Species of the Week: Autumn Meadowhawk

Photo by Adam Kalab

This week’s #SpeciesOfTheWeek is the Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum). It is the latest-flying dragonfly in Ontario. It typically flies until the first heavy frost, so in southern Ontario, it can be seen in November and even December. Male meadowhawks are distinctive as the only small red dragonflies in the area. Females and immature males are yellow or brown in colour. The Autumn Meadowhawk is also known as the Yellow-legged Meadowhawk, as the yellow legs readily distinguish it from other meadowhawks. As the name suggests, meadowhawks can often be seen flying around meadows in large swarms, and they are possibly the most abundant genera of dragonfly at Murphys Point. Some dragonflies can spend several years in their aquatic larval phase, but the Autumn Meadowhawk’s lifespan is short and sweet. Eggs are laid on muddy banks of lakes and ponds in the fall and hatch in the spring when water levels rise to cover them. The larvae develop quickly, and adults start emerging in July. Then, it’s a race to feed, mature, and find a mate. Autumn Meadowhawks oviposit in tandem, which means the male stays attached to the female during egg-laying, guarding her against other males who might try to mate with her. The eggs are laid, and the life cycle starts again.

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Species of the Week: Interrupted Clubmoss

Photo by Nata Culhane

This week’s #SpeciesOfTheWeek is the Interrupted Clubmoss (Spinulum annotinum). Clubmosses are a primitive group of plants that evolved over 440 million years ago. Despite the name, they are not mosses but true vascular plants, meaning they have specialized tissue to carry water. Clubmosses are distinguished from other plants by their small leaves with one vein, called microphylls, and they reproduce asexually using spores. In Interrupted Clubmoss, the spores are located in a cone-like structure called a strobilus at the top of the stalks. Interrupted Clubmoss gets its name because each year’s growth is marked by an interruption or constriction in the stem. The stem actually grows horizontally across the ground, with spore-bearing stalks protruding upwards for reproduction. It is a perennial plant, and the stem can grow up to three feet long. It is found in coniferous and mixed forests across all of Canada, thriving in damp, shaded areas, like at the edge of wetlands. These neat little plants can be seen popping out of the leaf litter across the forest floors throughout the park. 

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Species of the Week: The Wood Frog

Photo by Simon Lunn

Our #SpeciesOfTheWeek is the Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus). As winter nears and temperatures drop, these frogs are becoming inactive for the season – they have special adaptations that allow them to survive the cold winter by tolerating the freezing of their blood and tissues! Typically settling down in spots close to the surface in soil and leaf litter, their breathing and heart rate begin to slow until stopping altogether. During this time, their bodies produce a special antifreeze substance that prevents ice from forming within their cells, which would otherwise cause them to burst. They will then remain in this dormant state until the weather warms again in the spring when they will thaw and begin mating. Here at Murphys Point, we often find Wood Frogs in the campgrounds as they like to live in the leaves on the forest floor where they can camouflage and hide from predators. Have you ever seen a Wood Frog while camping here at the park?

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