree spiders (in Neocene some new species leading social way of life had evolved) selected such way of evolution on land. For social species of arthropods formation of castes is typical; relations between them are regulating with the help of secretion of physiologically active substances having influence on development of colony members. The similar system of relations between members of the colony had formed independently of them at some species of crustaceans living at the reeves of Pacific Ocean. Here hive snapper shrimp lives; it is the social species of snapping shrimp living in reef-building sponges growing in shallow parts of tropical seas. It is the remote descendant of colonial snapping shrimps of Holocene epoch.
Colonies of this species reach the number up to 5000 individuals. In colony there is rather stable ratio of individuals of different genders and ages between females, males not sexually mature young ones – approximately 1:5:20. There are appreciable morphological differences between individuals of different genders and ages. As against free-living relatives, this species is omnivorous, but has a bias to vegetarianism.
The colony occupies cavities inside the same large sponge of a special kind. There is only one fertile female in colony, not leaving a body of sponge and devoted only to reproduction. It is a “queen” 10 – 12 cm long. It has rather small “working” claw, and it can not utter ultrasonic clicks characteristic for snapper shrimps. Colouring of its shell is pale, yellowish-grey. Its eyes are rather small, and sight is bad. The “queen” female is adapted for bearing a plenty of posterity – its pleon is expanded, and pleopods are covered with bristles. Fertilization is performed by stranger males from other colonies, which live freely and move between different colonies. The number of eggs in one clutch reaches 150 – 300 ones. Development of this species is direct, without larval stages. In addition to metabolic products the “queen” female secrets pheromones determining the further development of young ones.
At low number of the colony and small inhabited cavity inside the host sponge pheromones of queen females cause sterilization of growing up females. Sterile females sharply enough differ in morphology from fertile ones. Length of sterile hive female is 6 – 7 cm. It has strongly expanded pleon with large pleopods, but the female of this caste is not able to swim, bending the pleon. Such females constantly live inside the sponge body and perform a set of functions on maintenance of life of the colony. They provide an additional current of water through the body of the host sponge, protect entrances to the colony cavities, and also are engaged in driving and clearing of tunnels in the body of the host sponge. Right cheliped (claw) at them is strongly increased, and its terminal segments have disc-like shape. Such claw is supplied with additional denses on edges and serves for entrance closing at protection of the colony. Function of ultrasound generation at such females is weakened. Colouring of body of these females is pale, except for the right claw, which has dark brown colouring.
Colony’s own males reach the length of about 5 – 6 cm. Their sexual function is also oppressed with action of pheromones of queen females. Males perform the functions of active protection of colony and food gathering. They constantly leave cavities of the host sponge and creep in vicinities of the colony. Colouring of males appreciablly differs from colouring of females – they are pinkish with the reddish-brown marble pattern well combined to colouring of surface of reef. They continuously check and protect the algae gardens, which grow in littoral pools at the the internal side of reeves. The food competitors encroached on vegetation are ruthlessly destroyed, or frightened off with the help of ultrasonic impacts. Killed thus small animals (fishes, shrimps, molluscs) are used as a food of the colony. Males have good sight; their eyes larger, rather than at females, and are supplied with a great number of facets. Protecting of a site of vegetation they operate in groups of 10 – 20 individuals, supporting tactile contact with each other with the help of antennae. Protective reaction of own colony’s male is powerful stimulus for joint attack – having heard click of the relative, male take a threatening pose and start clicking. If in their field of view any moving object appears, intensity of clicks amplifies and they turn aside the infringer of territory.
The sexually immature young ones after first two moults are included in active life of the colony. The young ones of both genders differ from adult individuals both in morphology, and in ecology. Besides the feeding on vegetative and animal food like adult individuals, young individuals of hive snapper shrimp have an ability of water filtering. They frequently stay on the surface of sponge near the entrances, filtering water, but at first signs of danger they hide in depth of sponge. In colony young individuals perform functions of cleaners and tunnellers. In addition to clearing of tunnels in the body of the host sponge of dust, they also are engaged in grooming of adult individuals of the colony, especial of females. Due to thin claws they can clear of parasites branchial cavity of adult individuals. Some young individuals always keep close to “queen female”.
When colony grows up to limiting number, when it occupies large enough space inside the sponge, the amount of pheromones emitting by queen femal falls below critical concentration, and it causes exceeding by the part of sexually mature males of the bounds of the colony and activization of their sexual function. The present process is accompanied by change of colouring and behaviour of males – they turn much darker, undergo an additional moult and become larger. Sexually active males begin to react keenly to smells of other colonies, preferring maximal genetically remote ones. They abandon the native colony and wander on surface of reeves, hiding from enemies in casual shelters. Having reached an unrelated colony, such male emits the substances calming guardian females. Due to it male easily penetrates into the colony and copulates with foreign queen female. Such males do not live in a colony constantly, and the majority of them perishes during the migrations between colonies.
Lack of pheromones also causes changes in growth of sexually immature females. Their specialization does not take place and at the edges of the colony they freely reach sexual maturity and then abandon parental colony. Young queen females search for free host sponge; then the copulation with migrating stranger males takes place.

This species of crustaceans was discovered by Toron, the forum member.

Gill crayfish (Cryptocambarus branchiophilus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: American crayfishes (Cambaridae)

Habitat: the south of North America, an area coincides with the area of manatee fish.
Every species of live organisms is an inhabitancy for numerous parasites and symbiotes. Some of them cause essential harm to their host, others use it only as a shelter, and presence of the third ones brings mutual benefit to both species. Frequently the species belonging to systematic groups very far from each other may be interconnected.
In southern areas of North America, in the wide rivers with well warmed up water the large manatee fish reaching the length of 4 meters lives. This peace herbivorous creature gives a shelter to very original representative of decapods.
In almost every case the couple of very small gill crayfishes lives in branchial cavity of manatee fishes. Possible, the development of such way of life by these ones is rather recent evolutional step, because in their anatomy features of crayfishes living in the same reservoirs, but leading a way of life traditional for them, are quite recognizeable.
Appearance of gill crayfish is traditional for decapods. This is a creature with four pairs of walking legs and well advanced thin claws. Last pair of walking legs of gill crayfish is increased a lot, and on its internal side numerous thorns and bristles develop. These legs serve for the attachment to substratum – at the way of life which this crayfish leads always there is a probability to be washed away by current of water through gills to an environment where this animal is doomed for immediate death. The body of gill crayfish is transparent, covered with thin armour. The strongest parts of body are claws and back pair of legs. Last pair of pleopods forming a fin, is reduced in great degree and is transformed to attaching hooks with which help animal clasps gill arch of fish. Eyes of gill crayfish are considerably reduced. They are placed on short stalks and are almost motionless – the crayfish can only retract them under carapace a little. Antennae, on the contrary, are very well advanced – their length exceeds total length of body of this animal.
The couple of adult animals of this species, large female and smaller male, always lives in branchial cavity of fish. The gender at gill crayfish has no genetical fixation: the first individual settled on fish turns to female, and the second one, having found her and having attached to her, turns to male. Sexually mature male constantly keeps on the female with the help of back pair of walking legs. He fertilizes eggs and looks at young crayfishes until they leave mother. Usually male keeps on the belly side of body of the female, but he is mobile and can creep on all parts of her body. The length of the adult female reaches 30 – 35 mm; male is not longer than 20 mm.
Gill crayfish eats tiny invertebrates casually swallowed by fish with its food. It renders the host fish of cleaning service, gathering from its gills parasitic crustaceans and worms which constantly settle on fish.
Gill crayfishes breed the year round, giving for one year up to eight litters numbering 100 – 150 young crayfishes in each one. This species has direct development – from eggs tiny animals able to creep and to swim hatch. They are not too similar to adult individuals: they have normally advanced back pair of legs and rather large eyes. Young animals stay on pleopods of the female till about one week, and male cares of them. Passing to independent life, they leave gills of manatee fish with current of water and settle in plant thickets waiting for approaching of new host fish. If they will stay on gills of fish, on which their parents live, they, most likely, will be eaten by their own parents, which perceive them as food.
The young crayfish can lead free life for a long time. As against common crayfishes, it keeps mainly in the top circle of reservoirs – on stalks and leaves of floating and long-stem plants. When the manatee fish comes nearer, young crayfish clings to its skin and then creeps on gills. Here it undergoes metamorphosis, getting after several moults prominent features of adult representatives of this species.

Hawaiian boring crab (Terebrocancer geograpsus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Grapsid crabs (Grapsidae)

Habitat: Hawaii, ground in tropical woods.
Islands never having connections with other land differ in big originality of animal and plant population. The fauna of such places is impoverished by typical continental species (especially by animals unable to fly or not suffering salt water), but is frequently replenished due to sea species passing to overland life. One of ways to leave the sea is to become digging creature and gradually to pass to existing in damp atmosphere of underground burrows.
Rather small competition of soil animals at Hawaiian islands had permitted to one of sea crabs widely settled in Pacific Ocean to pass to this inhabitancy. This way the boring crab, the next overland descendant of sea inhabitants, had appeared at Hawaii. It is small species of digging crustaceans – width of its carapace is about 15 cm, and whole crab is up to 20 cm width. It could be rather significant size for crabs of habitual constitution, but not for this species. Hawaiian boring crab combines usual for crabs habit of movement sideways with hole digging, therefore proportions of its body had strongly changed. At such significant width of the body the height and length of this crab do not exceed 5 – 6 cm: this animal is as if “stretched” in sides.
Pincers of this crab have unequal sizes (this feature is characteristic for crabs in general), and fulfil different functions: one pincer serves as the drill, the second is a shovel. Usually crab bores ground with the help of right pincer which strongly differs from left one externally. On the right pincer the penultimate segment is very big with the expanded gear edges and numerous knobs on the external surface. “Thumb” (last segment) on this pincer is small, but strong: with its help this crustacean easily cuts roots of plants, preventing to dig a hole. Left pincers is lesser than right one, expanded, with smooth edges. It rakes away ground dug by crab. Also with its help crab brings food to mouth. If the crab had injured boring pincer, or it had been bitten off by any predator, it has reorganization of sense organs and anatomy: the remained intact pincer for some molts turns to boring one, and the crab turns to “lefthander” from “right-handed one”. The restored right pincer becomes “shovel”. However, about 10 % of population of boring crabs are hereditary “lefthanders”. The walking legs of this crustacean located from the same side as “boring” pincer, also fulfil the function of shovels, raking away the loosened ground back, under “shovel” pincer. For this purpose the fringe of rigid bristles on their edge also serves. When near of “shovel” pincer the heap of ground gathers, crab walks to other side, raking away friable ground on the ground surface or to burrows of other animals which contact with its holes, partly shifting the work to them.
Sight does not play the significant role in life of Hawaiian boring crab, and its eyes are appreciably reduced: they are very small, located on short thick stems and at ground digging are hided in deepenings of the front edge of the carapace. From outside they are protected from the ground by rich “eyebrows” of bristles.
Boring crabs live in holes at the depth about half meter, at night rising to the ground surface. They eat various invertebrates, but can eat and fruits beginning to rot: obviously, a strong smell of fruits involves crabs. Occasionally at night they get out on the surface of the ground and catch small ground animals. If the dead animal (for example, the carcass of Hawaiian forest goose – the large local bird) lays on the ground, crabs can sap under ground the carcass and eat it from below, and also gather larvae of flies and beetles eating carrion and dug in the ground for pupating.
Being the ground inhabitant, this crab has not lost the connection with water. It had left the sea, but goes to fresh water for breeding. Male differs from female in narrow wedge-shaped pleon and in larger size. It couples with female in specially dug wide hole, and does not accept any more participation in care of posterity. But the female, ready to lay eggs, settles closer to water: it digs in riverbank a hole which is filled with water filtered through ground. In the formed reservoir female bears eggs within approximately two weeks. In clutch it may be about 200 large eggs. When the time to hatch larvae appears, female abandons the shelter. At late night it gets out of hole and hastens to the reservoir where the simultaneous hatching of young growth occurs (fresh and rich in oxygen water serves as stimulus of this process). If not all posterity had hatched within night, female throws off the rests of eggs from the abdomen, and always comes back in a hole to the morning.
The posterity of this species, looking like tiny transparent crabs, lives in water some weeks similarly to other species of crabs. Having reached the diameter about 3 cm, they leave water and pass to life in wood litter. Having got stronger enough, they start to bore holes in ground. Half-year aged crabs having width of carapace about 6 cm are able to breed, and they reach the size typical for this species at 3-rd – 5-th year of life.

Azorean nocturnal crab, “night robber” (Azograpsus fur-nocturnus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Grapsid crabs (Grapsidae)

Habitat: New Azora island, forests.
Terrestrial island ecosystems differ from continental ones in one feature – recent natives of sea play rather large role in them, and many groups of terrestrial animals, characteristic for continents, can be absent completely. At New Azora island, which is located in tropical latitudes of Atlantic Ocean, in an ecosystem there is a plenty of descendants of mammals, terrestrial continental animals. This is a consequence of human activity – people had introduced some species of terrestrial mammals to Azorean Islands. But in ecosystem had formed at the island after extinction of mankind, there are descendants of sea animals – various crabs of separate genus Azograpsus, or Azorean crab (Azograpsus). Various species of these crabs occupy ecological niches of scavengers and small predators. Among these animals the largest species is “night robber”, or Azorean nocturnal crab – scavenger and active predator representing danger to rat-sized and smaller animals.
“Night robber” is large crustacean – the width of its carapace reaches 12 – 15 centimeters, but because of legs and large claws it seems even larger. Its armour is flattened from above and has rounded outlines. Claws are rather large, have short fingers and serrated cutting edges. With the help of such claws crab easily breaks snails shells and crushes bones of small vertebrates.
Colouring of armour of crab is black with bluish shade; bottom part of body is grey. Cutting edges of claws are brightly visible on background of body – they are snow-white. On claws there are some more white spots.
Azorean nocturnal crab lives in underbrush and can climb on trees, especially at young age. Small crabs of this species spend much more time on trees, rather than adults. Due to this feature of behaviour the probability of survival of young ones of this species raises – this way young crabs avoid meeting with adult individuals which frequently are cannibals. Adult Azorean nocturnal crabs lead nocturnal habit of life and hide in holes in day time. They dig hole by themselves, but can occupy and re-build ready hole of any small animal (frequently the lawful inhabitant of hole is simply eaten thus). At night this crab moves to searches of food. It easily copes with small rodents, eats eggs and nestlings of birds nesting on the ground, and easily finds carrion and rests of prey of local predators with the help of sharp sense of smell. Azorean nocturnal crabs living near the ocean coast can hunt crabs of other species.
All crabs of genus Azograpsus had breaked off the dependence on the water environment during the breeding to greater or lesser extent. Only some species of these animals make migrations to ocean, and the majority of species is content with temporary reservoirs for posterity hatching. At all species of these crustaceans in clutch there is only a few sizable eggs from which well advanced young crabs, quickly passing to independent life, hatch. Females of Azorean nocturnal crab dig holes at the coast of reservoirs, and on bottom of such holes from ground a lot of water filters. In formed puddle female spends all day and some part of night, and only in darkest night hours it hunts. Last days of incubation the female does not leave shelter at all.
In clutch of this species of crustaceans up to 70 – 80 rather large eggs is totaled. Young crabs are translucent, colored light grey. The female does not pay attention to the posterity, and does not feed young growth specially. First some days of life young crabs hide in hole of the female and eat tiny ground animals. After the first molt they leave parental hole and begin independent life. At the age of four years young crab reaches the size, characteristic for adult individuals, and its growth slows down. The sexual maturity at these crabs comes at the age of about one and a half years.
At New Azora some other species of crabs of this genus live:
Azorean signaler crab (Azograpsus signalis) differs in very bright colouring. It is medium-sized (carapace width is about 7 – 9 cm) diurnal species of crabs. It has good sight, and large spherical eyes are located on long mobile eyestalks. The body of this crab has dark red colouring, and claws are colored scarlet color with white spots. Claws of this crab are very strong and serve for digging of larvae of insects from ground. Besides with the help of such claws crab protects itself, and bright colouring serves to defending animal for warning signals injection. The disturbed crab rises claws and starts to click by them. On finger of claw it has small knob which enters into hole on claw. When crab closes claw, loud click is heard. The similar mechanism was developed at this species independently from snapping shrimps of family Alpheidae known in human epoch.
This species of crabs eats small invertebrates and oily fruits of palm trees and trees of laurel family. Females bear eggs on abdomen during almost all term of incubation. When time of posterity hatching comes, females gather in littoral marshes and drop young crabs hatching from eggs in water. Fertility of this species makes up to 200 eggs in one clutch.
Arboreal Azorean crab (Azograpsus arboreus) is small species of the genus. The width of carapace of adult animal does not exceed 4 – 5 cm. It differs in dim greenish colouring of body with dark brown legs and claws. The bottom surface of claws is colored snow-white – crabs of this species inject signals to each other, raising claws and showing their bottom side. This species constantly lives in crones of trees and is able to swarm up branches in searches of fruits and small tree invertebrates. Females of this species bear clutch, gathering in tree hollows where rain water accumulates. Clutch of this species totals no more 50 large eggs from which young crabs hatch. Adult animals do not attack young growth, and the survival rate of posterity at this species is rather great. Young crabs right after hatching from eggs start to lead independent life. They creep away from hollow where they were born, and hide in moss or in other places where the moisture is kept. This species of crabs does not go down to the ground during whole life cycle.
Lemon, or frugivorous Azorean crab (Azograpsus citrinus) lives in tropical forest litter. This medium-sized (carapace width is about 8 cm) crustacean differs in very bright colouring – lemon-yellow with black points on tips of claws; the bottom part of body is white. Frugivorous Azorean crab eats mainly vegetative food; the most part of its diet is made of fruits of plants of laurel and heathers families characteristic for forests of New Azora island. Occasionally it eats seeds of coniferous trees.
In day time crabs of this species dig in wood litter or hide in shelters of various kinds, and in the evening goes to search of fallen fruits. In cloudy and damp weather they are active in day time. This species of crabs makes mass migrations during breeding season, and females with clutch spend some weeks in shallow waters of island while incubation of eggs proceeds.
Tiniest Azorean crab (Azograpsus minutissimus) is the most numerous crab of the island. This tiny (carapace width is no larger than 4 cm) species of crustaceans is the important part in ecosystem of island, because the basis of its food is made of rotten leaves of trees and grassy plants. Such accessible forage allows these crabs to reach great number – on the average, at each 5 square meters of territory of New Azora forests one crab of this species lives. Colouring of tiniest Azorean crab is dark, but is remarkable by its refinement: body is reddish-brown, legs and claws are black, and cutting edges of claws are snow-white. Due to activity of these crabs fallen leaves quickly turn to humus, from which plant easily take mineral and organic substances. These crabs dig in wood ground deep (up to 60 – 70 cm) holes in which spend the day. The female incubates eggs on land, and right before hatching of posterity searches for shallow reservoirs. Young crabs spend some days in fresh water, and then creep out on land.

"Mangrove robber" (Archocancer mangrophilus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Mangrove crabs (Archocancridae)

Habitat: mangrove thickets of South-Eastern Asia – Jakarta Coast, Sunda Land and near islands, fresh and brackish water.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov

Mangrove swamps are very changeable world. Twice per day inflow and outflow replace each other here, and the salinity of water strongly changes – from almost fresh up to almost oceanic. Trees form continuous thickets, alternating with sites of viscous oozy ground. Everywhere from silt respiratory roots of trees stick up, forming almost impassable “fences”. Here it is difficult to survive to both oceanic and freshwater inhabitants. Neither aquatic animal, nor the ground one can not feel like as at home in this place. But animals had been adapted to this changeable world can feel like true kings.
Largest of local inhabitants has all properties permitting it to survive here. It has tenacious legs, and it can swarm up roots of trees. Stepping through branches and air roots, it actively searches for food. But if it will fall down in water, it simply will continue to move in a bottom. It easily tolerates change of salinity of water, and its food is made almost by everything, that it is possible to find in swamp. It surveys a surface of mangrove swamps walking on long legs as if on stilts. Sharp twigs do not harm to it – its body is covered with shell.
This creature looking monstrously from the point of human view is one of species of crabs. In Neocene when number and variety of many of dominating before groups of animals has decreased, some of “supernumeraries” had an opportunity to evolve actively. And from one crab of Cardisoma genus, able to live both in fresh, and in sea water, the huge crab “mangrove robber”, the largest arthropod able to live on land, had evolved. To tell the truth, it spends on land not all life – for breeding and gill humidifying these huge crabs are compelled to come back to the water, but not for a long time.
The width of the armour decorated from above with “hornets” and lumps, reaches half meter, and leg-span exceeds one and half meter. Carapace has the “angular” shape; in front it is almost straight, hind edge is rounded. “Mangrove robber” lives mostly in air environment therefore its branchial cavity functions as lung. However sometimes it comes into water to humidify gills. During the rain this huge crustacean willingly puts body to floods of the water flowing down from leaves.
Colouring of this crustacean is rather bright. The animal is perfectly armed; therefore it is favorable to it to warn the predator about consequences of attack by the colouring. The trunk of crab is colored from above yellowish - brown color with small dark speckles, legs outside are colored the same color. But an internal surface of legs and the bottom side of flat body is ivory-colored. Pincers of crab are wide and flat; at males they are larger than at females. Surface of pincers is smooth and shining. They are colored outside bright red with white strips along cutting edge on “thumb”. The bottom side of pincers is light pink. In courtship season males show to females bottom side of pincers to lower their aggression.
Eyes of crab are increased and placed on mobile stems: it permits an animal to have the full circular field of view. Small facets provide rather sharp sight, and the crab can easily define a possible predator. Though in mangrove swamps almost nobody is danger to it, in forest predatory mammals or birds can easily trap “mangrove robber”. They attack young growth especially frequently. But the adult crab in intervals between molts is practically impregnable, and it will reflect any attack by strong pincers.
“Mangrove robber” is omnivorous animal. It willingly eats any food of animal origin: it hunts mollusks creeping in oozy shallow water, gathers fishes, shrimps, worms and snails staying in pools during outflow, catching them by big long pincers having on tips sharp jags and hooks. It does not squeamish also to eat carrion: after storm such crabs frequently leave on a shore, searching for dead animals have been cast ashore. In forest “mangrove robbers” appear for the sake of fruits – they eat sweet and strongly smelling fruits of tropical trees with great pleasure, being one of main distributors of seeds on tropical islands.
This is solitary animal not having certain territory. “Mangrove robbers” meet at the distance no more than one kilometer from the nearest sea coast, but along the rivers they come deeper into land areas: up to 3 – 4 kilometers. They frequently lodge on coast of brackish lakes where sea water filters from sand. Usually the crab uses as shelter natural niches, but it also can dig own holes or occupy and expand abandoned holes of rodents.
For breeding females of this crab right after pairing migrate to the sea: eggs of these animals develop only in salt water (salinity must be not below the half of oceanic one). At “mangrove robber” the development is direct: from eggs tiny crab babies hatch. First days of their life the female carries them under an abdomen. Gradually the young growth molts, and gets over on back of female. At this time female shows surprising for large crustaceans care for posterity: during meal the young growth can drag slices of parental meal, and the female patiently waits, while the posterity will be sated. At this time it is ready to attack any animal of size comparable to it, if it will consider its presence dangerous to young growth. Crabs of this species breed the year-round, giving 2 – 3 hatches of 150 – 200 young crabs.
Though “mangrove robber” has no large enemies, its life from the very beginning is threatened by various tiny creatures. During the bearing of posterity crabs are threatened with flies of the special kind – crab botflies (Carcinotaba vorax). They actually are not true botflies, and belong to… horseflies. Adult flies of this species suck blood of crab, and larvae develop among eggs, destroying them almost entirely. The small agile coastal bird resembling nuthatch, the crab-cleaning rattlebird (Carcinornis crepitaculum), having the tenacious paws, permitting to perch on carapace of crab, saves “mangrove robber” from crab botflies. It feeds with these flies, trapping them, perching right on body of crab. At an opportunity it also clears crab of other parasites – small ground leeches and ticks. But sometimes these birds turn from friends to enemies: they equally willingly eat young crabs.

