Trainee ecologist, Helen Dickinson, introduces us to some unusual invertebrates.

The Bizarre, the Big and the Beautiful

Dicranopalpus ramosus (Cambridgeshire)- This creature with no common name is a member of the harvestman (Opilones) order. Opiliones are not spiders as commonly believed, as there is no distinction between body sections. A harvestman appears to be made up of a single oval, where as spiders have two clear body sections. This odd looking creature is even more strange due to its forked palps (sensory organs) which give it a distinctly crab like appearance!

Golden-ringed Dragonfly Cordulegaster boltonii (Insh Marsh)- Female golden-ringed dragonflies hold the record for being the longest UK dragonfly, measuring about 8.5cm.  A voracious predator it will feed on a range of insects. Breeding in acidic rivers and streams it can also be seen flying far from water over heath and moorland. If this dragonfly is coming your way you wont miss it!

Red Breasted Carrion Beetle Oiceoptoma thoracicum (Insh Marsh)- Despite the less than glamorous Carrion in its name, this distinctive beetle has an attractive velvet sheen on close inspection and coming across it in the sunshine was like finding a little ruby amongst the leaf litter!  This little gem can generally be found in woodlands where it is associated with feeding on carrion and fungi.


Musk Beetle Aromia moschata (Cambridgeshire)- This was a huge find, literally! The amazing Musk beetle belongs to the longhorn family (Cerambycidae), I bet you cant guess why! Found crawling across a nettle patch this large metallic purple beetle is usually found on willow where its larvae develop. A Nationally Notable B species, this beetle is uncommon in Britain and according to the National Biodiversity Network the only historic Scottish records are from Islay.

As we all know looks aren’t everything and thankfully the invertebrate world has it all, the beauties and the beasts, and even the beasts have a real beauty of their own.