Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Skye - Running Before I can Walk

More sublime springtime weather here on Skye this morning - lashing rain and strong winds! Eventually rain gave way to grey which in turn gave way to paler grey with occasional blue, good enough for me! I donned rain gear and boldly strode off into the unknown. I headed for the zigzag road opposite the store and soon found myself checking Lesser Celandines for their associated microfungi, they have a bewildering array of Uromyces and Puccinia that infect the leaves at this time of year. I quickly found Uromyces, though I'm still not sure of the species involved

Probably Uromyces dactylidis, though maybe not...
A recent revelation to me was the discovery that the reddish leafspots on various Rumex can be Puccinia phragmitis and isn't always Phragmidium rubella. Looking around today all I saw was Puccinia phragmitis apart from Puccinia acetosae on Common Sorrel leaves, which rather bizarrely appears to be new to me. Overlooked, but made it at last! Here's an especially crappy pic of it growing in a verge

Puccinia acetosae - admittedly one of the more underwhelming fungi on my list...
Followed by Puccinia phragmitis in all of its 'glory'...
I spent a bit of time on the hillside above the River Conon, rain came and went and I failed to find much of interest apart from a very small, slender stonefly on a wooden fence post. I haven't grilled it yet, but it'll be a lifer for me whatever it is.

Moving into the lower woods I made an effort to check for lichenicolous fungi on tree trunks. I soon found a whacking big patch of Pertusaria pertusa that was heavily parasitised. Here are a few pics showing firstly the patch with bleached centre, then a close-up of the fungus and finally an uninfected bit of Pertusaria thallus

I couldn't find anything that matched, so added the images to the British & Irish Lichen Facebook Group in the hope they could help. Jenny Seawright suggested I join the UKLichens Yahoo Group which I did, my membership is pending a moderator's notice but hopefully I'll have the opportunity to  put a name to this beast of a lichenicolous fungus before too much longer.

I turned a few more rocks and stones, found a bunch of millipedes and worms plus a couple of Microplana terrestris. I also found a tiny egg sac which I think belongs to a flatworm. Certainly I've seen a similar image online recently. Problem is I do an awful lot of online searching and I can't remember where I saw the relevent image...

Pretty darn tiny, this is through my 10x handlens and heavily cropped
 Also found beneath rocks were a couple of Arion flagellus with their monstrous tubercules 

Arion flagellus point blank refusing to rock or squirm no matter how much I push or prod it
I noticed a tiny patch of bright orange fluff growing out of a tree trunk, one of the Trentepohlia. I haven't recorded any of them from NG3963 so stuffed it in a pot and took it home for microscope work. Turns out to be Trentepohlia abietina which is a lifer for me! Sweet. Apparently it often grows in tiny inconspicuous patches on tree trunks, very dissimilar to T.aurea that I'm so used to seeing covering sallow trunks in the south of England. Microscopically one of the features to look out for are the cell walls, T. aurea shows a central thinning of the cell walls where they join, whereas T. abietina has equal thickness across the join. The following image is incredibly pants, but with a bit of squinting you should be able to see the uniform wall thickness between cells. Maybe.

Trentepohlia abietina, actually a green alga in disguise, at 400x magnification
It was then that I noticed a greyish slug four feet up a tree stump. I didn't recognise it and figured it to be a Tandonia due to the long, pale keel. Then I saw the all white sole and got just a little bit excited! I took a quick barrage of pics and accidentally dropped it into the undergrowth. I don't know where it ended up but I certainly couldn't relocate it. Would my 5 images be enough? I had to contact an are all five images, unedited apart from a bit of cropping

So. What do you reckon? I had thought it was a weird Tandonia budapestensis until I saw the pure white sole. Holy sh*t, surely this was Tandonia cf cristata???? Wow, how amazing a find was that!?!? I rushed back, uploaded the pics and immediately sent them to Christian Owen, GrandMaster of all things Slugified. Bless him, he let me down gently. I hadn't found Scotland's first Tandonia cf cristata at all, this was the grey form of Lehmannia marginata, the Tree Slug. Which would explain what it was doing four feet up a tree trunk after recent wet weather. DOH! What a dick! To be fair, Lehmannia marginata is a common species here and I've never seen a grey morph before. Though I do see them on trunks every time it rains...

Slug update: There has been a change of ID regards the slug, it appears that this is actually the Ash-Black Slug Limax cinereoniger, which is very exciting for two reasons. Firstly it is the first record for the top half of Skye, not massively surprising given the lack of suitable habitat up here. Glen Conon, through which the Conon River flows and the inland half of Uig Woods is situated, is pretty much the only decent patch of deciduous woodland in the entire northern half of Skye. Limax cinereoniger is an ancient woodland specialist. Much of Skye's native woodland was cleared for sheep farming practice but Glen Conon was too steep to do much with, so it - and the slug - escaped eradication. Uig Woods west of the A87 is planted, this is where I found my specimen. Presumably Limax cinereoniger has expanded out of the remnant original ancient woodland into this secondary woodland. And the second reason it is exciting is that it's yet another lifer for me - yay!

Many thanks to Brian Eversham for casting his mighty eye across this blog, and many thanks to Christian Owen for taking a fresh look at the images this morning and doubting his previous ID.

Today's additions for The Challenge -
376 - Puccinia acetosae (fungus) - Lifer
377 - Common Knapweed (plant)
378 - Hogweed (plant) - Lifer....nah, I'm just kiddin'
379 - Atrichum undulatum (bryophyte)
380 - Trentepohlia abietina (terrestrial alga) - Lifer
381 - Limax cinereoniger (slug) - Lifer

I leave you with a promise of better weather and all things glorious


  1. I'm starting to doubt myself now mate, couldn't seem them so good on my phone. There is something about that dose not look right, tubercles etc in top two photos. I've asked Brian Eversham for his option has he is far better at slug than me, especially with juvenile ones.

  2. Thank you buddy, he'll prob say gen det!

  3. He's the man. It's a juv Limax cinereoniger, not one I see often when young. Though, I should have remembered the ones he showed me a couple of years back. :)

  4. Replies
    1. Ah yes, THAT'S the one! Flatworms my ar$e... cheers again mate.

  5. Found what I believe is Argonemertes dendyi today. I managed to whack it in alcohol before it exploded/imploded/autodigested on me. Not sure who to send it off to though, but I have it preserved for now.

  6. Dave Fenwick will be the one to send these on to mate. From a recent email..."we propose Argonemertes sp. (c.f. A. australiensis) and Argonemertes sp. (c.f. A. dendyi) as a result of increased recording of terrestrial nemerteans in the UK. It must be noted we need more sequencing, so any specimens should be fixed in 100% EtOH and sent to me and I'll attempt to get it done."

  7. Good stuff, though it's in 61% whisky. I'll email him, see what he thinks. Had another one today but it self-destructed :( Looked a bit different, tramlines down the back, but prob still dendyi judging from Google searching.

  8. Plus there's that dark one we've both found...

  9. Hoping to get back and look for more of those shortly. Be interesting to see what they turn out to be. :)