This species was discovered by Arseny Zolotnikov.

Grooming crab (Hygeioportunus accuratus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Swimming crabs (Portunidae)

Habitat: reeves of Pacific Ocean, tropical and subtropical regions.

Picture by Fanboyphilosopher

Coral reeves of Holocene epoch had represented the community of live organisms, not conceding in variability of species to tropical rainforests. In conditions of food abundance inhabitants of coral reeves frequently showed very strict specialization in feeding and habit of life. But this circumstance had made them dependent on existence of ecosystem as a whole. Therefore, when at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene reef-building corals had died out, the most part of rich reef fauna had disappeared after them.
In Neocene instead of former reeves new ones have appeared. Not corals, but other animals – sponges, huge bivalves and other sedentary animals form them. At these reeves like at Holocene ones, various sea animals search for shelter and food. In struggle for existence they also show miracles of specialization. Among inhabitants of Neocene reeves crabs of various families are characteristic – these animals are mainly predators and scavengers of reef. They often develop very effective and deadly ways of food getting. But one of crabs had evolved to other way of specialization – it had staked not on bloodthirstiness, but on cooperation. And, of course, it is very successful from the point of view of survival.
Around of one huge shell growing at some distance from body of reef the school of fishes swims. They stay near the shell for rather long time, though obviously they are not going to be fed. Fishes only replace each other above the shell, turning in round dance. The reason of interest of fish school to this shell is a small motley crab creeping on skin of one fish. This creature is not afraid that fishes will eat it: crab slowly moves on fish scales, searching for parasites attached to it. Having finished to clear the fish, crab leaves it and quickly moves to other fish.
This animal is grooming crab, the descendant of one species of predatory swimming crabs. It differs a little in anatomy from congeners leading predating way of life in other parts of ocean. At grooming crab there is the same flattened back pair of walking legs with which help it swims quickly. On the bottom side of these legs small holes are advanced – they are suckers helping the grooming crab to attach to smooth sides of fishes. This crab is rather small – the carapace width of the adult female reaches 6 – 7 cm; males are a little bit smaller, but have larger pincers.
The main hunting weapon of swimming crabs is pincers with which help these predators kill fishes and other prey animals. At the grooming crab pincers had turned to thin tweezers with which help animal gathers parasites from skin and gills of fishes, and also “cuts out” sites of dying off tissues from wounds and grazes. Sharp sight helps the grooming crab to search even for small parasites: his eyes are spherical and placed on short mobile stems. They are supplied with set of facets providing recognition of small details.
For “advertising” of rendering services contrast colouring serves to grooming crab. Body of this crab is coffee-black, but the middle part of carapace is snow-white with small round black spots. Pincers of animal are also white with black tips and separate black spots. Swimming legs are red on tips: when crab swims near the shelter, their movement involves fishes wishing to be cleared of parasites.
Obviously, first time only young growth of any reef species of swimming crabs rendered cleaning service to fishes, attacking parasites of large fishes, as if the prey. They were too small to be prey of large fishes, but near to them the constant protection had been provided. This vital strategy appeared favourable: adult grooming crab, actually, eats food of animal origin, gathering it from bodies of fishes, being well protected – its behaviour combined with bright colouring became a signal of lowering of aggression for fishes.
Each grooming crab has the certain territory on reef zealously protecting from congeners. As a rule, the best possession is one having any object seen from apart – group of sponges, stone or mollusk shell. But near to them the shelter is necessary located, in which crab hides in case of danger.
The crab constantly lives at its own territory. Only male can leave the possession in searches of females ready to pairing. But in this case there is a danger that it may find at the territory any stranger lodged there during its absence. Usually such ones are “tramps” – small crabs not having constant territory and eating casual food. Such animals are weaker in comparison with “thrifty” crabs – they strongly concede to them in growth. To banish such animals is easy for the male of grooming crab. Females of this species are larger and more aggressive, rather than males, therefore their territory becoomes free only owing to death of the animal.
The female lays some thousand eggs from which in three weeks tiny young growth bursts. Young animals spend about two weeks in plankton above reeves, and then fall on bottom and pass to habit of life characteristic of adult individuals. Young crabs are transparent with several black spots on sides. They clean of parasites shrimps and small fishes. Approximately at one-year-old age young crab is able to breed.
On reeves of Pacific Ocean grooming crab has imitator from among fishes – the impostor boxfish. This fish imitates colouring of crab, but does not render cleaner services to fishes. But being attacked this boxfish emits a jet of poisonous liquid. Such way of protection benefits not only to it, but also to grooming crab which is also not attacking by predatory fishes.

Crystal swimming crab (Crystallonectes crystallinus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Swimming crabs (Portunidae)

Habitat: Indian and Pacific oceans, thickness of water.
In early Neocene many ecological niches of plankton organisms appeared empty after mass extinction of plankton caused by natural accidents at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. But the biosphere as a whole has one remarkable property: ecosystems develop to the way of maximal use of resources given by environment. Therefore right after extinction of plankton organisms of Holocene epoch the thickness of water began to be settled again.
Among new representatives of plankton crustaceans are especially characteristic. Except for myzids, scuds and shrimps, even crabs had appeared in plankton. Representatives of swimming crabs family were one of first invaders of thickness of water. In Neocene they had generated even the separate family which has kept neotenic features. But in parallel to them in the ocean there are also descendants of the basic branch – true swimming crabs of specialized species. Benthic swimming crabs were predators, and they still live on reeves. And pelagic swimming crabs became predators of plankton.
The crystal swimming crab is one of predatory pelagic crabs. By features of anatomy this animal is very close to representatives of family Infantoportunidae. It is the descendant of crabs actually became transitive forms between families Portunidae and Infantoportunidae. Independently of true Infantoportunidae it had got similar adaptations to life in plankton.
Body of this crustacean is transparent, flattened, about 4 cm long and about 5 cm width. For simplification of soaring in water two long spikes on each side of body serve to crystal swimming crab. They are slightly bent back and covered from back edge with the bristles increasing a surface of shell.
Walking legs of first three pairs are short and thin, reduced up to small hooks keeping segmentation. They can not serve for walking any more, and animal uses them only for catch keeping. At males legs of third pair are larger, rather than at females. They are a little similar to trapping legs of soothsayer, and on their internal side small jags are advanced. Such legs of the male help it to keep the female at pairing. In rest they are fold at the bottom side of crab body and pressed to pleon to not prevent to swimming. The male differs from the female a little: it is smaller, but has larger pincers. For pairing the male tries to swim up to the female behind and to seize it by third pair of walking legs. It avoids so an attack from the part of female – at this species the cannibalism is usual.
Back pair of legs serves for active swimming as at all swimming crabs. They are flattened, and the terminal segment is expanded and supplemented with folding hairs along the edge. When crab pushes by legs, they unbend, strengthening the effectiveness of the rowing.
At crystal swimming crab there are flat and wide pincers. When it is swimming, pincers serve as rudders of depth and turn, permitting to change fast the direction of movement. Hunting small animals, this crab is able to make sharp rushes and turns on the spot. Also it is very important for predator to have well advanced sense organs. This crab distinguishes prey and danger with the help of sight. At it there are large shining eyes numbering numerous facets. Due to such feature of eyes crystal swimming crab is able to distinguish slightest movements around of itself. Short antennae of this crustacean are feather-like – they help to catch a smell of prey.
Prey of the crystal swimming crab includes others plankton animal – worms, jellyfishes and fish fry. Usually this crustacean passively soars in thickness of water, having stretched pincers and legs in sides. Having noticed catch, animal instantly turns to the condition of “alertness”: it folds pincers in front of itself and presses walking legs to pleon. When catch is too small, crab simply waits while it will approach nearer to it. But it can chase large catch at the distance of several meters, that it very long for so small creature.
Fertility of plankton animals usually reaches astronomical scopes. But survival rate of their posterity is parts of one per cent. At crystal swimming crab it is, on the contrary, rather small: no more than 200 – 300 eggs. But it is compensated by care of posterity. Youngs of this species are tiny copies of parents about 3 mm long. The posterity of this crab keeps for a long time on the carapace of the female – till one week. For this time young crabs have time to pass through two molts. Swimming legs of young crystal swimming crabs are modified to suckers and serve for the attachment to the female. Their pincers also are not similar to pincers of adult crab: they are thin and serve for grab of food particles from water. The larvae of this species feed on rests of female’s catch. The female bearing posterity eats catch not the same mode, as the male or the female without posterity does it: it does not tear off pieces, but chews the caught prey and does not swallow it. Particles of food get in water, and the posterity catches them. Till the bearing of young growth the female eats a little and prefers to swim slowly to keep offsprings on its back. After the second molt swimming legs of young crabs of this species get the shape characteristic for them, and they abandon mother ready to independent life. At the age of four months they reach the size of adult crab and start to breed. Life expectancy of crystal swimming crab does not exceed two years.

Bloodsucker crab (Infantoportunus sanguisugus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Infantoportunids (Infantoportunidae)

Habitat: Indian and Pacific oceans, from moderate up to tropical latitudes of both hemispheres, the parasite of pelagic animals.
In the process of evolution it happens, that the new group of live organisms occurs from representatives of one of already existing groups by the evolution of larval stage. The larva as if “replaces” an adult stage, getting ability to breeding. This process occured independently at different live organisms not related to each other. In Neocene by such way the separate family of crabs – Infantoportunidae family – evolved from swimming crabs (Portunidae). Larval stage began prevailing at them, and even adult crabs keep some larval features. The most appreciable attribute of these animals is flattened body with transparent shell through which internal organs are visible.
Swimming crabs during the history were active predators. Small fishes and various invertebrates were their catch. Specialization to predating at infantoportunids was developed even deeper – some of their species passed to parasitic habit of life at all. Jaws of these crustaceans had changed: they became narrow and long. During the feeding of the animal they form a kind of pointed proboscis which length at some species can exceed width of carapace of the animal. Predatory infantoportunids catch small animals by pincers and suck them out.
The bloodsucker crab is the least specialized to pelagic way of life species of family. It lives in sea shallow waters and sucks blood of various fishes. This is rather small translucent crustacean with the advanced swimming legs and disc-shaped body. The own colouring of crab is greenish, dark liver and intestines with food appear through the shell. Width of carapace of the bloodsucker crab is about 6 – 7 cm. Walking legs at this species are very small and weak, turned to similarity of hooks. Pincers of this crab are also thin and lengthened. Swimming legs (last pair of walking legs) are very well advanced – with their help the bloodsucker crab is able to swim quickly, chasing fishes.
At the bloodsucker crab sense organs are well advanced. At it there are large eyes and good sight, and also there is the keen sense of smell by which it is guided in search of animals on which it eats. This crustacean eats exclusively blood of fishes. Having noticed the school of fishes, hungry bloodsucker crab hides, and attacks when they appear near to it. This animal is able to swim quickly, sharply changing the direction of movement; therefore not any fish can catch it. But the crab easily reaches the chosen fish, especially when on its body there are small wounds – the smell of blood strongly attracts this animal.
Bloodsucker crab attaches to wounded areas of fish body, and when the fish is not wounded, it prefers to perch behind a head, near gills. Having chosen by smell the suitable place, crab finds blood vessel and sticks proboscis in skin of fish. When the animal is hungry, it is almost not visible on skin of fish because of translucent body. But when the crab starts to be sated, the exhausted blood of fish appears visible through its intestines. Due to elasticity of shell the crab can suck blood in quantity up to 50 % of its body weight. The full animal unhooks from fish, and tries to hide itself at sea-bottom. Hiding from enemies, crab can be dug in sand, raking it on itself by back legs.
Bloodsucker crabs breed the year round. The male at this species is much smaller than female, and also leads more active habit of life. Females of bloodsucker crabs live at the certain territory and come back to it after the attack on fish. Males have no constant territory: they wander in shallow waters, searching for females ready to fertilisation.
Fertility of the female of bloodsucker crab is about 500 large eggs. Egg-laying repeats each 2 months. Eggs are left with floating pelagic larvae which will spend in plankton over three months. In plankton they are active predators also attacking mainly young growth of fishes. The young bloodsucker crab settles on bottom, being about 2 cm long, and gradually passes to parasitic way of life.
The species close to the bloodsucker crab, jellyfish pilferer (Infantoportunus medusivorus), has lodged in open ocean. It is small species of crustaceans - width of its shell is usually no more than 4 cm, and the length is even less. Walking legs at this animal are reduced up to thin hooks, and on the bottom side of swimming legs suckers develop. This crustacean lives and eats on jellyfishes. The crab sits on the cupola of the jellyfish from above, avoiding touches of poisonous tentacles. On one jellyfish one female of this species lives always, and all noted characteristics of species concern to it. Males of jellyfish pilferer sharply differ from females: they are animals not exceeding 1 cm length. The male actually represents the larva with developed sexual glands. Covers of body at it are transparent, and the body is short and also very much extended in width. It lives on the female in her branchial cavity, and eats blood of female, piercing its covers. Actually, the male parasitizes on the female. Its contribution to breeding is limited to that it regularly lays spermatophores to sexual apertures of female. In the rest time male is completely motionless. His walking legs are reduced, only former swimming legs (back pair of walking legs) modified in suckers are advanced. In connection with parasitic habit of life the sight of jellyfish pilferer is very weak – in each eye there is at all about one hundred facettes. But at it the sense of smell permitting this crab to search the host animal is perfectly advanced.
At jellyfish pilferer there is the sharp proboscis reaching 10 cm length. It is almost constantly dipped in body of jellyfish on which this animal lives. The proboscis of jellyfish pilferer pierces covers of the jellyfish and reaches its digestive cavity. The crustacean eats only animals semidigested by jellyfish.
The female of jellyfish pilferer lays hundreds of eggs per one week. From them small pelagic larvae having no sex hatch. First days of life they are predators, and attack pelagic crustaceans. Further larvae search for young jellyfishes and settle on their bodies. On the jellyfish larva transforms to young crab, and the pointed proboscis develops at it. Such larvae turn to females. Having settled on the female, larva turns to the male.
If the jellyfish perishes, the female of jellyfish pilferer moves to other jellyfishes – it is able to swim and can spend any time in thickness of water, expecting for new host jellyfish.

Gill-sucking crab (Branchioportunus parasiticus)
Order: Decapods (Decapoda)
Family: Infantoportunids (Infantoportunidae)

Habitat: Pacific Ocean, from equator up to Subantarctic.
In Neocene crabs of swimming crabs family (Portunidae) distinguished by active predating way of life had made the attempt to develop the pelagic habit of life among many groups of coastal sea animals. They had successfully realized the opportunity received during the global changes in biosphere and had formed the separate family of crabs Infantoportunidae distinguished by preservation of some juvenile features in adult condition. Representatives of Infantoportunidae are adapted to inhabiting in thickness of water where their whole life cycle passes.
Representatives of new family had actively started to evolve, developing various ways of food getting. They became numerous predators of plankton, and some species passed to parasitic habit of life. One species of infantoportunids is feeding, exhausting contents of gastral cavity of jellyfishes. And its relative, the gill-sucking crab, had passed to parasitism at vertebrate animals. It lives on gills of sailerfish – very large pelagic fish of southern part of Pacific Ocean.
Similarly to the majority of specialized parasitic species of animals this crab had undergone the deep degeneration in comparison with ancestors. The adult individual of the branchial crab female is about 2 cm long, and the male is even smaller. Body of this animal it very thin and translucent; its bottom side is flat and top is slightly convex. Walking legs at the female of branchial crab are strongly reduced and modified to hooks with which the animal keeps for branchial arch of fish. For additional fixing suckers serve to branchial crab: they are modified terminal blades of back legs used for swimming earlier. The adult female of branchial crab almost constantly keeps motionlessly on gills of fish, and is unhooked from it only for the period of molt. Sometimes the animal can slowly creep from one site of gills to another, moving suckers alternately. Males of this species are much more active, rather than females – they are able to creep on branchial arches of fish, fertilizing females. At them walking legs are more advanced. Among males living on gills of the same fish, battles may happen, resulting in death of one of them – strongest male kills all weaker ones and privately-owned fertilizes females living on gills. Sometimes in population there are hermaphrodites able to fertilize each other (self-fertilisation does not take place).
Mouth organs of branchial crab are modified to pointed proboscis with which help animal is feeding. In adult condition branchial crab is able to eat only liquid food – blood of fishes.
In connection with almost motionless habit of life the adult crab has degeneration of all sense organs. Only the chemical feeling and touch appear more or less advanced at adult individual. Till the process of growth at branchial crab eye reduce.
The female of branchial crab lays weekly about some hundreds eggs. After 2 – 3 days from them tiny plankton larvae burst leading the predating habit of life. They attack mainly spineless invertebrates. After 5 – 6 molts (at the age of approximately 2 months) young animal should get on host fish, otherwise death threatens to it. The young branchial crab does not search for the host fish: it finds the crab itself. The animal gets in mouth of fish during its feeding: when sailerfish is swimming in congestion of plankton with widely opened mouth, young crabs sediment on its gills and attach to them. First time they keep features of diet of young animal – eat plankton sedimenting on gills of sailerfish. But after each new molt the developing branchial crab loses more and more attributes of freely living animal – at it legs shorten, suckers develop and eyes reduce. When pincers of animal reduce so that crab could not gather plankton animals sedimented on gills of fish, it passes to feeding exclusively on blood of fish.

Velvet worms

Velvet poison-bearer (Venenophorus holosericum)
Order: Euonychophora (Euonychophora)
Family: Diverse-legged peripatopsids (Heteroperipatopsidae)

Habitat: north of Meganesia, rainforests.

Picture by FanboyPhilosopher

In the age of people there lived in New Guinea the Onychophora family of peripatopsids, which was characterized by reproduction by egg-laying. Their Neocenic descendants form a seperate family of diverse-legged peripatopsids, which is characterized by uneven development and the specialization of glue glands. One of the two glue glands (the left) has become a poisonous gland emitting a powerful nerve poison of viscous consistency, while the right one remains a “glue gun” as at ancestral forms. The walking legs of diverse-legged peripatopsids have also undergone some changes, differing from the legs of ancestral forms that retain approximately the same structure along the entire length of the body. The two pairs of front legs of these animals were drawn together; they are elongate and grasping. In a calm state, they convolve into a spiral and are not involved in movement. The front part of the body when moving is slightly raised above the substrate.
These strange creatures move in two ways: by contractions of their dermomuscular tube (for hunting grubs in the soil) or by folding up like a leech or inchworm, when hunting for termites on the bark of trees. Following the hunting legs are two pairs of legs which have become very powerful and tenacious, their tips developing into corneous claws. These legs form the front “attachment disk.” Several pairs of legs, following the front walking ones, are reduced, and next to them lung sacs appear. The last 4 pairs of legs had also undergone specialization: the last pair of legs became a cutting scoop, the penultimate were lengthened and turned into a kind of antennae, and the remaining two pairs of legs formed the rear attachment disk and gained strong claws.
The body length of the velvet poison-bearer reaches 10 cm. This animal looks like the caterpillar of some butterflies, but differs from them in its manner of movement. The underside of the animal is creamy white, and the top is red with a violet hue. The animal leads a nocturnal life and is only found in the day time in wet weather, after a rain.
In case of danger the velvet poison-bearer lifts up the front part of its body, spreading its trapping limbs and moving them in the air. In this case, the white body is visible in the low light of night. If this warning does not force the enemy to retreat, the animal splashes onto it a jet of poison, determining the direction of the “shot” by smell and movement in the air. This poison is very dangerous for animals with thin skin: predatory snails, amphibians, and small reptiles. Prolonged exposure to the poison can kill terrestrial arthropods (ingested into the body through the trachea or cuticles in the joints of the legs). For larger reptiles with thick scales, birds, or mammals the poison is dangerous if it gets into the eyes, nostrils, or mouth.
In the forests of northern Meganesia a close species lives: the drill poison-bearer (Venenophorus militaris), which behaves differently: it is a social species, forming clusters of a few dozen individuals. The body length of this species is much less: no more than 4 cm. Its body is colored a pale pearlescent pink. Drill poison-bearers creep in “caravans”, as some caterpillars of butterflies, keeping track of a creeping individual in front. Termites represent their main prey. These velvet worms look for the termite trails in the undergrowth, and their perianal scrapers break through the roof of the gallery and they begin to hunt for termite workers. If they are attacked by soldier termites, the animals glue their legs with sprays of glue and eat the immobilized insects. Also, these animals are not afraid of ants and often feed near their trails. The drill poison-bearer’s sticky liquid is used for primitive forms of construction: they often make a shelter, sticking to the ground the leaf of a plant, or rolling it in half with the underside on the inside. This shelter always provides the optimum microclimate.

This species of invertebrate was discovered by Korshin D.E., a member of the forum.
Translated by FanboyPhilosopher

Mollusks


Shore melania (Paludimelanoides subterrestris)
Order: Sorbeoconcha(Sorbeoconcha)
Family: Melanias (Melaniidae)

Habitat: rainforests and swamps of Zinj Land.
Earthworms are fairly named as “guts of the ground”: their role in soil formation processes is really irreplaceable. But they live not everywhere: worms avoid damp marsh soils. And in such biotopes of the Eastern - African subcontinent they are replaced by other digging animal: shore melania, the representative of gastropods. This species have evolved from one of species of melania snails (Melanoides), widely settled in tropical fresh and brackish waters. These snails spend a lot of time digging in ground, therefore they needed only few changes to pass to life in damp marsh ground.
Shore melania is digging snail about 4 cm long. At it there is strong conic shell – the main ground digging instrument. Coils of shell are covered with cross lines of limy knobs, that’s why shell is similar to drill (and it works approximately like it). Shell color is grey with cross brown strips. Knobs on shell are quickly erased; therefore they frequently look as white dulled hillocks. The creeping sole of snail can extend and compress, extend forward and contract sharply - this organ helps snail to bore ground. In friable ground snail digs burrows, pushing aside and ramming ground by shell. And in more dense ground it works differently: snail pushes creeping sole far forward between clods of grounds, and then sharply contracts it, tightening shell forward and simultaneously moving apart the ground. For protection against enemies the thick corneous operculum closing fauces serves to snail.
The head of shore melania is extended to long proboscis assisting to snail to get food from narrow cracks in ground. Shore melania eats parts of plants begun to rot, but sometimes it also eats soft tips of live roots. Shore melania plays the important role in biocenoses of swamps and flooded rainforests: boring damp marsh and wood ground, it improves conditions for growth of plant roots.
At night snail creeps out on surface of ground in searches of rests of plants, hiding in holes in day time. As well as its ancestors, shore melania is live-bearing animal. This snail is hermaphrodite, therefore two any individuals may mutually fertilize each other. Young snails develop in pallium cavity of parental individual within one week. Completely generated little snail about 2 - 3 millimeters long is born under ground and at once lives independently. At it there is rather strong shell, but nevertheless the young growth frequently becomes prey of soil mites and small beetles.

