13 June 2012

"The cat ate my county record"

Jeff Sommer is one of the newest and most productive contributors to the MOS. He collects primarily in the Saginaw Bay region. Jeff is an archeologist, and has unearthed and contributed many new and significant records in the last couple of years.

Recently, he scored a good one: a recently emerged Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus) on a turbulent stretch of the Shiawassee River. There are fewer than 50 adult records of this species in the MOS database. Because the individual was still very soft bodied, he placed it in a covered aquarium when he returned home to let it harden up before he dispatched it in acetone for curation (very teneral specimens have dull coloration and tend to "implode" if placed in acetone too soon).

Jeff briefly left the room, only to return to find the aquarium on the floor, top off, and the remains of the sanddragon -- a mangled wing and thorax -- in the mouth of his cat. The cat's name is Darner. We are not making this up.

Fortunately, Jeff has some photos, and he also collected an exuvia which hopefully belonged to the tasty sanddragon.

Common Sanddragon -- a.k.a. "cat food." Photo by Jeff Sommer, all rights reserved.

We can relate to this! Mark and Adrienne O'Brien have a four-cat household: Johan, Val, Kosh, and Sassafras. Julie Craves and Darrin O'Brien have two cats, Sophie and Juniper. I can't speak for Mark's close encounters, but several times Juniper has taken an immediate interest in odes wiggling in their glassine envelopes as soon as we walk in the house after a collecting trip. So far, no casualties.

Mark adds: When Adrienne and I first moved to Ann Arbor in 1981, we adopted a stray cat that I named Frank, after Frank Kurczewski, my graduate advisor at Syracuse. We lived in an apartment at the time, and I was collecting a lot of Hymenoptera my first summer here. One day I had pinned up a bunch of specimens and left them on the kitchen table. I don't recall how long they were there -- probably just a few hours, but when I came back, it was obvious that Frank had been nosing through them and one was missing, pin and all. The next day I saw Frank, and a pin was sticking out of his butt --and luckily it was the rounded part first. I pulled it out, and the cat apparently suffered no other effects, as he lived for about 14 years.