Quills and Dragon Hunters

Hello again! Last week the BIObus headed up north to Balsam Lake and Indian Point Provincial Parks to complete some aquatic and soil sampling. Field work is considerably different than working in the archive.

Indian Point Provincial Park is 9.47 km2, located on the north end of Balsam Lake, and features one of the longest undeveloped shorelines in the Kawartha Lakes region. Consisting of a low, limestone escarpment, this lake shore property is an alvar. An alvar is a biological environment based on a limestone plain with thin or no soil with sparse grassland vegetation.

Crystal, Rachael, and I at the entrance to Indian Point Provincial Park
Crystal, Rachael, and I at the entrance to Indian Point Provincial Park

While we were sampling Balsam Lake at Indian Point, we came across a few different natural inhabitants. A porcupine (Erethizon dorsatum) was the first species that made its appearance. Porcupines are the third largest rodent in the world, live in wooded areas, can climb on trees and are primarily nocturnal. It was an uncommon occurrence to observe this creature at noon and on the ground when we did.

Porcupine eyes have a layer of mirror-like cells called tapetum lucidum that lies immediately behind the retina. It reflects visible light back through the retina, increasing the light available to the photoreceptors. Different animals, such as cats, raccoons or coyotes, have different eye shine colours; the porcupine’s eyes shine red, as seen in the photo below.

Porcupines have tapetum lucidum in their eyes, that shine red
Porcupines have tapetum lucidum in their eyes, that shine red

The next natural inhabitant we observed in Indian Point Provincial Park was a dragonfly larva, collected from Balsam Lake. As seen below, this dragonfly larva (family: Gomphidae) was much larger than any larvae I had seen previously. For adult Gomphidae, the posterior end of the abdomen is enlarged, forming a club; known as clubtails. Dragonhunters are endemic, or native and unique, to North America east of the Great Plains. The larvae burrow in the sediment at the bottom of the waterbody, with the gomphid nymphs living among damp bark and leaf litter at the edge of the water. The Dragonhunter larva we found was unusual because the abdomen was very flat and circular, while the typical Gomphidae has a long, fat, pointed abdomen. The larval stage of Dragonhunters can be exceptionally long, ranging from 4 to 7 years. The rate at which the nymphs molt and grow largely depends on ambient temperatures. This was definitely a remarkable insect to see while on the BIObus.

Dragonhunter larva found in Balsam Lake
Dragonhunter larva found in Balsam Lake

 

Kylee Blog 3 Photo 4

Our dragonhunter larva (top) compared to the typical dragonhunter larvae (bottom). (http://www.giffbeaton.com/Dragonflies/Gomphus%20exilis%20larva_2005-03-21_0165.jpg)
Our dragonhunter larva (top) compared to the typical dragonhunter larvae (bottom). (http://www.giffbeaton.com/Dragonflies/Gomphus%20exilis%20larva_2005-03-21_0165.jpg)

We also did sampling in Balsam Lake Provincial Park throughout our week of field work. My favourite site was a marsh at the edge of the park because it was teeming with life. Because of their high levels of nutrients, freshwater marshes are one of the most productive ecosystems on earth. They can sustain an extensive array of plant communities that support a wide variety of wildlife within this vital wetland ecosystem. At our campsite while sorting this site, it was challenging because of the abundance of life, we did not want to miss any aquatic invertebrates swimming in the water or hiding in the mud.

Marsh in Balsam Lake Provincial Park
Marsh in Balsam Lake Provincial Park

I loved being out in the field this past week. Read more about Balsam Lake Provincial Park and the adventures of the BIObus in Rachael’s blog this week. And keep track of the BIObus next week during the last week of field work for the BIObus. It will be visiting Six Mile Lake Provincial Park, Awenda Provincial Park and Georgian Bay Islands National Park.

Leaving the park at the end of the week
Leaving the park at the end of the week

Thank you for reading!

– Kylee

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