Poisonous orb snail (Paraplanorbis virosus)
Order: Basommatophora
Family: Orb snails (Planorbidae)

Habitat: fresh waters of Europe.
Pulmonate molluscs are widespread in fresh waters of the world. The epoch of anthropogenic pressure passed completely unnoticeably for many kinds of these animals – the ability to live in polluted waters made it possible for many species to keep a sufficient number of populations and vast area.
After the end of the human era in several tens of thousands of years all pollutants became completely decomposed or they got to be buried under the deposits. The freshwater bodies became clean and the snails continued their normal existence. The majority of species of aquatic snails developed no new features in comparison with their ancestors: their habitat and their way of life proved to be rather conservative, and the stabilizing selection kept the aquatic snails as completely recognizable ones even the millions years after the human disappearance. But nevertheless, among them species having no analogs in human epoch evolved.
In the fresh waters of Europe rather large species of orb snails lives. The diameter of its flat-spiral shell reaches 35 – 40 mm. The coloration of this snail is quite distinct against the background of the surrounding aquatic plants and is very garish – broad black bands stretch on light yellow background along the turns of shell. The body of mollusc is black. An animal that will decide to attack this snail can suffer seriously. This species is completely justified in being named a poisonous orb snail – a strong poison is accumulated in the body of this mollusc, and its coloration serves as warning for the predators.
The poisonous orb snail independently produces only a part of its poison. This mollusc obtains a large part of its poisonous substances from its food: the poisonous orb snail feeds on the poisonous water plants of Alismataceae family, and also on the poisonous marshy plants of the Apiaceae family. The alkaloids from the plants are accumulated in a special gland, which opens into the mantle cavity of mollusc. Having sensed an approach of carnivorous worms (leeches, planarians) or insect larvae, poisonous orb snail emits into the water a portion of its accumulated poison and then hides into the shell, tightly adhering to the substratum. Spreading through water, the poison frightens away the snail’s enemies. This snail is also poisonous for the fishes – a part of the alkaloids is accumulated in the musculature, giving this snail a bitter taste.
Like the majority of the related species, poisonous orb snail is a hermaphrodite. This species is not capable of the self-fertilization, and for successful reproduction a mating of two individuals is necessary. In the rare cases, in the rarefied populations of this species that are located at the edges of species area, separate individuals develop the ability of parthenogenesis: their unfertilized eggs double their number of chromosomes to the diploid while still in the oviduct of their parent, and further on, when laid, they begin division and develop into normal embryos. This snail glues flat slimy batches of eggs to plant leaves, making up to twenty batches of eggs during the season. The young snails have dim coloured shells: they do not have a poison in their bodies, and they are vulnerable to predators. The young snails accumulate a quantity of poison sufficient for the self-defence later on, and a large number of the young snails perishes from the aquatic predators. The sexual maturity of the young snails begins at the age of two months, and the lifespan reaches three to four years.

Translated by Bhut, the forum member.

Reed-eating pond snail (Galba calamivora)
Order: Basommatophora (Basommatophora)
Family: Pond snails (Lymnaeidae)

Habitat: Eurasia from the Three Rivers Land through Siberia to the rivers of the Far East
The Neocene is the time of appearance in nature of new, and often unusual species. But, alongside them, many species of the living organisms exist, that are almost unremarkable. However, this circumstance does not understate the role they play in the ecosystems of Neocene epoch.
The high stems of reeds, cane and macereed form extensive thickets in the shoals of rivers and lakes of Eurasia. Here the large animals feed, which have the adaptations that make it possible to digest this rough and fibrous food. But alongside them the whole world of small creatures dwells, and they are also adapted to feed on such sort of plants. The insects gnaw throug the soft core of stems or drill through the rhizomes of the plants, slowing their growth. And on the edge of thickets the stems of these plants lean down to the water, chewed at their very bases. These are the traces of feeding of another species of herbivorous animal – the reed-eating pond snail, a representative of the pulmonate molluscs.
This aquatic snail is one of the basic species in the freshwater reservoirs. The appearance of reed-eating pond snail has changed rather little in comparison with its ancestors of the human epoch. This is a descendant of the pond snail Galba truncatula, a common species of Eurasia. Because of their unpretentiousity pond snails did not suffer from human activity. They successfully inhabited polluted reservoirs, gaining an advantage over the more sensitive species.
The reed-eating pond snail is well adapted to feed on the tough, fibrous stems of aquatic plants. It feeds exclusively on the stems of the reeds and other coastal plants, without competing with the other gastropods, which prefer algal cover or the greenery of softer plants.
The length of the shell of this species is up to 40 mm. The shell of this species is short-ened and slightly flattened, with blunted top; in its shape it is a transitional type to the planispiral shell like shells of orb snails, but currently with a definite top. In a transverse shear it appears to be rather oval in shape, excluding the increased last turn, where the lung of the mollusc is located. The surface of shell has pattern of brown spots against a yellowish background, and the soft body of the mollusc is yellowish-grey. On the head of this pond snail there is a pair of blunted conical tentacles with two small eyes at their base.
The reed-eating pond snail feeds constantly, interrupting only to creep to the surface from under the water to breath air. The air amount in its lung in enough to stay under water for approximately 45 minutes. This mollusc can digest the toughest parts of the reed stems – its digestive path produces enzyme, which helps to decompose the cellulose that contained in it. The guarantee of success of this mollusc is its strong radula (“tongue”), at the tip of which large corneous teeth grow, helping it to scrape the rigid plant fibres. Each motion of radula cuts off a layer of plant tissue in common with the fibres. This species feeds under water, gnawing the stems at their bases. Among the thickets such stem is simply immersed in the water due to its own gravity, keeping its vertical position, and the snail continues to eat it up from below, until only the top remains. At the edge of thickets such stems frequently fall into the water and are carried away by the flow.
This species is hermaphroditic like its ancestor. The reed-eating pond snail lays eggs from May to the middle of September. The break between the egg laying is about 3 – 4 days. The snail lays 10 to 15 eggs at the same time, enclosed in slime capsule. Small snails hatch after a week. They rapidly grow and reach sexual maturity at the age of 1.5 months. The reed-eating pond snails live for about 2 years.

This species of molluscs is discovered by Nick, the forum member.
Translated by Bhut, the forum member.

Hawaiian bird-eating snail (Horrohelix ovisuga)
Order: Stylommatophors (Stylommatophora)
Family: Spiraxids (Spiraxidae)

Habitat: Hawaiian islands, rainforests of hillsides and valleys.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

In human epoch at Hawaiian Islands the set of ground snails had lived. They formed tens of various species distinguished by shell coloring. But their prosperity had ended when people had introduced from Africa the huge snail achatina (Achatina fulica). This mollusk multiplied, and became the agriculture pest. And as biological measures of struggle from Florida predatory snail Euglandina rosea (Rosy Wolfsnail) had been introduced. In common with collectors shells it had exterminated a plenty of endemic local species of snails, but not introduced achatina. Due to continental “training” and rather soft climate of Hawaii till the epoch of biosphere crisis it had successfully gone through climatic cataclysms of the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. The Hawaiian bird-eating snail is its lineal descendant.
It is rather large mollusk – shell length is about 15 cm, weight of adult snail is approximately 400 grams. Shell of animal is egg-shaped with the blunt tip and wide fauces; last curl of it is the biggest. The shell is colored very floridly and brightly: red - brown with pattern of black strips of different width stretched along curls.
Body of bird-eating snail is long; its forward part is flexible and head is rather small. Covers of bird-eating snail have mesh pattern: dark red gauze on pinkish background. On head there are two pairs of feelers; on long feelers (“hornet”) eyes are placed, and another pair grows near the mouth.
This mollusk lives in forests and is rather mobile: the snail easily gets on trees and creeps on branches in searches of food.
The Hawaiian bird-eating snail has completely kept, and even has strengthened the injurious bents inherent in its ancestor. It eats various ground mollusks, and attacks small vertebrate animals: it sucks bird eggs and even eats nestlings. Sight sense of this mollusk is bad; therefore it is not able to track down catch, as a cat. But sharp sense of smell helps this animal to find nest with eggs or nestlings. Having found out a clutch of any bird, this snail bites through eggshell by radula, and licks contents of egg. Then it bites edges of the bore, expanding it, and thrusts head inside of shell. It takes about twenty minutes to eat one egg by size like pigeon’s one at this snail. Feeding by eggs is especially important during growth of mollusk: this way the snail fills up stocks of calcium necessary for shell forming.
Bird-eating snails are hermaphrodites, and also breed the year round. Before egg laying the animal feels need for protein food, and much more willingly eats various invertebrates and nestlings of small birds. The saliva of this snail has paralyzing properties, therefore the animal bitten by it any more cannot escape by flight.
When snail has received enough protein food, in its organism development of eggs begins. In oviduct the cocoon containing about hundred of rather large eggs is formed. The snail hides it in wood ground between roots of trees. For one year it can make up to ten such clutches. In two weeks from cocoon young snails hatch. They eat small insects, and at the age of about one year their shell reaches size about 10 cm. Further growth of snail is slowed down, but it starts to breed.
Despite of successful existence in ecosystem of Hawaiian Islands, this mollusk has many enemies. Ground crabs easily break open with pincers shells of these snails, and some birds have adapted to eat various ground snails including this species.

Ant snail (Myrmiachatina melanoleuca)
Order: Stylommatophors (Stylommatophora)
Family: Achatinids (Achatinidae)

Habitat: tropical woods of Hawaiian islands, ant hills.
Social insects are representatives of two absolutely not related orders: hymenopters (ants) and termites. Both those insects differ in various degrees of development of building art, but always live in colonies with complex system of hierarchy and castes. Any aggressor solved to attack settlements of these insects, takes the risk to receive serious repulse from insects of soldier caste, and can perish easily.
But despite of real danger which is represented by these insects for other live creatures solved to penetrate into their dwelling, constructions of both groups of insects became a habitat for set of species of other animals - from smallest insects up to lizards. To escape in society of these well armed insects, other invertebrates develop smart methods of interaction with owners of dwelling. Some of them are very cautious, and whenever possible try to slip away from owners of dwelling, others camouflage to look like lawful owners of dwelling by smell and appearance. But the most widespread way of interaction is to become “friends” of armed insects and to provide to itself safety by that at life side by side with them. The simplest way of this interaction is to produce substances which ants or termites like. In nests of these insects it is possible to find, for example, beetles and strange wingless flies secreting substances liking to ants. For the sake of sweet secretions ants carefully preserve, and even “breed” plant lice, protecting them and sometimes constructing shelters above them. For the same purpose ants take care to caterpillars of hairstreak butterflies (Lycaenidae family) which inconsiderately devour their own posterity. In historical epoch ants represented an alien component of fauna on Hawaiian islands, but to Neocene descendants of first introduced species became a part of the ecosystem formed on islands, and some other animals began to “search for friendship” at these well protected insects. Among them there was even one species of local ground snails had lodged near to ant hills.
Hawaiian ant snail is rather small species of gastropods: diameter of its shell does not exceed 5 cm. Certainly, it looks large in comparison with the majority of snails known to humans, but much larger giant African snail (Achatina fulica) introduced to Hawaii had been its ancestor - the shell length of this giant reached 15 cm. For millions years of natural selection smaller individuals of ancestral forms of this snail survived, and gradually it had turned to the dwarf.
At ant snail there is not bright, but contrast black-and-white shell colouring forming striped pattern - at various individuals the ratio of black and white colors varies, and striped pattern is individual. The body of snail is covered with an epithelium of yellowish color.
The ant snail uses protection of ants because it secrets slime which involves ants with taste and smell. Special glands specially intended for this purpose are advanced on edges of mollusk’s creeping sole and marked by black points. Insects thirsting for secretions, gather around the snail, and tickle it by antennae. Replying to their action, the ant snail emits a portion of slime, continuing feeding. These mollusks keep near settlements of some local species of ants, expecting upon their “protection”.
This snail uses not only protection of ants, but also feed near to ant hills. It eats not only plants, but also insects brought by ants in colony. It eats even dead ants from colony which protects it.
The only time when it must leave a colony is the time of breeding. These snails are hermaphrodites, and two any individuals can mutually fertilize each other. When in organism of snail eggs ripen, it finds a secluded place away from tracks of ants, and hides in wood litter about hundred of small transparent eggs. In 2 weeks from them the posterity hatches.
Young ant snails have no glands developing a liquid which involves ants. Therefore they keep in thickets of grasses and on the bottom side of leaves. Later, when shell diameter of snail reaches about 15 mm, these glands develop, and snails find a colony of ants. It happens that some ants search for these snails, and specially drag them to their dwelling.

Garlic snail (Scorodonodora foetidissima)
Order: Stylommatophora (Stylommatophora)
Family: Ground snails (Helicidae)

Habitat: New Zealand, forests and bush of Northern Island.

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

The appearing of mammals in New Zealand is the new factor for endemic flora and fauna existed without them within millions years. Animals introduced by people had changed the direction of evolution of ecosystems of archipelago. Occurrence of various small mammals had caused the reduction of number of large invertebrates endemic for these islands. Many species kept by people in captivity, in reserves and nurseries, had quickly vanished after human extinction, superseded by descendants of introduced species. But some species of large invertebrates managed to survive – at them new protective adaptations had appeared, permitting to resist to new neighbours.
Snails in most cases survived due to high breeding rate and passive protection – strong twisted shell. Some species of snails became poisonous, and it also raised probability of their survival. In human epoch small insectivorous mammals had appeared in New Zealand, and as the answer, at the lot of species of ground snails effective chemical protection against them had formed.
The large snail with very appreciable white shell lives in forests of New Zealand. Coils of shell are covered with longitudinal black dabs, and such colouring is well appreciable from apart on the background of grass or forest litter. But bright appearance is a part of protection of snail. If any animal disturbs this mollusk, snail emits the unpleasant garlic smell which is frightening off the aggressor. For this feature it has received the name “garlic snail”. But protection of snail is not limited by smell: if the predator does not stop the attack, snail secrets the caustic and sticky liquid sharply smelling as garlic. In air this liquid thickens and it is very difficult to deliver from it. Therefore garlic snail is not afraid of attacks of small and medium-sized predators at all.
Garlic snail almost does not differ in appearance from other ground snails from other parts of the world. At it there are shorter tentacles on head and wide oral blades plentifully covered with receptors, allowing to find out even such catch, which is hidden in ground at the depth of about 10 cm. Garlic snail is the omnivorous mollusk with a bias in predating. It willingly eats delicate greenery of ferns and other plants, and also mushrooms. This snail also eats any food of animal origin, which it manages to find. But its special food predilection includes various ground invertebrates and carrion. Hunting for ground animals demands the special receptions which this snail owns. Similarly to police dog, it finds with the help of keen sense of smell worm or grub digging not deep in ground. Having defined the location of prey, snail plunges head in ground, and starts to dig a tunnel of prey. Thus the head of snail works similarly to body of earthworm – with the help of contraction of muscles it is extended and forces the way forward; when the snail contracts muscles of back part of body, head expands the hole.
Having reached the body of prey, snail uses the deadly weapon. In its mouth there in fleshy tongue – it is the radula armed with several pointed teeth. Teeth of garlic snail are similar to knifes: they lack of poison, but easily cut the body of prey. Snail devours catch, not pulling it out from ground.
Similarly to the majority of ground snails, garlic snail is the hermaphrodite. It lays large eggs in small portions, digging them in friable ground between roots of trees where probability of egg founding or damage is less. For this purpose snail digs by head small holes in ground the same way, as at hunting, and digs them out after egg laying. Egg laying repeats every 7 – 8 days; the incubating of clutch lasts about 2 weeks. Young snails at once lead predatory habit of life and can emit caustic odorous substance. At first they eat very small invertebrates – soft insects and small worms. They reach the size of adult snail at the age of one year, and can live up to 5 years.

Hissing slug (Virolimax stridor)
Order: Stylommatophors (Stylommatophora)
Family: Slugs (Limacidae)

Picture by Alexander Smyslov

Habitat: humid forests of temperate and subtropical zones of Pacific coast of North America.
At the narrow strip between Rocky Mountains and Pacific coast of North America in Neocene there were conditions favorable for growth of deciduous forests of special type, so-called “moss forests”. In such forests there are favorable conditions for growth of moistureloving plants and life of moistureloving animals – amphibians and terrestrial mollusks. In warm Neocene climate some invertebrates evolved to original and remarkable species. Large and brightly colored species of slugs named hissing slug is very characteristic for moss forests.
It is herbivorous species of shell-less gastropods. The length of its spindle-shaped body reaches 10 cm. Such large invertebrates frequently appear very vulnerable for various predators – birds, reptiles and amphibians. But hissing slug protects against them with the help of strong poison which is accumulating in slime covering its body. At this mollusk bright warning colouring was developed – it is black with longitudinal rusty-red strip on each side of the body. Disturbed hissing slug additionally displays its self-protecting with the help of some features of behaviour. At danger it starts to swallow air and inflates body. At this moment bright colouring of its covers becomes especially appreciable - at puffed up slug the forward part of the body becomes similar to small bubble. On body covers at this moment large drops of poisonous slime are secreted. Puffed slug moves head, displaying warning colouring to aggressor. When the enemy recedes, mollusk starts to blow off, letting air out from the mouth. Thus it hisses and even whistles loudly enough. Such sounds in addition frighten off from it small predators from among vertebrates.
Hissing slug is peaceful vegetarian; this one eats moss and mushrooms. And it eats poisonous mushrooms without harm for itself, and uses their poison for self-defense – poisons of mushrooms (muscarine and even more poisonous amanitine) secret plentifully in slime of disturbed mollusk. This slug keeps mainly on the ground, among windfallen trees and large grassy plants.
Hissing slug is hermaphrodite (it is typical of the present group of mollusks). Sexual partners find each other by smell. Courtship ritual at this mollusk resembles a little ritual competition of snakes – two mollusks raise forward part of body and inflate it. They push each other by inflated bodies while one of partners will start to blow off, displaying its defeat. After that winner slug couples to it and creeps away on searches of new partner. But in case of loss in competition it also may be fertilized by other slug.
After fertilization slug lays transparent eggs similar to fish eggs in moss. In each clutch it is totaled up to 50 – 100 eggs which incubation lasts about ten days. Young slugs have no warning colouring and emit very small amount of poison. They lead secretive way of life and hide in moss. As they grow, they pass to feeding on mycelium of poisonous species of mushrooms and gradually start to eat their fruit bodies. Till the process of poison accumulation colouring of growing mollusks becomes brighter and they start to lead undisguised life.
Enemies of hissing slug are grubs of lighting bugs and other predatory insects eating young ones. Grubs of lighting bugs of advanced age can attack adult slugs. During sudden attack slug has not time to produce enough of poisonous substances, and insect can quietly eat it, having torn open body covers of mollusk.

Goblet-like false rudistes (Rudistoconcha ostreoides)
Order: Rudistokonchs (Rudistoconchomorpha)
Family: False rudists (Pseudorudistidae)

Habitat: reeves of tropical and subtropical zones of Pacific Ocean.
After extinction of reef-building corals their place in ecosystem of ocean was occupied by other animals. In tropical, and even in moderate waters of Neocene seas and oceans reeves, rich in life, have appeared again. But they are formed not by coelenterates. In tropical seas separate relic species of soft corals were kept, but at reeves of Neocene they play a supporting role. Perhaps, most important builders of Neocene reeves are bivalve mollusks. Having entered symbiotic relations with algae representatives, they have turned to amazing sedentary animals: their role at reeves of Neocene is comparable only to role of corals in earlier geological epoch.
Reeves of a Neocene are made by these mollusks, covered by goblet-like shell. In the top part such shell is closed by flat operculum. On surface of shell there are traces of annual increase as relief ring-formed belts are visible. According them, highest, meter tall shells reach, probably, age of centenary. But more often such big and old shells are almost completely overgrown by various sea inhabitants - sponges, worms and limy algae. Only uppermost, recently grown edge of shell is still rather clean. Its natural color is black, but numerous algae and sedentary animals will quickly hide it.
When the mollusk is disturbed with nothing, the operculum is slightly opened, and from under it two tubes of siphons and the whole fan of flat pinkish tentacles jut out. They spread under sun beams, as if leaves of plant. In crack between operculum and shell light pink body of animal is appreciable. From time to time, when small animals touch tentacles, they contract for shares of second, and then spread again. But when larger animal shows interest to them, all tentacles are instantly involved, and operculum densely slams.
This builder of reeves is goblet-like false rudistes, very big bivalve mollusk with shell valves of unequal size. In Mesozoic era rudists, large sedentary mollusks lived in sea, having had similar habit of life. But false rudistes is not their lineal descendant: it is the close relative of oysters (Ostrea), sedentary bivalve mollusks of Cenozoic era.
False rudists form very original reeves. Mollusks of various age form either “walls”, or dense congestions, in which animals are distributed at regular intervals in the big area. Mollusks frequently form dense joints on shells of older individuals.
In connection with motionless habit of life shell, and after it the body of false rudistes have strongly changed, having lost symmetry. The left valve of this mollusk adheres to substratum when soaring larva settles on bottom and finds favorable place for life. This valve is strongly curved - in it all body of mollusk settles down. It grows up along all edge, gradually extending and increasing in height. Right valve became flat – it serves as an operculum. The ligament between valves is reduced, due to what shell forms the characteristic goblet-like structure. When the larva of mollusk settles on inclined surface, shell gradually bends and directs up – at adult mollusk it grows strictly vertically.
The body of false rudistes is approximately in the top third of shell. Gills of animal from the right side of body (inverted upwards) are reduced, but gills from the left side have grown up, forming the accomplished filtration system occupying a significant part of pallial cavity. The filtering system of this mollusk works not only due to ciliar epithelium, but also is supplied with valves actively pumping over water through the left gill. These valves are formed by the edge of pallium turned to tube. When the mollusk is not disturbed, this tube juts out from shell and makes slow pulsing movements.
To be only filtrating organism is not so favorable, especially in congestions formed by false rudists. But mollusks have developed more progressive way of feeding due to which during evolution process they have occupied prevailing position on reef. At these animals at the edge of pallium there is set of tentacles (on right (top) valve they are short, on left (bottom) one much longer). In tentacles there is a main ally of these mollusks in struggle for existence – symbiotic red algae. Because of them feelers of false rudists have pinkish color. Red algae favorably differ from green and brown ones in their ability to lead photosynthesis at the greater depth because they are content basically with beams of blue and green part of spectrum, penetrating in water especially deeply. Therefore false rudists easily grow at the depth up to 15 meters, and separate individuals survive even at depth of 25 meters. Algae get into the body of young mollusk at the stage of spores (probably, some larvae may grasp them, soaring in plankton).
False rudists are hermaphrodites. In time of maximum high inflow they simultaneously spawn in water clouds of tiny eggs (up to 10 – 13 million ones from one adult mollusk) and sperm liquid. Larvae spend first 10 days of life in plankton, then settle to the surface of firm objects and turn to young mollusks. At the first year of life up to 60 % of all larvae perish, and to the end 5 - 6-th year of life only separate young mollusks from the generation remain. To this moment they reach height 4 - 5 cm at diameter up to 10 cm. Further at them active growth in height begins, and the 10-years old mollusk may reach height up to 20 cm at same diameter.
Longevity of these mollusks is too sizeable: the majority of adult mollusks easily live up to 100 years, and in lagoons of some islands there are even 170-years old “patriarchs”.

