Coastal Critters at Stony Head
The north coast of Tasmania is varied with many prominent headlands and beaches. The beach today is unamed and has a shallow angle (a long beach at low tide) at. The Stinger Squad (each team has a radio call sign!) was eager to find beetles tucked in the sand. As the scientists from Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), they were curious to map out the distributions of certain species.
There are many species of beetle that live in the sand. They all have different sources of food. Some prey on other organisms (predators), some ate live plants (herbivorous) and others are more opportunistic and could eat decaying seaweed. The beetles we were looking for like to stay below the surface for the day and come out at night to feed.
Simon and Lynn were our experts today showing me how to sift sand from different regions in the dunes and intertidal zone. I was so amazed to find these super small (2mm long) beetles. Some were dark, long and slender, like the rove beetles. These are fierce predators that use the fresh seaweed to lay their eggs quickly so that their larvae that hatch gorge on the fly maggots! It's a wild world under the seaweed.
Other beetles were small and super well camouflaged like the 'ant-like flower beetles'. These Anthicidae beetles are predators too, but arrive a little later to the party. They can scavenge as well if times are tough and the seaweed hasn't washed up from a recent rough patch of weather.
If you had a very large hat with a label for each species, you are more likely to pick a name of a beetle than any other species. They make up about 40% of all the insect species and are vital to ecosystems functioning everywhere!