Beside the avian wildlife that we were primarily observing during our visit to Spain, we discovered a wealth of pretty awesome invertebrates, reptiles and amphibians, as well as some beautiful plants. A special thanks has to go to Jonnie Fisk and James O’neill, who were the primary rock-turning investigators during our trip, and discovered a large number of the species pictured below. It was great to see such a diversity, from scorpions to salticid spiders…
Fiddler Crabs are found along sea beaches, brakish intertidal mudflats, lagoons and swamps. They are a very distinctive genus of crabs, where all the males have one major claw (called the Chela) much larger than the minor claw. They use these in combat and courtship over a female, and also to communicate via a series of waves and gestures. The females’ claws are both the same size.
The common wall gecko, or Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica) is said to be the largest gecko in Europe, and its distribution stretches throughout 13 different countries in Europe and Africa. It has also been introduced to Argentina, the US, and Uruguay.
The Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus) is Europe’s largest Lizard, being able to grow to 90 centimetres long! It gets its name from the yellow and blue ocelli on the sides of its body. This species feeds largely on insects, but will also take snails, small vertebrates and even berries
One of the great highlights of the trip was watching this male Dung Beetle proudly rolling its perfect sphere of dung to its home, while the female tagged along not far away as if giving directions. Dung Beetles are corprophagus insects which feed on the excrement of other animals. The beetles often roll a ball of dung to their nests to feed their young within. One of the fascinating things about this family is that research has shown that a certain species in Africa uses the night sky (particularly the milky way) to navigate back to its nest once they have carved out a ball of dung from a deposit some way away
This is a Jumping Spider (family Salticidae), of the species Menemerus semilibatus. There are about 5000 species worldwide, thus making it the largest family of spiders. These Salticids are said to have some of the best vision amongst arthropods which they use to hunt, as well as in courtship and navigation. The Jumping Spiders are able to jump due to a well-developed internal hydraulic system, which causes extension of the limbs by altering the pressure of body fluid within them. They are fascinating creatures
We only saw the only scorpion during our visit to Spain, which was found underneath a rather larger boulder (as was virtually every other insect or reptile we saw during out trip). There are about 1750 species described worldwide, and just 25 of those carry venom capable of killing a human. This species, thankfully, was not among them
This stunning little beastie is a Horshoe Whipsnake (Hemmorrhois hippocrepis). This species is found throughout the south coast of Spain, as well as along the whole Mediterranean coastline. We found this individual slithering across a dry crop field near Osuna
This rather smart amphibian is a Fire Salamander. They are so named after a habit that they supposedly had of hiding in logs chopped for burning, and then fleeing out once the logs were placed upon a fire. The larvae of this species are entirely aquatic, living in shallow pools and lakes, whilst the adults are terrestrial: they only return to water bodies for breeding. We found this near a small pond on the ridge of Cierra de la Plata
Some butterflies seen during our visit:
Provence’s Hairstreak: a target species for many of us on the trip, which we first saw in the high mountainous region of Sorcio, but subsequently also found at the coast near Tarifa
Spanish Festoon- arguably the prettiest species we saw during our visit, which was present in a variety of places
Painted Lady. This is a migrant species that winters in the Mediterranean region and further south to North Africa. We saw hundreds during our visit to Spain, including some days where there were significant movements, such as at Tarifa.
Beetle sp.- Fire Beetle?
Sand Lizard with accompanying fly.
And finally, here are some flowers:
Yellow Bee Orchid