Limestone drill (Petroteredopsis calcareoterebra)
Order: Venerids (Venerida)
Family: Pholadids (Pholadidae)

Habitat: reeves of Indian and Pacific Ocean.
Reeves of Neocene epoch differ from Holocene ones. The basic reef-builders of Holocene reeves were corals. But at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene number of these coelenterates had appreciably decreased, and many species of corals had died out. In Neocene the role of reef-building organisms was partly undertaken with mollusks, worms and sponges. They form prolong solids of limestone, as against porous and lacy structures of Holocene coral reef. Such feature of Neocene reef favours to evolution of drilling forms of animals. On reeves even sedentary octopuses drilling holes in reef body had evolved. Activity of rock-boring organisms raises productivity of reef: many species of animals settle in their holes.
Bivalve mollusks inclined to formation of various sedentary and inactive lifeforms had succeeded in drilling of reef limestone. One of their species, living on reef, is named limestone drill. It forms numerous congestions at the reef, and area of limestone, drilled by these mollusks, turns similar to bee honeycombs. This large bivalve mollusk has convergent similarity with so-called shipworms, mollusks of close family Teredinidae drilled burrows in wood.
The shell of limestone drill is reduced up to two strong ridge limy plates on the forward end of body. It does not serve any more to this animal as protection, and is intended for limestone drilling. The body of this mollusk more than one meter long at thickness about 2 cm is covered with thin delicate skin of pinkish-white color. The pallium of limestone drill has grown together almost at all extent to original “case”, and opens only on the back end of worm-like body of mollusk. Right behind rudimentary shell on pallium there are some ring lines of corneous knobs, with which help mollusk moves in tunnel back and ahead. Pallium is “threaded” with longitudinal and ring muscular fiber, and also has mobility.
Limestone drill bores tunnels, using shell. Mollusk supports by corneous outgrowths against walls of hole, and starts to rotate shell from side to side. At the forward end of its body there are glands secreting weak solution of hydrochloric and acetic acids. Limestone is the carbonate easily dissolving even by weak acids. At influence of mollusk secretions it turns to products soluble in water, therefore limestone drill does not have problems with removal of dust. Secreting some surplus of acids, mollusk expands tunnel, dissolving a part of limestone on its walls. From time to time mollusk sharply contracts body some times, throwing out from tunnel water with products of reaction and small insoluble dust. The tunnel of limestone drill has the special form: in the top third (bored by mollusk at young age) it has S-shaped bent, forming ell protecting this animal against fishes with tweezers-like jaws, and against crustaceans.
Living in tunnels, this mollusk has kept a way of feeding characteristic for the relatives. Limestone drill feeds, continuously passing water through gills. Gills located at the forward end of body had practically lost respiration function. They are covered with set of corneous bristles and represent the effective filtration device. Mollusk gathers from them edible particles by mobile tentacle – the modified rudiment of foot. It passes through itself water at speed up to five liters at one hour. Water sucking proceeds through siphon formed by pallium plica, and water is thrown out by sharp contraction of ring muscles of pallium.
To compensate the inconveniences caused by transformation of gills into filtrating device, this mollusk has false pallial “gills” representing several outgrowths similar to tentacles growing on the internal side of pallium near to edge on the back end of its body. In rest the mollusk juts out back end of body from tunnel, and stretches pallial “gills” like a flower. As mollusks of this species settle in colonies, they form a certain similarity of colony of hydroids or original underwater “flower bed”. Limestone drill is very sensitive to movements of water – on pallial “gills” the set of cells feeling change of pressure, touch, and even change of light exposure is located. At the slightest attribute of alarm mollusk retracts pallial “gills” inside of pallium and sharply contracts body, supporting by corneous knobs against walls of hole.
Pallial “gills” also have one more function – they are covered with very thin epithelium, through which this mollusk can acquire the organic substances dissolved of water. It is the additional feeding source of limestone drill.
The form of hole, in which it is difficult to push straight jaws and claws deep, protects this mollusk from large and nonflexible predators. But it does not help to protect against flexible small predators – annelids. Against them limestone drill uses the chemical weapon – it emits in water strongly smelling liquid which frightens worms off. The same means helps limestone drill to compete to sedentary worms: having settled near to them, mollusk oppresses worms with its secretions. At the same time larvae of limestone drill willingly settle near to adult individuals, forming colonies.
Limestone drill is hermaphrodite. At this sedentary mollusk there is external fertilization – breeding individuals, settling beside, synchronize the development with the help of hormones secreting in water, and simultaneously throw out in water eggs and sperm liquid. At these mollusks self-sterility had developed, therefore the risk of self-fertilization and the subsequent degeneration does not exist. Each individual lays up to 30 thousand tiny eggs at once; breeding at limestone drill repeats each lunar month.
The larva of this mollusk spends in reef plankton about one week, and then settles down at the reef and turns to young sedentary mollusk. Having attached to surface of reef, it starts to produce an acid and to bore a vertical tunnel. Within one year the young mollusk grows up to 20 cm, and larger specimens are 10 years old ones.

“Palm worm” (Foliosiphon palmatus)
Order: Venerids (Venerida)
Family: Pholadids (Pholadidae)

Habitat: reeves of Indian and Pacific Ocean.
At the reeves of oceans tropical zone in Neocene epoch drilling bivalve mollusks live. They play an important role in life of reef: boring massive of reef limestone by firm shells, these animals promote settling of thickness of reef and increasing of biomass of reef inhabitants. In burrows made by them crustaceans, worms and fishes settle. Drilling mollusks also have various vital strategies.
Limestone drill (Petroteredopsis calcareoterebra) belongs to widely spread species of drilling bivalves. Its long worm-like body is hided in tunnel bored in thickness of reef, and only the back end of body is seen from outside – a tube of pallium with pallial “gills” jut out from it. This evolutionary idea has received original continuation. At reeves of tropical Indo-Pacific some species of leaf-siphon mollusks (genus Pholiosiphon) related to limestone drill live; they are adapted to different way of feeding.
Pallial “gills” of limestone drill have a permeable epithelium, through which this mollusk absorbs the organic substances contained in water. Leaf-siphon mollusks also absorb organic and besides of it also mineral substances through epithelium of pallial “gills”. But these substances intend not to mollusk, but to numerous “lodgers” in its tissues – to unicellular algae. In coexistence with them there is the secret of well-being of this group of mollusks. Mollusk receives oxygen and feeding from microalgae, giving them carbonic gas, mineral substances and protection against enemies.
The typical representative of leaf-siphon mollusks is “palm worm”. Its name indicates two features of shape of this animal.
The body of “palm worm” is lengthened and flexible, covered by tube-like pallium. This species is very large representative of bivalve mollusks: its length reaches 200 cm at thickness of about 4 cm. This mollusk drills burrows in thickness of limestone, using the rudimentary bi-valved shell similar to shell of limestone drill. Its tunnels differ in spiral form – only young mollusk bores vertical shaft, and further it is bent, making the animal inaccessible to many predators.
The second feature of this mollusk distinguishing it from limestone drill is the shape of its pallial “gills”. They are very big (up to 15 cm long being straightened) and have a plumose structure. Mollusk has 4 – 6 pallial “gills” and consequently the back end of its body jut out from hole resembles small palm tree, and the colony of these mollusks is similar to palm grove. In tissues of pallial “gills” there is a plenty of symbiotic green microalgae, which give to them green colouring. In case of danger mollusk quickly retracts pallial “gills” inside of pallium, and hides in hole. Each leaf of pallial “gills” has a longitudinal muscular fiber contracting in case of danger and shorting “gill”.
On the forward end of body of “palm worm” there are some ring lines of peaked knobs, with which animal supports against walls of hole. Shell of “palm worm” is reduced, thick and ridge. It is transformed into drilling tool like at limestone drill. This mollusk produces smaller amount of acid at tunnel drilling, using mainly the movements of shell.
On reeves one more species of leaf-siphon mollusks, “sea rose” (Foliosiphon rosa-marina), lives. Its pallial “gills” are wider and have rounded shape with longitudinal plicas. Because of it the back part of body of “sea rose” looks like a flower – it has determined the name of this species. This species has much smaller size, than “palm worm”: body of “sea rose” is about 60 cm long at thickness of no more than 2 cm.
Both species of these mollusks settle at well lighted shallow sites of reeves. But “sea rose” lives at sites which may dry at outflow, and “palm worm” prefers deeper places. During outflow “sea rose” is hidden in hole and sticks an entrance by mucous fuse.
The breeding biology at these species is similar to those at limestone drill.

Perseus's octopus (Perseoctopus medusophorus)
Order: Octopuses (Octopoda)
Family: True octopuses (Octopodidae)

Habitat: Pacific Ocean, top water layers.

Picture by Timothy Morris

 

The open ocean is very specific environment. Top layers of water are inhabited by huge amount of plankton organisms soaring in thickness of water and are constantly carrying by current being not able to resist to it. Here constantly severe struggle for existence proceeds, in which various live organisms use the most refined ways of survival. After mass extinction of plankton organisms at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene the new plankton community was generated by descendants of coastal and ground animals survived in ecosystems poorly affected by extinction. Among new plankton organisms there are various worms, crustaceans and swimming gastropods. Characteristic representatives of Neocene plankton are cephalopods of various species. Descendants of coastal species had passed to existence in thickness of water even in Holocene, and mass extinction of plankton animals had increased their chances of success.
Very favourable form of mutual relation in various communities is the union of two species of organisms – mutualism (mutually advantageous), commensalism (with unilateral benefit) or parasitism (causing any damage to one participant of the community). One species of cephalopods had solved set of problems having concluded the favourable union with jellyfishes – one of the most dangerous plankton inhabitants. This transparent creature about 10 cm long with thin one meter long tentacles lives in congestions of jellyfishes and is named Perseus's octopus to commemorate the mythical hero being victorious over monstrous gorgone Medusa.
The Perseus's octopus is a pelagic cephalopod. It spends all life in thickness of water, and is not connected to the oceanic bottom in any period of life. This animal almost nothing differs externally from other octopuses. The body of Perseus’s octopus is transparent like bodies of the majority of cephalopods living in plankton. When the octopus is quiet, only its big eyes partly disguised by brilliant film on external surface of eyeball are visible only. On skin of the octopus on closer examination a plenty of tiny black points is visible: it is special iridocyte cells containing light-reflecting substances. Opening them, animal becomes shining: it is a protective reaction (alternation of shine and transparency distracts predator, preventing it to concentrate at the octopus searching). The disturbed octopus represents very interesting show – it opens iridocytes till one second, brightly flashing in sunlight, and then instantly retracts them, becoming translucent and poorly appreciable among jellyfishes swimming around.
The Perseus's octopus protects itself and obtains food, constantly holding in tentacles two jellyfishes. Besides it has immunity to poison of jellyfishes and other coelenterates, therefore it can freely swim among jellyfishes, impudently robbing their tentacles. Besides slime of Perseus’s octopus has inhibiting properties – it interrupts the reaction of stinging cells of jellyfish tentacles. At Perseus’s octopus immunity to poison of jellyfish of certain species using at present is developed. But being compelled to coexist the jellyfish of other species, the mollusk receives from it slight stings first time. But it just is necessary, because at this moment the mollusk develops the immunity and accumulates the inhibitor to new “pet”. Tentacles of Perseus’s octopus have some sensitive suckers in the middle part which are not damaging delicate body of the jellyfish kept by the octopus. If the octopus is attacked by predatory fish, it tries to stick to it into the head tentacles of jellyfish kept by it. It happens, that mollusk even kills an attacking animal this way. In this case it uses an opportunity and simply eats it, and jellyfishes get shreds of meat floating in water.
The male of Perseus’s octopus is smaller by size, rather than the female. It prefers to court to it “keeping the distance”, being afraid of tentacles of jellyfishes kept by it. The male arranges “light show” for the female, during which on its tentacles and body shining waves glance. For this purpose animal emerges holding jellyfishes to the surface of water where it is shined better with sunlight. If the female reacts positively to courts of the male, one of his tentacles, filled with sperm liquid (it is called “hectocotylus”) is torn off and searches the entrance to pallial cavity of the female itself. Swimming hectocotylus continues courtship “show”: on it iridocytes open by waves, that’s why it seems flickering. After the courtship ritual male can grow the lost feeler, and during life it repeats courtship ritual up to five times with different females.
The female of Perseus’s octopus lays some hundreds of small eggs. She bears them on turned inside abdominal pair of tentacles within three months. Till this time the female eats of nothing. It sits on the bell of large jellyfish from above, having clasped it by all free tentacles, and having hidden the clutch under the body. If there is lack of suitable jellyfish, the female of Perseus’s octopus covers eggs with the top pair of tentacles and holds two smaller jellyfishes by lateral tentacles, choosing for self-defense the most poisonous species.
From eggs young octopuses hatch; they are similar to adult individual, but have short tentacles and are lack of iridocytes. They begin the life, searching for jellyfishes of less poisonous species and gradually developing immunity. Their immune system is rather weak; therefore a sting of strongly poisonous jellyfish may kill them. But till the process of growth young animals get immunity and develop life even on the most poisonous jellyfishes of the ocean.
Similarly to all octopuses, Perseus's octopus grows quickly, and reaches the limiting size at the second year of life.

Balloon octopus (Sphaeroctopus inflatus)
Order: Octopuses (Octopoda)
Family: True octopuses (Octopodidae)

Habitat: reeves of Caribbean Sea.

Picture by Timothy Morris

The rich fauna of shallow waters of Caribbean Sea had strongly suffered during the global ecological crisis at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene. Reef-building corals had especially big damage – they had practically completely become extinct. The plenty of species of sea animals connected in daily life with corals had died out in common with them. Subsequently in early Neocene on sea shallows new ecosystems had started to develop – heat and abundance of sunlight favored to their prosperity. These communities are as rich in life, as coral reeves of Holocene were; here also there is strict competition and there is a set of predators of various trophic levels.
In similar conditions at various animals various ways of protection develop. But also it often happens in nature, that the same “technical decision” is embodied in different groups of live creatures. The most popular tactics of protection is to exaggerate the own size. Various plicas of skin and outgrowths unwrapped aside the contender, and also extremities stretched in sides are different ways of the decision of such problem. One more popular way to exaggerate is to be inflated. Such tactics is used by different vertebrates: amphibians, reptiles and fishes. In Neocene among such deceivers the octopus had appeared.
The balloon octopus living on Caribbean reeves is small species of cephalopods. Length of its body is about 10 cm, and tentacles reach the length of half meter. This species is colored rather brightly: the basic background of skin is light yellow; on it brick-red spots with silvery border are scattered. Behind eyes there are two larger spots. The annoyed octopus can turn almost black for a split of second. But colouring is not main feature of this mollusk.
When the predator comes nearer, balloon octopus does not hide. It is able to repulse predators: in the mouth of this mollusk there are poisonous glands secreting deadly poison. One bite of balloon octopus can kill fish larger than one meter long for some seconds. But poison is not fighting, but the hunting weapon, therefore octopus tries to avoid near fight with predator, and uses poison only in case of extreme danger, when there is no another way to escape. Warning the enemy about the protection, octopus puffs body, exaggerating the own size, and colors skin brightly, becoming appreciable from apart. Being disturbed, it emits in water poisonous ink which paralyze olfactory nerves of fish attacking it for some time. After such protection of octopus fish remembers its colouring, and does not attack these mollusks any more.
It is simple to the octopus to use such way of demonstration – its anatomy favors to ability to change the body shape any way. Octopuses do not have internal skeleton; and soft tissues are easily extendable. Pallial cavity of balloon octopus has strong ring muscle on the edge, “tightening” it when the animal is inflated; and edges of pallium are covered with spongy tissue skintight to body. Swimming funnel can work as the delivery pompe – it pumps up water in pallial cavity by pulsing movements. The disturbed animal quickly gathers water in pallial cavity, and its visible size increases some times: the body is inflated up to half meter diameter sphere. Colouring of animal fades, and on skin behind eyes the special pattern appears: two big black oculate spots, frightening off predator. Inflated animal keeps tentacles pressed to each other like the “beak” of huge bird's head.
Such demonstration very effectively affects to medium-sized predators: fishes are frightened of suddenly appeared in front of them “live head”, and swim out. But balloon octopus can stay not for long in such position: when pallial cavity is closed, water in it is not freshened, and animal simply begins to choke. mollusk compensates this circumstance partly by skin respiring, but if the demonstration is delayed, octopus prefers to seek safety in flight: it sharply “exhales” water from pallial cavity, and uses the ensued strong jet push to hide in the nearest shelter. At this moment it sharply changes well appreciable colouring to pale grey one and as if “is dissolved” on the background of water. It also gives to it precious seconds to escape from predator.
Similarly to all cephalopods, balloon octopus is a predator. It eats small fishes and crustaceans, getting them from cracks and holes by long tentacles, or catching by throws from ambush.
Balloon octopus breeds once a life – it is the characteristic feature of octopuses. Pairing of these mollusks is preceded with original courtship displays. During courtship ritual the male is inflated and shows to the female various spotty patterns on the body, simultaneously touching her by tips of tentacles. If near the female two males meet, their courtship becomes much more active and more colorful. They are inflated, and, holding by tips of tentacles for reef, try to push away each other from the female by body. Competing males try to inflate as much, as possible, and to keep in such condition longer, than the contender. The male “blew off” before the competitor, loses. It leaves the place of courtship display, having replaced bright courtship dress to cryptic coloration. And the winner starts to make court. It cautiously moves nearer to the female, and enters in her pallial cavity the tentacle carrying spermatophors. At the culmination moment muscles in the basis of tentacle tear from sharp contraction, and it stays in pallial cavity of the female. If the female was already courted by other male, new partner tries to pull out the tentacle left by the previous male. After pairing the lost feeler quickly grows. The male is able to repeat courtship ritual two – three times per life, and then perishes.
When the female starts to lay eggs, tentacle of the male in her pallial cavity bursts from contractions of the special muscles, and eggs are fertilized. The female lays up to 200 thousands of small eggs. She places them in shelter – deep crack or large bivalve shell. The incubating lasts about two months. From eggs small larvae differing from adult mollusk by short tentacles and pointed translucent body hatch. After their hatching the organism of the female quickly degrades, and she dies.
Young animals grow very quickly, and already at one-year-old age reach the size of adult mollusk. Males become able to breeding at the age of 16 – 18 months, and females up to 20 months.

“Crystal demon” (Ophthalmoctopus crystallinus)
Order: Octopuses (Octopoda)
Family: True octopuses (Octopodidae)

Habitat: Sea of Okhotsk, the upper water layers to the depths of 200 – 300 meters.

Picture by Timothy Morris

In Neocene the Sea of Okhotsk became a semi-enclosed body of water. The volcanic activity in the region of the “Pacific Ocean’s ring of fire” resulted in transformation of Kurile Islands into Big Kuriles – a chain of large islands, separated only by narrow straits, through which the Sea of Okhotsk is connected to Pacific Ocean. On the surface of the Sea of Okhotsk a unique biocenosis was formed by various brown algae, and it resembles the natural community of the Sargasso Sea from the human epoch. The rafts of interwoven algae represent the living place for many small animals – fishes, crustaceans, molluscs and worms. The abundance of small animals attracts predators to the floating algae. Some of them climb deeply into the depths of the rafts; others hunt on the edges of algae congestions, and the third ones catch animals, which accidentally appeared in the water far away from their shelters.
Among the predators of algal fields of Sea of Okhotsk there are many species of octopi. One of their species passed to untypical way of life – it barely descends to the substratum, and prefers to keep in thickness of water at the edges of the algal congestions. Its transparent body and carnivorous way of life has determined its name – the “crystal demon”. This animal is rather common in the algal fields, although it is difficult to be observed.
The “crystal demon” is swimming octopus species. This is a definite descendant of pelagic species settled in the fodder-rich environment – in the outskirts of rafts of brown algae.
The body of this mollusc is about 10 cm long, flat and wide, resembling tree leaf in shape. Almost all of the internal organs of the animal are semi-transparent, except for its eyes, cartilaginous “skull” and ink bag. However, these body parts of mollusc are disguised by the thin layer of tissues that contain guanine crystals. This gives them a silvery shine and makes it possible to reflect the surrounding objects, making animal almost indistinguishable in water. The mantle adheres to the abdominal side of body along the central line, separating the mantle cavity into two “pockets” along the sides of body. Strong circular muscles are developed in their walls. The funnel is reduced and serves only to pull water into the “pockets”. “Crystal demon” swims due to powerful contractions of circular muscles of the “pockets” of mantle cavity. Lack of the internal skeleton gives a problem to soft-bodied animals: their bodies take their initial form only due to the elasticity of the tissues. At the “crystal demon”, “the pockets” of mantle cavity are supported in their straightened state by the incomplete rings of cartilage-like tissue that developed in their walls. This makes it possible to fill them rapidly with water before making the reactive push.
The body of “crystal demon” is semi-transparent and barely noticeable in sea water. The eyes of the animal are large, luminous and very mobile: they can be turned sideways, upwards and downwards. The head of “crystal demon” is thickened, and the eyes are located at its edges. The tentacles of this mollusc are about 15 cm long, but if necessary they can stretch out to double that, when the mollusc attacks its prey that is hidden among the algae.
The “crystal demon” possesses a surprising method to lure prey. This mollusc can imitate a school of small swimming animals: it demonstrates “running” spots of small size – dark or silvery in color – against transparent background. Some pigment cells in the external tissues of the mollusc accumulate guanine, and it helps animal to imitate silvery fishes. Showing on its skin a simulacrum of school of small animals, this octopus can easily swim closer to an unsuspecting shrimp, which observes its “show”, as if being hypnotized. In the same way this mollusc catches small fish as well.
This species of cephalopods is monocyclic: all of the adults die after breeding. The male of “crystal demon” is considerably smaller, rather than the female. It fertilizes the female with the aid of the special tentacle – the hectocotyle. The female bears the clutch of several tens of thousands transparent eggs on its tentacles for three months. At this time it leaves the algal fields and drifts in the water depth, where there is smaller amount of predators. During the time of clutch bearing the body of the female is completely transparent, and predator can discover it only by accident. The lifespan of this octopus reaches five years.

Translated by Bhut, the forum member.

Monkey octopus (Platytentaculum acrobaticus)
Order: Octopuses (Octopoda)
Family: True octopuses (Octopodidae)

Habitat: Sea of Okhotsk, fields of floating algae.

Picture by Timothy Morris

Among the predators of the algal fields of the Sea of Okhotsk, cephalopods occupy an important place. These inhabitants of the sea bottom had found far from the coasts an environment completely suitable for life and representing interwoven brown algae, where it is easy to find shelter from the enemies and suitable prey like numerous small animals settling among the algae. The only limitation for cephalopods at the settling at the algal congestions is connected to the body size: the coastal giants cannot live among the algae. However the small octopi, populating the algal fields of Sea of Okhotsk, are very diverse. The absence of hard skeleton makes possible for them to squeeze into the narrowest slots, and in the thick interlacements of algae they feel themselves like a duck to water, creeping among the algae with the aid of their tentacles.
One of the small octopi populating the algal fields of Sea of Okhotsk is the monkey octopus, a mollusc having body length of about 6 cm. The body of monkey octopus is flattened into an oblate shape. The tentacles are about 20 cm long, wide and flattened, ribbon-like with rounded tips. Their suckers are arranged in two rows. At this octopus the suckers have significant mobility and they can make “steps” like movements of the caterpillars. With the aid of the suckers’ movements monkey octopus can slowly creep up to its prey, without giving itself away by superfluous motions. When the monkey octopus does not hunt, it moves among the algae, grasping them by its tentacles as monkey does with its paws. The adult mollusc of this specie has lost the ability to swim – being out of the algae thickets monkey octopus feels itself very insecure. Having found itself in open water, this mollusc attempts to keep itself afloat, waving its tentacles. Simultaneously it stretches out its tentacles in the direction of the nearest strands of algae, attempting to find support. The funnel of this mollusc is underdeveloped, and the mantle cavity is considerably smaller than of the octopi leading a mobile way of life and able to swim.
Skin respiration plays an essential role in the respiratory metabolism of monkey octopus. At the upper side and along the sides body of this mollusc is covered with the leaf-like outgrowths, which simultaneously perform the function of “additional gills” and provide camouflage. When resting, the octopus stretches them out, increasing the surface of its skin, but in case of danger they contract strongly and take the shape of small tubercles on the mollusc’s skin.
The body of monkey octopus is coloured in brown with greenish specks and orange spots above the eyes and along the sides of body. The lower side of the tentacles is white. Depending on its emotional and physical condition, this mollusc can change colour from white to dark red, orange, green or brown with various switches between aforementioned colors and their combinations. The eyes of this mollusc are large and mobile, can rise above the body. Above each eye there are several branching outgrowths of skin that disguise the eye. The sight of monkey octopus has an important special feature – it notes the slightest motion in the motionless environment. It helps the octopus to find prey among the algae, where visibility is very poor. Also the monkey octopus has very keen sense of smell. The bite of monkey octopus is poisonous for the crustaceans and fishes – the mollusc feeds on them predominantly.
This mollusc breeds once a life. The male avoids direct encounters with the female – at this species cannibalism is very common, and the male (it is smaller, than female) has a chance to fall prey of the female. Having found a female, the male approaches it from a safe distance and with the sharp reduction of muscles breaks off one of its tentacles – the hectocotylus, filled with sperm. This tentacle finds the female by itself via smell and creeps into her mantle cavity, where the fertilization of eggs takes place. After the detaching of hectocotylus male remains alive. It grows new hectocotylus and can fertilize the next female. At this time the male does not eat, and perishes after the loss of second hectocotylus.
The clutch of this species amounts 40 – 50 thousand of small eggs; female bears them on the front pair of tentacles. When bearing the clutch, the female builds for itself a kind of a nest, bending the strands of algae to speric construction, in middle of which it hides, keeping the “walls” of its shelter by tentacles. The incubation lasts for three months, and all this time the female eats of nothing. After the hatching of larvae it dies soon.
The young monkey octopi can swim and settle to great distances before they grow up and pass to settled way of life. The sexual maturity of this species begins at the third year of life.

Translated by Bhut, the forum member.

Sun-shaped octopus (Soleoctopus platyssimus)
Order: Octopuses (Octopoda)
Family: True octopuses (Octopodidae)

Habitat: tropical waters of Central America – Caribbean Sea, Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North and South America.
The “plankton catastrophe” on the boundary of the Holocene and Neocene had a severe impact to marine ecosystems. In the era of restoration of biological diversity squids made a number of successful attempts to master pelagic habitats, and their relatives, octopuses and cuttlefish, have continued to evolve in the coastal waters, and among them a number of bizarre forms appeared. One species of such mollusks is the sun-shaped octopus from tropical waters of the New World.
This species is a flat crawling octopus dwelling in marine shallows. Its tentacles are enclosed in a thick elastic membrane almost to their tips and have limited mobility. The tips of the tentacles, however, retain sufficient mobility, and with their help the mollusk can crawl along the seabed. Also well-developed suckers participate in crawling; they are located in double rows along each tentacle. The body of this mollusk is strongly flattened; its contours are outlined with the semicircular fold of its mantle, which extends some distance behind its eyes. The eyes are movable, bulging, with a horizontally slit pupil; the iris is golden brown.
Being adapted to a creeping lifestyle, the sun-shaped octopus has practically lost the ability of reactive movement. Only occasionally a scared octopus may emit a stream of water, rising from the seabed. It is able to swim in strokes using tentacles, resembling at this point a tailless ray or a large flatworm.
The coloring of the sun-shaped octopus is very changeable: from almost white to green and cherry red. The animal has good vision, allowing it to simulate easily the color of the surrounding area. At rest, this species has a brown color with rows of white strokes, radiating from the body on the upper side of the tentacles. When agitated the coloring becomes sharper, and in the webbing between tentacles additional spots appear, merging with the main pattern.
The sun-shaped octopus, despite leading a fairly sedentary lifestyle, differs by aggressive behavior. Inverted or washed out from the sea bottom by a jet of water, the octopus tries to cling to its enemy and to bite it. Its poisonous bite is excellent protection: a shark with a slow metabolism feels weak for several days, and warm-blooded animals can die from the poison in a few minutes. The venom of this mollusk, however, is a hunting weapon: the animal eats benthic invertebrates with slow metabolism. The crushing jaws of the octopus can cause strong bites and are able to stretch from its mouth on movable ligaments when the octopus examines the reef in search of burrowing animals – crustaceans, worms and mollusks. This species eats starfishes as well, including poisonous species.
As at all octopi, ink at the sun-shaped octopus is poisonous. But in the method of its application, this species differs from its relatives: releasing ink into the water, it does not leave its cloud, and hides, clinging to the bottom, its eyes closed and mantle cavity locked tightly. At the same time, on the body of octopus a mucus layer is released that protects it from its own poison. If necessary, sun-shaped octopus can make up to three “shots” of ink.
The passive way of life at this species is combined with a high capacity for regeneration: the animal can easily grow back all its tentacles, if lost them simultaneously. If this octopus damages its eye, it is easily restored within a few weeks if even a small part of it remains.
This species grows rapidly and reaches sexual maturity at the age of two years. The male is smaller than the female, and differs from her by elongated tentacles. In the process of “dating” the male gently draws its tentacles and strokes the female’s tentacle. Displaying itself, it swims circle-wise above the female, and then sits down on top of her body and puts a spermatophore into her mantle cavity.
The female lays up to 1000 small eggs and harbors them on the underside of the body, having pasted them between the suction cups. Usually she selects as a shelter a narrow crack in the reef and ventilates it with her undulating movements of body and tentacles. Incubation lasts about a month. Juveniles immediately leave their mother who does not eat after posterity hatching and dies within a month.

Translated by FanboyPhilosopher.

Hermit octopus (Diogenopus vermisomus)
Order: Octopuses (Octopodida)
Family: Porter octopuses (Phoroctopidae)

Habitat: mollusk-spongial reeves of Pacific Ocean.

Picture by Timothy Morris

Octopuses are cephalopods completely lost their shell: even a rudiment of this structure is not remained at them. Therefore they can not rely upon passive protection as it was made by their relatives – ammonites and nautiloids. Feature of behavior of octopuses is their disposition to hide into different kinds of shelters. And absence of firm parts of body gives them big advantages in this sense: octopus can hide in very narrow shelter, where predator having a firm skeleton, will not squeeze through. But shelter is not always “near at hand”: the mollusk should leave it to hunt. In Neocene some octopuses have solved this problem by very simple way: they simply began carry shelter on themselves. The most simple and accessible among small and enough strong shelters on Neocene reeves are mollusk shells. During evolution process the special family of octopuses, which have mastered using these shells for daily life similarly to hermit crabs, has appeared.
The characteristic representative of this family is the hermit octopus. It is medium-sized mollusk: its tentacles are up to half meter long (measurements of the female are described here, male is much smaller). At usual octopuses leading free life there is short and thick body, but at this mollusk body is long and flexible. Hermit octopus practically constantly drags on itself found mollusk shells in which it hides in case of danger, therefore such body shape permits it to use volume of portable shelter most rationally. In connection with such unusual habit of life its tentacles have a little changed: from eight tentacles two ones (last pair) became short, flat and wide, and their bases have moved back and upwards. These tentacles are intended for keeping of shell on the body of mollusk, therefore getting it out from the shelter is rather uneasy: for keeping at smooth internal surface of shell on these tentacles suckers are well advanced. Other tentacles have a structure typical for octopuses, and are used the same way as usually. The hermit octopus has kept ability to change colouring of body, but its body nevertheless makes it less successfully, than head and tentacles. In rest colouring of tentacles is grey with pinkish and white “marble” pattern of cross strips and spots, but it also can change from white up to rubiginous and black color. Eyes are large, greenish with white rings around, exaggerating visually their size.
At all species of hermit octopuses both males and females search and carry shells.
This kind of octopuses is named after the philosopher of human epoch Diogenes, lived, as the legend says, in barrel. Such name rather precisely indicates features of behavior of this octopus: characteristic for these cephalopods aspiration to occupy various shelter has resulted to that hermit octopuses have originally returned to feature which their far ancestors have refused millions years ago. However, as against fossil cephalopods, carrying shell till all their life, the hermit octopus can leave it at the will not for a long time. It makes it very seldom, and only when there is no other way to reach any significant purpose. However it does not leave from the house far: by one tentacle the hermit octopus constantly keeps for shell, being ready at any moment to involve itself in shelter by sharp contraction of this tentacle.
Because of heavy shell and thin long body the hermit octopus has lost the ability to swim. Usually it creeps on the bottom, extending forward the forward pair of tentacles and tighten on them. It does not have need to swim quickly: its food in case of danger does not aspire to rescue by flight. Similarly to all cephalopod, this octopus is a predator. It eats crustaceans and fishes dug at danger in sand, or hiding in holes. Usually such octopuses one by one wander on reef, tracing for smells dissolving in water. Having felt smell of possible catch, octopus slowly moves to its source. It does not try to disappear: it has no need to creep as closer, as it is possible, and then to rush and to chase prey; it hunts by other way.
Having noticed a predator, any fishes and shrimps swim out, and any ones hide themselves in sand. This mollusk also hunts for them. It immerses tentacles in sand, and sensitive chemoreceptors on their surface permit this mollusk to define, where there is a catch. Though the mollusk does not see prey, it chases it in thickness of sand by tentacle by smell. If the catch dug in sand will try to slip away, electroreceptors catching activity of nervous system of hidden catch include to hunting.
Strong suckers at tips of tentacles help to keep seized catch. When the chased animal has got, octopus jerky contracts tentacle and pulls catch out from sand. Even if at this moment it will escape, it will not be possible to rescue to it: octopus covers a place of hunting by shell in which it is sitting, and catch slipped away all the same appears in trap.
Octopus kills caught prey by sting which is very poisonous and instantly kills even animals with slow metabolism. With the help of stings octopus protects itself from enemies – predatory fishes and other species of octopuses. For protection another traditional for cephalopod kind of weapon, poisonous ink, is also used. But it is the extreme case: ink is poisonous for the octopus, and it can not leave quickly the poisoned zone. Therefore it splashes ink through swimming funnel extending like tube, and at once presses shell to bottom. If the bottom is sandy, octopus even “anchors”, deeply immersing free tentacles in sand and being dug in it by edges of shell.
For breeding male finds female by smell emitting by it. Having found shell of the female, male cautiously gets on it, and waits, while the female will find out his presence herself. If he will be careless, the female may easily have eaten him. When the male will be convinced, that the female knows about his presence, he cautiously starts closer acquaintance: he warns her about his intentions by easy touches to tentacles of the female. The female unready to pairing simply banishes the unlucky “groom” by impact of tentacle. If the female is ready to pairing, she lets tentacles out and touches by them the male, answering him. An accustoming of animals to each other proceeds so. For pairing the male pushes tentacle filled with sperm liquid (it is larger than others) in pallial cavity of the female, and then by sharp contraction of muscles in the basis of this tentacle tears it off. His mission in breeding is executed, and the male leaves out. The torn off tentacle will regenerate, and he one – two times again can repeat courtship. His tentacle some time lives in pallial cavity of the female. When she starts to lay eggs, this tentacle bursts and fertilizes them.
The female of this species carries eggs pasted in vault of shell like grapes. As all octopuses, during protection of posterity she becomes inactive and eats of nothing. Development of eggs lasts about one month, and then from them tiny translucent youngs hatch. First some days of life they spend in shell near to mother. They hang on wall of shell almost motionlessly. At this time at them large yolk sac resolves, and body gradually starts to get colouring. After the young growth abandons shell, female lives not for long: about one week. In her organism irreversible physiological changes take place, and she perishes.
Leaving from parental shell, young hermit octopuses first two months live usual life, characteristic for the majority of octopuses. Later their body starts to extend, and they look for a shell to themselves.
Hermit octopuses are short-lived: duration of their life does not exceed three years.
Close species:
Flat-bodied hermit octopus (Diogenopus platysomus). It is small species: the length of tentacles does not exceed 10 cm. At this mollusk body is strongly flattened: it lives in shells of mollusks with narrow chink-like fauces. All body of flat-bodied hermit octopus is translucent; covers have pattern coloration of grey spots, and eyes are silvery. This species eats mainly small crustaceans and sedentary worms. Due to strong beak-looking jaws it can break open sideways limy tubes of sedentary worms and shells of small snails.
Garbaging octopus (D. ostracophylus) is the most low-specialized species of genus: the mollusk uses valves of shells of bivalve mollusks as shelters. In case of danger this octopus presses shelter to firm substratum and sticks by all tentacles; therefore it avoids sites with soft sandy bottom and keeps basically on rocky and calcareous sites of reeves. This species differs in small sizes (length of tentacles is about 8 cm) and short body. Covers are colored rather brightly: they are yellow-colored with small black spots, and the body is colored as brightly, as tentacles are. It eats different small animals, and also willingly eats rests of catch of large predators.

Polyp octopus (Polypoctopus sessilis)
Order: Octopuses (Octopodida)
Family Sedentary octopuses (Sessiloctopidae)

Habitat: coastal waters of Indian and Pacific oceans, oyster reeves.
When coral reeves have disappeared, new productive natural community, reeves constructed by bivalve mollusks, basically by stone oysters and various species of tridacnas, has appeared to replace them. Entering commonwealth with algae they have constructed an ecosystem populated almost as is rich and various, as coral reeves. Cephalopods in any epoch were characteristic inhabitants of such coastal communities. Mastering different ecological niches, they sometimes have fantastical and unexpected shape.
In Neocene among cephalopods living at algal-mollusk reeves completely unexpected creatures have appeared: octopuses replaced active life of free hunters to life of passive homebodies. And they became so adhered to the house, that seldom leave it at own will, spending at times the most part of life sitting at same place.
The polyp octopus, one of such “homebodies”, is medium-sized species of octopuses with sharp sexual dimorphism. The female is about 10 cm long, with very long tentacles which can extend up to 1 meter length. She constantly sits in once chosen shelter: empty shell or crack in rocks. In connection with such life she had strong changes in appearance. The body of such female grows, filling by itself the chosen shelter and accepting at times the most fantastical and wrong form. Sense organs also have undergone changes: sight at the female of polyp octopus is very weak, eyes are substantially reduced. But instead of sight at her the sharp chemical feeling sense was developed, permitting to receive the exact information about world around.
The body of female of polyp octopus is colored light pink, skin on it is translucent, and interiors of animal appear through it. Tentacles are colored brown with greenish and white irregular-shaped spots. However, their colouring can easily vary.
On the back side of body skin sucker, assisting to keep in shelter, develops.
Similarly to all representatives of cephalopod classus, the polyp octopus is a predator. The female of this species arranges ambushes, having stretched on surface of reef tentacles with well advanced suckers. Having felt presence of catch, mollusk by sharp movement of tentacles seizes it and draws to mouth. For catch killing the polyp octopus uses poisonous sting. Jaws can be pushed forward, putting sting to the seized animal. The basic catch of females of polyp octopus is small and medium-sized fish.
The male of this species is radically differing from the female by appearance and habit of life. It is very small (length is about 6 - 7 cm with tentacles), leads active and mobile life. On his body there are muscled fins with which help the mollusk can swim very quickly. At him eyes and organs of chemical feeling are well advanced: all sense of his life is finding of females for the sake of breeding. The skin of the male is colored red - brown, but it can change shade from grayish-white up to spotty and black. After approach of sexual maturity (at the age of half-year) the male actively searches and fertilizes females. But the male lives not for long time: about nine or ten months.
For fertilization of the female the male falls on bottom outside of her tentacles reach zone. One of tentacles of the male tears off the body by the sharp muscular contraction, and independently creeps to the female. To come nearer to her for fulfillment of courtship ritual is unsafe for the tiny male: she easily can take him for catch and to have eaten. But independently creeping tentacle does not cause in her reaction of attack, and easily reaches oviducts of the female, attaching there to wall and at the moment of egg laying emitting liquid sperm. At the male new tentacle grows soon, and he searches for the next female which may be fertilized. Sometimes in oviduct of one female some tentacles of different males can wait for “hour of triumph”.
The female pastes clutch of large translucent eggs (about 200 ones) looking like cluster of grapes in shelter, and then diligently protects the future posterity within one month, eating of nothing. After larvae hatching (actively swimming transparent larvae are externally similar to the male) she lives not for long and soon perishes. Life expectancy at females of this species does not exceed two years.
The young growth first two months leads active life; later females look for themselves any shelter and turn to inactive sedentary creatures. Males continue swimming and hunting, but their growth is sharply slowed down, and they remain dwarfs to all stayed life.

Worm-like octopus (Vermoctopus serpuloides)
Order: Octopuses (Octopodida)
Family: Sedentary octopuses (Sessiloctopidae)

Habitat: coastal waters of Pacific Ocean, spongial and mollusk reeves.

Picture by Alexey Tatarinov

This species belong besides to family, as previous one, but its specialization to inactive habit of life has gone any other way: this mollusk arranges holes in calcareous basis of reef. As the adaptation to such way of life the large gland producing acid secret was developed at the back end of body. Because limestone is easily dissolved even by the weakest acids, its drilling does not cause any difficulties.
At this species the sexual dimorphism is less expressed, than at previous one: male is only a little smaller, than female. Body of mollusks of both sexes is worm-like: its length at the female is about 30 cm (male is about 20 cm long) at thickness of body only 3 - 4 cm. Tentacles are strongly extendible (in quiet condition their length is about 15 cm, extended ones can reach length of 60 - 70 cm), suckers are only on their tips. Skin of worm-like octopuses is grey with small black speckles on tentacles. On the back end of body, near the acid gland, there is a large sucker assisting to animal to keep in hole.
Eyes of these mollusks are rather well advanced: animals can see colors and small moving objects, but they are too near-sighted: at the distance of two meters the large fish turns for their sight to blurred shadow. But well advanced chemical feeling permits them to perceive presence of the enemy and to hide in hole before it will get in their field of vision.
For simplification of breath the respiratory siphon of these mollusks became long and extensible. Its end is covered with set of receptors detecting movement of water and presence of chemical substances in it. Even when whole mollusk sits in hole, the siphon serves to it as though as “window in the world”, and permits to keep under the control conditions around of hole.
The worm-like octopus lives, as the sedentary tube worm (Serpula): it juts tentacles out from hole and waits, while any small animal will come nearer to the distance from which it may be seized easily. In case of danger this mollusk instantly disappears in hole and closes an entrance by “fuse” (stone or massive shell) which it constantly holds in one of tentacles. If the enemy appears excessively curious or persevering, the mollusk can frighten him off by jet of ink containing unpleasantly smelling and poisonous substances. But in this case the octopus should hold its breath itself for some minutes, expecting while poisonous liquid will be carried by current aside.
As against to majority of octopuses, worm-like octopus is not gloomy single. The male lives in hole of the female, having drilled for itself separate lateral burrow. Both animals in common gather food and share it with each other.
Ritual of acquaintance of male and female proceeds very interestingly: the young male, still living independently, finds a hole, bored by female, by smell. He cautiously comes nearer to her hole, ready to slip away any minute at first sign of displeasure from the female. Gradually the female gets used to smell of the extraneous octopus, and the second stage of acquaintance begins. The male settles near to the female in temporary shelter. He starts feeding up the female, throwing to her hole killed fishes and shrimps. Gradually he passes to the third stage of acquaintance, to tactile contact. He any more not at once releases catch intended to the female, but any time keeps it. At this time female can feel his body by tentacles, and chemoreceptors located on them supplement with the new information an image of the male applying for pair forming. If all stages of acquaintance are passed successfully, the male may fearlessly get into her hole and start to bore his own “apartments”. The female helps him, by strong “exhalations” of water throwing out from hole “building dust” – sand and products of limestone dissolution.
However, sometimes mollusks of this species use temporary shelters: they dig holes in sand, strengthening their walls by slime. Not sexual matured males and very young females were not found suitable place for arranging of constant hole make it.
The generated pair of mollusks hunts more successfully, than the single. Such mollusks quickly grow and expand hole, dissolving by secret of acid gland layers of limestone on walls. And once the female starts to build the big chamber in lateral wall of hole. It means, that the male had fertilized her, and she had stand on the way of materinity. The nest chamber is bell-shaped one. On vault of the chamber female lays a cluster of small eggs (about 500 ones), and starts to protect them both with the male. The male keeps closer to entrance of hole. Under action of the substances secreted by the female, at him large poisonous glands start to develop, and he turns to fatally dangerous creature.
After one month from eggs translucent larvae hatch. They swim out from native hole, and lead secretive life in crevices of a reef the first month of life. Later females start to bore holes fit to live in, using natural cavities as a basis of construction. Males live at the sandy bottom of shallow waters, but later they move to holes of females.
As at all cephalopods, this animal breeds once a life. Its life expectancy does not exceed 1 year, and after larvae hatching the parental pair perishes.

Vineglass cuttlerfish (Utriculosepia pustulosa)
Order: Cuttlerfishes (Sepiida)
Family: Cuttlerfishes (Sepiidae)

Habitat: Pacific Ocean, top layers of water.

Picture by Timothy Morris

In human epoch one of tendencies in evolution of cephalopods was the pelagization – the transition to life in thickness of water. Such way of development was selected mainly by squids, though among other groups of cephalopods also pelagic species evolved. People know species of pelagic octopuses and cuttlerfishes.
In Neocene mass extinction of plankton animals stimulated the new wave of settling of open ocean by cephalopods. Among them many species at which the complete life cycle passes far from coast had appeared. Some of them became strong and muscled necton animals, fast swimmers overcoming longest distances. Others had turned to fragile plankton organisms passively soaring in thickness of water and freely transferring by currents. Life in plankton has made some cephalopods fantastical creatures with strange, but effective strategies of life. The part of plankton cephalopods has almost lost the art of swimming. These creatures soar in water, moving only when someone will disturb them, or when they are threatened. The rest of time they lead passive, perhaps, even “vegetative” life. And sometimes in anatomy of animals practically direct parallels with features of structure of some plants are shown.
Among the plankton organisms inhabiting waters of southern part of Pacific Ocean there is one species of pelagic cuttlerfishes. This is small creature (length of its body is only 12 – 15 cm) with big eyes and almost completely transparent. Covers of body of this mollusk have bluish color; therefore it seems that the cuttlerfish is made of blue glass. In thickness of water this mollusk is completely invisible, and its presence is given out only by big eyes, shining when the ray of sunlight from the surface of water gets in them.
Many similar mollusks live in thickness of water, and simply the pelagic cuttlerfish of one more species may get lost among their variety. But it differs in very specific receptions of hunting which do not meet at other cephalopods. At this species of cuttlerfishes there are very long tentacles (extending to one meter and even more), on which strongly changed suckers are located. Each sucker represents formation like the transparent bladder placed on thin stem, or simply small vineglass. For this feature the mollusk has received the name vineglass cuttlerfish. Edges of suckers are strongly narrowed and supplied with the valve, which is closed by tiny cover. The corneous hook on sucker is reduced and represents thin sensitive bristle. When any small creature (fry or crustacean) touches it, bladder opens and engulfs prey. The similar adaptation was developed on leaves of floating plant bladderwort (Utricularia) – this feature represents a surprising example of convergence of animal and plant.
Such adaptation was developed for feeding on the most accessible plankton catch – small crustaceans. Vineglass cuttlerfish simply passively soars in thickness of water, having stretched tentacles. Its fins are reduced up to two small “patches”. With their help mollusk supports the necessary position in water, but can not swim quickly. Soaring in thickness of water, cuttlerfish waits, when plankton crustaceans will touch its tentacles. Having filled suckers with caught crustaceans, cuttlerfish stretches feelers near the mouth one by one, squeezing out prey by contractions of bladder right in mouth. Dwarf males of this species differ from females not only externally, but also by preferred diet: they eat small shrimps.
For self-defense the vineglass cuttlerfish uses two tentacles with pointed corneous hooks - the disturbed animal extends them aside the aggressor. Thus the body and trapping tentacles blacken. After attack the animal sharply turns transparent and contracts tentacles. It can swim, pushing water from pallial cavity. If the enemy is small and represents the same fragile plankton creature, vineglass cuttlerfish can attack it, but against the large and well-protected animals it is defenceless. In case of attack of fishes it tries to leave from chasing, using the ability to autotomy: with the help of the special muscle one or two tentacles tore off from its body and start to contract and to wriggle actively, distracting attention of predator from the mollusk.
Vineglass cuttlerfish lives within about two years. It breeds once a life, bearing the clutch of several hundreds of small eggs on tentacles during three – four months. This time the female eats of nothing and leads the extremely passive way of life – it moves only when it is necessary for protection of posterity.
At this mollusk the male is very small – its length does not exceed 5 cm. At it there are reduced tentacles, except for one, about 10 cm long. With the help of this tentacle the male fertilizes females. In fact the male is the larva finished growth early and having reached sexual maturity. It lives less than half-year, but for this time it can fertilize several females. During the courtship ritual the male blackens, showing itself to the female. It accurately “perches” on the body of the female from above, trying to not touch her tentacles – the female can easily catch and eat the own groom. If the female is ready to fertilization, male enters spermatophors in her pallial cavity with the help of long tentacle, and then leaves the female.

Syphonophora squid (Natarospectrum mollissimus)
Order: Squids (Theutida)
Family: Onychotheutids, or Clawed squids (Onychotheutidae)

Habitat – deep-water zone of Pacific Ocean.

Picture by Timothy Morris

From the moment of occurrence on Earth cephalopods were mainly active swimmers and strong contenders of pelagic fishes. But some species of these mollusks in different geological eras passed from life in top layers of water to life in oceanic depths, and some ones even on oceanic bottom. Here, in conditions of low temperatures, darkness and enormous pressure, they varied up to unrecognizability, getting the most fantastical shapes. In depths at lack of catch it is energetically unprofitable to be active swimmer, but the passive predator, patiently expecting suitable prey achieves much more success in survival. Therefore squids lodged in abyss, have almost lost ability to swim.
Syphonophora squid is one of such deep-water pelagic squids. It spends all life in thickness of water at the depth from one and half up to three kilometers. This mollusk passively floats in water, having stretched tentacles in sides. To facilitate floating this squid in water, its large liver with stock of easy fat serves as a float. Body of this mollusk is very soft, jelly-like and translucent. Syphonophora squid is a creature, not much more dense, than the jellyfish.
Eyes of this creature are large, telescopic, sit on flexible “stems” and can turn in various sides.
Principal organs of movement at squids are muscled fins and the jet device of swimming funnel and pallial cavity. Syphonophora squid had lost ability to jet swimming because its muscles are strongly reduced. Fins at this species are short and wide, a little bit similar to fly wings by shape. Squid usually passively soars in thickness of water and swims only when it is disturbed. In this case it flaps by fins, as by wings. However it can not swim for a long time, and quickly becomes exhausted.
For all cephalopods presence of different amount of tentacles is typical: it is a former forward part of creeping sole (the back part had turned to swimming funnel). Tentacles of the syphonophora squid are long, and also have very characteristic shape for what the animal has received the name. They very much resemble a colony of any coelenterates. Tentacle bases have relatively advanced muscles, and due to this tentacles can move. But in the significant part of muscles they are reduced, and cannot be bent any more. Distal part of tentacles is thin; suckers are partly reduced and strongly modified. The part of suckers has turned to glue glands, secreting on the surface of tentacles sticky secret. Here and there among them there are luminous glands - the modified large suckers looking like bulbs. They are almost closed, forming bladder in which secretions of the special gland containing luciferin and luciferase enzyme mix up. When the squid simultaneously emits two reagents in cavity of bladder, it brightly flashes for any time.
Tentacles are the main hunting adaptation of this squid. Being a passive animal, this squid has not ceased to be a predator. Simply prey itself comes to a predator now. Lighting squid involves to itself small fishes and invertebrates. These creatures are simply pasted to feelers, and while they have failed to free, the squid grips and eats them.
Except for usual tentacles, for squids two trapping tentacles are characteristic. At this species they are very well advanced, and muscles easily permit them to bend in any direction. Trapping tentacles are thin, easily extensible, and on their ends suckers and horn hooks are advanced. Having felt that to tentacles small catch is pasted, the syphonophora squid lets out one trapping tentacle (usually it keeps them involved), and seizes prey before it will free.
Syphonophora squid is rather large creature: though length of its body is only about 25 – 30 cm, tentacles of this cephalopod are very long – up to 2 meters. The male is much smaller than the female – its length is about one and half meters including tentacles. At it organs of smell sense are strongly advanced, and it swims much more actively than the female, searching for her by odorous trace.
Similarly to all squids, this species breeds only once a life. The female bears clutch of 400 – 500 large eggs about half-year, then young squids remain on the body of female till one month. They feed with prey caught by parental tentacles (after their hatching the female does not eat any more, and her body degrades). The posterity cautiously creeps on parent tentacles, eating the catch pasted to them. They do not paste to tentacles of the female because covers of body at them secret the substances interfering action of glue of this species. Usually young squids abandon the female when it perishes and also its tentacles cease to emit sticky secret. They become able to breed at the age of approximately five years.

Unequal-handed angler squid (Lophiotheutis anisomanus)
Order: Squids (Theutida)
Family: Angler squids (Lophiotheutidae)

Habitat: Atlantic Ocean, depth from 200 up to 2000 meters.

Picture by Timothy Morris

“Planktonic accident” at the border of Holocene and Neocene rendered enormous influence to fauna of deepwater organisms. Inhabitants of depths, where the sunlight does not reach, entirely depend on efficiency of top layers of water. Therefore in epoch of mass extinction of pelagic animals deepwater fauna had suffered serious damage.
In Neocene depths of oceans are populated as richly, as in Holocene, but their inhabitants belong to descendants of shallow-water and coastal forms. In depths, as well as at the surface of water, fishes and cephalopods compete to each other.
Among deepwater cephalopods the group of passive predators evolved – these ones are angler squids, or unequal-handed squids. They live in all oceans and populate the thickness of water. Some species keep near to continental slope and at underwater mountains. These ones are passive and slowly moving forms with rounded fins and short body. They swim slowly, and mostly passively hang in thickness of water, having stretched tentacles, which serve only for supporting of body in water thickness.
Unequal-handed squid is the typical representative of this group of animals. It is widely settled in Atlantic from temperate latitudes of both hemispheres up to equator. Length of body of this mollusc is about 20 cm. It has short sac-like body with rounded fins. In rest the squid supports the necessary position in thickness of water, slightly waving by fins. Maintenance of buoyancy is promoted also by fatty liver shifted to the forward part of its body.
Tentacles of unequal-handed squid are wide and flat. They had lost almost all suckers (only a few pairs of suckers directly near the mouth are kept), and had turned to organs promoting soaring in water thickness. The length of tentacles does not exceed length of body of squid. In rest this squid soars in thickness of water, having turned tentacles upwards and having stretched them in sides, as petals of flower.
Angler squids are predators; they catch prey with the help of the trapping hands modified in special way. Trapping hands of these molluscs have different length and different purposes. Right hand is very long and extensible – usually it may be extended to the length of up to three body lengths of the animal, but at some species it extends even more. Along this trapping hand a bunch of muscular fibres stretches, due to which this hand may be contracted very quickly. The tip of right hand frequently may be translucent and leaf-shaped. On it organs of luminescence are located; their size and amount vary at various species. These are the modified suckers becoming a refuge of colonies of luminous bacteria. The left hand of angler squids, on the contrary, is short and muscled, with well advanced suckers and hooks. This animal allures prey by right hand, imitating movements of small animals, and seizes and drags prey to the mouth by left hand. In salivary glands of these molluscs the strong poison, killing fishes and other animals with slow metabolism for some seconds, is producing.
At unequal-handed angler squid right trapping hand is extended to the length of about one meter. On its tip some bubbles (modified suckers), containing colony of luminous bacteria, are advanced. They are located in one line and resemble a colony of doliolids or siphonophoras, when they are visible in darkness of depths as a chain of fires. The hunting squid weakens muscles, extending bait hand, and the luminous bait does not give out its presence. Some muscles force bait to coil, strengthening similarity to colony of small live organisms. Bait hand imitates movement of small animal so skilfully, that it seems, as if other live being is adhered to squid – the difference between inactive animal and mobile bait is expressed so. When the prey involved with bait swims up closer, unequal-handed squid gradually contracts muscles of tentacle, forcing prey to come nearer to trapping hand.
Trapping hand of this squid is really similar to trap. It is short, but its tip is wide and is divided into two lobes with elastic cartilaginous “skeleton”. Cartilages are connected by adductor muscles, which “slam” trapping hand, when prey touches it. The inner surface of trapping hand is supplied with plenty of suckers, and on its edge sharp corneous hooks grow.
At angler fishes of several families males attached to the female to all further life and led parasitic way of life, but at other species males were simply tinier, rather than females. At angler squids males always lead an active way of life and are smaller, than females. They keep an anatomy and symmetry of body typical for squids, and trapping hands at them are not modified. Males of angler squids swim quickly and actively search for females ready to fertilization. Sexually mature male can fertilize several females before it will die from old age.
Ritual of “acquaintance” at these squids passes in some stages. Coming nearer to the female, male keeps in the distance from its tentacles – the female can seize him and eat. In order to allow the female to identify him, male emits in water the special chemical substance, signalling to the female about his presence. After that, being careful, male begins direct “acquaintance”. He gradually comes nearer to the female, keeping directed to her by tentacles and slowly waving by fins. Such pose enables him to feel movements of the female with the help of receptor cells on tentacles, and to escape from the female with the help of one sharp jet pulse in case of danger. If the female does not show aggression and is ready to pairing, male goes to closer contact. He cautiously creeps on head to the female and starts to touch her body. Having found out an entrance to pallial cavity, he enters in it spermatophore of lengthened form in dense cover, and abandons the female.
After fertilization the female actively eats till some time, and in her body the clutch ripens – some hundreds thousands tiny eggs. In same time her internal organs gradually start to degrade – inevitable process of ageing begins. The female lays eggs covered by common slimy jelly-like mass, which strongly swells in water. She keeps clutch by tentacles and trapping hand. In same time the luminous bait on her hand degrades. But the part of luminous bacteria has time to penetrate into clutch, and infects developing embryoes; therefore young angler squids are already able to luminescence. After young growth hatching the female perishes.
The complete cycle of development of this squid takes about three years, from which last eight months of life fall to incubation of clutch.

Dwarf unequal-handed squid (Anisomanella subtilis)
Order: Squids (Theutida)
Family: Angler squids (Lophiotheutidae)

Habitat: Atlantic, depth from 200 up to 2000 meters.

Picture by Timothy Morris

Representatives of angler squid family appeared rather successful inhabitants of depths. After the type of the passive predator squid alluring prey with the help of tentacle had formed, this group of molluscs had evolved a plenty of species adapted to various prey. The majority of these squids hunts fishes, but some species prefer small prey like shrimps. Dwarf unequal-handed squid, the smallest species of angler squids, belongs to the number of these species.
Dwarf unequal-handed squid is very small squid. The body length of adult individual of this species does not exceed 5 cm. This squid is not adapted to swimming and has the inflated body with small head. Fins are very wide; with their help animal can move to small distances and supports position of body convenient for hunting. Short flat tentacles with rudimentary suckers and advanced horn hooks in rest are stretched in sides. They form the floating “anchor”, assisting to stop at prey catching.
This tiny mollusc has very long bait hand – it can be extended to the distance up to half meter. The bait on the tip of this hand is lengthened and consists of the line of closely put luminous organs. It precisely imitates pelagic luminous worms which deep-water shrimps, the basic food of this squid, eat. Besides them, dwarf unequal-handed squid eats worms also involved with light of bait. The modified suckers turned to organs of luminescence, are placed on each side of the bait on long stalks, imitating articulated body of worm with outgrowths on each side of segments. On tip of bait two corneous hooks with jagged internal edge are advanced. They assist to drag prey closer to trapping hand. The animal grapples the deceived shrimps by hooks, and sharply contracts bait hand. It simultaneously tightens prey to itself, and moves nearer to it. Squid sticks to armour of shrimp by trapping hand, not giving it an opportunity to escape, and kills, putting to the crustacean a poisonous bite.
After fertilization by dwarf male the female lays eggs on internal surface of trapping hand and keeps them to the development of young ones till about 3 months. At this time it eats of nothing and is quickly exhausted; its body deeply degenerates. The significant part of muscles resolves, volume of liver decreases, and the digestive path disappears almost completely: only a tissue cord without lumen remains from it only. The female perishes soon after hatching of young ones from eggs. The complete life cycle of this species lasts about 16 months.

Toady squid (Bufotheutis dioneomanus)
Order: Squids (Theutida)
Family: Angler squids (Lophiotheutidae)

Habitat: Pacific Ocean, depth of 500 – 3000 meters.

Picture by Timothy Morris

The family of lophiotheutid squids (“angler squids”) is widespread in the deep water area of the oceans of the world. These passive cephalopods are the ecological analogs of deepwater anglerfishes of Holocene, and in due course of evolution they got a distant similarity to these fish in their appearance. They almost lost all capability for the rapid reactive swimming and became passively drifting planktonic animals, capable of only swimming slowly using the strokes of their wide triangular fins.
Toady squid is widespread practically everywhere in Pacific Ocean, living in deep water layers far from the coasts and underwater mountains. The body length of this mollusc is approximately 20 cm not including tentacles. The passive way of life of toady squid had led to the striking changes in appearance of this mollusc in comparison with its rapidly swimming ancestors from upper layers of water. This species has short wide body, covered in flabby skin of pale gray color, which can both extend and get rumpled. The tentacles of this animal are short and wide, with well developed suckers and large corneous hooks at the tips. Their function is keeping of the grasped prey. Near the mouth suckers are reduced, but the corneous hooks are very large and are wide.
This mollusc has good sight. It has large mobile eyes located at the edges of its flattened head. This squid easily notices the lights of deepwater animals in gloomy depths.
The trapping tentacle of toady squid is short and wide. Its trapping part can fold along like the leaf of Venus flytrap plant (Dionea muscipula). Sharp corneous hooks grow along the edges of this tentacle. Thin and flexible baiting tentacle can stretch out to the distance of one-and-a-half meters. When squid hunts, this tentacle “lures” prey from a distance with the help of the bait and grasps it with the “trap” of the trapping tentacle. The strong squeeze of trapping tentacle and corneous hooks stab the prey and kill it.
The beak of this squid is wide, and mouth can open very wide as well. The poisonous glands are not developed, because squid kills its prey with corneous hooks. This species is adapted to hunting large prey, whose mass can exceed its own one three times. Large animals are caught by the trapping tentacle right behind the head. When the prey is killed, squid grasps its head by tentacles and begins “stretching” onto its prey with the help of tentacle movements. Moving the tentacles, the predator crawls along the prey body from head to tail, keeping with the help of the hooks. Its mouth extends strongly, and the squid gradually swallows its prey, forcing it into a ring-like shape in its stomach. The lack of firm solid skeleton greatly helps this mollusc in carrying-out this specific method of feeding. After filling its stomach, the animal takes almost globular form and floats in the water depth, slightly moving its fins to keep stability. The prey is digested almost completely.
This species of squid bears eggs on its own body. After the mating the male stays alive – its energy is enough to fertilize several females. The female lays several hundred thousands of very small eggs, encased in jelly-like shell looking like wide ribbon. It winds the clutch around the baiting tentacle and guards it during several months, driving off enemies with the help of trapping tentacle. The degeneration of the tissues of its body occurs at this time – the fat becomes completely used-up, the reduction of intestine and digestive glands takes place. Toward the end of the incubation the female becomes slow-moving and sluggish, but it reacts to the approaching of predators and makes threatening movements with its trapping tentacles. After the hatching of young squids it dies.
Young animals easily come to the surface because of drops of fat in their liver. They feed in upper layers of water on plankton crustaceans and fish fry. As they grow, the young toady squids migrate into the depths. The development of this species occurs very rapidly: at the age of 4 months, the young animal already has a body shape typical for the adult individuals, and it has half of the body length of adult mollusc. During their first year they reach the typical size of the adult individuals, and at the second year of life they become sexually mature.

Translated by Bhut, the forum member.

Worms

Spat leech (Serpentobdella jaculata)
Order: Proboscisless leeches (Arhynchobdellea)
Family: Jaw leeches (Gnathobdellidae)

Habitat: tropical forests of Southern Asia.
The damp climate of Neocene epoch substantially favors to development of most various groups of moisture-loving animals. In tropical rainforests where each day it is rainy and it is always possible to find pools of fresh water, there is especially favorable inhabitancy for various invertebrates: mollusks and worms. But if snails are sluggish vegetarians, worms have turned to original predators of forest canopy. Certainly, not all worms have achieved success in development of wood habitats, and only their one group – leeches had become such group. Ground leeches were known in Holocene, but they were basically medium-sized animals. In Neocene they have grown to monsters of frightening size, becoming among appreciable predators in wood ecosystems. Huge slobber leech Titanobdella glutinosa places sticky traps on branches, from which even the cat-sized animal may not escape. Having excellent masking and prompt reaction adderleech Viperobdella arborea catches small vertebrate animals, killing them by poisonous sting. One more relative of these deadly creatures is the spat leech, developing an original way of hunting.
Spat leech is large predatory worm living only on trees. Life of spat leech is closely connected to water: its covers are soft, mucous, and very quickly lose water. But this worm regularly humidifies skin, using water gathering in crowns of epiphytic plants. The body length of this worm is up to 50 cm at width about 8 - 9 cm, but it is rather changeable size: the leech can contract, compressing almost to sphere or to stretch up more than twice. Colouring of the top side of its body is cryptic: grey with longitudinal brown strips and black strokes. The bottom side at this leech is colored brighter: it is yellow with round black spots.
Spat leech eats insects and small vertebrates – frogs, lizards, and even tiny birds. It is sluggish creature, but catches these mobile animals, spitting out in them jet of saliva which in air becomes sticky and viscous (by the same way Peripatus similar to hybrid of centipede and caterpillar, the representative of ancient by origin phylum Onychophora, catches forage to itself). In salivary glands of this leech two components are formed, each of which separately is a liquid. But it splashes them simultaneously, and under action of oxygen of air there is a chemical reaction between them.
Saliva splashing occurs due to strong ring muscles surrounding every gland. Nerves approach to them from one pair of nerve ganglions, and under influence of one impulse substances from two pairs of glands splash synchronously. The distance of this “shot” may account about 1 meter. In searches of catch this worm is guided first of all by sight: the spat leech has six well advanced eyes. Sight at this worm is rather keen: this leech notices small beetle at the distance of two meters, and especially sharply reacts to moving objects.
This worm spends all life on trees. More often leech passively waits, while possible catch will come nearer to critical distance itself. After that well-aimed “spittle” follows, and saliva of leech, having stiffened to rubber-like viscous substance, pastes bird or insect to leaves. If the bird brought down by the leech will fall on branches outside of reach of the leech, it has chance to escape: the saliva of the leech thickens very quickly, and in some minutes loses the property of sticking. Then it is easy to clean it off from feathers. But more often at the pasted prey anywhere it is not time to leave – leech snatches it, killing by sting of three cutting jaws, and then swallows prey entirely.
This leech, similarly to all neighbours, is hermaphrodite. Adult animal leaves mucous cocoons with eggs in tree-trunk hollows filled with water, or in crowns of epiphytic plants and in leaf axils filled with water. In each cocoon it is totaled up to 200 - 300 small eggs stuck together by slime in sticky paste. In 2 months of incubating from eggs thin translucent young leeches hatch. They crawl out on tree, search for damp places and more often settle in moss. Here they are not threatened with danger to dry, and it is possible to find a plenty of prey – small snails and insects with delicate covers. They grow and mature slowly: only at the fifth year of life at length about 30 cm the leech becomes adult. But these worms differ in longevity enviable for their size: the age limit at spat leeches can reach 50 years.

Hanging wood leech (Dendrobdella pendula)
Order: Proboscisless leeches (Arhynchobdellea)
Family: Jaw leeches (Gnathobdellidae)

Habitat: rainforests of South-Eastern Asia, forest canopy.
In Neocene epoch when the ancient tropical fauna had strongly suffered as a result of mass extinction, in new rainforests representatives of various groups of animals, occupied before this time the subordinated position, had appeared. In conditions of hot and damp climate in woods of South-Eastern Asia ground leeches had reached the big prosperity. Some especially large representatives of this group can successfully compete even to snakes, hunting small animals, birds and insects. They have developed various tactics of hunting that has permitted them to avoid a competition with each other – some of them put sticky substance on branch, others catch small animals, masking in the environment. Due to different tactics of food getting these worms do not compete with each other.
Next large land leech lives in woods of South-Eastern Asia is the hanging wood leech. It is rather sizable worm though some giants of rainforest from among its distant relatives surpass this species in size much more. The length of body of hanging wood leech in rest reaches 15 – 17 cm at width about 4 cm, but it can stretch almost up to 30 cm, moving or attacking catch. Similarly to the majority of leeches, this is rather passive predatory animal. Justifying the name, hanging wood leech waits for catch, hanging for a long time on bottom side of leaves and branches headfirst, keeping by strong back sucker and having compressed. It arranges an ambush above the branch or leaves where small animals appear oftenly. Sometimes it hides above flowers the where probability to meet potential catch is higher. To be less visible for catch, and also to not fall prey to large predators of different kind, this leech till the process of evolution has got excellent masking. By colouring and shape of body it simulates plant leaves: on the top part of body on green background light longitudinal strip crossed from sides by short strokes stretches, and on edge light points bordering a body like faltering strip are placed. The bottom side of body is grayish-white – it simulates the bottom side of leaf.
Having hung under branch, this worm waits for catch. Quickly stretching, this leech seizes by three sharp jaws small animal (usually insects, less often small vertebrates – frogs, lizards, mammals) moving on branch in the bottom. Smell organs and eyes are well advanced at this species – the animal determines the presence of catch with the help of sight and sense of smell. Eyes of this leech are rather large, located on edge of forward part of head. The animal badly distinguishes colors, but determines contours of objects well and reacts to movements. Especial interest at this leech is caused with subjects which movements are well visible on general background. In connection with presence of such predator some insects are adapted to mask from the hanging wood leech, rocking in a step to movements of leaves.
Having caught prey, leech kills it by bite and swallows entirely. Having swallowed catch, predatory worm becomes sluggish. The full leech hides on bottom side of branch, having attached to it simultaneously by mouth and back sucker (thus its body is bent U-shapedly), and digests food in relative rest.
Similarly to all leeches, this worm is the hermaphrodite. For breeding the leech does not leave crones of trees: it lays slimy cocoons containing about two hundred large eggs in top part of trunk hollow of large tree in which rain water gathers. Frequently for this purpose some leeches use the same tree-trunk hollow, and in one tree-trunk hollow it may be totally up to fifty cocoons. The incubating of eggs lasts about two months. Young leech gets out of cocoon and falls in pool of water accumulated in tree-trunk hollow. First some days of life young leeches swim in this water, eating insects fallen in water, and even their own smaller congeners. Later they abandon the hollow, and lead terrestrial life in foliage of forest canopy.

Egg leech (Oobdella ovivora)
Order: Proboscisless leeches (Arhynchobdella)
Family: Jaw leeches (Gnathobdellidae)

Habitat: tropics, subtropics and temperate areas of Old World, coasts of reservoirs.
In epoch of biological crisis at the boundary of Holocene and Neocene the variety of leeches remained almost the same, as in human epoch. Destruction of tropical forests and global congelation had resulted in extinction of some tropical species of leeches, but stabilization of natural conditions in early Neocene had resulted in a new wave of speciation of these worms. Among them the species using new food sources not developed by these worms earlier had evolved.
In significant territory of Eurasia and in the north of Zinj Land near reservoirs one species of leeches lives, mastered an ecological niche new to these worms. It is an amphibious species of leeches which eats contents of the bird’s eggs, biting small apertures in egg shell with powerful jaws. It is the egg leech, a worm up to 7 – 9 cm long. Body of this worm is narrow, almost cylindrical; head end is expanded and rounded in outlines. On it six small eyes are located. The oral sucker is small in size, but jaws of egg leech are extremely powerful, with slightly jagged edges. The back sucker is well advanced – with its help worm is kept on the substratum during the feeding. The body of egg leech is colored green with several longitudinal lines of brown spots. On edges body is bordered by a line of tiny red dots.
This species of leeches is stenophagous – it feeds strictly on contents of bird eggs. Salivary glands of egg leech produce substances interfering protein denaturation, and worm exhausts freely the contents of the whole medium-sized bird egg. In connection to such specific diet this worm is starving during the most part of year. Egg leech actively feeds till only few weeks a year when nesting of waterfowl begins. At this time it actively grows and gathers full intestines of contents of bird eggs. For feeding this leech creeps out on land and searches for hatching bird. Having found a clutch suitable for attack, leech crawls into the nest from below, bites through egg-shell and drinks its contents. If the egg is large, leech can creep inside of the shell and live there for several days, continuously feeding. When in egg the embryo develops, leech can not eat such egg any more; therefore the most part of attacks is made in the beginning of nesting of birds. The egg leech defines a stage of development of bird eggs by smell. In tropics, where seasonal prevalence in bird nesting is not expressed, this leech attacks on bird clutches up to five times a year.
When the leech exhausts egg white, it actively excretes the water received with food.
After feeding in organism of the leech eggs develop. Fertility of this worm species makes up to 150 eggs for one clutch covered with a cocoon with dense environment. The amount of clutches within one year is in direct ratio to amount of attacks on bird nests. Cocoons are rich in nutrients therefore young ones does not need for food for a long time. The first food of young leeches is the contents of a cocoon – nutritious slime.
Young leeches eat eggs of small songbirds nesting in reeds. In searches of such nest the young egg leech can rise on stalks of marsh plants to the height of more than one meter from the ground. In search of clutches it is helped very much by very advanced chemical feeling: the leech defines the presence of birds by the smell of their dung falling in water. This smell is so attractive to egg leeches that they gather under a nest of bird in numerous groups and almost simultaneously start to search for a nest. As a rule, one or several leeches succeed to find a nest, and the clutch may be destroyed within several hours. If it is not enough bird eggs, leeches can search for eggs of reptiles – snakes and turtles. Sometimes young egg leeches attack eggs of frogs or fishes.
Within two years the egg leech grows up to the size characteristic for adult individual.

This species of worms was discovered by Nem, the forum member.

Dwarf bird leech (Ornithoclepsis dimorpha)
Order: Proboscis leeches (Rhynchobdellidae)
Family: Snail leeches (Glossiphoniidae)

Habitat: warm-temperate areas of Europe, Northern Africa, Near East.
Land species of leeches are especially characteristic for tropical rainforests, where they often reach very large size. Independently of the tropical species leading the origin from ground leeches of Holocene epoch, some species of aquatic leeches of Eurasia passed to terrestrial way of life. One of such species is dwarf bird leech, the tiny species of leeches feeding on blood of various waterfowl and ground birds. Body of this worm is up to 10 – 20 mm long, flattened in dorsoventral direction. The body shape is rather unusual for leeches: the body consists of two halves sharply differing in shape. Forward part of the body is very lengthened and thin, separated by expressed constriction from the back part. Back part is expanded and has rounded outlines – in it large lateral outgrowths of intestines are located, in which the exhausted blood is kept. Because of this distinction of body parts there is a specific epithet “dimorpha”, meaning “two-shaped”. The top side of body has grey color with black cross strokes; the bottom side is white.
This species of leeches spends a lot of time on land; sight has great importance in its life. Large eyes are located on the head end of the body; their number can change from 4 up to 8 ones. Moreover, some small secondary eyes develop on the back end of the body in parallel to the edge of sucker. Dwarf bird leech can not distinguish colors, but distinguishes keenly contours of subjects at the distance up to 20 – 30 cm from itself. Also at this species sense of smell is well advanced; with its help this leech can find the birds sleeping on the ground.
This worm eats blood of birds, sticking to various parts of their bodies. Waiting for prey, leech hides among grass stalks or near stones. When the bird appears beside, leech quickly creeps up to it and creeps in plumage along its leg. On the body of bird leech is fixed on skin by back sucker and extends forward part of body in searches of area of skin under which the blood vessel lays. In addition to blood this species eats small invertebrate parasites of bird – feather lice, chewing lice and larvae of tineids moths. Sometimes leech bites through a body of mites full of sucked out blood, and drinks contents of their intestines, already begun to be digested.
During the contact of the host bird to its congeners this leech can creep on them.
Dwarf bird leech spends the most part of life on land, appearing in water only during the flooding or if the host bird decides to bathe. Therefore the problem of water preservation is especially important for it. This species can produce the slime stiffening as lumps inside which it waits through the droughty periods and frosts. In northern parts of area where snow can fall, dwarf bird leech winters under the layer of wood litter, sticking for itself a cocoon of slime and small vegetative rests.
This species lays the cocoons containing up to 40 eggs in wet ground and moss, at the coast of shallow reservoirs. The wall of cocoon is denser, than at other species of family, but through it a part of water necessary for development of eggs is penetrating. The cocoon is protected by the adult leech, the young ones live for some time on its body (like at related species of a human epoch). During first two months of life young leeches do not leave water and eat blood of tadpoles and frogs.

The idea about existence of this species of worms was proposed by Nem, the forum member.

Stomach lightworm (Gasteronereis luciferus)
Order: Phyllodocids (Phyllodocida)
Family: Nereids (Nereididae)

Habitat: Pacific Ocean, depths from 500 up to 1000 meters, symbiote of bathycrystallichthys fish.
At the process of evolution the strategy directed to formation of symbiotic connections between species, frequently led both species to success in struggle for existence. Algae and fungi form lichens – unpretentious and hardy organisms. Corals and other coelenterates, and also bivalve mollusks tridacna and goblet-like false rudistes had formed strong symbiosis with unicellular microorganisms. Glowing bacteria and fishes (or crustaceans) are the successful combination for development of gloomy depths of ocean. There are many examples of success of symbiotic species in struggle for existence.
In Neocene in depths of Pacific Ocean completely improbable symbiosis has appeared. It is formed by two species, which at other trend of developments could play roles of prey and predator. One species of bristle-bearing worms had exchanged the ability to glow brightly to safety and full life, becoming a symbiote of predatory deep-water fish. The strange habit of life of this worm has caused its name – stomach lightworm.
This worm balances on thin side between symbiosis and parasitism. Its way of life is rather interesting to that the animal lives simultaneously in two environments considerably differing by conditions of existence. The back part of body of stomach lightworm is attached in branchiate cavity, and front one – in stomach of fish non-glowing bathycrystallichthys (Bathycrystallichthys unlucens). Length of this worm is about 20 cm, and thickness of body is only about 5 mm.
In connection with unusual way life forward and back halves of worm body strongly differ in shape. The forward half of worm constantly located in stomach of fish is protected from action of digestive juice by dense covers. On segments of forward half there are no gills, and parapodiums are shifted to the bottom side of body and modified to suckers permitting to attach strongly to stomach wall of fish. The head of stomach lightworm has no eyes and tentacles, but is supplied with strong jaws by which worm bites off food swallowed by fish. Strong smooth rings of armour protect body of worm against traumas when fish swallows large prey. The forward half of worm can move inside fish stomach.
On forward segments there are also large organs of luminescence. They are located on lateral parts of segments in pairs and emit bright blue light which penetrates through walls of stomach of fish and is seen from outside.
The back part of body of this worm strongly differs from front one. Distinctions begin from segments which are at the level of entrance to gullet of fish. On such segments there are gills – on first segments they are small, and closer to the end of body turn larger, similar to bunches of thin red strings (blood of stomach lightworm contains hemoglobin). Therefore worm does not choke, existing more, than half inside the body of fish. On two back pairs of segments there are corneous hooks serving for attachment. With their help stomach lightworm is attached to branchial arch of fish. Also on back segments of worm paired genital organs grow.
Stomach lightworm is a dioecious species. Males and females at this species sharply differ in appearance; the present description concerns to the female. Dwarf male no more 10 mm long adheres to back part of female body near one of sexual apertures and feeds on her body as a parasite. It is actually necessary for her only for egg fertilization. The gender at these worms is not determined genetically and depends on destiny of the larva. If the larva succeeded to attach to gills of fish, it develops as a female. When young worm starts to develop in organism of bathycrystallichthys by “female” variant, young bathycrystallichthys still swims in top layers of water, where the meeting with other larva is probable. In this case it can attach to back part of body of young worm female and turn to male. If the meeting of female and male had not taken place, the female of stomach lightworm can breed parthenogenetically. Male has very simplified anatomy; its body keeps only reasts of segmentation and is supplied with several suckers on the forward end. After attachment to the female sense organs reduce at him. The gullet of larva developing to male pierces covers of the female and is turned out inside her body, supplying male with food.
Stomach lightworm breeds, regularly laying some hundreds tiny eggs made in slime cocoon. The back part of male body keeps mobility, and it fertilizes the female, entering sperm liquid in her ovoducts. Ovisacs are thrown out from branchial cavity of fish by current of water, and emerge on ocean surface. At this time from eggs planktonic trochophore larvae hatch. They gradually develop to pelagic worm-like individuals which settle on gills of young bathycrystallichthyses.

The idea about existence of this species is proposed by Simon, the forum member.

Sprouting tube worm (Phytoserpulopsis proliferus)
Order: Sabellids (Sabellida)
Family: Symbiotic tube worms (Symbioserpulidae)

Habitat: reeves of Indian and Pacific oceans, well illuminated areas of sea bottom.
Corals took the separate place in ecosystems of Earth due to the symbiosis with algae: they were original “autotrophic animals”, received a part of necessary for growth organic substances as result of processes of photosynthesis. After their extinction a plenty of various live organisms began “sharing” of their original ecological niche – some species form body of reef from their firm armors and shells, others catch tiny plankton, and third ones increased organic substance due to energy of sunlight. So at Earth of Neocene epoch the new generation of reef builders has appeared.
When water filtering and increasing of firm shell is not a problem for animals, the function of photosynthesis at the reef was undertaken basically by green and red limy algae forming at the bottom and underwater objects multi-colored limy crusts and outgrowths. However among animals species, challenging at plants their role at the reef due to symbiosis with microscopic algae, also have appeared. Basically they are various species of mollusks, which had lodged algae in edges of the pallium. But there are also other organisms which have offered cooperation to algae.
On the firm bottom of reef somewhere at the depth about two meters it is possible to see true “thickets” of limy tubes about 30 – 40 cm height, sticking up vertically. Keeping immobility, it is possible to wait, while from tubes their builders and inhabitants will appear. Really, some minutes after above separate tubes clouds of dregs appear, and then tips feather-like tentacles of their inhabitants are put outside. Gradually, having convinced of safety of world around, tube inhabitants put out from tubes rich plumes of tentacles, unwrapped, as if exotic flowers. Tips of tentacles are white, but their other part is colored emerald-green. Gradually it appears more and more of them, while the congestion of tubes turns to similarity of flower bed. However, it is enough to too curious fish or the shrimp to swim up, and magnificent plumes disappear in a flash, having involved in tubes.
Secretive inhabitants of limy tubes are sprouting tube worms, the special species of sedentary worms. Their very delicate segmented bodies are constantly latent in limy tubes. Only the head surrounded approximately with ten pinnate feather-like tentacles up to 10 cm long, with which help the worm eats, is put outside. The tube built by the worm, consists of layers of rather soft organic substance inlaid with sand particles. But on it limy algae settle, giving to tubes durability, sedimenting on them from outside thin layer of limestone.
On the caudal end of body of the worm some segments have formed sucker on which edges there are bristles transformed to tenacious hooks permitting to be kept strongly in tube.
At this species of worms in connection with sedentary way of life eyes have completely disappeared. But absence of sight is repeatedly compensated by sharply advanced organs of touch and chemical feeling. The cautious worm is difficult for deceiving: it is enough too sharp or strong movement of water, and worms instantly disappear in tubes.
Except for eyes, sprouting tube worm does not have also another, much more important for life system of organs – digestive tract. The mouth at these worms is completely disappeared, and only tissue band has remained from intestines. But worms at all do not suffer difficulties with feeding because for some millions years before Neocene their ancestors have entered symbiosis with photosynthesizing protozoans. Due to this adaptation worms became rather independent organisms living due to the symbionts.
In tentacles of worms, in friable connective tissue, colonies of photosynthesizing protozoans, giving to tentacles of worm bright green colouring, live and breed. Tentacles are repeatedly ramified, and this feature increases surface of their contact with water. They are covered with permeable epithelium permitting to symbionts of these worms to receive from water all mineral and organic substances necessary for life. Symbiotic unicellular organisms penetrate into feelers of each separate individual of the worm from outside. The immune system of sprouting tube worm is arranged to allow the “own” species of protozoans to penetrate into feelers and to occupy them, and against “strangers” the immune system of animal works, tearing away them.
Just under wreath of tentacles some segments, producing building material of tube, are placed. They increase tube by layers which are clearly visible on its surface.
Body segments of the worm differ a little in structure. So, segments from middle of an animal on which hooks are advanced, in themselves are thick and rather not elastic. In them fat is gathering, serving as a stock of nutrients if the forward end of worm will be nevertheless bitten off by fish or crab. And segments from forward part of animal can stretch strongly and contract sharply: they are responsible for impellent reactions of animal.
Most back segments of this species have completely surprising ability for animals: they can form germs sprouting in new worms. Branches of all systems of organs of the worm come into each such germ, and it starts to sprout through a wall of tube. At first at the basis of tube the aperture appears, through which it is appreciable as additional “head” moves and expands hole. Gradually this “head” starts building of short horizontal tunnel sharply bent upwards. When it reaches about two thirds of height of initial tube, at an affiliated individual tentacles start to grow, and later they’ll be occupied by symbiotic protozoans from an environment. In one colony it can be up to four generations of worms connected together by channels of blood system. Growth of these “additional” individuals occurs especially actively, when individuals of previous generations are injured. Then, if damages are too strong, the founder individual may be simply resolved by formed affiliated individuals, and the central tube becomes empty.
At the time of highest inflow colonies of sprouting tube worms (and also of other related species) as if blow up by eggs and sperm liquid. Eggs are carrying away by waves to open ocean. In some hours from them larvae covered with ciliums hatch. They will spend about one month in plankton, and then few larvae have survived for this time will come to reef with next high inflow. They settle on bottom and give rise to new colonies. Young worms have no symbionts, but settle on sunny sites of reef. They still have intestines, and they differ by nothing from other sedentary organisms. But gradually symbionts of the necessary species find their tentacles and breed in them. Then intestines gradually degenerate, and worm starts to live exclusively due to “lodgers”, providing them house and safety.
Reeves of Indian and Pacific oceans are inhabited also by other species of tube worms entered symbiosis with photosynthesizing organisms:
Poisonous tube worm (Phytoserpulopsis toxicus). This species, perhaps, is protected from enemies better than others: it enters symbiotic relations with poisonous protozoan Gymnodinium. Some species of these protozoans cause deadly for many other animals “red inflow”, but worms easily coexist with such dangerous creatures due to especial enzyme, neutralizing poisonous substances getting in blood. But fish or shrimp, having tried reddish-orange tentacles of this worm, will not want to make it second time any more. As if understanding its own safety, this worm is not so cautious, as other species: it hides only at rather strong movement of water or direct touch to tentacles. Despite of fine protection, this worm is rather rare: the symbiotic protozoan species occupying its tentacles, meets too seldom, and most part of larvae of the worm perishes, not having met such symbiont. Tubes of this species are narrow, but grow in dense groups and reach about half meter height.
Grey tube worm (Phytoserpulopsis glaucus) has given a shelter to cyanobacteriae, and it also has made it inedible for many fishes. Tentacles of this species have bluish-green colouring, and their edges form the expanded blades which the worm keeps perpendicularly to sun beams. For recognition of sunlight in tissues of tentacles special cells reacting to light were developed. Due to wide prevalence of symbiotic algae this species may occupy extensive areas of reeves. It differs in rather small size: height of tubes is only 10 – 13 cm.
Golden tube worm (Phytoserpulopsis chrysus) lives in symbiosis with yellow-green algae giving yellowish shade to translucent feelers. It is the smallest species of genus – length of body of the adult worm is about 5 cm. Its tubes grow basically in horizontal direction, only their tips rise upwards. At times limy algae completely cover them, but it does good to worms: they live in most restless part of reef – on the top of valves of shells of bivalve mollusks, on stones near to a surface of water. Here the probability to be eaten by fishes is minimal for this worm.

Awful teratonema (Teratonema horribilis)
Order: Spirurida (Spirurida)
Family: Filariidae (Filariidae)

Habitat: Meganesia, vicinities of Carpentaria Lake and the bogs surrounding it.
Mass extinction of species at the end of human epoch rendered the essential influence to the species connected to them at various stages of life cycle. First of all it had affected on parasitic species of invertebrates, and helminths in particular. But restoration of biological variety in early Neocene had resulted in rough evolution of parasites, including various species of pathogenic organisms. Parasites of new species of live organisms evolved, arranging their life cycle to features of connections between the species forming ecosystems in which the host species lives. One of new species of parasitic worms lives at the territory of tropical forests of Meganesia. Some kinds of animals connected between each other by life cycle of this species of worms live in rainforests of this region.
The representative of nemathod worms, awful teratonema (literally: “the monstrous string”) lives in blood vessels of large land vertebrates inhabiting areas near lakes in northern part of Meganesia – brackish Carpentaria Lake and more salt Arafura Lake. Its final hosts are various species of mammals – mainly marsupials and artiodactyls (descendants of species introduced by people).
Awful teratonema has pronounced sexual dimorphism. The female of this species is about 120 mm long at body thickness of less than 1 mm, and male is approximately twice shorter. Worms of this species have smooth cylindrical body with thin covers. Adult worms parasitize in blood vessels of mammals, preferring places with thinner skin. At ungulates they are located in vessels in the field of neck, near eyes and on breast. Marsupials with thinner skin are infected in the field of front limbs, on breast and at the lower jaw, and also in a groin and in the field of brooding pouch. Worms acquire nutrients, absorbing them by the whole surface of the body, and also exhaust erythrocytes. In thin blood vessels with slow current of blood the worm is fixed, simply bending inside the vessel and resting by sides against its walls.
The worm female gives rise to thousands of microscopic larvae daily till the whole adult life; they are constantly present in blood of the infected animal. Mosquitoes and other blood-sucking dipters suck blood of the infected animal. In their organism larvae pass the further development. They migrate from digestive path of insect to its mouth, and turn to inactive larva of the second generation in their salivary glands. The blood-sucking insect transfers larvae of the parasite to organism of the second intermediate host. In life cycle a role of the second intermediate host is performed by very original inhabitant of Meganesia – small mammal marsupial bloodsucker.
Getting in blood of marsupial bloodsucker at the sting of insect, the larvae of the second generation of awful teratonema live not for long. They do not harm this intermediate host, and during the development in its organism make a lot of larvae of the third generation. These larvae settle in cells of mucous membrane of mouth of the animal. The larva lives in depth of hypoderm, but infects cells of epithelium with larvae of the fourth generation which stay in inactive condition inside epithelial cells. The parasite is located under the tongue and on the internal side of lips of marsupial bloodsucker, forming traces as small aqueous vesicles, containing larvae of inactive stage. At the bite the appearing of blood of prey in mouth of this mammal serves as an original chemical signal for the further development of larvae. They leave mouth epithelium of marsupial bloodsucker and get in blood of the final host, infecting it.
In blood of large mammals awful teratonema develops without problems. Occasionally the marsupial bloodsucker attacks on yagil – large species of flightless bird of Meganesia. In blood of infected yagil at the influence of higher body temperature of bird worms develop more intensively and grow larger. They stop up a gap of blood vessels that has rather serious consequences for the infected bird: occurrence of tumours or tissue necrosis.

Giant snail planaria (Titanoplana helicivora)
Order: Tricladids (Tricladida)
Family: Toothed planarians (Odontoplanariidae)

Habitat: Central and Eastern Europe, rivers and lakes.
At the boundary of Holocene and Neocene the Earth had gone through severe congelation, even more severe, than all ones had taken place before it. This event rendered colossal influence to the nature of the Earth. The climate became drier and colder, and the amount of rains was strongly reduced. The congelation rendered serious influence on freshwater reservoirs of Eurasia and North America. Glaciers had changed character of river current, and because of drier climate in ice age the part of reservoirs had simply vanished.
Freshwater flora and fauna had suffered in lesser degree, rather than sea ones. The majority of kinds of invertebrates managed to keep the species variability. The broken off areas and difference in conditions of inhabiting promoted the evolution and active speciation. In places where favorable conditions and abundance of food resources had kept, specialized species evolved. One of the main centers of speciation in Europe is the Balkan region. In ice age this area appeared in conditions of favorable enough temperature mode and moderate humidifying. Mountain areas served as stores of moisture, and from glaciers rivers constantly flew, filling reservoirs in valleys. A plenty of isolated habitats and remoteness from the glacier promoted preservation of variability of species of freshwater fauna.
In Neocene the climate of Balkan became damp due to influence of Fourseas stretched in northeast. Forests favor to preservation of reservoirs, and surprising species of live creatures prosper in them. One of new Neocene species is large freshwater planaria up to 3 – 4 cm long. It lives in coastal thickets of water plants and shows itself seldom.
By appearance this worm is the typical representative of its kind. The flat body of giant snail planaria is covered with caustic poisonous slime. Its color is grey with light cross strips forming “marble” pattern. On front edge of the body there are two short blunt tentacles, sticking in sides, and small eyes – 8 ones smaller, than poppy seed by size. Planaria sees badly and vaguely distinguishes only contours of objects.
This worm is an active predator. Giant snail planaria eats snails, eating them away from shells. For feeding on such specific protected prey at it the hunting adaptation had developed. The characteristic feature of planarias is the gullet supplied with muscles, able to extend and even to live independent life. At giant snail planaria the gullet is considerably improved in comparison with its tiny relatives. Due to ring muscular fibers it is able to extend strongly (up to 10 cm long). On the tip of gullet some pointed corneous denticles grow. This worm hunts snails very effectively. Having found out suitable snail, the worm simply pushes the gullet in fauces of its shell and eats snail away alive entirely – down to the last coil of shell. Certainly, mollusks with operculum on the shell are more protected from this worm, but at young mollusks of such species giant snail planaria gnaws through the operculum and also eats them away.
Such large worm is well protected from attacks of fishes and water beetles due to the cover of poisonous slime. But nevertheless these worms meet in European reservoirs not so often – they also have enemies. Larvae of water beetles and water bugs can attack this planaria. They do not bite it, inevitably receiving a portion of slime, but simply exhaust the body of worm by proboscis or through mandibles, not touching its slime. Sometimes water bugs attack on planaria devouring snail and exhaust semidigested food right from its intestinal cavity, having pierced the wall of body by proboscis.
Giant snail planaria has interesting feature of sexless breeding: having had eaten large enough catch, the worm is able to divide spontaneously. The body of planaria divides across with the help of contractions of longitudinal muscles. After that each half completes missing organs till some days, using nutrients of semidigested prey which had preserved in intestines. Thus gullet of planaria also is separated and lives by its own life – it can creep, contracting muscles, and reacts to approach of catch. Gullet of planaria attacks small snails and other invertebrates, obviously preferring soft-bodied ones. It eats them, and using received nutrients completes on the back end temporarily absent body. If hunting was unsuccessful, gullet all the same restores the body, using the nutrients which are accumulated in its tissues. Thus it “dries out” and strongly decreases in size, but survives and even lives much longer the normal worm of this species.
Giant snail planaria lives in conditions of seasonal climate. In autumn, when water becomes colder, at this worm sexual breeding begins. Similarly to all planarias, this species is hermaphrodite, and two any individuals can fertilize each other. Eggs of this species develop in slimy cocoons which the animal pastes to roots of trees or driftwood. Cocoons hibernate, and in spring young individuals left them. In autumn young worms lay the first clutch, but do not reach the maximal size. At the second year of life they reach the sizes of adult individual, and start breeding by division. Life expectancy at giant snail planaria may reach 5 years.

Burning flatworm (Nipponoplana tigrina)
Order: Tricladids (Tricladida)
Family: Bipaliids (Bipaliidae)

Habitat: Japan Islands, humid forests of southeast.
Tropical rainforests form the community supporting its own existence. Moss, wood litter and roots of trees keep water as if a sponge, and the leaves falling from trees, at once are decomposed and go to circulation of substances again. The rich forest canopy supports a specific microclimate – equal and moist. In such conditions life is especially rich, and some water inhabitants willingly occupy land. Various species of large ground leeches settle in forests of South-East Asia, and one species of fishes lives in South America in wood litter – it is almost blind worm-like catfish. One more species from the number of recent immigrants from water lives in tropical forests of Japan – it is a large ground planaria named burning flatworm because of bright colouring and burning taste of the slime covering its body.
Burning flatworm is the true giant among planarias – it reaches the length of 30 – 35 cm at width of about 2 cm. It is smaller, than at record by size ground planarias of Holocene epoch, but all the same it surpasses the length of the majority of species of ground planarias. Colouring of body at this worm is very much remembered: it is cross-striped, on red background with orange shade on edges and in forward part of body the set of cross strips of black color passes. This large worm imitates the appearance of local tiger millipede (Bradyjulius rubro-nigrum). Appearance of burning flatworm warns that the animal is very well protected from an attack. Any animal which will snap this worm, will feel the burning taste of its slime. Slime will irritate mucous membranes of predator within several hours, and the memoirs on unpleasant meeting will be remembered to the aggressor for a long time. Burning flatworm “maintains the reputation”, having the security common for the species included to the “ring” with such type of colouring. Besides this worm, tiger millipede is imitated by one local snake. But burning flatworm has one more unique way of protection which any of species from the “ring” does not own. If the body of animal is injured, or any predator had seized it by paw, burning flatworm can break off its body by voluntary retraction of muscles to some parts, slipping out from predator’s grip. It does not bring any serious harm to it – each piece easily regenerates, restoring the lost organs, and turns to small normal worm.
This planaria lives in leaf litter and hunts earthworms and insects. Gullet located in the middle of the body, as if lives by independent life, searching for food irrespectively of direction of movement of the worm. It can extend to any side to the distance about equal to the body length of a worm. At edges of the gullet sensitive cells and chemoreceptors assisting in search of prey are located. Gullet can even dig in friable ground in searches of worms, catching and swallowing them right in their own hole.
Head of this worm is flat, crescent and two-lobed. Very tiny eyes (this worm has 10 eyes) are located in line on its front edge. They can distinguish light from darkness and distinguish contours of large objects – it is quite enough of it for worm, which gullet searches for prey by smell itself.
Slimy and thin covers of burning flatworm easily lose moisture, therefore burning flatworm lives only in moist places. This planaria though is ground worm, can behave as an amphibian: it can dive into cool water of forest streams, rich in oxygen, and receive oxygen from water through external covers till any time. It avoids pools with warmed up water, but can catch water animals, using mobile gullet, which stretches under water. The favourite forage of this worm includes aquatic snails. At the drought burning flatworm is dug in the ground and contracts almost to ball, forming around of itself a slimy cover. Sand particles stick to slime, and, drying up, the cocoon becomes covered with dense crust. After rains it becomes soggy, worm absorbs moisture from ground, restoring its amount in organism, and continues to lead usual life.
This animal is a hermaphrodite. After pairing the worm lays cocoons containing up to 20 eggs in moist ground. After 3 – 4 weeks very small young worms having as burning slime, as adult ones, leave them.
Enemies of this worm are predatory bugs, which can pierce by proboscis covers of its body, passing a layer of slime, inject their poisonous saliva rendering digestive action, and exhaust the dissolved tissues of worm. The adult worm can escape from a bug, having divided to pieces, only one of which will be exhausted by the insect, but young worms frequently have no time to make it and perish after a sting of bug.

Pelagic multi-eyed worm (Crystallodiscus polyoculatus)
Order: Polycladids (Polycladida)
Family: Planocerids (Planoceridae)

Habitat: temperate and cold waters of Southern hemisphere.
In plankton there are various species of animals which spend in this community as a part of life (larval stage), and all life entirely. All planktonic inhabitants are well adapted to soaring in thickness of water, developing freakish outgrowths, spikes and flat parts of body which help to keep in thickness of water. Food predilections of plankton inhabitants are diverse, but the most part of them are predators of various trophic levels.
Among the planktonic animals living in productive areas of oceans of Southern hemisphere, there is a pelagic flat worm with wide body of rounded outlines – pelagic multi-eyed worm. It is rather large species of the group: the length (and diameter) of the body reaches approximately 10 cm. Along the front line of the body many tiny eyes (up to 10 – 16 ones) are located, which distinguish light from darkness and can distinguish contours of large objects. From both edges a line of eyes is bordered by short triangular tentacles. Body of pelagic multi-eyed worm is translucent, through it very much ramified intestines penetrating the whole body are seen. This worm has long extensible gullet looking like proboscis which grows right in the middle of the belly side of body and is supplied with a plenty of muscular fibres allowing it to extend, bend and retract.
Being a planktonic animal, this worm is capable to swim actively with the help of wavy movements of lateral parts of the body combined to bends along an axis of the body. Speed of such movement can make up to 3 meters per minute. Pelagic multi-eyed worm is a predator eating various small planktonic animals: larvae of fishes and cephalopods, worms and crustaceans. Usually this worm passively hovers in thickness of water, keeping an immovability of the body and resembling at this time any kind of jellyfish. Its gullet is extended waiting for approach of suitable prey and makes slow movements in sides. Its edges are supplied with chemoreceptors, and gullet can search for prey independently of the body of worm. When the small animal swims up close enough to the tip of gullet, the worm extends it in its side, trying to seize prey. If the attempt is successful, pelagic multi-eyed worm pulls prey to itself and swallows it entirely.
In parenchyma between branches of intestines the fat inclusions improving buoyancy develop. They are visible in the body of worm as numerous white semitransparent lumps. At well fatten worm they form the pattern repeating the contours of branches of intestines. The worm starved for a long time spends stocks of fat entirely and becomes completely transparent.
As at all free-living flat worms, at pelagic multi-eyed worms ability to regeneration is advanced in great degree. The seized worm spontaneously breaks up to some pieces. From each piece of body, irrespective of its size, the whole animal is soon restored. Regeneration proceeds especially quickly at the presence of stocks of fat in parenchyma.
Pelagic multi-eyed worm is the hermaphrodite; a lot of pairs of masculine and feminine sexual glands are located at the edge of body. Masculine and feminine sexual products develop in the body of animal not simultaneously, that excludes self-fertilization. At this species development is direct – from eggs tiny copies of adult individual hatch. They at once start to hunt pelagic nanoplankton. At the age of 4 – 5 months the young ones reach the size of adult individual.

Coelenterates

Anchor jellyfish (Anchorotentacula sessilis)
Order: Trachylids (Trachylida)
Family: Anchor jellyfishes (Anchorotentaculidae)

Habitat: Atlantic Ocean, algal fields near New Azora.
Relief of bottom of Atlantic Ocean in combination to currents has reasoned the occurrence of extensive fields of floating seaweed near the New Azora Island. Fields of seaweed, quickly expanding and equally quickly dying off, form the favorable conditions for life of various sea inhabitants. Here they find not only shelter and food, but also safe place for life: fields of seaweed soften force of storm.
The majority of inhabitants of algal fields are represented by descendants of coastal animals. Their ancestors settled at the stage of plankton pelagic larva, and some larvae had to found the convenient place among floating seaweed, having given rise to the population of algal fields of New Azora. Some inhabitants of water thickness also had adapted to life in seaweed. One of these creatures is the small jellyfish attaching to seaweed. In Holocene epoch jellyfish Lucernaria led the attached way of life was known. It attached to substratum by dome, upwards the mouth, and kept radial symmetry. But the Neocene jellyfish attaching to seaweed differs from that species. At it the radial symmetry characteristic for coelenterates is lost in some degree. From four tentacles of this jellyfish one has the function of attaching – with its help the animal holds thalli of seaweed. For this feature this coelenterate is named anchor jellyfish. Other three tentacles have kept trapping ability. They are thin, ramified, and also are able to extend strongly. On their tips urticators (lasso cells) are advanced. Usually anchor jellyfish freely soars in water, having fixed by attaching tentacle and having stretched in sides trapping tentacles. This is almost transparent creature, practically invisible in water. Its body has spherical form with thick mesogloea through which ramified gastral cavity is visible. The size of adult anchor jellyfish may reach 10 cm, and the “anchor” tentacle is extended to one and half meter. The anchor jellyfish belongs to number of most poisonous inhabitants of ocean. Its food includes pelagic worms, crustaceans and small fishes.
This creature is almost not able to swim. If the anchor jellyfish casually tears off from substratum, it motionlessly soars in thickness of water, having stretched tentacles in sides. When one of them touches seaweed or other substratum, it is fixed on it and the jellyfish is dragging to substratum.
The attaching tentacle is thicker and longer, rather than trapping ones. On it muscular fibrillas develop, able to contract in wide degree. When storm comes, or beside large animal swims, muscular fibrillas contract, and the jellyfish hides in seaweed thickets, having shrinked in mucous ball. Lasso cells of attaching tentacle have changed: they had lost lasso and poison, and the sensitive hair had turned to strong cornificate prickle. The attaching tentacle is ramified on the end to some branches. The animal twists them around seaweed thallus and keeps on the spot so. Sometimes casual movement of large animal or storm wave breaks off attaching tentacle and tears off the jellyfish from substratum. In this case the animal attaches to substratum by any of kept tentacles, and it gradually turns to attaching one. And regenerating attaching tentacle becomes trapping one.
Breeding of jellyfishes usually includes alternation of generations: polypoid and medusoid stages. The anchor jellyfish belongs to species at which the stage of polyp is lost a long time ago. Jellyfishes of this species lay eggs, from which pelagic planula larva hatches. Growing up, it at first leads mobile life under the carpet of seaweed, where there is a lot of food and few plankton predatory animals. Having reached the diameter about 3 cm, young jellyfish passes to sedentary habit of life. Life expectancy of this species does not exceed three months.

Sarcoda

Host amoeba (Gregariamoeba structurata)
Order: Tubulinids (Tubulinida)
Family: Amoebas (Amoebidae)

Habitat: almost everywhere, where there are temporary or long term reservoirs with the polluted water and low contents of oxygen.
Sponges hardly endure the polluted water, therefore in human epoch the variety of freshwater sponges had sharply decreased, and organisms of other systematic groups had started to substitute them in their niche. Possible, as a consequence of this redistribution of roles in Neocene ecosystems colonial protozoans had evolved, that eat plankton and the weighed particles of 1 – 5 microns in size, living in eutrophic reservoirs. One of their representatives is host amoeba named because of some features of colony life.
The colony of host amoebas looks like a shapeless slimy crust of 0.01 – 0.05 mm thick on underwater objects – plants, stones and driftwood. The cell has the shape of flat cake; its diameter is about 70 microns, and height is approximately 10 microns. As against related forms, host amoeba has no its own shell.
In cytoplasm of these protozoans 2 species of symbiotes live: lophotrichous bacteria attached in deepenings of plasmalemma (at the encystment of the host cell they are located in vacuoles) and parasitic bacteria of the unknown origin, synthesizing folic acid for the host and having the important role in chemotaxis (they are able “to remember” a direction and to adjust the formation of pseudopods at this place). These symbiotes constantly live in vacuoles of host amoebas. At division of the cell they are distributed between daughter cells.
At the end of cell most removed from the substratum there is a large bunch of lophotrichous bacterial symbiotes, moving food objects closer. Near to this bunch the hyperactivity of cytoplasm is observed: pseudopods grow more often and phagocytosis proceeds more actively. Sated cells creep away deep into the colony. Amoebas use the bacterial symbiotes to create a current of water to vertically extended site of body.
These protozoans live in eutrophic reservoirs and consequently are periodically compelled to struggle against burying of colonies with the deposit. Host amoebas struggle against this adverse phenomenon in two ways. They mainly migrate through a layer of deposit, forming thus of a chain of cells following the “leader” cell (at this time the colony is frequently separated to some daughter ones). Otherwise they migrate, forming “guides” (one more species of the symbiotic bacteria producing a number of amino acids and determining behaviour of amoeba in many respects) that allow “to remember” the direction of movement, and the whole colony creep in this direction till 5 – 70 minutes following each other like caterpillars of pine processionary moth. If the layer of deposit is thin, cells creep through it upward in order to remain everytime at the border of two environments. In more serious cases the colony is had to migrate. Migration begins from occurrence of “leaders” to which cells at the edge of colony turn. Then the formation of chains of cells follows, and they search for more favorable conditions independently from each other. In this case amoebas alternate “a choice of direction” at which “leaders” replace each other, and the periods of straight crawling. At this time amoebas eat bacteria living in silt. During the migration colony frequently breaks up to some parts.
The second problem to which these protozoans face is a shortage of oxygen frequently happening in polluted reservoirs. Host amoebas struggle against it by the formation of planktonic settling forms. They have numerous bacterial symbiotes with flagella, facilitating the swimming (the direction of flagellae rotation can change to opposite one), and long “thorns” of cast away bacterial flagella, facilitating soaring in thickness of water. After the period of plankton life these protozoans can settle again on the ground or floating objects and form colonies.
The colony keeps the certain orderliness due to “skeleton”. The common “skeleton” of the colony represents friable enough construction of flagellae having polysaccharide chemical structure cast away by lophotrichian symbiotes with the insignificant addition of proteins. This “skeleton” also serves also as food stock for the whole colony.
Settling of host amoebas proceeds in two ways. In standard case this species is settled with the help of cysts which are not so steady, especially to drying, and are only temporary condition of the cell. Less often some amoebas “stick together” to the chain, grow long (about 20 – 40 microns) cross “hairs” representing modified bacterial flagella, and due to them get much better hydrodynamical characteristics. Such planktonic settling stages are formed at shortage of oxygen. The whole colony breaks up to set of such chains and “flies up”, leaving the substratum.
Sexual breeding in life cycle of host amoebas is absent. A free-floating stage can easily become a commensal of various aquatic animals, more often Daphnia species on which shell small temporary colonies of filterers are formed. Sometimes the floating stage gets on gills of fishes, and due to them can be transported to rather long distance. Cysts at this species are formed at approach of adverse conditions (food shortage and/or drying of reservoir), and do not endure complete drying, therefore they are kept only in places where silt keeps sufficient dampness. These protozoans are rather numerous and sometimes form in their habitats a kind of original tiny stromatolites.

This species of protozoans was discovered by Mutant, the forum member.

Purple megalosarcodina (Megalosarcodina purpurea)
Order: Arcellinida (Arcellinida)
Family: Megalosarcodines (Megalosarcodinidae)

Habitat: the Mediterranean hollow, hyperhaline swamps.
Hyperhaline swamps and lakes, formed in a hollow of former Mediterranean Sea, represent an extreme inhabitancy for live beings. Here, among white salt plains, only few species survive, which can adapt to presence of great amount of salt in water. But the ones managed to survive in such conditions, prosper and are virtually out of competition. Frequently the evolution of such organisms derivates freakish lifeforms.
Very large testate amoeba externally similar to fossil nummulites of Tertiary lives in hyperhaline water of Mediterranean swamps. It is purple megalosarcodina, a species of shell-bearing protozoans, making the separate family. Its size is measured in centimeters – it is a giant among protozoans. The size of flat disc-shaped shell of megalosarcodina is about 5 – 6 cm. The cell of this amoeba represents multinuclear syncytium (the number of nuclei is measured by thousands) having flat leaf-like shape. The shell is also flat and disc-like, made of carbonates. The surface of this shell has numerous small transparent crystal fenestellae. The shell grows in concentric circles along the edge. It is capable to regeneration, and as it grows, it also turns thicker in the middle due to accumulation of new layers of material. On the surface of the shell borders of the previous layers of increase are seen. After the dying off of megalosarcodinae their shells fall on the bottom of reservoir, forming deposits of limestone in ultrahaline swamps.
Numerous bacteria living in cytoplasm of purple megalosarcodina are extreme halophiles performing the photosynthesis by means of bacteriorhodopsine pigment. Due to their presence the amoeba has beautiful purple color. Symbiotic bacterium Rhodolampropedia hexagonalis is the direct descendant of bacterium Lampropedia. In human epoch purple bacteria of unusual cell shape – triangular or square (such cell shape Lampropedia had) lived in Dead Sea. Their descendant has cells of rectilinear hexagon shape. At very large width reaching two millimeters (in human epoch such bacteria had not been known) thickness of cell does not exceed one tenth of hair thickness. Bacteria form piles of cells like thylacoids in plant chloroplasts, and piles are stacked in cytoplasm of amoeba as honeycombs: the hexagonal shape of bacterial cells allows it. The shell of megalosarcodina has the cellular structure adapted to the best focussing of light penetrating through fenestrellae at the top side of shell.
Like all amoebas megalosarcodina has no strictly determined body shape. The cell forms pseudopods able to creep from shell in searches of food – mainly organic particles and bacteria. Pseudopods are supplied with the protective weapon – poisonous harpoons like infusorian trichocysts. Therefore water turtlebeetles, crustaceans and salt-loving skinkfishes do not eat megalosarcodina. Also megalosarcodina can stretch pseudopods in brightly lighted sites of the bottom in order to allow symbiotic bacteria to perform photosynthesis more actively – megalosarcodina receives from them an essential part of feeding, from time to time “attacking” very much multiplied symbiotes with digestive enzymes.
This species of protozoans breeds by means of cell division, and one half of former cell stays on shell, and another half forms its shell anew within several days. Megalosarcodina also has sexual process – merge of nuclei in cell with the subsequent division. Sexual process appears in adverse conditions, for example, at drying of the reservoir. This protozoan endures drought, closing shell apertures with secretions of glycoproteid nature and running into anabiosis. Bacteria thus turn to cysts. If adverse conditions are delayed, megalosarcodina gradually eats a part of symbiote cysts.
In favorable conditions, and also at some freshening of water (for example, during the rainy time) megalosarcodina breeds more intensively, separating pseudopods and other parts of the body. If division has taken place inside the shell, the daughter individual abandons it through one of apertures for pseudopods.
Accumulating fat drops in cytoplasm, purple megalosarcodina gets a side benefit, the buoyancy. Hyperhaline water helps to float, pushing out this animal to the surface. This way of movement is characteristic for younger individuals with rather lightweight shell. Larger animals with thick massive shell creep on the bottom.

This species of protozoans was discovered by Anton, the forum member.

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